It has never been easier to be a serial dater. That ability to swipe left and right and block and ignore and favourite and ‘wink’ – it’s turned single people into instant-gratification nightmares, knowing that if tonight’s date doesn’t work out, they can always get another one. There is always, always another, even for the physically unfortunate.
The trouble with going on lots of dates with different people is that you find yourself predicting from the off how things are going to go. The awkward greeting, the awkward offer to buy the first drink, “So, what do you do?”, the awkward offer to buy a second drink, is it worth getting a third drink, am I drunk, will we have sex, where am I, oh God am I in Hackney again?!
You become so used to it, you find yourself staring glassy-eyed out of the window, dying to find a break in the conversation so you can lean over and say, “Look, I know how this works. We’ve had two drinks, we will probably have two more. My job is awful and boring and I’d rather talk about leprosy. This pub is too loud and I don’t have to be anywhere until 10:30 tomorrow morning, you like me and I like you, so take me home and let me show you all the tricks I learned from the last one. Unless you live in Hackney.”
But you never do.
Two guys who should definitely have had that conversation are Leigham, 26, a law student, and 28-year-old fashion buyer Vincent. I have been stood up on a date three times, and two of those times were by a fashion buyer – the same fashion buyer, if you’re reading this, Joe, you’re still a bastard – so let’s just say Vincent is going to have to pedal a little faster if he wants my approval today. Read what happened on the date and then we’ll get going.
Leigham kicks us off and is in yellow. Vincent’s in pink.
This is starting to be my new “impeccable” or food-sharing or “I don’t think he could handle my friends”. You were hoping for a pleasant evening? With good food and good company? Remind me, are you a gay man in your 20s or are you Mary Berry describing what she’s going to do on her coach trip to Bridlington with the Rotary Club? Christ.
I think this is the politest way of saying “What the hell is he wearing? He looks like he fell into a clown’s wardrobe!” that I’ve ever read.
I refuse to believe people actually say this, let alone that it’s ever a valid first impression. Vincent, you are losing me fast and we are TWO answers in. Any more of your polite candlelit supper clichés and I’m going to demand to see your birth certificate because I cannot quite take in that you’re not 84.
“Helping old people” – that’s handy, because you’re on a date with the old woman who used to live next door to my grandma and hide her copy of the Sun inside a Daily Telegraph as she walked back from the paper shop.
If you think jeans are an odd thing to discuss on a date, may I present some context for you:
OMG have you ever been on a date with someone who’s done – or is training for – a marathon? If you’re not sure, then you haven’t, because let me tell you, the last drip of your martini from the cocktail shaker won’t have hit your glass before they tell you all about it. Oh yes: running routes, jogger’s nipple, random knee injuries, what the hardest mile was, energy drinks, holding in a piss while they ran over Tower Bridge. All of it. Everything. Runners love to tell you about running. And if you’re not a runner yourself, they’ll tell you why you should be, how liberating it is, how it really “clears your head” and how brilliant it is for your general wellbeing. Not interested? Doesn’t matter. They’ll persevere. They’ve got the time. They have the rugged persistence of a scientologist who hasn’t eaten for three days.
(If you’re wondering how I know this, I once trained for a marathon – let me tell you all about it sometime, hey hang on where are you going come back come back come back ETC.)
Anyway, you run. Great.
Make something up. Seriously. Or perhaps there were LOADS of awkward moments and Leigham couldn’t give a hoot.
Cool. How? What happened? Why did you almost spill it? Did you time-travel to… oh, let’s say now, and see how fucking BORED my face was and decide you needed to do something, anything, to spice up this world tour of everything vanilla, so ALMOST spilled some of your drink? Not even actually spilled it but almost. Nearly. I’ve almost done lots of things,. Wanna hear about them? No I thought not.
It’s table manners now and holy shit I want some juice here, otherwise I’m going to go and break some crockery.
You’re supposed to say no. When someone offers you a taste of their food, you just say “Ooh, no, thanks”. Then you offer them a taste of yours, which they are also supposed to refuse. Don’t even think about waggling your fork in front of my face or, worse, pushing your plate toward mine with a hopeful face – like a farm animal that’s about to be whisked to the abattoir – and expect me to carefully select a piece of my dinner, cut you a portion and then try to slide it onto your plate without spilling it on the table (I will spill it) while you grin wider than a serving dish because now, having taken the food from my mouth, you own me.
I know how this works. It’s a battle. You are trying to get one over on me. Although you are supposed to say no, you have said yes, which means I cannot refuse you. I have to give you some, even if I don’t want to. By taking this venison – do you really need to try venison btw? You can, like, buy it in Morrisons now – you have ruined my life and you haven’t even realised it. Except you have. And that’s why you said yes. Anyway.
This is the best business meeting I’ve ever been to. Oh, it’s a date? Are you sure? I just assumed. In a minute, someone’s going to unveil a Powerpoint and start talking about “synergy” and “reaching out”.
OK, they’re not all bad. Good on you, lads.
There are few compliments greater than ‘stylish’. I’m serious. Being complimented on your clothes is the greatest high. Looks? Intelligence? Well, that’s all very sweet but they’re accidents of birth, Your look, though, what you’re wearing – that’s you. You’ve toiled over that. You have thought long and hard, and prepped and changed your mind a million times, about what to wear on that date. “I just threw something on” – the FUCK you did.
I refuse to acknowledge people who claim they don’t care about what they wear or say “this old thing” and yet still look 💯 because they are absolutely a liar. They’re in the same league as people who claim to eat nothing but junk food but could still limbo under a closed door, or those who claim not have studied for an exam and yet get an A, or people who dismiss great ideas they have that are really successful as a “fluke”. You need to OWN all that hard work you’re putting in to be amazing. Don’t make it look easy when you know it’s not. It’s like being a living, breathing Instagram filter. It’s dishonest and I’ll file you under ‘G’ for garbage.
So, anyway, full marks to Leigham for his clothing congratulation.
I’m warming to Vincent, but I cannot even with some of these compliments. Calm. How could he be anything else? Nothing is happening! Your top awkward moment is very nearly spilling a fizzy drink – something that never actually occurred.
Well, he thinks you’re eloquent, it seems, so either he was equally sozzled – something tells me that both of these guys are up there with Sandy from Grease when it comes to ability to take their alcohol – or he was so busy staring at you he couldn’t think of anything else.
He says you were “warm”. Like mittens, or IKEA meatballs when you’ve been queuing to pay for too long, or Bristol in May.
Did you exchange business cards? This is all very factual. “This happened and then this happened and then this nearly happened and then another thing and there was a man there and then a lady came and then I saw a dog and then I went to the Tube station and then a train came and then I went home.”
I get more sexual tension balling up socks when I’m putting away laundry.
Food sharing. Again. Food envy. “He let me taste some” – you’ll spend the entire evening ravaging each other’s plates and talking like two bank managers at an Easter barbecue but you won’t SNOG? I give up.
It’s time for the scores. We’re nearly done. Just one more triple-shot and we’ll be through. Stay with me.
7 from Leigham. A seven is a 1 with tissue stuffed in its bra. Nobody ever had an amazing time and said it was a 7/10. If your Mum put a dinner in front of you and asked what you thought of it out of 10, and you said 7, she’d put your face in it. Seven. It’s a one.
Eiiiiiight. Eights are more hopeful. An 8 is a stepchild shown an unexpected bit of kindness from its mum’s new boyfriend. The thing with an 8, though, is that it’s too safe. It doesn’t suggest potential; it’s a “that was sufficient, but I never want to eat it again” after you try something new in a restaurant. If nine is wearing suede shoes out in the rain, eight is staying at home until it’s stopped so you don’t ruin them. Eight is sensible. 8.
So, the paint is finally dry. Will our tame twosome meet up again to share marathon stories or denim diatribes? Or will they both go back to their day jobs as mannequins in a department store window?
“There was no romantic connection.” Basically, “I didn’t fancy him” delivered with the dead-eyed precision of Delia Smith icing an eclair.
“Maybe.” “Catch up.” If Leigham were any more non-committal he’d be a straight man in his first relationship, sharing a flat in Clapham and getting the wobbles because his girlfriend wants to go halves on a mousemat.
Oh Vincent. Maybe you should’ve spilled that champagne after all – at least one of you would’ve got wet.
Note: 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 editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. This isn’t about me thinking these two people are dicks – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally, and might I suggest you step it up if you appear in any magazines in future. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal.
Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian