In a week where it’s felt like we’re living in a reality TV show that’s just been taken over by producers who ran pitbull fights as a side hustle while at university, we must cling to the normal. We don’t have much else. Topical jokes age quicker than burrata left out in a south-facing conservatory, the loudest newspapers appear to be spinning out works of fiction faster than Catherine Cookson at a beat poetry slam, and absolutely everything, everywhere, in ever corner feels like it’s monumentally f*cked with no hope of every retrieving the final crumbs of our sanity.
But before we say to Rose, ‘actually, love, I’m kind of fine in this freezing cold Atlantic, you keep that door to yourself and enjoy the next 100+ years of madness’, let us gaze upon the Guardian Blind Date one more time, by the blinking lights of the near-submerged Titanic. In fact, gaze is right. Gaze! Look:
Oh thank goodness. It’s been far too ‘Oliver Bonas catalogue’ in this column for a long time now. Remember the halcyon days when every week was a different rainbow combination? It seems like years since we’ve had successive dates of wonky hair, dungarees, jumpers with the cuffs pulled right over the thumbs, and raw slavering over each other in the back of an Uber that’s going to take you over your overdraft. But here we are, with Ken (left) and Chris (not on the left). Better still, they’re creatives! Ken, 29, is a photographer, and Chris, 28, is an artist and illustrator. Oh the nights are going to fly by, and there are going to be so many drinks in bars that have breeze blocks instead of tables and marker pens in the toilet cubicles so you can add your own graffiti but rejoice! rejoice! rejoice! all the same. We will leave aside that they look a little like they’re lining up for the publicity shot of a local, touring production of Trainspotting and instead launch into reading the full date on the Guardian website, where you can also see a selfie they took on the date, and read all the answers I leave out below because we all have somewhere to be.
Ken on Chris | Chris on Ken
What were you hoping for?
I was just hoping I didn’t come off as a nervous wreck. Other than that, I had zero expectations.
Oh baby. This is the right attitude, to he honest. Aim for nothing. then everything else is a bonus. Certainly if you have a career in the creative industries, take it from me. As for nerves, they are exactly the same as excitement, except excitement has better packaging and is sold in upmarket stores or by the till in bijou vanity-project boutiques that sell Diptyque candles and bamboo boxer shorts. Nerves are good, so long as you don’t try to medicate them with wine.
What were you hoping for?
As the only Kens I know are in their 70s, someone my age. (Sorry to all you young Kens out there.)
At university, in first year, I had the room next door to a Ken. Are you still out there, Ken? Are you still smoking joints form the second you wake up, playing a football manager simulator in a ‘white’ dressing gown, with no consequences whatsoever?
And then in final year, I lived with ANOTHER Ken, except he was actually called Kheng, but called himself Ken so that he could neutralise at least some of the inevitable racism he faced (he was from a Chinese family) from people who thought it was funny to get his name wrong. Anyway, hello Kheng, if you’re still out there too.
Sweet, easy-going, very approachable and down to earth. Friendly.
“Thank God … he looks nice!” I was so nervous that when I saw his smiling face I was like … phew!
Phew. Exactly. It can go either way. So Chris is nervous too, which is great because, like two, er, magnets or something, a double-nervous cancels out the nerves entirely. If you’re stuck for conversation, talk about how nervous you were (only works if both of you were nervous, you will be able to tell from the slight tremble as they lift their drink, any blushing or slight perspiration during the inevitable ‘hug?/peck on cheek?/handshake?’ confusion when saying hello).
What did you talk about?
Everything … Work. Childhood. Dating experiences. First loves. Breakups.
Everrrrrything! From exes to favourite foods, Ken had this knack of asking familiar questions in an insightful way.
Everything ✅ – Am trying to work out how Chris’s ‘Everrrrrything!’ would sound if you said it loud. I think I know what he’s going for, but I can’t be sure. I’d say audio would be handy but the last thing we need is for this to turn into a podcast.
Exes/breakups ✅ – Regular readers will know that I’m generally against dragging exes kicking and screaming from the annals of history into the present. But I suppose it depends on the presentation. I would stay quite high-level and vague on a first date, just enough for them to know that, yes, you are definitely sexy and desirable enough to have exes in your back catalogue but, no, you do not stand in front of the mirror after your shower, weeping, and writing their name in the condensation.
Ken had this knack of asking familiar questions in an insightful way – I have picked this out because this is such a lovely compliment and testament to how Ken shouldn’t have been nervous at all because he is clearly a delight and very good at being on dates! Maybe it’s because he’s a photographer – good ones tend to talk to you while they shoot you, build a rapport, so you look more relaxed (and thus HOT) on camera. This is why the hurried photographs you make your partner take in front of various monuments are crap – ‘Jesus, how many do you want me to take?’ and ‘Are you actually going to stand like that?’ are not conducive to looking happy and relaxed on camera.
Any awkward moments?
I accidentally spat my gum on to the floor while talking (he wasn’t looking, so I picked it up and hid the evidence).
GUM?!? On a date?!?!?!?
Ken, darling, you were doing so well – gum out before he arrives. Unless… this was a chiclet of gum added later on, just in case… oooh you sly fox, you.
Any awkward moments?
Only when Ken ordered prawn heads and a sake after he’d told me he was allergic to shellfish and alcohol.
Pretending to be allergic things to create mystique and drama has been going on for much, much longer than you think. Wasn’t there always someone at school who was ‘allergic’ – or ‘allergikt’ as it was pronounced by other children when I was small – to something served on the reg in the school canteen? After an unfortunate vomiting incident aged 5, I pronounced myself ‘allergikt’ to lemon meringue pie and evaded its unsettling crusty yet wobbly domes for the rest of my ‘career’ at my primary school.
Of course you always get the renegades who actually *are* allergic to things but order them anyway because the brief taste of this forbidden fruit is worth the frantic stabbings of an Epi-Pen and three hours in A&E with lips like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills.
Anyway by ‘allergic to alcohol’, there’s every chance Ken meant ‘nightmare when drunk’ – relatable to millions, I’m sure.
Good table manners?
We ate at an Asian restaurant so it was my territory. He tried everything and was really good to our waitress. I served him his sake and his food (we do this in Chinese households).
He made sure my water was topped up and was super friendly with our waitress. I probably had my elbows on the table.
‘Nice to the waitress’ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Amazing how so many people, otherwise disempowered in their miserable, pedestrian lives, enjoy transforming into tinpot dictators once they have the Wahaca menu in their hand. So this is a good sign. As I said in a piece in the Guardian last week, the Venn diagram of rude customers, bad tippers and people who are woeful in bed is one perfect circle.
Describe them in three words.
We discussed this during the date: energetic (not chaotic), fun, honest.
Chilled. Talented. Allergic!
Oh dear. Second week in a row. However, in this case, I can kind of understand it. The ‘three words’ question is a good question – even though it’s often answered badly – so it would make a decent conversation topic and it is, kind of, collusion by stealth. You are basically planting the adjectives in your date’s head, although it might not work entirely well, but if it doesn’t, you at least have an idea of what they might say so you know how chill to be when it comes to your own responses.
What do you think Chris made of you?
He told me he thinks I’m calm and confident. He guessed my star sign, so he knows I’m balanced and sensitive.
Oh, star signs. I grew up around people who were into this kind of thing and… well, I’m a Capricorn, the renowned miserable, old-before-their-time, eternally serious, penny-pinching runts of the zodiac. I am hugely fascinated by how much of a dragging Capricorns get in any personality roundup, or horoscope for the future, or love match, or whatever. Guaranteed, by the time the astrologist has got to Capricorn, they’re seriously over it and have nothing nice to say. My theory is that whichever bored weirdo invented the personality traits for the star signs had recently been dumped by a Capricorn. Seriously. It is never good news for us.
Anyway, if you are into that stuff, I both respect your beliefs and am sorry for your loss.
What do you think Ken made of you?
Fast-talking? Friendly? And hungry.
Oooooh have we got a lesser-spotted ‘I talked too much’ in disguise here? Talking fast is fine, we’re all running out of time and history is moving at a speed that would make a Labrador hanging out of a car window think ‘actually maybe not’ and haul its neck back in.
Did you go on somewhere?
No, it was 10.45pm and I was getting wasted. I had ordered three bottles of sake and had whisky before, which is probably why I seemed calm.
Ken is allergic to being drunk.
And … did you kiss?
No. I wasn’t feeling the sexiest after five starters and three bowls of ramen.
*sounds air horn* this is why I have always, always said you should never go for food on a first date. In fact, food on any date is a bit of a boner-thwarter. Unless you both sit there nibbling, I don’t know, salads or something? Pumpkin seeds? I don’t know. Your belly will be too full and post-grub bloating and the threat of a mid-snog belch (it happens, I have the therapy bill to prove it [not really; I can’t afford therapy, of which this blog is no doubt proof]) are not exactly conducive to sexiness. So I hear you, Ken.
And … did you kiss?
No. Do people kiss on a first date? *angelface emoji*
Marks out of 10?
A strong 8.
Is this our first… what do we call these now? Emoticons? Smileys? I can’t remember, the last time I saw one, Sam Mitchell in EastEnders had a different head. But I think this might be our first sighting of a 🙂 in the score answer. Does it enhance or diminish the 7 before it? Is it, like, ‘LOL this is a six really, F U’ or is it ‘This would’ve been an eight, but I’m gay and complicated’? Who knows.
Usually, a 7 is a 1 with full body glitter, whereas a ‘strong 8’ is a 9 with indigestion, but as these two actually got on well, I am going to assume the 🙂 makes the 7 an 8. Because I can!
Would you meet again?
Yes, I would: he, and the date, made me feel good about myself.
Ah, Ken. Lovely Ken. What a nice thing to say and also to feel. How many of us, after years of being tortured by bad men on dating apps, and reply guys, and DM sliders, and f*ckboys, and ‘my girlfriend is out of town’, and… you know the ones. How many of us can say a date made us feel better about ourselves than we were before we went on it?
Would you meet again?
For sure! Though, for me, it would be as mates. Ken works in a really cool queer bookshop: I want to check it out.
As I say (almost) every week, a new friendship is harder to find than a soul in a Tory cabinet minister – we should cherish them far more than romantic liaisons. Anyone can get drunk and have a five-minute grope in an alleyway – and what great fun they were! – but a meeting of minds with no ulterior motive is rather trickier to cultivate. Good luck, I’m sure you won’t need it.
This blog is free to read, but not to run. If you enjoyed this and have the spare change lying about, any tips or contributions will be grateful received.
Another way I don’t make any money whatsoever is by writing novels.
My latest one is called THE FAKE-UP and has lots of good jokes in it, but also a serious side because I too am gay and complicated.
Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review
The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. 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, so please try not to speculate or fill our feeds with hate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. Ken, are you seriously allergic to alcohol, or what? Do we need to have a whip-round to buy you some chocolates in hospital?