Today’s Guardian Blind Date features Kaisa, a 24-year-old research analyst and freelance writer, who has put on her shiniest DMs to share an aubergine and ricotta calzone with Rivkah, also 24, and a philosophy master’s student. 24. What an age. All life’s possibilities ahead of you – if you have rich parents, anyway. I came out at 24, and it was like being born all over again – messy, loud, painful, and I didn’t get much sleep.
Let’s have a look at them.
Understated glamour. I have a good feeling about this. Read the full version of what happened on the date on the Guardian website – I cut some of the questions here – and then return to me for the in-depth analysis.
Kaisa on Rivkah | Rivkah on Kaisa
What were you hoping for?
I try to go on dates with no expectations. You never know what kind of a connection you’ll have with a person: that’s the fun of it.
This is a great answer. But also: a pessimist is never disappointed and, let’s be real, some of the people who turn up on these dates… if they sat behind you on the bus you’d move seats, social distancing or not. The thing is, even though we try to have no expectations, you will have them. We’re all coming at first dates form very different places. Even if we walk in with our mind clear and open, on the way there, our brain will be working in the background wondering if we will find true love, meet a friend for life, or find ourselves with our anorak slammed up against a jagged brick wall having the uvula kissed right out of us.
What were you hoping for?
A good way to meet new people during Covid-19.
This seems like the least of all our worries now, but can I just say – in the manner of a passive-aggressive work email – that I hate the name ‘Covid-19′. I hate seeing it everywhere, hearing people say it, the inconsistent pronunciation, the ’19’ of it already making everything feel very ‘last season’s colours’. Covid-19 sounds like a toy dog robot that features in a CBBC Newsround piece about a technology exhibition in Leicester, backflipping or saying ‘rad’ phrases – programmed into it by an amiable yet socially awkward man who has never felt elegantly manicured fingernails around his penis – while a bunch of teenage spods with hairstyles like third-album-campaign Kylie, or PJ and Duncan from Byker Grove look on.
Can we call it something else? ‘Miss Rona’ seems a bit trivial for a fatal respiratory tract infection. COVIDEX? COVIDIOM? TECHNOCHOKE? I don’t know. If I sound flippant, it’s the flippancy of someone trying to make a joke as they wait for an ambulance to come and prise them off the railings they seem to be impaled upon.
Really pretty, and I liked her low voice and red lipstick.
THIS is a first impression. ‘Low voice and red lipstick’ – great album title for someone btw – is a perfect observation too. It speaks to both noticing (and appreciating) a natural characteristic and a personal aesthetic.
Lovely hair, very talkative. I was grateful she also needed a drink and went straight in for a negroni.
Negronis. Oh no. That’s what they should call Covid-19: NEGRONIVIRUS.
What did you talk about?
Our names being misspelled a lot, feeling disconnected from the British class system, the National Portrait Gallery, the difficulty of delineating personal responsibilities in light of the government’s pandemic policy failures.
Studying, queerness/polyamory, how weird having our picture taken was, but how nice the photographer was.
Okay this doesn’t sound very light and there are zero matches ❌ and yes I did scroll quickly back up the page to check their ages again but… it does actually sound like interesting date chat. I mean, I too like hearing about someone’s family, job, thoughts on northern accents, what it’s like renting an airing cupboard with a shower in it for £375 per week, and Brexit (I don’t) but this conversation sounds pretty meaty.
Our names being misspelled a lot. I always spell out my surname – more out of politeness than anything, as who am I to assume everyone knows how it’s spelled – but it does get misspelled often, mainly down to the actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, I imagine. You would think nobody could get the first name wrong – especially with at least two other bearers of the name being MEGA famous – but they do (Justyn?!?). More often, my name has the magic effect of being utterly forgettable. Like a recessive gene, it seems other names beginning with J have a stranglehold on others’ tongues and I have been called Jamie, Jake, Joseph, Joshua and – most common of all – Jason. JASON.
Feeling disconnected from the British class system. I’ve said this before but so much of media rhetoric is taken up by wittering on about what middle class people think and feel – the battle between millennials and boomers, for example. It’s never talking about people on council estates, or who didn’t go to university, or on zero-hour contracts, is it? Literally YEARS of drivelling comment about younger people spending too much on flat-whites or boomers sitting on their buy-to-let millions. Who are these sodding people? Are there really as many people out there doing this as often as the coverage would suggest? These aren’t the people I know, who I grew up around. As Madonna said so impatiently in Truth or Dare as her makeup assistant tried to trowel on lipstick while she was talking: ‘Do something else!’
The National Portrait Gallery. My favourite of them all. The stately home, the family seat of selfie culture. I haven’t been for ages. I must, soon.
Any awkward moments?
Maybe me getting too tipsy and slurring a little about 20 minutes into the date, since I’m a lightweight.
I kept swearing, and then realised she did not say one swear word all evening…
The world is burning, friends. Drink the wine. Slur. Swear. The time for asterisks and niceties and decorum is behind us.
Good table manners?
She had the good sense to order us negronis – perfect for a hot evening.
Regular readers may know my feelings on negronis. Do I have to say it all again? Maybe I do.
Negronis. It’s not just the taste of them – liquidised toenail clippings; lab-rat vomit; microwaved migraine; out-of-date cough medicine; mouthwash with a personality; murder in a glass; condensation inside a sarcophagus – but the cult around them. The enforced summery-ness, the snobbery, the smugness, the bizarre little view they offer into someone’s head. Or maybe other people just like them and I don’t. But, again, more importantly: they taste like raccoon shit.
Good table manners?
We both commented on how table manners were not a priority over enjoying the food, but she let me have the pickled egg, so that was a plus.
No, the women didn’t go on a date to a local chippy – the pub they ate their pizzas in also offers something called ‘pub pickles’, which features pink pickled egg, kimchi, pickled onion, beet hummus and ‘bread soldiers’, which I’ll avoid rolling my eyes at because the rest of it sounds nice.
Anyway, no, table manners are not a priority over enjoying the food but I dare say your enjoyment of said pickled egg may have been tainted somewhat had Kaisa picked her nose while you ate, or fashioned the remains of her pizza into a collage of Nigel Farage. They’re not a priority, but they’re not unimportant.
Describe Rivkah in three words?
Lovely, expressive, sincere.
LOVELY. I love the word ‘lovely’. I like it said in many ways. Fully, with your eyes narrowing in pleasure and the lips curling up and letting out an ‘ooh’ before the word itself comes along to crown the while thing. Sardonically, with eyebrows raised in annoyance. Non-committally, because you can’t think of anything else to say. Honestly, when someone asks you what your meal was like. Even dishonestly, when a friend asks if you enjoyed your negroni, but you can’t say, because they made it specially for you, you don’t want to be a bother, and you love them and one day you might lose them, and you would always think back to this day, the day you couldn’t just sit there and say it was lovely. Lovely is lightness, contentment, appreciation. Lovely.
EXPRESSIVE. Like eyebrows.
SINCERE. Sincerity only ever seems to be marked out when it’s lacking in someone, doesn’t it? We rarely praise someone for actually being sincere. Maybe it’s because we don’t know what it looks like, or are too suspicious, or worried about getting our hearts broken, or looking like fools. Don’t feel bad about it; this is what the world has done to us. But this is a lovely thing to say. See? Lovely!
Describe Kaisa in three words?
Smart, interesting, independent.
SMART. This means clever more often now, doesn’t it? Can I say… it is so weird to be semi-old and watch language evolve before your very eyes. When I was younger, ‘smart’ to mean clever was around but it was such an Americanism, I don’t think anyone would’ve said it out loud, not where I came from anyway. I suppose smart is better than clever, in a way, because it suggests not just intelligence but general common sense and confidence. Smart. I like it. It’s a great word and a fantastic compliment and one not given away easily.
INTERESTING. Not suggesting Rivkah is doing this at all but very often when I say something is interesting, it’s because I can’t think of anything else to say about it and I am loath to dole out a compliment that actually means something.
INDEPENDENT. So important. It’s one thing I dread about being older, or the virus never quite going away – the curtailment of freedoms, the end of independence, having no control over your life. And I don’t mean the harmful, bellicose control people seem to want to exert, or claim they need to take back, but the little things. Popping to the shops, being able to jump on and off buses or trains, the ability to quicken your pace if you need to get somewhere/get away from someone faster.
If it weren’t for physical distancing, would you have kissed?
I would have liked to have given her a goodnight kiss, at least.
I felt the vibe was more friendly.
Like I said, a pessimist is never disappointed. Yet, all the same, a slight pain deep in my belly.
Marks out of 10?
Well. You can’t force anyone to have the same kind of feelings as you and it is perfectly possible to have equally a good time as each other but have very different ideas about where it’s going. I don’t feel these scores are marks for the date itself, but for its potential. Kaisa’s 9.5 – which would’ve been a 10 with a snog, but that was never actually on the cards anyway – sees a second date in the offing, and Rivkah’s 7… does not. Not in that way, anyway. But I don’t think Rivkah is saying Kaisa herself is a 7.
Look, not all of them can end in weddings and the threat of a global lung-destroyer doesn’t mean we all just have to jump into bed with everyone we get along with. In fact, it quite clearly means we can’t.
Would you meet again?
I would really like to. We exchanged numbers and discussed the possibilities of going for a cycle, or walk around a gallery.
Would you meet again?
We said we might go on a walk around the area one day, we’ll see.
We can’t win ’em all – but we can at least carry on!
About the review and the daters: 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 given and not judgements about the daters themselves, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. Daters are under no obligation to get along for our benefit, or explain why they do or don’t want to see each other again. 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, except anything positive about negronis.