It’s a grey day. Luckily there have been a few rainbow sparkles and unicorn sightings since we last saw each other – election results, vaccines, and a couple of good riddances to bad rubbish. And Christmas is on its way, of course, the festive adverts now beginning their furtive steps into the subconscious, still a novelty. Let’s all reconvene in four weeks’ time and see what incessant perma-rotation of these syrupy capitalist scenarios has done to us. I am trying hard to be festive, but it’s like something hasn’t been switched on. Maybe I need to light a candle. I got my first eggnog latte of the ‘season’ the other day and felt nothing. Nothing.
Hoping to feel something – social distancing rules notwithstanding – in this week’s GBD is Lizzi, a 29-year-old lingerie buyer – I’m assuming this is a description of her job rather an arbitrary peek at her bank statement laying bare her spending habits. Otherwise, I’d be Justin, a 44-year-old pre-packed oak smoked chicken buyer (three packs this week – delicious in pitta bread, available at Sainsbury’s!). Alongside her is Junior, 35 but looking 25, who is an international student recruiter. Travels the world recruiting students? Recruits students who live internationally? Is an international student himself but also recruits? We’ll never know. Anyway here they are in their admittedly very nice dating outfits:
Read their full account of the date on the Guardian website before I select a few questions to rip apart.
Lizzi on Junior | Junior on Lizzi
What were you hoping for?
Love. Or, failing that, good conversation with someone outside my normal circle, tasty food and a break from the endless pile of washing-up that lockdown has created.
LOVE. Let’s start big. Are people still finding love in our decidedly unspontaneous times? And where? Now that it’s basically law that we’re not allowed to take any chances, and heavily policed by anyone bored enough to slag you off on a social media platform, are people still making use of happenstance and serendipity and ‘might as well’? Or are we all like a Sim that’s walled up in one part of the game, utterly disconnected from what everyone else is doing.
As for the endless pile of washing up, I suppose one plus of ‘all this’ – and the term ‘plus’ is doing some serious powerlifting there – is that rents are tumbling down. My Zoopla search (I check it nightly and have done for the last four years, I hate my flat) has had the same financial parameters for a long time and imagine my surprise when I saw three and four bedroom flats suddenly come in my price range. So perhaps one good thing to come out of it is that people currently living without a dishwasher might be able to find a flat that has one, for a decent price – until the economy shows the slightest hint of recovery and the landlord whacks up the rent, of course, or converts your flat into an AirBnB. Landlords gonna landlord.
What were you hoping for?
This was my first blind date so I was hoping it wouldn’t be a disaster.
Junior, there, with probably the most honest answer this question has seen in a long time. ‘Just get me through the next four hours’ – we’re all living like that in a way.
Good! I liked her energy and found her attractive.
Smiley, chatty, warm and welcoming. He had just had a haircut, so I appreciated the effort there.
This is a good start! How did she know he’d just had a haircut? Was he still wearing the barbershop gown? Could she smell Barbicide?
What did you talk about?
So much! Family dynamics, north v south London, BLM, Marvel v DC, E-sports, space…
The BLM movement and how it affected both of us over the summer. Bad dating stories (I told her about the time I was catfished). We talked about our tattoos and realised we actually have the same tattoo of the Basquiat crown, which is pretty damn cool.
North v south London – Where do you stand on this one? Even if you don’t live in London? Do they really have different feels? I have spent most of my time in London in the south (living west at the moment – which I’m still getting used to after over five years) and I would say it does have a different feel. I have probably said before, but there was something quite life-affirming about having to cross the river often, whether getting to work or just going up west for some new fast fashion. When you cross the Thames to return south, you feel like you’re closing off a part of your day, leaving behind whatever stresses you picked up there, or powering down from the excitement even. It’s time to go home, where the Tube map starts to branch out into nothing and railway arches ferry overground trains to wherever the underground couldn’t reach. There is bravery and beauty and nonsense in all parts of London, and it’s all just geography after all, but I do think there’s something in it. Otherwise why would be so protective and territorial of it?
BLM – short for Black Lives Matter, in case anyone is wondering, but I hope you weren’t. I get really depressed when I see ‘woke’ now being used as a pejorative, reclaimed by creepy right-wingers or aged commentators berating anyone challenging the status quo. Sometimes challenging this systematic, oppressive bullshit feels insurmountable, like you can never win, like you can never be loud enough. But that’s what they want you to think. I like to talk to my 19-year-old godson about this because he’s eloquent and passionate and most of all… very caring. It’s surprising when the babies you used to soothe at barbecues so you could hear the music suddenly turn into intelligent adults with their own opinions. He went on the protests this summer with his friends, a diverse group in every sense, and told me about the people he’d met, what it was all about. I know there’s a long way to go and it can feel like the world is going down the toilet but sometimes I feel a surge of optimism that the world could actually be in good hands. I hope they never lose that spark. His mum would’ve been so proud of him.
That said, there is more to anti-racism than just not doing racist things. In an interview to mark the publication of her new book Whites, author and journalist Otegha Uwagba points out: “Genuine allyship is probably not going to feel good for white people. It means giving up power, money, wealth, opportunities, things that will change the quality of your life and make it feel relatively worse. No one is talking about those very unsexy actions. It requires loss.”
Tattoos – I don’t have any. I don’t have the right skin for them.
This is the crown they both have:
Any awkward moments?
All she knew about me from the matchmaker was that I like Craig David and the Spice Girls, so I had to explain that I’m not obsessed with the Spice Girls… I just used to be. When I was 10! Viva Forever.
WHY aren’t you still obsessed with the Spice Girls, Junior?! Viva Forever means forever. (Best Spice Girls uptempo? Say You’ll Be There, right? Best ballad? Viva Forever, 100%. I’m taking no calls on this. Stop the count.)
Good table manners?
Absolutely, couldn’t fault them.
Best thing about Junior?
His openness. We talked about some deep topics, and his ability to share his experiences allowed me to feel safe enough to talk about more personal subjects.
Safety of this kind is underestimated. We think a lot about protecting ourselves from physical harm, but there’s a lot to be said for the effect negativity can have on you, someone not being receptive – I suppose we’re back to the anti-woke brigade here in a way, but not just that. So much of our communication is broadcasting, portraying a certain image of ourselves. We can get personal on our main Twitter accounts, obviously, but much of it, no matter how impassioned, is superficial. The lockdowns and, if I’m honest, years and years of working at home in solitude and my social circles splintering thanks to parenthood and geography have desocialised me, in a way. Friends living farther away means we talk less often, and when we do, they are catchups, an exchange of facts, not feelings. In fact, is there anything worse than a ‘catchup’? At work, they’re usually a gateway drug to a bollocking or an increased workload, and socially, they’re hugely unsatisfying. You can’t get to the heart of anything without going round and round it first. How nice it would be to spend hours with someone talking about basically nothing, punctuated by the odd confessional or deep-dive into the psyche. The luxury of being yourself, of conversation being coaxed out of you, of considered discussion, long pauses and not being afraid to be wrong, even if only for a few minutes until you’re righted. Zoom calls do not do this. Anyway, this is a good sign for Lizzi and Junior and people who know them. Talk to people, don’t just narrate your diaries or rattle off your recent achievements like a screen reader babbling out an actor’s Spotlight profile. Exchange ideas.
Best thing about Lizzi?
Just her. She seems like a cool, level-headed person.
Ah, I LOVE these two. I would listen to their podcast.
What do you think he made of you?
He probably thought I was a bit scatty. Hopefully he found my questions thought-provoking and not invasive.
🚨 🚨 🚨 It’s the SCATTY alert. As I have said a lot, women on the GBD say this a lot. Who is telling women that they are scatty?! Are they reading this online?
I wonder what questions she was asking that might have been invasive. BLM stuff, maybe? Around the time the BLM protests were at their height, there was quite a lot of coverage of the media shoving a microphone in the nearest Black person’s face and screeching, “So tell me about being Black!!!” – and then usually totally ignoring whatever they said. Imagine if we all had the courage of a white person asked on a breakfast TV panel to discuss racism and attending and then talking over every other Black person there – assuming any other Black people had been invited, of course, because this is the UK and racism is someone else’s problem, right? Oh I’d better stop now before I get messages that I’m being too woke or a snowflake from people who phone the police every time someone tweets a joke about how white people never season their chicken.
Anyway, whatever she asked, Junior didn’t seem to mind so this is all… going well!?!?!
What do you think she made of you?
I think she liked me, we vibed all night, had good discussions and she got my sense of humour… I think!
You know what I’m looking for from these two today?
On paper – okay, on screen – this is looking very encouraging!
If it weren’t for physical distancing, would you have kissed?
Not gonna lie… I would have tried.
If it weren’t for physical distancing, would you have kissed?
No, for me there were no romantic feelings.
Marks out of 10?
I can’t mark Junior less than 10 as a person. However, there was no romantic spark on my part, so I would have to rate the date 7.
Junior’s 8 was definitely a 9 in waiting, and didn’t it sting just a little when Lizzi’s YAY A TEN got quickly remarked to a 7 like a 2020 physics A-level – yes, guys, the exam scandal was only three months ago, have we all been alive FOR EVER?!?
I guess one of the things we hardly ever talk about in these reviews is what it must feel like to be the dater who thinks things went pretty well, only to open up a MAGAZINE – or click on a link, let’s be real – to find that no, nope, not at all. This is why going on the GBD is, truly, one of the most nuts and yet strangely brave things you can do. Why would you put yourself through it? Because you MUST, for us. Just for us.
And if it helps with the disappointment, as things stand at the moment, new friendships can be as hard to find as actual love, so we should celebrate this new connection.
Would you meet again?
Yes, but as friends.
I would like to. We exchanged numbers so let’s see what happens.
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. Congrats on the date outfits, of nothing else.
Please buy my books so I can be a successful author and die of something more interesting than starvation or boredom.
• Junior and Lizzie ate at Namaaste Highgate, London N6 before lockdown 2. They were photographed separately for this image. Fancy a blind date? Email email@example.com.