Photographs: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Jonathan and Matt

Do you remember, back at the top of the year, when our January blues were all but obliterated thanks to two women? Much has been made of the legend of Joanne and Morgan, and rightly so. From that auspicious headline “I left my knickers at a party we crashed”, the Weekend Blind Date column – and as a result, this blog, I guess – got a boot right up the bum. The gauntlet was thrown down, honour was at stake. Nobody, but nobody, wanted to hear that they “weren’t as good as the knickers date”, so our lovelorn pairings really brought it this year. Monumental hangovers, swingers, the lot. But as brilliant as each of them have been, only a few of them have come anywhere near the style and vigour of our Impeccable patron saints Joanne and Morgan. But could something be about to change? Do we have an eleventh hour – or should that be twelfth night – challenger to their crown? Can the deathless horror show that was 2019 be bookended by two of the greatest Blind Date adventures ever told? Would fortune dare smile on us twice in less than 12 months? Let’s see.

This week, hoping to be relieved of their festive tanga briefs for the sake of art are Joanthan, 26, a content lead for education who is certainly going to be giving somebody a schooling this evening, and Matt, 28, a marketing officer. Yes, we’re back in the warm, comforting glow of the rainbow, and we have jawlines, stubble, and deceptively sensible clothing. Friends and colleagues, Action Man and Ken are out on a date and they’re going to have as much fun as possible while Barbie and Sindy find a parking space. No hurry, darlings!

Here they are in glorious Technicolor. Well, more like glorious oatmeal tbh but you can’t have everything – maybe their scants are neon.

Photographs: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Read what happened on the date before I steam on in with all the grace of a cow who got a skateboard for Christmas.

What were you hoping for?
The loss of my boxers at a yet undisclosed secondary location.

You see, comparison culture is REAL. The legend of Joanne & Morgan looms large. Anyway, remember this answer as it becomes VERY relevant later

What were you hoping for?
A laugh and a free meal.

Well, it beats saving up McDonald’s coupons and tickling yourself while you queue, I guess.

First impressions?
Oh Christ, he’s cute. Are we wearing the same outfit?
I thought he was handsome.

Well, here we go. If there is one thing I’ve learned about men who like men – no evidence these guys are gay, one or both might be bi, btw – it is that if we look at someone and think “you’re hot” we will probably do everything in our power to do something about it. And by “do something about it” I mean do them. Sorry, I know it’s Christmas and you want cuteness but facts are facts. Anyway, the fact these two are on the same page – of a very filthy book, by all accounts – means that this is a done deal. Reader, we have inadvertently looked up spoilers for the EastEnders Christmas episodes and now all we can do is sit back, helpless and anxious, and watch it all play out.

What did you talk about?
I knew we were off to a good start when I confessed to having a tinnie of rosé on the tube before the date, and he said he’d been to a Spoons alone.

A “tinnie” of rosé. In a former life, Jonathan wrote all of Alf Stewart’s lines in Home & Away. I am never super-comfortable with “Spoons” being a cutesy nickname for that dreaded, hell dog of a pub chain – it’s like affectionately calling Rose West “Rosie” or naming your guinea pig after an atomic bomb.

What did you talk about?
Our most embarrassing stories, travel and our shared love of Berlin. We had a lot in common; we’ve lived in the same places and worked for very similar organisations.

If David Nicholls hasn’t already written this book, then he really, really should.

Any awkward moments?
We drunkenly lost each other after the third or fourth bar, so I spent 20 minutes stumbling around Soho listening to Madonna deep cuts trying to find him.

OK, so if this were a novel, I think even the most carefree of editors would worry about the pacing here. We’ve zoomed on, way past the sharing of gambas, calamari, and bravas, quibbles over who poured the wine first and how long it took one of them to mop the corner of their mouths and gone straight to the big scene. “Third or fourth bar” is all you need to know about how the night went really.

How they lost one another, I can’t say, except they must have been cataclysmically drunk, like Christmas drunk. Confessional drunk. Mascara-streaming drunk. Where are my shoes drunk. Have I always had the two legs or did I have an extra one when I left home drunk.

Funnily enough I have a vaguely deep cuts-esque Madonna playlist – by the way, I’m gay, did I say – and it’s called WEIRD MADGE (all caps, yes) and celebrates some of her underrated or forgotten songs, or the ones I never used to like that much but got sick of hearing the other ones. (You can listen to that playlist here!)

Anyway, as I’m sure we can all agree, this mournful wandering around Soho, searching for your lost love, soundtracked by a Ray of Light album track is very SKAM Season 3, Episode 8 and, well, I just can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

Any awkward moments?
We were wearing the same shirt.

Never wear Zara on a first-date, boys – he’ll be wearing the same. Or worse. Are you aware of the “Zara mirage”, when something looks amazing from the other side of the shop and you walk over to it, elated, debit card poised, only to discover it’s made of bin bags, suicide, and Terence Trent D’Arby’s shredded bank statements – and has “F*CK FREEDOM” written up one arm in Sharpie.

Good table manners?
Impeccable, he was great with his hands.

Not only is the call coming from inside the house, it’s coming from inside Jonathan’s Aussiebums.

Good table manners?
Terrible. But so are mine, so it took the pressure off.

THESE TWO. Is it too soon to be in love with all of this?

Best thing about him?
He’s kind, but still has a filthy sense of humour.
He’s just a really lovely human being.

I’m not saying I’ve high hopes but… I have all available milliners on standby.

I suppose what I’d like to say about this, and I do not pretend to speak for anyone else in the LGBTQ community, but when you’re younger, and gay (etc), a lot of your time is spent looking, and not finding something. You gaze across rooms, at men who don’t know that you’re there – or, worse, actually do – hoping for eye contact, that they’ll notice you, that what’s going on in your head is also a fixture of theirs. Feelings for a crush are knives in your belly, scratches down your face, a tug of your hair. They starve you, and they feed you, and they care naught about you, but you have hope. You spend a lot of time waiting, and see the spoils come to others before they come to you. You dream, sometimes maybe, of locking eyes, for everything to be understood, like you see on TV , or in movies, or in the books you read that convince you that it’s coming, one day, so long as you’re patient. And sometimes it does. So to see two young gay men feeling that connection, locking eyes, not messing about, and going with it – whatever algorithm threw them together – is like a new life force for me. Cleared my skin, paid my bills, lasered my osteoarthritis out of existence. I love to see the LGBTQ crew thrive – we get it done.

No more of this waiting, and dreaming. Grab it.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I already did, in the morning.

Anything to add? That would be a no.

Describe Matt in three words
Funny, handsome, messy.
Kind, fun, cute.

All words I would happily have on my gravestone.

What do you think he made of you?
I reckon he would probably place me somewhere between Boris Johnson at a Jennifer Arcuri business launch party and Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.
He probably thinks I’m bat-shit crazy.

Do we have to mention that man?

But look, real talk, yes, all of this is a massive car crash, but it’s the best kind. These aren’t a pair of lime-green hire car Ford Focuses having a dreary prang at a box junction. These cars careering at each other are both vintage limos, with diamond-studded wing mirrors and leopard-print seating with an opened bottle of Pink Lady pret à verser. Joan Collins is a passenger in BOTH and we will deal with the logistics of that later, thanks.

Did you go on somewhere?
I think the order was: pub to see his friend, pub to see his flatmate, gay bar, gay bar, gay bar, Uber, bus, Uber, undisclosed secondary location.

Am I alone in being utterly thrilled by how unashamedly gay all this is? Representation matters. I am 15 years ahead of these guys and softer in the belly and the head but to see even the faintest shadow of yourself in the mainstream is glorious. We are not a hive mind, or a homogenous mass, but sometimes our hearts throb in unison and now is one of those times.

That rumble in your ears? A storm is coming.

Did you go on somewhere?
We lost each other at 4am. My phone had died, so I got the bus home, got undressed and got into bed. When my phone charged, I phoned Jonathan and we decided I should get an Uber to his house. I ran out of the door, forgetting to put on a T-shirt.

Just think of me as the poor, unfortunate girlfriend of Ronan Keating in that pass-agg chart-topper of his: sometimes I say it best what I say nothing at all. Just enjoy the poetry of these answers, the storytelling. What could I add? What needs to be said? My next novel has 90,000 words in it but these two paragraphs above are even more of a blockbuster. And also, hidden cameras reveal:

Can you imagine that ride in the Uber? How exciting it must have been? Heart racing, head pounding, [BLANK] throbbing? Nothing you could sniff or smoke could recreate that feeling of fancying someone and being fancied back, and the distance between you closing at a rapid rate as the taxi jets through the streets. Punching the air right now.

And… did you kiss?
What do you think?
Yes. Loads.

As I say. As I’ve always said. L.G.B.T.Q. crew get. it. done.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
One of us got stopped by a police officer, that probably could have been avoided. Luckily, the only charge was having too much fun.

There’s just too much content! Save something for the second series, boys.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
We should have treated the meal as a meal, not as pre-drinks.

Haha I love the concept of pre-drinks. Like, what does it even mean? It’s secondary, we know that. Pre-drinks are drinks that take place in your house before… proper drinks, which take place in… a pub, maybe? And then you have clubs, and after-parties, and then secret after-parties and then low-key… oh I could go on. The seven stages of grief have got nothing on the seventeen stages of gay partying when it comes to the full gamut of emotion, gyration, and insubordination. Believe me, when we have a bag of cans, a packet of fags, a phone number to a guy who can be there in 20, and a Google Maps link, there’s no limit to what we can do. Captains of industry are quaking. Rightly.

Marks out of 10?
9.

9.

I know what you’re thinking. Nines. NINES? After a date this epic? After all we’ve been through? But I get it: they don’t want to peak too early, show their cards, put all their eggs in one basket. And also: it means they didn’t bang too hard. Stopped for a ham bap and a mug of builders’ halfway through maybe. Not for long though, I imagine, judging from the testimony. Sorry straights living vicariously who’ve managed to look up from Poirot for five minutes for a bit of excitement – we can’t see it going in and out every week.

Boys? A final word before you take this miserable godforsaken decade home and claim it for us all?

Would you meet again?
Seeing him on Sunday.
Would you meet again?
Definitely. I need to give him back the T-shirt he lent me to go home in.

Here’s to you both. Merry Christmas.


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NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most of the things I say are merely riffing on the answers and not making judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments or replies. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. Update is of vital importance please!

Special thanks to Nina, as always. x

16 Comments

  1. I got the sense that Jonathan (at least) reads your column and knew how much you’d dig this date. The date was definitely all about the date, but collateral awesomeness was a personal Merry Christmas to you.

    That, or the Guardian blind date crew saved this cracker of a match for you to savour on this festive moment.

    I dunno, there’s some magic here addressed to The Guyliner. Smacks of it. Maybe I’m imagining things but hey – it’s my fantasy and you should take it. You deserve it.

    Thanks for another year of wonderful sloppy seconds for all us Blind Date fans on the interwebs.

  2. What a blast! Thank you Jonathon and Matt. Pure pleasure reading about their date and simultaneously thinking how excited the Guyliner would be about it, couldn’t wait to read your review. Merry Christmas!

  3. Joyous. But Justin, I have to point out that by the time Ronan released that song, he was married, and so presumably the poor unfortunate woman was his wife.

  4. Love this week’s escapades!
    I forgot about your blog (I remembered reading about it a while back) & this week’s date reminded me of it, so thought I’d check it out. I wasn’t disappointed, chuckled all the way through!

  5. Every week Blind Date is the first thing I read in Weekend, and then I check your blog. Today I was reading the date crossing my fingers that you’d written about it as it is so amazing, and you have! It’s brilliant! Thank you!

  6. So 2019 has bookend dates that argue for it being the grandest year for Impeccable Table Manners?
    Who cares if any of the daters end up married? A randy, raunchy hookup is more than sufficient.

  7. I bought your book, The Last Romeo. I had to. Your writing is so damn good. This week’s blog is hilarious and yeah, it’s great to see the unabashed gayness of it and that it’s so mainstream at last. I’m happy every time I see couples holding hands in public.

    Merry Christmas Justin!

  8. “Are you aware of the “Zara mirage”, when something looks amazing from the other side of the shop and you walk over to it, elated, debit card poised, only to discover it’s made of bin bags, suicide, and Terence Trent D’Arby’s shredded bank statements – and has “F*CK FREEDOM” written up one arm in Sharpie.”

    That’s the TK Maxx mirage, surely… in any case, roll on Blind Date wedding #2

  9. Finally two Blind Date participants who actually do it! Week after week two reasonably attractive, reasonably intelligent, presumably non-sociopathic individuals meet each other and it all ends with “a peck on the cheek” and a vague notion of meeting again one day “as friends”. I say: It’s time to bring back sex into the lives of the Guardian readership – and this was a great start.

  10. Yes, the boys get it done! These two are filth and I loved reading every word of it, a 9… I mean you can’t give it all away when you have already given it all away right ???
    Well done on a year of great reviews, which included some awfully dull dates…It was hard to read them at times but it was all worth it to get to the end of the year and to have these boys hit it home.
    Look forward to 2020 xx

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