Well, look! Only last week I was complaining that the lockdown era Zoom dates were losing their lustre – not that they had much of a shine to lose tbh, is video calling one of the worst inventions of all time?! – and praying for a return to the good old days of excruciating politesse over a tuna tostada when BOOM without warning, not even a tester date in full PPE, it’s back. We are back. Together. In the same room.
‘Eat out to help out’ may be about to get much more interesting.
This week, thankfully avoiding the charmless, grainy back and forth of Zoom, are 25-year-old conservation biologist Laura and Zach, 24, audiologist. It’s heart warming stuff. Here they are, about to head on their date (I assume).
The Guardian makes it clear they have not been photographed together. You have to add this disclaimer otherwise morons write in moaning about social distancing and there simply isn’t enough green ink in the world to go round. Like all those people who tweet GMTV, or whatever its equivalent is now, to tell them their on-screen clock is wrong, not realising they’re watching on ITV+1. These people have homes, jobs, families they’re raising. These are always the people in front of you at the drive-thru who act like they’ve never seen a menu before and ask to have every burger explained to them.
Read the Guardian’s version of what happened on the date before I spend the only day I’ve had off in weeks to write snarky asides about two people I’ve never met. Choices.
Laura on Zachary | Zachary on Laura
What were you hoping for?
A break from the enduring monotony of lockdown. Anything to get me out of the house for an evening.
How was it for you? Or should I say how is it? It’s not actually over you know. Nothing has changed, essentially. It has been quite an experience to watch everyone decide that because they are sick of lockdown, and the coronavirus that just months ago was terrifying us all, then we should just get back to normal. It’s like those Pumpkin Spice drones who see 1 September as the immovable beginning of autumn and – even if it’s 29º outside – start to pile on all their scarves and jumpers because they’re “done with summer”.
There’s a saying “be the change you want to see in the world” and it is a very good one but I’m not altogether sure it works with trying to control a virus that one year ago we had never heard of and that had caused global devastation but HEY mind over matter right?
What were you hoping for?
To meet a new person and be outside for another reason than going to Tesco.
“To meet a new person” – well the chances are pretty high on a blind date set up by a stranger.
I know we are not supposed to say we “enjoyed” lockdown because I don’t think anybody truly did and if you express anything without first taking into consideration every possible reaction and eventuality that others may have had then you get into trouble but… I must say I did quite like my trips to the supermarket. Admitting so makes me feel like one of those good-time gals who loved the Blitz, worked their way round entire battalions of American soldiers, and had drawers stuffed with black-market nylons during WW2. No drawing a black line up the back of my calves during the shortages, oh no. The one thing that kept me sane was the 20-minute walk to the serene, air-conditioned supermarket and gliding round it. Everything else was pretty horrible and I spent most of the last five months worrying so please don’t drag me onto the cricket green and cut all my hair off and douse me in cold gravy just yet, oh wise village elders.
What did you talk about?
Our jobs, how mad we have gone during lockdown, what constitutes a fair amount of alcohol to order when someone else is paying.
Her job and how cool it is, what it’s like living in west Africa and how to make this date go viral.
Jobs ✅ Talking about jobs at any other time is kind of shit-boring unless you’re executive assistant to a celebrity or work in a designer outlet and have sticky fingers but I will let them off because they’ve been stuck in the house for half a year and what the hell else is there to talk about, Anyway, according to Zachary, Laura’s job is cool, which is a good start.
Lockdown – when people ask me what I did during lockdown, I have such a wilfully basic and unspecial answer that its normcore energy could help me see through time. Anyway, the very few people I’ve seen in real life – I’m not really doing that yet – have been subjected to the one-line answer that I took up yoga, bought a new vacuum cleaner in absence of anything else to spend my money on, grew my hair, and went cycling every day. Hopefully people will stop asking soon. “What did you do during lockdown?” I survived, Colin. I survived. Oh, and I brought a book out.
How to make this date go viral – try not to make your answers work as a speedy vaccination against any such thing. Let’s see how you get on.
Any awkward moments?
When we tried to get the restaurant staff to come to a bar with us. We very nearly succeeded.
We were both flirting with the waiter.
Okay this is a good start?
I’m not sure whether Zachary is saying he’s bisexual here or just doing that thing men do where they think smiling at another man constitutes flirting but this seems like a good time to mention that my new novel The Magnificent Sons came out this week and has a bisexual protagonist. Thanks.
Anyway, this is good that they got on well with the waiting staff because it’s been a weird and tough time for anyone working in the hospitality industry. It’s hard enough working in a pub or restaurant but can you imagine what it’s like now with everyone trying to challenge social distancing rules or question every single part of the guidelines like naughty schoolchildren trying to get out of detention on a technicality?
Good table manners?
It’s been a while!
Very good, even when eating tacos.
No mean feat tbh.
Would you introduce him to your friends?
London friends: definitely. Non-London friends: I think he might be a bit edgy for them.
Laura, where the hell are your other friends from where a man with long hair in a white T and navy blue trousers would be too edgy? GILEAD? The second chapter of Enid Blyton’s The Children of Cherry-Tree Farm? He’s an audiologist not a beat poet or the owner of a meth lab.
On the scale of edginess – which runs from amiable clean-shirt who listens to NOW albums in the car (CD-changer in the boot) to tortured artist whose preferred media are faeces, synovial fluid, egg boxes, and letters cut out of old copies of Prima magazine, Zachary is probably on a par with… a Big Brother contestant (series 4) who gets surprise-evicted after a watermelon-cubing challenge.
LORD save me from edginess meaning anything not done by someone whose idea of a fun Saturday is a short back and sides, lattice fries at Leon, then a fingering in the toilets of a Malmaison.
Would you introduce her to your friends?
Of course you would. You could all talk about your favourite ASOS deliveries or The 1975 albums.
Describe Zac in three words
Cool, fun, enthusiastic.
COOL, like Stephanie in Grease 2.
FUN, like we used to have, back in the day, when Kylie was still getting Top 10s.
ENTHUSIASTIC, like you would be to see anyone other than your flatmates, your parents over FaceTime, and the guy in the local shop who MAYBE changes all the sell-by dates on those flan cases he’s had on display for years.
Describe Laura in three words
Funny, adventurous, Mezcal.
FUNNY, like the bit in Grease 2 where Maxwell Caulfield (BOING!) sings “What would they say if they knew it was Michael?” Hilarious.
ADVENTUROUS, like Mary Ann Singleton going to Dance Your Ass Off for the first time.
MEZCAL, like I can’t look at this word now without thinking of Paul Mescal, the guy who played the near-mute, emotional combustion engine and buff pale-blue skinned king of consent Connell in Normal People. Anyway I think this is code for they drank a fair bit of Mezcal. Which is great! We are back! Back!! BACK!!!
If it weren’t for physical distancing, would you have kissed?
I think we were better suited for friendship than dating.
Oh! That’s a bit of a surprise. Perhaps she’s worried about the non-edgy pals from Salem, Massachusetts not digging Zach’s trainer collection.
If it weren’t for physical distancing, would you have kissed?
Oh well. Of course this is easy to say because you can’t ACTUALLY kiss – unless you are a rule breaker and you know what happens to THEM on social media – so you could be on a date with someone, feel zero sexual fizz and to spare their blushes claim you might have snogged them. That would be a wrong thing to do, though, and I don’t think Zach is doing it here.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Nothing. Zac was a real laugh, and I had a great evening. This is going to be my primary “What did you do during lockdown?” story.
The number of shots I did.
HANGOVERS – they’re back, and this time it’s medicinal.
Marks out of 10?
A surprise 10 from Zachary. The 8 seemed fair from Laura. The most important thing is we are back in the wild, with all the horror that can entail. Waiting staff, sharing of starters, texting from the toilets, finding someone so incredibly unfanciable that you worry you may die from it, clumsy flirting, “shall I pour?”, the awkward hugs hello and goodbye, ending up on the same Tube, and the potential to lose your knickers at a party. This was the perfect, gentle introduction back into the Blind Dates proper. This is our rebirth. However: let’s chant for a double-10 next week and a couple who snog and agree to go halves on a bubble.
So how does it end? Bittersweet, like they nearly always do.
Would you meet again?
Hopefully at a party sometime.
This is even worse than “see you around” – it’s like saying “See you in a non-specific branch of Foot Locker sometime, maybe”.
For sure. One of the best nights out I’ve had in a long time.
But this is just the beginning, of course. For a short while, anyway. Let’s enjoy it while we can.
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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. And seriously where are you from that an audiologist in trainers is the height of edginess? I need to know.