The trouble with a first date is that while it can be the beginning of something, it’s also very definitely the end of something exciting.
It brings a close to the anticipation, the build-up obliterated by a simple handshake. As any yule-o-phile will tell you, the best part of Christmas is the preamble – so October, November and December to us hardcore Christmas fans – and while the day itself is a joy, it can never live up to the suspense that comes before it.
A date is a mini-Christmas, then. You’ve had texts or WhatsApps, you’ve seen carefully chosen snapshots, they wooed you and charmed you with jokes and stories. But now the big reveal – the face to the name, a voice to the words, a close-up of that skin, and those eyes, and that hair. And the wrinkles. Will anything ever be the same again? Will you ever get that rush you had in the last 25 minuets before you met them, before you knew, before the secret was out once and for all? No. You won’t. That first feeling is gone. Toothpaste never goes back in the tube.
Saying goodbye to their hopes and dreams today are 26-year-old graphic designer Jonny, and programme manager Kit, also 26, who have swapped their day job working somewhere with stripped floorboards where 6 Music blares out on the office stereo all day (in east London I imagine) for a restaurant in W1, and the pages of the Guardian Blind Date.
The good thing about life in the 21st century is even if you have a terrible time somewhere, or with someone, it can be a good story. It’s nicer if you get a story out of having a great time, of course, but not compulsory. We have audiences everywhere taking an interest in our lives like never before, on our social media networks.
Whereas before your incredibantz about a bad date you went on would take years to trickle down to everyone you knew or met, now it can be published as content and, for a brief moment, you’re a big news story among the 400 or so people poring over your Facebook feed. People might say this is a bad thing and that we’re all becoming narcissists and as soon as I’ve taken this selfie I will rebut that argument very strongly. Oh, that’s not right. Let me take another.
Small talk. So boring. Rent, where do you go out, what do you do, any brothers or sisters, music that you’re into, been to any gigs, favourite restaurant, prefer east or west, wow isn’t the Tube awful, I don’t really watch TV, boxsets, last film I saw, where I went to uni, yeah wasn’t 2016 the worst.
Mind you, with big talk being so terrifying these days, perhaps there’s something comforting about regressing to insipid niceties while Trump and May get handsy for the cameras.
“Pretty girl” on its own would’ve been enough, I reckon. Not sure why you’d want to dull its shine with two qualifiers that sound like apologies or excuses. “Down to earth”, I know, is supposed to be a compliment, but it depends who’s saying it. Usually, when middle-class people are wheeling it out amid chat about house prices, it means “common, but not so bad that you couldn’t sit her next to grandmother at dinner”.
Like a… dog that just woke up?
A total lack of a match on conversation topics would usually have alarm bells ringing, but here it seems quite charming. Cute, even.
I, too, am sickened by the “PDA going on at table six” – which is a very nice Victoria Wood-level of detail there – but the restaurant looks like the kind of anything goes, “credit card debt dressed up as wild hedonism” place that people who love PDAs would really like to go.
We’ll brush dry January aside because nobody cares nobody cares nobody cares and move on to the winking. I like it. I like to give a cheeky wink, and sometimes make a clicking sound with my tongue as I do it. I used to wink at my boyfriend a lot in the early days. It’s not necessarily always salacious, but reassuring, a bonding thing. My dad used to wink at me a lot when I was a child – and still does very occasionally if we catch each other’s eye out in public. “I’m here,” it says, “I get it”, or “We’re not like the others”.
So if you can’t wink, you must learn immediately. It is code.
That’s not awkward – that’s what you’re supposed to do. Better that than chewing on and on until you start to gag.
Hmmm. Cigarette? Phone call? A deep breath to stave off a panic attack? Who knows. Maybe he’s like the guy I knew a long long time ago who, if a night was going well, would excuse himself to go to the loo and put a condom on there and then. Maybe he was doing that. But outside.
I’m not sure if it’s the same for anyone else who lived through the 1990s, but I’m quite amazed at the contempt levelled at vegetarianism now. It’s labelled a weakness, as a massively inferior lifestyle. For all the hand-wringing about #eatclean and everything being gluten-free, you can’t move in London now for restaurants that fetishise and celebrate meat, that advertise great big hog-roasts and bring huge hunks of animal to your table. Burgers, once the scourge of nutrition, are now back and bigger than ever, dripping in cheese and bacon and sauces and onion rings and another level of cheese and welded to a brioche bun.
When I was younger, being a veggie was the ultimate lifestyle choice. Everyone was doing it. You were mocked by your parents, sure, but revered by your peers. Apart from a brief flirtation with Linda McCartney’s veggie lasagne during my teenage years, I have always eaten meat. But I have noticed a definite shift from going veggie being something people either admired about you or let you get on with, to a thing people actively take the piss out of you for, and obsess over, like it’s a character flaw. No wonder we’re all turning ourselves inside out with worry about our diets and our bodies – nobody can mind their own sodding business about our dinner.
What, he got up and served you? Or did me mansplain the positioning of the knives and forks to you? The hours must’ve zoomed by.
FUNNY like a comedian, that you fancy.
CHEERFUL like an avuncular postman, who you also fancy.
HANDSOME like Jonny, who you fancy.
Being called handsome never stops being a buzz. And if it does, and you think you’ve heard the word too often, how dare you – take the compliment and realise how lucky you are to hear it. Some people, like Plug from the Bash Street Kids, or Eric Trump, or Ken Dodd, or the guy out of Simply Red (#TeamMartine) have probably never heard that word in the direction in their lives. Can you imagine?
A like A dickhead who doesn’t do this right so I can’t do my “three words like” thing that I always do.
GOOD like it would’ve been for Jonny to actually say three distinct words rather than a statement, especially when you consider the fact that “A” isn’t really a word, as such, I mean it is, but taken out of context, it is meaningless. Anyway, thanks for this Jonny.
LAUGH like I’m sure we all will, about this, one day.
I’m not sure how I feel about Jonny saying Kit was “a good laugh” while he got a “handsome”. It smacks of playing it cool or, more worryingly, feeling rather cool and playing it exactly as it should be. I think we could’ve done with the “pretty” down here rather than all the way up there if we’re going to be taking this to an 8+ today.
Hard to tell. Hard to tell. We waste a lot of time by being hard to read, I think. So many things left unsaid. We are worried, perhaps, about getting hurt if we reveal too much of ourselves. We don’t trust others not to use it to their own advantage. And there’s something irritating about those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, isn’t there?
But if there’s one time you need to show your hand and let the Botox crack, it’s on a first date. Whether it’s bad news and you’re never going to see them again, or a small spark with inferno potential, don’t leave each other wondering. Don’t consign each other to days of staring expectantly at the phone, agonising over whether to make the first move. Yes, it’s part of the thrill, or the chase, if you like, but really it’s a waste of time. And we don’t have too much of that – especially if Tiny Hands finds that big red button.
See? Cards so close to her chest, the print from the Jack of Diamonds has rubbed off on her bra.
Good sign. Very good sign. A pub next door, for a conspiratorial chat about the date, in more relaxed surroundings, maybe jostling a little for space among the other dry January deniers. Things happen when you go on to other pubs. If you get past the first venue, you’ve pretty much made it beyond a story to tell your friends.
Attagirl. You’ve got to be direct. You have to steer things toward the result you want. You have to try. On dates, if I felt something between me and the guy, I’d be pretty upfront about this kind of thing. I’d either press them to get on with it – as my boyfriend will testify – or run my intention to get on with it myself by them. If they don’t want to do it, they can say no. Nothing ventured and all that, so long as you take your rejection gracefully.
Not that anyone has ever said no to kissing me, but I have read it’s a thing that can genuinely happen to others.
“Not my type.” “Down to earth.” “A good laugh.” “I did as I was told.” And now a 7. You could argue that all the evidence points to Jonny not really fancying Kit and you may well be right, but I instead choose to believe that this is a shy 8 from Jonny, because the most telling answer of all, ironically, is Jonny’s “hard to tell” when asked what he thinks she made of him. Jonny doesn’t want to gush in case Kit wasn’t interested, nor does he want to be too harsh on her or humiliate her in a magazine. So he keeps his answers cool but complimentary.
Nobody really cares, I know, but it can be very hard to be a man in tis column and not say the wrong thing. And I should know, because I jump on them often enough. Too keen, too standoffish, too cool, too aggressive, too bitchy, too dismissive, too much. Jonny’s answers here get it right on nearly every single one. Except this one. This should be an 8. And he knows it. I hope Kit does too.
And it’s equally hard to be a woman in this column because you get so accustomed to the men behaving like absolute arseholes that you worry anything you say might make you look like a tragic heroine of a terrible romcom.
You’re not just flattering his ego, Kit, you’re boosting your own. You deserve the freedom to give a man an 8 if you think he deserves it. Also: this is a 9. I didn’t come down in the last shower, you know.
It’s kind of beautiful this awkward little dance of a possible romance, isn’t it? If this were the 19th century, I bet their diaries would fizz with excited prose about the evening. Sadly, it’s 2017 and this is all we’ve got.
So here we are with our shy 8 and a timid 9 in fancy dress, but will they get the chance to upgrade to 10s? Heeeeeeere’s the big one.
Oh, we will.
More: No blog next week.
Photograph: Sarah Lee, Alicia Canter; both for the Guardian
Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Anyone participating in the date should be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally. It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story, or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.