It’s always hard to return from a vacation. You step out, blinking furiously, into the airport terminal to be greeted by papers featuring headlines with the worst news possible: it’s been hotter in the UK than where you were holidaying. After a bumpy, sweltering ride in a taxi driven by a sociopathic huckster who listens to Talk Sport at road-drill decibels, you both arrive back at your flat, which isn’t as nice or clean as you remember it, unlock the door, clamber over the mountains of post – all bills and leaflets advertising the same takeaway – and collapse on your sofa. As you stare up at the ceiling, the crushing familiarity of it all leaves a sour taste in your mouth, your suitcases – still unpacked and dumped in the hallway, as they will be for the next four days – reminding of you what was, who you were for a couple of too-short weeks. You bronzed, you danced, you drank, you sang, you mildly bickered over breakfast, you drank again. But now you’re back. And there’s no milk.
But if there’s one familiar feeling bound to cheer you up, it’s the Guardian’s Blind Date column. Week in, week out, there it is, putting two halves of impossible together for the briefest of evenings and printing the results for all of us to see.
This week, Lou, a 31-year-old makeup artist, and George, 25, a digital marketing manager are limbering up for what could be the best night of their lives. Read what happened on the date before, together, we gather round the cauldron and see what wickedness we can conjure up.
Lou, like her speech bubble in the main pic, is in pink, just as George is in yellow.
I like the melding of science and romance here. As for the “somewhere lovely”, well, I had a quick click through and the place looks very nice, but I did notice in the Innocent smoothie packaging-type blurb for their Sunday lunches, they referred to Yorkshire puddings as “yorkies” so I’m afraid they are going on. the. list.
A Yorkie is a chocolate bar and, at a push, a yapping little terrier with scant regard for your ankles or your carpets. It is NEVER a Yorkshire pudding.
If the comments under every single article published on the site are anything to go by – and assuming they’re representative of all readers, which I’m sure they aren’t – you may be left wanting here, George, but I’ll keep everything crossed for you.
Well, if Lou fancies the young Frank Sinatra, I think it’s fair to say that she and I shall never fight in the street over a man, but to be called handsome and smart in the same breath – and within seconds of someone laying eyes on you – it’s one hell of a rush. We live in this odd world where women are told they’re pretty from the very moment they can stand up, while boys are congratulated on being strong or clever. It is, of course, patriarchal, sexist, nonsense, but along with reclaiming the strong and powerful characteristics for women, I want to get backfor men the supposedly shallow ones.
Men love to be told they’re beautiful, because they hardly ever hear it. Perhaps they hear it in raw forms, like they’re “fit” or “shaggable” or that “you would” – don’t ever, ever say this to anyone, it’s disgusting – but around toddler age, boys stop being beautiful, and it’s a real shame. It’s not just about looks, either; you can have a face like Plug from the Bash Street Kids and still be a beautiful person or have a handsome or graceful quality to you. We look upon appreciations of beauty or attractiveness as vapid, or a way to get something you want through flattery – but someone taking stock of you and telling you how well you put everything together, how great you look, it’s recognition. Call it empty validation if you want, but we don’t spend hours in the mirror, agonising over outfits for nothing, do we? For someone to notice is all we’re after. So, notice. Look up more.
Anyway, George is quite handsome so this is all going well and we will politely ignore that “sweet” which is usually seat 1A on the short-haul, one-a-day flight to the mystical desert island of friendzoning and obscurity.
You see, this is good too because despite what I say up there, I do feel sometimes – in this column anyway – that the men are afraid to say they find the women attractive. Obviously leering over them would be horrible, but the idea of going on a date is to be attracted to somebody, and looks play a big part in it. I’m not sure about the “down to earth” because it seems to me to be a QR code for “common”, but maybe that’s because I live my entire life with my head in a Victoria Wood sketch.
“The joys of being northern.” I lost count how many times I would turn up on a date, and speak, only for my date to look slightly crestfallen and say, “Oh, you don’t have a Yorkshire accent”, like I had somehow defrauded them in the blurb on my dating profile. There’d be two reasons. Either they too would come from the north and had been hoping to spend an entire evening banging on about how great the north is – like Cilla Black in her cheery opening monologues on Blind Date – or they were an accent fetishist. Oh, you know the type. “I just love an Irish accent,” they say. Really? Will any do? Does it matter who it’s attached to? Imagine them sitting at home watching the news in paroxysms of ecstasy as Ian Paisley spouted forth, or gripping their radio in a passionate climax as Graham Norton read out a listener’s letter.
I have no problem with the north. It made me. But it always feels dishonest of me to eulogise it, to go on a date and wax lyrical about how great it is, how much friendlier, and cheaper and safer. It may be all of those things, but I left it. I went elsewhere. It’s like dumping an ex – save your post-match analysis and acclaim of how great they were, really, despite it all. It’s too late.
Despite the tantalising fact George doesn’t refer to the death of any fish or the dodginess of a doddery film director, these conversation topics match up quite well. Do I need to have my wedding suit dry-cleaned?
When you’re 25, you can eat what the hell you want – this is the problem. I have a theory that, with a few exceptions of course, foodiness only starts to rear its ugly, kale-loving head once your thus-far speedy metabolism taps you on the shoulder and tells you it’s breaking up with you. I will never forget sailing past the magic age of 29 and feeling my buttons strain and realising I was going to have to get much better acquainted with salad and perhaps cancel my regular, filthy hookups with Ronald McDonald.
One day, George will spend his days staring wistfully at young guns chowing down on an irono-pizza with cheesy fries and extra thick milkshake, while he eats steamed rice and chicken for lunch for the 18th day in a row. Until then, let the boy have his burgers with the lads.
I’m never sure how you get the idea someone is caring when you meet them for the first time, but maybe George had a horse with him, and perhaps he kept pausing the conversation to go outside and feed it hay or brush it.
Well, Jessica Fletcher wouldn’t even have to get out of bed, go to a party and get someone murdered to work out which politicians these two wouldn’t like, but what about the music?
What’s “the right music”? This is more important than you’d think. Sure, you’ve got your headphones to escape to if things get too bad, but music sounds so much better when it’s appreciated together. That said, an important part of relationship “bantz” is to each have a favourite artist or song or genre that the other thinks is ridiculous, or noise, or mere trolling. Differences between you can, at times, be a stickier glue than shared interests.
It’s this question, isn’t it? This is the one. This is the barometer to divine whether you’re a garbage person or not. Someone who thinks their group of pals is too avant-garde, or too precious to be introduced to anyone? Bin. Anyone who thinks their date is too embarrassing, too run-of-the-mill, too beige to meet this delightful coterie of hangers-on and people who haggle over bar bills? Bin.
He is a sweetheart and she is a queen. I feel something. And it’s not indigestion.
Handsome again – yes. George doesn’t comment on Lou’s looks but I’d wager this is because he’s trying to be respectful, rather than not fancying her. At least this is what I’m telling myself because it is summer and everything is so green and bright and wouldn’t it be nice?
Hey George, just a quick pep talk because you’re doing well, and I think you managed to pull off the whole “burgers with the lads” thing okay, but, just to let you know: this is a really bad joke and I know it maybe kind of worked in your head when you were sending your answers in over email because, y’know, manure, mature, manure, mature etc, but it doesn’t come together too great in the finished product and I really thought I should make you aware, especially because you’ve read that back yourself this morning in the magazine, haven’t you, and put your head in your hands and said, perhaps out loud to whichever hungover mate is clumsily preparing a fry-up for you, “Why the hell did I say that? That’s rubbish!” Haven’t you? Anyway, you’re right, it is.
I say the word “lovely” far too much too. But this is promising, isn’t it? Lovely. They went on somewhere. Lovely. She thinks he’s handsome, he thinks she’s passionate – they say that a lot, too, in this column, don’t they? I’ll have to investigate that one more next week. Anyway, back in the now: what could possibly go wrong?
OK. Good. *nervous cough*
Spark. How many times have you sat bored to death listening to a friend whinging a date they went on was a disaster because there was no ‘spark’. What is this spark? It’s time to call this out for the rubbish it truly is. It’s what you say when the date went perfectly well, but you don’t want to kiss them, and can’t think why.
It’s a non-explanation. Know how I know? Because I used to say it. All the time. “Oh, I just didn’t feel a spark,” I’d idly text, after a night of dull chat or bad sex or horrible nasal hair or weird opinions on the NHS. You know why the spark argument is so popular? Because its incontestable. It can’t be quibbled. Nobody ever comes back for more explanation after a “no spark” text – they know there’s no way back, and what they would hear would only destroy them. But this is not a text message to a guy who kissed like he was licking custard off a hairbrush – it’s a magazine column and I want dirt, not a mythical spark that never made flame.
Spark. Chemistry. We need a bunsen burner and a lab coat, STAT.
Oh well. Let’s limp, dejectedly, to the scores.
Seven. Shit. That’s a lot of points knocked off for a lack of ignition. A seven is the polite 1. The face-saving 1. A 1 wearing a wedding dress with sleeves, as a mark of respect. But it is a 1 all the same.
George’s 8.9 is actually a 10 that is pretending to be a 9, but he couldn’t put a 9 because he’d look too keen and because “lad”.
Oh, Lou. Oh, George. You have reminded me there is no milk.
It’s like we’re at a cash machine and it’s just refused to give us money. We are desperate, and we are stupid, so we put our card in again, just to make sure it’s not a mistake. Even as we punch in our PIN and listen to the low murmur of the machine gearing up to mockingly offer us our ‘options’ again, we know it’s pointless. But we blunder on. So, instead of a “cash no receipt” button to optimistically press, we ask here: “will you meet again?”
Photograph: David Levene; Graeme Robertson, both for the Guardian
Note: I am in the ACTUAL Guardian Weekend magazine today, with a fun guide to rejection and how it can actually be a good thing. It’s in print if you want to feel my words in your fingers, with a very nice illustration, or you can read it online. Please do read it so they ask me to do more. ‘It’s not me, it’s you’: a loser’s guide to dealing with rejection
Note 2: I lost a client this week thanks to Brexit, so I am actively looking for work/commissions/anything. If you have even half-liked anything I’ve ever written, please do get in touch with me. I don’t just do this kind of stuff; I also manage and create corporate and brand content, do social media, music and things like TOV and style guides. Asking here is tacky, and I know it, but I’d really appreciate it. Contact me.
Note 3: 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 bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m just… y’know, disappointed. I get the spark thing; I just wanted you to be happy. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.
Note 4: The Blind Date blog is taking a break from 13th August.