Impeccable Table Manners

Jon and Nicole


The dating arena is filled with battle-scarred survivors. We have seen things no human should’ve seen. Like world-weary cocktail waitresses in the shabbiest bar nearest the city’s least important airport, we have stories to tell and opportunities missed, and hopes and aspirations mashed up and crushed like a dried out old lime in the bottom of our seventh gin and tonic.

Every avenue taken is a last resort. Tombstones of failure line up as far as the eye can see, inscribed with “Speed Dating in Hoxton”, “3-month free trial with”, “Friday foursome in the Hat & Fan with that guy from Lisa’s work” and, the farthest one of all, crumbling nobly in the twilight, says “Guardian Blind Date column”.

To want to appear on this page you have to be mad or bored or desperate or all three and more, but it’s generally accepted that for you to resort to finding love in a national newspaper, you’ve tried everything else. You’ve been around the block enough to know you’ve nothing to lose. You’ve reached the “might as well” milestone. You’re toast.

jon and nicole

Bizarre, then, that today’s Blind Daters are so young. Maybe they’re skint paying off their huge student loans and are desperate for a free meal, but this week 23-year-old events coordinator Jon and Nicole, 22, a marketing assistant are giving romance a go. Read what happened on the date – maybe play some loud disco while you read it to keep you awake, because a boxset of Jessica Jones it is not – before I take everything apart and put it back together all wrong.

Jon is first up:

jon hoping


23, apparently. I want to see receipts.

nicole hoping

You know there are some phrases that really set your teeth on edge? I have a few: “Fair to middlin” is one. “Don’t mind if I do” is another. And “put the world to rights” or “set the world to rights” is one too.

It conjures up an image of two drunks in an All Bar One, splashing gut-rotting plonk into one another’s glasses with a snort, sweeping their fringes out of their eyes, waggling their fingers everywhere and blaming single mothers for all society’s ills.

jon talk about

This is just a list of things. It’s like Jon is being taught how to do a CV at the local youth club and he’s got loads of blank space, so the patient youth worker takes a break from playing with the sleeve of his acrylic cardigan and says “Just put a section in about your hobbies, Jon”. So he does, and this is it.

nicole talk

Matthew McConaughey baffles me, but OK.

And if a man can’t find a restaurant on Upper Street, which is just a really long road in a straight line, I wouldn’t hold out much hope of him locating your G-spot – but I guess people are full of surprises.

jon awkward

Heavy metal. Is that… is it still around? Hasn’t it evolved into something else? I’m starting to wonder whether Jon and Nicole are actually time travellers – not cool ones like the Doctor or the guy from Quantum Leap, but just two students on their way to a plenary lecture in 1983 who got into the wrong lift only to find it was a spaceship.

nivole awk

Margo Leadbetter disappointed

Wow, table manners already. We’re breezing through this white-knuckle ride, aren’t we? Here we go:

jon table

YES. That is a good sign. I’ve not been on a date for a while but any time I did go on one, I very seldom saw the date get his phone out. Maybe I’m sparkling conversation or maybe I just happened to always choose a pub that I knew had no phone signal or perhaps my eyes are the bluest of the blue and trained only on you – who knows? But I certainly never broke off from a chat – at the table, at least – to do some liveblogging.

nicole table

*looks carefully around the room to make sure there are no hidden cameras*

On the table? A door? He opened a door for you? While you were eating? Did you get up to go the loo and he opened a door for you? I don’t understand.

Basically what we have here is someone who doesn’t actually know what table manners are. “He opened the door for me” isn’t anything to do with table manners. It’s like being asked “How are you feeling?” and answering “Tuesday”.

jon best thing

nicole best thing

jon introduce

Haha, I bet Nicole feels a burn with the power of a raging bout of cystitis when she reads that this morning. Good for you, Jon. Nobody’s too precious to meet anyone’s mates. Or they shouldn’t be.

nicole friends

Another answer flung out with all the sexual intrigue of a sadistic prefect polishing the buttons on their blazer.

These two are in their early twenties – where is the JOY? I get it in a way. At 22, I wasn’t much of a treat. Too old to be young and too young to be old, I was half-finished, a sketch. Still at university, nary an opinion nor a thought to call my own. All weak smiles and corduroy and nervously sipping the cheapest drink at the bar. But I probably wouldn’t have gone in a national newspaper and exposed my milquetoast self for all the world to see.

“If circumstances called for it.” A corporate barbecue? A queue for the coach to Stansted? A FUNERAL? I think what she’s trying to say is that she would only introduce Jon to her friends – who I’m sure make Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin pals look like the back three  rows of a Bananarama concert – on pain of death.

“Circumstances” – nobody ever said that boner-destroying, humdinger of a word in a moment of passion, did they?

jon three


nicole three words

“Your Uber to the Friend-Zone is on the way. It will arrive right this fucking minute.”

jon made of you

nicole made of you

Imagine living your entire life like you were in a deleted vignette  available only on the deluxe edition of the Love Actually Blu-ray.

jon go on

Lots of detail about “stuff” but not too much about his date, have you noticed? I don’t think our Jon was having a good time here. I’m actually amazed a 23-year-old knows what Slash looks like. Is he even still famous? Do they only know how he is because an uncle – that uncle – dressed up as him for Halloween once?

niole go pon

Nicole back to the terse efficiency of a security guard at a Job Centre, there.

jon kiss

While I congratulate them on their chastity or their honour or whatever, when I was 23 I would kiss whoever showed more than a passing interest in me. So what if I didn’t fancy them? Unless you were super hot in the 1990s, sexual contact was pretty scarce – you took what you could. And I did.

nicole kiss

I feel like I’ve accidentally picked up Richard Briers’ script for the pilot of Ever Decreasing Circles. Such suburban, Pizza Express, take two bottles into the shower, greige answers.

“A continental greeting only.” Croissants? What? Get me out of here.

jon change

It sounds to me, Jon, like a mewling brat would’ve been the perfect distraction from what reads like one of the dullest nights out of your life. I’d probably have added a cat with its tail trapped in a door, a dog barking for your pepperoni and Sarah Harding tuning up for a live show at G-A-Y to make the night even more pleasurable.

And my old English teacher, Mr Tennant, would’ve slammed a ruler down on your fingers for that “sat”.

nicole change

Does this mean Nicole actually wanted Jon to flirt with her? The way she describes the evening sounds like she’s reading off a worksheet in front of a GCSE geography class. How flirtatious could it get?


jon score

nicole score

Jon’s 8 feels like more of a kindness – he can’t really have rated an evening with a crying baby, heavy metal, the wrong wine, Matthew McConaughey and a woman who wasn’t remotely interested in him as an 8. If he’s that easily pleased, imagine him at Christmas – he must be hysterical. Either that or he fancied her more than this lurid yellow page would have you believe.

As any fool knows, a 6 in the Guardian Blind Date column is a zero. A lack of spark was my go-to excuse when I didn’t want to see someone again. What I actually meant was the thought of having to fuck them more than once made my chest tighten and spots appear before my eyes and my throat constrict as I stared into the abyss of a lifetime of ‘making do’. Jon looks OK to me though so I’m sure that’s not what Nicole means. But if you want a spark, you must at least try to make fire.

So, all things considered, would our daring duo like to meet again?

jon meet



nicole meet


Drat. Poor Jon. A victim of “circumstances” if ever I saw one.

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Although you cannot glitter a turd, can you? The participants in the date are aware this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I’m even worse than you are in real life. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

As a Brucie bonus this weekend, you can now find me on BuzzFeed, wanging on about cuffing season and the joys of a winter fling. So many GIFs. ❤️

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Sarah Lee, both for the Guardian.

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