Impeccable Table Manners

Mark and Adam


One of the worst things about being a bit of a bitch is that you will, eventually, meet your nemesis, usually at a party. It’s always a party. Accustomed to being the most acidic person in any room, with a million pissed-on parades and ruined lives behind you, all of a sudden you’ll find yourself with a challenger for your acerbic rosette.

They think they’re cattier than you, that their comebacks are snappier than yours. They have an arsenal of zingers up each sleeve  – or so they think, but usually their weapons are dud fireworks – and, more often than not, I’m afraid, are thinner and younger than you. So you do what any normal lion would do when threatened with obsolescence from an upstart – you step it up, trading putdowns and flinging all manner of barbs until at least one of you is dead.

This week, reader, we are at that party – you’d better sharpen your best bitching knives.


Anyway. Gays! Meet Mark, a 26-year-old recruitment specialist (a job title negotiated in a disciplinary hearing if ever I heard one) and Adam, 29, a healthcare manager. Read what happened on the date before I throw myself down the stairs at their wedding just to get a bit of attention.

Mark | Adam
What were you hoping for?
Just that it would go better than most of my other dates.

We’ve all been there. Well, we have if we’re serial daters who use meeting strangers off dating apps as the perfect excuse not to do the washing up, anyway.

You always hope that this one – maybe this time! – will be the one. And when I say ‘the one’ I don’t mean the one you get to marry. It’s more ‘the one you don’t want to punch in the face’ by the third drink.

What were you hoping for?
Good conversation with someone who hadn’t slept with any of my friends.

Countdown spelling out s l u t

Well, we’ve definitely all been there. And, so it seems, have most of Adam’s friends.

First impressions?
We arrived at exactly the same time, so that broke the ice.

I prefer to arrive second to a date. Not late, because that would be rude, but I do like to make an entrance. I like to know expectant eyes are going to be on the door when I walk through it.

Sadly, however, what usually happens is that those eyes are indeed eagerly checking out the door – usually just as you smack right into it because there’s no ‘Push/Pull’ sign, or trip up the step as you blunder in.

But arriving at the same time is cute, and important. What they don’t say however, is whether they were both on time, or late. I am guessing late, because… well. This is not our first time at the rodeo, is it, boys?

First impressions?
He was outgoing, which made conversation pretty easy.

Outgoing. Like a direct debit or a disgraced minister. Adam here means Mark was loud and chatty, perhaps even throwing his head back in maniacal laughter a few times. Outgoing.

What did you talk about?
Our jobs, our families, films, and what it’s like being a gay man living in London.

Man saying 'I watch sex and the city'

What is it like being a gay man in London? Someone should shine a light on this lifestyle, about which very little is known. Perhaps there should be a blog.

Taylor Swift, holidays, and we compared notes on tattoos.

Oh that’s such a Samantha thing to say.

Any awkward moments?
When he told me he’d never seen Star Wars. Unforgivable.

I assume Mark means the original Star Wars, which came out in 1977 and, for some reason, is one of those movies people are falling over themselves to tell you they haven’t seen.

When you are one of those boring people to whom nothing exciting ever happens, you find yourself snatching moments of relevance, or attention, whenever you can. I speak from bitter experience.

You see these people all the time, at parties again usually, wondering how they can differentiate themselves from all the other turbo-basics and clean-shirts in the room. Like a maestro stepping up to conduct a beautiful concerto, they will plump their hair, make sure everybody is watching them and then lean forward on their virtual podium, imaginary baton poised, and say: “Do you know, I’ve never even seen Star Wars”.

The room gasps like a Wimbledon crowd at match-point. Front pages are immediately held. The world’s media begins to claw down the door of whichever desperately untidy Streatham flat the party’s in. Publishers wave blank cheques, desperate for this story to be told on their pages. The Man Who Hasn’t Seen Star Wars: An Autobiography.

Alternatively, everyone rolls their eyes and gets back to talking about their boring jobs. The act of not doing something loads of other people have already done doesn’t make you an enigma.

That said, I don’t know about “unforgivable”. The big secret about Star Wars 1977 that not many people let you in on is – and I say this as a big fan – it isn’t particularly good.

I could have gone for less info on his other recent dates.

Oh, I’ve already gone and used that Countdown slut GIF too. Um.

girls bang faces with pink sticks

Do not ever, ever, ever talk about previous dates when actually on a date. It’s so déclassé. You don’t go to a wedding and talk about all the groom’s previous girlfriends, do you? Unless you’re really tacky. or the best man, and drunk.

Anyway, it’s table manners. Nervous?

Good table manners?
Well, he wasn’t banging his knife and fork on the table demanding food or screaming at the waiter. So that was good.

“But I was.”

I appreciated him keeping my glass topped up.

Ah, the oldest trick in the book. Make a date think you’re super polite and gallant by topping up their wine glass regularly.
“What a gent!” they’ll think.
“He isn’t drinking fast enough, and I want/need most of this wine. Time to move things along,” you think.

Whenever a date keeps topping you up,  a) check how much is left in their glass when they do and b) count how many seconds it takes to fill up each glass. £5 says that he’ll be spending longer pouring into his own.

Best thing about Adam?
He was really easy to talk to.

Endora in Bewitched raising eyebrows

Note complete lack of comment on any of Adam’s physical attributes or personality, just that he sat there and endured conversation. We don’t need to queue at the condom machine tonight, do we, readers?

Best thing about Mark?
His pop-culture references.

Is this good? This is good, right? You’d be pleased if someone said this to, yes? Oh, but hang on. The best thing. Best. Better than all others.

Not “He’s hot, he’s fly, he’s sexy” but “He knew a lot about the Spice Girls and whether Larry Stylinson was actually true or not”.

I don’t know. We all love to read Heat, but none of us want to fuck it.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Of course, though they’d probably eat him alive.

Ugh. Are they cannibals? I never understand, in a world where we are pretty much all judged on the company we keep, why you’d want to paint your friends as a bunch of monsters who couldn’t act like a normal person when introduced to a stranger.

Nine and a half times out of ten, this supposedly intimidating, hedonistic crew turn out to be less ‘Last days of Rome’ and more ‘overdue fine on a Catherine Cookson at Mytholmroyd Library’.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I don’t know. My friends can be a bit much.

oh my god, we hate the same people

“A bit much.” Ooh, let me guess: they drink one cocktail too many, wear too little, get really loud and say something offensive? Congratulations: you’re basically everyone’s auntie they only see at Christmas, not Caligula.

Describe him in three words?
Chirpy, friendly and sweet.

Pushing aside the beige can of Dulux that is “sweet” for a second: chirpy?! Chirpy! Like Hilda Ogden from Coronation Street or an over-friendly volunteer in the Sue Ryder shop? Any sexual potential is dribbling out of this date like beaujolais through a sieve.

Describe him in three words?
Likes a drink

Told you. Some incredible bitch points scored there by Adam. Nothing like accusing something of burgeoning alcoholism in a national newspaper.

What do you think he made of you?
He probably thought, “He’s just finished that second bottle of prosecco.”

Kristen Wiig saying 'whatever'

Did you go on somewhere?
To a pub round the corner for a couple of pints.
A pint at the bar next door.

Note Mark was drinking two pints to Adam’s one. We have all been on this date, haven’t we? And we have all been each person on it. It’s incredible how we switch from good time gal to abstemious preacher uncle depending on our mood and, crucially, whether we want to bang anyone that evening. Adam, at the very least, does not appear to be interested in stepping out of the pulpit tonight.

And… did you kiss?
In an “it was nice to meet you” way. My mother doesn’t need to go hat shopping yet. Oh 

On the scale of passionate kisses, “it was nice to meet you” is one notch above “kiss your enemy to signify to the assassin which one to shoot” and just one below this:

Diana smashes a bottle over Charles's head

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’ve just been to the shop to get ibuprofen, so probably the dirty hangover.

I can’t wait to see the E4 comedy Mark thinks he’s auditioning for in this column, can you? Too much ibuprofen can lead to ulcers, Mark, so maybe switch to paracetamol on other hungover days – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, perhaps.

It’s the scores. We’ve made it.

Marks out of 10?
The date itself? I’d say 8.

Dowager Countess double take

The date itself? What do you think we want you to score? Our credit rating? What does this actually mean?

“Well, I managed to get drunk for free, so the date was an 8, but Adam was… not” maybe? This is, at least, I suppose, a way of sticking the knife in that could be passed off as totally innocent. But we know, don’t we, readers? Mark’s cannibal friends gave him away.

6 for an entertaining evening but the sparks didn’t fly.

Sounds like Adam should’ve done his own pouring, got drunk and enjoyed the show, because an after-party looks very unlikely. But I doubt it was ever going to be any other way.

And we end, of course, with the question we always ask. Will you see each other again? Does Mark fancy downing two more bottles of prosecco while Adam stares on, helplessly?

Would you meet again?
Our paths may cross, but I can’t see romance a’bloomin’.


cat saying bitch please

And Adam, will you meet up with Mark to compare notes on your tattoos and execrable social circles?

Would you meet again?
Probably not.

Shannen Doherty rolls eyes and walks away

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, despite, well, everything. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally.  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


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