Well, we had a good run, but it’s back to the heteronormative agenda for the Blind Date this week. Braving the glare of page 83 of the Saturday magazine this week are Marta, a 30-year-old project manager – which could mean anything, as all the best job titles do – and Andrew, 33, a broadcast journalist, which as anyone who reads Nadine Dorries’ tweets will know, is a privileged, hereditary position that should rightfully be given to the oppressed, undervalued alumni of Eton, or bored dukes’ sons, or people who live in Fulham and call waiters ‘my friend’ but then don’t tip.
Here is a full-length photograph of the pair of them. Do you think I should hire a fabulous assistant to critique the daters’ clothes as a side project? Like the ‘steal their style’ box that pops up in the middle of Mail articles, even if it’s a piece on Julian Assange?
Read what happened on the actual date on the Guardian website, before returning here for some vaguely amusing analysis on whichever answer I deem the easiest prey.
Marta on Andrew | Andrew on Marta
What were you hoping for?
Romance, naturally. Failing that, someone I could have an interesting conversation with.
NATURALLY. ‘Failing that, managing to stay awake.’
What were you hoping for?
My friend Sheyda to be vindicated in suggesting I did this.
I wonder how Sheyda managed to broker this shout-out. A mention in a national magazine has to be worth at least two espresso martinis in whichever branch of Be @ One you favour. I’m always wary of matchmaking or even suggesting someone does something like this, because you can, very quickly, become a hate figure. People are always looking for someone to blame when things go wrong, and not everything can be Brexit or Boris Johnson or ‘the internet’ (although most things are).
Positive, enthusiastic, chatty.
WHOAAAA Marta, we don’t do the three adjectives until later; we’ve got a system here. Ah, chatty. Even though it follows two compliments that wouldn’t look out of place on an end-of-year report for your nursery-age child, ‘chatty’ is one of the most poisoned chalices of the GBD. It can be a positive – ‘At least he actually spoke’ – or it can be a negative – ‘He never shut up’. It can also just mean she ran out of words and didn’t want to mention anything too superficial.
She was trying to prevent either of us stepping on broken glass when the photographer’s light fell at our feet.
This isn’t what a first impression is. Daters really struggle with this question, don’t they? Maybe they should change it to something easy to answer, like, ‘As they talked toward you, which serial killer sprang into your head?’ or ‘What did they smell like?’
By the way, most of Andrew’s answers carry a level of detail that reminds me of random quotes from a Victoria Wood script. Just imagine Julie Walters saying them with a face like she’s halfway through a 75p jawbreaker; it’s a treat.
What did you talk about?
Postmortems, food, dogs, travelling, photography, dating, politics.
Polish blood sausage, a postmortem Marta attended as a student, and how expensive it would be to feed her dog Charlie fresh entrails every day.
Dogs ✅ – Do dogs want ‘fresh entrails every day’? A dog will eat anything you put in its bowl unless, like my two long departed dogs, it is a green vegetable. Marta studied forensics and criminology at university, so this is relevant, but… dead bodies and dogs chowing down upon guts as conversation topics? Come back ‘Have you ever seen Breaking Bad?’ – all is forgiven.
Any awkward moments?
Quite a few – all thanks to the guy at the nearby table, who decided to watch horror movie trailers without headphones on.
A man on the next table was watching a horror film loudly on his laptop. The constant screams were a tad awkward.
Okay, so this is an actual nightmare. There’s something about the pitch of a device playing something out that really manages to work on your nerves much more than just annoying overheard conversation. Same with someone being on the phone isn’t it? I suppose with conversation, if there are two people there, you can kind of forgive it being a bit loud – maybe they’re excited, or drunk, or that kind of person who simply finds themselves so fascinating that they have to broadcast every detail of their lives (very rich people do this a lot). But when it’s someone solo, bellowing down a phone, or watching something, or playing Ed Sheeran through their tinny speaker, it hits different. It feels personal, there’s a sense of entitlement, that your own comfort isn’t important, that it’s their world and you just happen to be on the fringes of it. It’s just… such a shitty thing to do. However… maybe ask to move tables? Or let a waiter know it was happening. I mean, was it Prince William or something? You have every right not to have your evening ruined. The guy probably didn’t mean any harm, and maybe he didn’t realise how loud the video was, but… unless he was a teenager, who can be semi-excused because… well, that’s just what they do, he was probably just a prick. They usually are.
Good table manners?
Flawless! Marta even used a knife and fork to dissect her prawn bao.
‘FLAWLESS, as the lovely young men from Flat 5 might say while they’re admiring my Delft oddments.’
Would you introduce him to your friends?
Sure, I don’t see why not.
I have a theory that ‘Sure I don’t see why not’ is actually no, with contouring.
Would you introduce her to your friends?
Sure, my friends are the best thing about me.
Andrew! Sometimes it’s like half of your self-esteem has leaked out of the Jiffy bag on your way to the date. Stop this!
Describe Andrew in three words?
Chatty, inquisitive, engaging.
CHATTY (again), like a vacuum cleaner salesman who assures you the Rug Throttler 3000 will certainly change your life, just as soon as they disentangle your cat from it.
INQUISITIVE, like a squirrel who’s very into true crime podcasts.
ENGAGING, like that vacuum cleaner salesman again, except he’s two cups of tea down and has started on about his divorce. (It was her personal trainer. Said she couldn’t stand the thought of dunking his pyramid bag in hot water for the rest of her life. She took the Volkswagen Golf and his David Bowie LPs. There’s a teenage son who doesn’t talk at mealtimes and stays up in his room cracking one out into every sock he’s ever owned.)
Describe Marta in three words
Fearless, forensic, unflappable
FEARLESS, like 1980s Patsy Kensit in a street full of actors, as dogs snap around her. (Coronation Street, perhaps?) (And yes this is a niche joke, isn’t it?)
FORENSIC, like the thing she did at university. This is a bit like Marta saying Andrew is BROADCASTY or JOURNALISTISH, but we will let it go because we’ve all had a hard week.
UNFLAPPABLE, like, errr, a broken wing?
What do you think he made of you?
Hopefully easy to talk to – and brave (I studied forensics and criminology at university). I didn’t have any romantic feelings for him, and towards the end of the date, I got the vibe that he didn’t think we were particularly compatible, either.
Screaming that Marta has managed to get her degree in here. Anyway, the second line is very interesting because even though Marta makes it clear she wasn’t interested, maybe she was a bit disappointed he wasn’t that bothered either. I mean, I have no evidence for this other than she’s blurted out who the killer is halfway through the movie and seemed anxious to do so. Anyway, I totally get this; I think we all do this, don’t we? Even if you don’t fancy someone, and it’s amicable and not a creepy thing, you want to leave them longing for you a little, no? Feeling that they’ve missed out. Is there any greater honour than being ‘the one who got away’, but not the rom-com kind, who was actually meant for them, but the one they desperately wanted, who could have changed their life, they’re sure of it… but you didn’t feel the same. At all. The ‘What If’, who walks out of their lives without ever looking back.
What do you think she made of you?
I dread to think. Too timid to ask a fellow diner to turn his volume down?
I dunno, I think maybe you were right to be timid. No way I’m going to end up as the fourth story in on London Tonight because I deigned to ask some guy if he wouldn’t mind turning down his phone. I tend to mind my own business when someone is throwing off this antisocial energy; I just remove myself from the situation. I don’t feel I have to ‘let this person know’ or ‘get my point across’ because the chances are if they’re doing this kind of thing anyway, they don’t give a shit about you and will be only happy to tell you, which will either leave you simmering with rage and charged with enough esprit de l’escalier to power an Airbus, or dead on the floor. I do wonder whether Andrew didn’t want to alert the manager in case it looked like he was complaining, which probably isn’t a good look on a first date – a man once dumped me because on our second date I found a PLASTIC BAG in my dinner and complained, and the date was ’embarrassed’. But there’s a right way to do it and rather than suffer in silence and let this stranger totally dominate your evening, it would’ve been fine to ask if you could move tables or see whether the waiting staff could do something – they will be experts in dealing with awkward customers although… they certainly won’t be paid enough for the level of crap they might get in return. I suppose you are faced with a dilemma here: what if the waiter gets the death-punch that was meant for you?
And this is the problem with people who behave like arseholes – the rest of us creep around them, not wanting to rock the boat when it would be much easier if they just… didn’t behave like that in the first place.
If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
We would have been more compatible: we didn’t have a huge amount in common, and didn’t get much beyond small talk, which I’m not a fan of.
Oooh ‘not a fan of small talk’. Is it just me or is that sometimes a bit of a tell? I mean, what would you expect to talk about on a first date with an absolute stranger, that’s been manufactured by a newspaper? How deep do you want to get? First dates’ main energy source – other than attraction – is small talk. That’s how it works. Small talk is actually pretty important and I know people like to say they are ‘no good’ at it, but that usually means they don’t ask any questions and, when asked any themselves, act like they’re being interrogated about their overdraft by a bank manager with the remnants of his supermarket sushi lunch under his fingernails. There’s something a little supercilious about dismissing small talk straight off. It can be difficult but it’s not meaningless. How else can someone get to know you? If you go straight in with your opinions and tastes – which are important markers but can, let’s be honest, be bought off the peg – you’re presenting an image, sure, but without the small stuff, the background, the life you lead now, where you’ve been, who you are etc, there’s no context, no foundation. What are you going to do, go to every date with a factsheet, give them ten minutes to read it in silence and then launch into the heavy stuff? Sounds fun!
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’d have brought a pair of headphones for the horror film man.
Marks out of 10?
8 – Andrew is a lovely guy and good company. However, there was no romantic spark.
I wonder whether they might each have been better dating the guy watching the Scream trailer on his phone.
Would you meet again?
Yes, if we ran into each other, but just as friends.
You never know, maybe we’ll bump into each other at a Thai cookery course.
About the review and the daters: The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are 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. There has been an increase in readers being quite horrible about the daters – this isn’t what we should be about. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments and will report any abusive tweets. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself or assume I agree with you. 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, so please try not to speculate or fill our feeds with hate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. If you are the guy who ruined their date by watching stuff on your phone, be assured: we all hate you.