Impeccable Table Manners

Kati and Matt


The thing with getting older is that chances run out. Opportunities tend to knock less frequently, and when they do rat-a-tat-tat at your door, you don’t move as quickly as you used to, so by the time you get there, they’ve moved on to the next house.

That’s not to say you become any less risk averse as you age. Sure, the old cliché goes that you care less what people think of you, the older you get, but while outwardly that may be true, in reality you care all the more. Experience is a curse and a blessing – youthful ignorance gives way to the suspicion, or worry, people may not be all they seem. There are layers. You’ve been screwed over before. The dating scene once you’ve swapped your Converse for Clarks, then, can be pretty confusing.

But you have to give it a go, and taking the plunge this week are 47-year-old script consultant Kati and Matt, 48, an account manager. It’s interesting to see we’re ageing up in the column again, after a brief spell earlier in the year when each week’s participants still had traces of amniotic fluid around their hairline. Read what happened on the date while I wait over here to get busy with the fizzy.

Kati | Matt
What were you hoping for?
An earth-shattering encounter with a leftie rebel.

Well, this is the Guardian, so you can see where she was going with this one. However, it is also 2015 – the most rebellious thing a Guardian reader does these days is park his Prius in a neighbour’s parking space. NO PERMIT. Daredevil.

Also: Matt is an ‘account manager’, so good luck with the leftie thing.

What were you hoping for?
A fun evening.

Beige colour chart

First impressions?
Nice, conservative gentleman.

If Kati’s actual first impression of Matt was ‘conservative’ I will eat my spoiled voting slip. This is, like, foreshadowing to an incredible degree so hang on to the edge of your seats while we get where we’re going.

Pretty, friendly and smiley.

Hey Matt, enough about me. Oh. This is a very nice, if obvious, thing to say as a first impression, but at least it sounds like he means it.

What did you talk about?
Sex, past relationships, politics, religion, the Almafi coast, Monte Carlo, LA.
Holidays, work, film, Italy, family, Finland.

If this were a game of snap, we’d be laying down cards a long time with no matches, wouldn’t we? Were they sitting at the same table? Amalfi coast/Italy – check. Beyond that, two radios sitting blasting out at each other.

Would you really talk about sex on a first date? Is this what it’s like to be in your uninhibited forties? I’m 40 soon, so I really should swot up on disagreeable things I can wheel out at the dinner table. Did they talk about good sex, bad sex? Every shape of phallus, arse and breast they’ve encountered? I don’t understand.

Oh, and politics: not on a first date. No. It’s boner death. You don’t want it. Even people who agree on politics can’t help but disagree about something, like whether to put salt in with the pasta when you’re boiling it. (That’s a trap, btw: nobody eats pasta anymore.)

EDIT: Someone on Twitter pointed out the “Amalfi” typo in the magazine. Kati’s mistake, or the subs? We’ll never know.

Any awkward moments?
When it became apparent he was more of a Telegraph reader and I knew I would have to hold my tongue for the rest of the evening.

Hahaha yes I REALLY believe someone looking for a “leftie rebel” would sit tight like Miss Muffet when faced with a Telegraph-reading Tory. Owen Jones, famously, has a zip on his mouth that he helpfully closes when within five miles of someone who doesn’t share his views. You won’t hear a peep from him, oh no.

And calling someone a Telegraph reader is a bit… well, outdated. Kati clearly hasn’t spent a few carefree hours wandering through the poisoned tulip fields that are the  comments section under every single Guardian piece.

If you mean he’s a Tory, say so. Some of the Telegraph is great, just like any newspaper.

Any awkward moments?
It isn’t possible to pour wine with a top on the bottle. How many times did I try?

Why did you keep putting the top back on the bottle in the first place? Why did the waiter even leave the top for the wine bottle with you? Who does that? Were you in McDonald’s?

I suppose screwing a wine bottle top on and off would give you something to do while Kati was squirming in her seat at everything you said.

Good table manners?

Leonardo di Caprio shrugging

Good table manners?
Yes, but chopsticks is a big ask on a first date.

Oh it IS. It really is. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I ask for a fork. I don’t care whether I’m not “fully immersing in the cultural experience” (actual quote from a former date) or look like I’m “not willing to try anything new” (again, a former date).

You have a choice here: you can either sit opposite me, let me get a fork and have a normal, potentially enjoyable conversation while we eat, or you can insist I use chopsticks and watch in horror as prawns, noodles and dignity go flying just about everywhere but inside my mouth. Perhaps it will be funny for the first, oh I don’t know, eighteen attempts to get a snow pea into my mouth. Before long, however, you’ll be wishing we were in Burger Blokes or Filthy Meat Slut or wherever and you were watching me dribble one of their £11 irono-burgers all down my chin.

Best thing about Matt?
Good tipper (very important) and a nice kisser.


Hang on. Kati, you were only on Northumberland Avenue a minute ago – how come you’ve managed to buy Park Lane AND pass go in just one turn?! Kati has just zoomed ahead and has dropped a massive – and surprising, I must say – spoiler bomb in our laps.

And I agree about tipping. 100%. Well, not 100%. 15%. But, yes, never snog a bad tipper. Perhaps that’s what ‘tipped’ Kati over the edge into “might as well”. Please excuse the pun; I’ve only had one cup of tea.

Best thing about Kati?
Pretty – she looks about 20 and is good fun.

Look, I like a compliment and an incorrectly guessed age as much as the next ageing old queen, but even I’d draw the line at someone saying I looked 20. At 20 I looked like one of those part-baked baguettes you only ever get in Co-Op food stores on a horrible main road. Not yet done. Not a lot of potential, either.

Anyway, this is GOOD, isn’t it? I feel we are going somewhere.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
They wouldn’t have much in common.

Oh, Kati. We were doing so well. You can be friends with a Tory, you know. You don’t all have to stand around in circles talking about politics all the time. I have a few Tory friends and, beyond a few ‘interesting discussions’ that leave me gasping for breath and purple in the face, we kind of ignore it. It’s like mentioning someone has vaginismus or an undescended testicle. You know it’s a part of their lives but there’s no need to talk about it until absolutely necessary. Which is never.

And I’m sure your friends would love to roll up the sleeves on their Boden cardigans and tear Matt to shreds; it’d be like a live stage play of any given Tuesday on Comment is Free. In short: you’re in your 40s. If your pals can’t handle a different point of view or a challenge, it’s time to broaden your horizons.

Describe her in three words
Very left wing.

Dull fact: in the online version of the column they totally stitch Matt up and have ‘leftwing’ as one word (as per the Guardian style guide, oh yes). The mag’s subs – secret Tory voters, perhaps – have been a little kinder, however, and left it as three.

Anyway, Matt is describing Kati as very leftwing but Kati claims to have held her tongue once she found out he was a “Telegraph reader”. It appears Kati may have let very limited control of her tongue.

Oh hang on, we know that already, remember: look where it ended up.

And… did you kiss?
Obviously! I do love a good kiss, and sometimes they can surprise you.
It would have been rude not to.

Absolutely! The thing is, even if you don’t have that much in common with a date while you’re wrestling chopsticks and blanching because they just said all single mothers should be thrown into a lake, you might as well kiss them because sometimes the most disagreeable people of all are the very, very best at snogging.

I’m just so glad somebody finally answered that question rather than run squealing from the room red-faced, like a seven-year-old who just walked in on mum and dad having a quick grope at the kitchen sink.

You know, you “might as well”.

What do you think she made of you?
Confident for a man of my physical appearance.

Haha, aw, I love this. White men in their late forties with slight paunches are famously shrinking violets, so I’m sure Kati was knocked off her seat. Full marks for the endearing self-deprecation though, Matt.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Someone I had more in common with.

OK, cool, but did you bang?

The politics killed it.

No, then. Oh.

But, yes, the politics will always kill it. Stone dead. Save your ballot-paper chat for the morning after, while you’re searching for your socks in an unfamiliar bedroom, bumping into excessive, ugly furniture and praying you have enough battery on your phone for your GPS to guide you out of wherever the hell you are.

Only bring out the politics once you’re absolutely sure
a) you’d never screw them in a million years, or
b) you’d never screw them again or
c) they’re the best screw you’ve ever had and you don’t care if they’re Ukip – you want that thing everywhere.

7, for a nice evening.

Are you sure you didn’t do it? I think there’s potential here. From different ends of the political spectrum, yes, but wouldn’t you like to be challenged every day, or do you just want the human equivalent of the nodding dog from the Churchill ads, agreeing with everything you say?

Buttons should be pushed, levers pulled, cordons brushed aside, “DO NOT ENTER” signs torn down. What have you got to lose, eh?


Would you meet again?
Never say never, but I doubt it. Not romantically, anyway.

Karen Gillen shrugging

Have you ever met anyone who said “Never say never” and meant anything other than “never”? No, me neither.

Matt? Fancy joining your right wing with Kati’s left and making a pair so you can, er, soar romantically or something?

I don’t know if the chemistry was right for romance, but I’d happily see Kati again.

Jenna on 30 Rock saying 'shut it down'

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian.

Note: I generally don’t take sides, and 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. 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 and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

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