As the old saying goes, “location location location”, but it’s not exclusive to estate agents and Kirstie Allsopp – you’ve got to get it right on a date too.
Thing is, choosing somewhere terrible can actually be a good thing, as you can bond over the awful service, mediocre food and dreadful clientele. If you don’t think you’ve got the chops to charm or laugh them into bed, take them somewhere awful. Then, if you’ve nothing to talk about, you can at least gflect on your misfortune.
Today’s daters are Liam, 24, a media planning director, which could mean anything, and 30-year-old Dee (30!) who is an HR officer and looks quite disarmingly familiar. Eight years ago, I went to the bar where our two daters meet and it was a faux-opulent, charmless dungeon of filthy lucre with all the romantic potential of a Russian oligarch’s least favourite toupée. Let’s hope our daters can break that curse. Read what happened on it before I pull on my plastic glove and get everyone to open wide.
Liam | Dee
What were you hoping for?
Decent conversation, shared anecdotes, some chemistry.
Shared anecdotes? Like, both telling exactly the same story? Wouldn’t that be a little boring? Unless you both put funny voices on, I suppose.
Someone interesting to talk to and great company.
Where do I know you from Dee? Did I break your heart? Did you break mine? Were we in that Final Cut Pro course together in 2007? Have you tutted at me on the Tube? I don’t know.
Anyway, you look familiar and that’s all there is to say because you’re giving me nothing but gruel to work with in that answer, bae.
Great smile and a trendy style.
I see Liam has found the original, rejected lyrics to Taylor Swift’s Style down the back of his sofa. “Trendy” is almost certainly a word Taylor would use if she liked your strappy sandals, isn’t it?
I haven’t heard anyone say “trendy” with a straight face since 1984 in the Bradford branch of Ravel (in the basement of Rackhams) when my dad tried to convince I wouldn’t get bullied because of the lovely blue boots I was trying on. Dad was wrong.
Good-looking, intelligent and confident.
I wonder how you can tell whether someone is confident just by looking at them. Maybe he had his feet up on the table or was reading a porn mag and smoking a cigar and twirling Ferrari keys in his hand.
What did you talk about?
Politics, our shared views on dating in London, exes.
Regular readers will know I would rather kick a football back to a bunch of school kids in the park than I would talk about dating on a date, but the real humdinger here is the ex chat.
Don’t talk about exes. They are exes. EX-communicated. EXtra info you need only divulge once you’ve been on a few dates. Making your first date all about previous porridge pots you’ve stirred is poor form. Fuck your exes. They are history.
“Dating in London”, though.
What did you talk about?
Life, work, past dating, travel, keeping fit – I got the sense we had similar views on life.
I think Dee might actually be three very short straight men standing on top of one another beneath a raincoat. But, no, seriously, at least they’re getting on.
Any awkward moments?
He asked if he had food stuck in his teeth, which he may have found awkward but I thought was refreshing.
If you think that’s refreshing, you should try pineapple or a shower on a hot day – they’ll blow your mind.
Liam has invented an awkward moment here that’s actually not about him and suggests there weren’t any awkward moments really but he feels he had to say something.
Hang on, though, there’s a… what is that? *peers into distance* Why, sitting right over there is an elephant. It’s holding up a sign, saying… oh I can’t quite make it out. It says “Wait until you see the next answer”. Oh.
Liam is moving to Australia soon. Congratulations! That was a surprise.
Someone did this to me once.
We went on a date, and got on really well and it was, like, lightning bolts and laser beams and I went home from the (very chaste) date hugging myself and walking on air. Anyway, he texted the next day to say he’d decided to pursue something with someone else, only to text me again a few months later asking for another chance. I gave him this chance, because I am stupid, and it was all very exciting again, until, at the very end of the date, he said he was moving to Canada.
In Liam’s defence, the Guardian do take a while to pair you up after you first apply, so he may have entered the column in good faith. He could, however, have dropped out.
You can come back from a belch, you can come back from accidentally sympathising with Rose West, but you can’t rescue a date from the knowledge it couldn’t possibly go anywhere – unless there’s a spare ticket to Australia in his clutch bag.
Either that or Liam has decided he definitely doesn’t want to see Dee again and is making it up. Impressive.
Good table manners?
Bang on – we managed to share a starter amicably.
Not only does Liam make surprise moves to different hemispheres – he shares starters. Nobody does that amicably – it’s a cauldron of resentment just waiting to spill over. This isn’t looking great.
Best thing about Dee?
Amazing attitude to life.
His passion for life.
I don’t know what this means. It’s kind of like hold-music while you’re waiting on the phone to speak to someone at nPower. “Likes being alive.” Not really an answer, just filler.
What do you think he made of you?
That I live for my career – he seemed quite entertained by my two phones.
Two phones. Back in the day, that used to mean you were a drug dealer. Perhaps Dee was hoping you’d whip a bag of ching out of your blouson.
How did Dee know Liam had two phones? Did Liam have them out on the table? You’re on a date. Nothing is that important. There is something about a 24-year-old saying “I live for my career” that is both hilarious and unnerving. It’s so insincere. It’s what David Cameron would’ve said.
What do you think he made of you?
Tough question. I’d guess he found me easy to talk to.
Since the Australia question, Dee has zoned out. He’s phoning it in. Not even. It’s an email.
“What do I think he made of me? Who gives a damn? He’s moving to Australia. It doesn’t matter whether he thought I had potential to be a serial killer or wanted to book the registry office before we’d had pudding. He’s moving 12,000 miles away.”
Did you go on somewhere?
Nope – he had to pack for a trip to Berlin and I had a big day at work the next day.
Big day at work = needed to get back home to charge up his two phones.
Nope. It was a school night.
Dee, you’re 30. You don’t go to school anymore. If you keep turning up at the school gates with your satchel and your lunchbox and your Dairylea sandwiches, they’re going to have you sectioned.
Having to get up early for a trip to Berlin the next day is the very thing that would keep me out on the town. I’d be pouring Sambuca down my neck at 4am and waving away concerned onlookers with a breezy “It’ll be fiiiiiiine”.
My hunch is, though, Dee wasn’t going to let Liam be the only one escaping to another country so totally invented this entire trip just to bring a sash window slamming down on the entire evening.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Dee claimed to love dancing. Seeing him on the dancefloor would have been good.
That’s all you’d change? Nothing else? No? Hang on, I have a call on line 2:
Nothing, it was fun.
Dee is brilliant, dinner with him was a treat – 9!
It certainly was a treat – you didn’t have to pay for it. Dee’s cold, efficient 8 after Liam’s gushing praise says what we’re all thinking, doesn’t it? Away and waltz, Matilda.
The final furlong awaits. Will our dynamic duo meet again? Even if they were keen, I’m not sure where they’d manage it. Quick coffee in the departure lounge before Liam leaps onto his Qantas jumbo jet?
Would you meet again?
As friends, but romantically it wasn’t a goer – we are at different stages in our lives.
YES LIAM THAT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE MOVING TO AUSTRALIA OMFG.
It is very inconvenient of Dee not to be at the stage where he too is moving across the globe, but, you know, sometimes love will find a way.
And sometimes love simply can’t get an Uber.
We connected on Facebook.
Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian.
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 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.