Adam and Matt
Illustration: Nishant Choksi/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Matt and Adam

My book is out 6 August. Please buy it.

There is a certain lack of jeopardy with these blind dates happening over Zoom, isn’t there? If the date turns out to be a dud, all they do is drop the call and pretend Virgin Media was up to its usual tricks (of being terrible). If there’s a sexual connection, all they can do is… God I don’t know. Take their tops off? Hurriedly turn off the ‘big light’, nip off to their bedroom and come back with something battery-operated? The possibilities are very noticeably not endless at all.

Anyway. Today we’ve got 42-year old NHS manager Matt, and Adam, 35, who is a solicitor. , before we reconvene for afters.

Adam and Matt
Illustration: Nishant Choksi/The Guardian
Matt (left) on AdamAdam on Matt
What were you hoping for?
A handsome, chatty man. Emotionally intelligent, with shared interests and values.

This is quite a wish list, but at least it’s not “good food and good company!!” – can’t wait for that tired cliché to return once the daters are once again being sent to B-grade restaurants, to be served by hazmat-suited waiters. “Shared interests and values” sounds like something you would read on the back of a pamphlet of someone running for local council. Usually the candidate who comes third or fourth.

What were you hoping for?
Chris Hemsworth. At a push I would have settled for Liam.

I once saw Chris Hemsworth round the corner from my house. I didn’t realise it was him at first because… I haven’t seen any of his films. A quick google here has brought me to the important conclusion that Liam is actually better-looking. I only hope Chris is sitting down when he hears this devastating news. Anyway, Adam, good luck.

First impressions?
Met the above criteria.

Oh very good.

First impressions of Matt?
Comfortable in his own skin. I, on the other hand, was already two beers in.

Haha “comfortable in his own skin” – “he was not in Chris Hemsworth’s skin, but he seemed cool about it”.

What did you talk about?
Covid-19, books we’d read or like, by writers including JK Rowling and Jojo Moyes, friends and family. We were both honest about what we are looking for in a relationship. We discussed marriage; not ours, but our siblings’, and how doing it how you wanted to was important.
Work. Family. Politics. Coronavirus. My haircut. His haircut. Tai chi versus hot yoga. The fact that he doesn’t watch television. The fact that I have subscriptions to four different streaming services.

Coronavirus/Covid-19 ✅. I suppose once we all start returning to “normal” – by which I mean pretending the world isn’t still on fire because we haven’t had a Pret Jambon Beurre in four months – we will have to talk about the pandemic to one another. How was yours? Did you have a breakdown? Did you have the virus? What weird thing did you start doing that you would never have done before? This is assuming we didn’t lose anyone during it, of course – the lightness and frivolity of the lockdown belongs only to those lucky enough to experience it from a safe emotional distance. I wonder how long we will do this for. What proportion of a conversation should it be? A good 50% at first, I guess, sliding down to 25% if you’ve seen the person within the last two months. Rules state that mid-pandemic Zoom calls should be 70% ‘rona chat; 25% on Zoom admin, like laughing at everyone else’s background, telling people they’re muted, shouting “You’re frozen!”; and another 5% of meaningful conversation, usually because the 40 minutes runs out just as you’re gearing yourself up to bare your soul.

Books. My book was supposed to come out in May and then a virus happened and here we are. Of all the anxieties I expected to have about my second novel, wondering if I would live to see it published, worrying shops would never open again to stock it, and just an overwhelming feeling that the last two–three years had been for nothing were… only some of them. I’m not sure why these two specific authors get a shoutout here – it seems very pointed. Is it code? Is Lassie trying to tell us that someone is trapped down a well?

We were both honest about what we are looking for in a relationship. Do people’s views on this differ that much? Apart from: “not you”?

Haircuts. I didn’t have my hair cut for over four months. A record! It grew as long as it did in 2003–4 when Brandon Flowers first appeared and suddenly every gay man in sight was in the Argos queue for £16.99 Remington hair straighteners and “growing it out”. (I think I spent more on haircuts during this phase than I did any other time. Looking like you don’t have your hair cut, but still “sexy”, is expensive.) Anyway, its been chopped again now and I am back to looking like I’ve got an interview at Foxtons in the morning. (Joke. It looks AMAZING.)

Television. When I was single, pre-Netflix so that shows you how long ago it was, men used to get VERY excited by the fact I didn’t watch TV (my aerial didn’t work for two years). Honestly if I’d realised earlier how many men this could get into bed, I’d have had it printed on a T-shirt. Now, I think, it’s gone the other way. There is so much TV out there, our TiVo boxes and smart-TV apps groaning with all this content, that it’s impossible to have no opinion on TV. “Are you watching anything good?” is like my new nightmare on-the-spot question, joining “Know any good bars or restaurants?” and “Who are you listening to these days?” I can never remember what I’ve just watched. Does it matter? If you’ve seen it, do we have to talk about it? Is my opinion worth less if I haven’t read the book? (“Book’s better” is the new siren’s call.) Worth remembering that just as not having a TV isn’t a personality, neither is a fetish for boxsets.

Any awkward moments?
I enjoyed the conversation about politics but wanted to find out more about Adam and asked how he’d managed to get his hair looking like he’d just come out of the barbers.

Politics on a first date. What is the actual point? Unless it’s to say “this government is a fucking shambles and quite possibly the most blatant lineup of self-serving capitalists since the fourth incarnation of Sugababes”.

Any awkward moments?
We played the Guess How Old I Am game. Matt said I looked mid-30s. Mid-30s! Rude.

Never play the age game. People only really want to hear that they look 17. If your mother always taught you that liars get slapped on the backs of their knees and it’s not one of your favoured kinks, when asked to guess someone’s age, just go five or six years younger than you actually think they are or, if they’re haggard, say, “Wow I’m just terrible with guessing ages”. Nobody really wants to hear the truth: “Well, I don’t know but you look like you could be old enough to have been serving up the hot dogs on the last flight of the Hindenberg”.

I have a running joke that you are in your “early [decade]” until two days before the birthday that takes you into the next decade. The you have one day as “mid” and one day as “late”. Why? Well, you could say it’s because I’m massively vain and in denial or perhaps it’s that years of experiencing unbridled ageism has made me hyper aware that once someone finds out you’re not the arbitrary age they’d assigned to you in your head, they treat you immediately differently – usually badly, and patronisingly – and that people who use age as something to demean others usually have some other pretty nasty little opinions in there too. It works across the board too – scratch away at the surface of a transphobe, for example (use gloves) and you’ll usually hit homophobia or racism quite quickly. One thing that is truly intersectional is the ability to be absolutely fucking horrible.

Anyway, Adam, if it’s any consolation, I would have carbon-dated you as someone too young to remember the first Pippa in Home and Away. Hope that helps.

Good table manners?

Cilla exposes the Cosmo journalist on Blind Date

“She’s a reader, ladies and gentleman.”

Good table manners?
We both ordered pizza. Eating on camera was excruciating.

I was on a FaceTime call the other day with a friend I haven’t spoken to in months so I was anxious to keep the call going, but my dinner was ready. She said she didn’t mind, so I ended up getting through fishcakes, a heap of steamed cavolo nero, and some new potatoes while she watched. I had a Solero for pudding but I had to turn the camera away from me slightly. People would usually pay good money, I’m sure, to watch me fellate an ice cream with a mango sorbet coating, but I wanted to spare her that.

I have to say that I struggle to sit opposite anyone eating at the best of times, but pizza ugh – I eat mine with a knife and fork and I do not give two bronze farts what anyone thinks of that.

How long did you stay on the call?
More than four hours.

“They flew by.”

Way past my bedtime.

“They dragged.”

Describe Adam in three words
Lovely, engaging, smart.

LOVELY, like freshly laundered sheets drying in a gentle breeze in your garden. Like your puppy waking up, scratching its little eyes and fiddling out into the middle ion your kitchen floor to paint the lino in vomit. Like something that is very lovely – imagine Joanna Lumley saying it, while she smokes a Sobranie, and Mr Sheens her scale model of the Garden Bridge in her spare room.

ENGAGING. Fuck will this word not die? How far away are we from daters talking about “synergy” and answering the Will you meet again? question with something about “circling back”? We don’t have to talk like we’re in an appraisal.

SMART. I’m guessing this is a synonym for clever/witty and not that Adam was wearing a bowtie and neatly ironed epaulettes on his blazer.

Describe Matt in three words
Thoughtful. Intelligent. Engaging.

THOUGHTFUL. This seems to be code for “he had frown lines”.

INTELLIGENT. He ate his pizza wearing a white coat, glasses and surrounded by test tubes? God knows.

ENGAGING. Ugh, not this again. Adam, you look 80. Just to let you know.

What do you think he made of you?
Overkeen, excitable, talked too much about deep things and feelings.

Fox eyes widen in horror

How deep can you go on a first date? Depends how far back you can tip your ankles, I suppose. We have all had that regret more powerful than any hangover or infidelity guilt, that we have overshared, that we have shown our cards too early. I do, in a weird way, watching the power drain form a date’s face as the realise that the photos they fancied in the app do, unfortunately, come to life and walk and talk and worry and moan and share their feelings. Like finding a Fun Lovin’ Criminals CD in the collection of your spouse of 10 years – did you ever really know them?

What do you think he made of you?
Not sure. But an enduring look of bemusement probably isn’t a good thing, is it?

Pat and Peggy in Eastenders looking at each other incredulously

No, probably not.

Any connection issues?
Thrown off Zoom three – or was it four? – times. I lost count but we picked up where we left off
It transpires he’s a Liberal Democrat. There was definitely a disconnect there.

Tbh, I’d have probably taken the hint that the gods of Zoom were desperate to chuck your way, lads.

We see again here why politics on a first date – most of all a date that is taking place virtually, in the middle of a global health crisis – are a bad idea. What party do we reckon Adam is affiliated to? Solicitor. Called Adam. Has more than a few serums from The Ordinary in his bathroom cabinet. Could be any these days, really. I’ll leave it with you.

And… did you swap numbers?
Yes, and emails.
Our Zoom chats kept expiring, so it was necessary early on.

Puppet with rollers in and drinking, looking mournful

The gap in tone between the two answers is… well, it’s a ravine, isn’t it? It’s like Sandy and Danny in Grease doing Summer Nights.
“Yes we did swap numbers, she was totally into it,” yelps Danny Zucko as he leaps over the bleachers and combs his quiff.
Sandy, meanwhile, is kicked off the picnic bench by Rizzo, who grabs the mic and just says Adam’s answer, peering dead-eyed over the top of her sunglasses.

Rizzo kicking Patty in Grease

(If Rizzo isn’t your favourite character in Grease, please wear double PPE when you’re around me; I don’t want to catch those BAD VIBES off you.)

How did the call end?
It got to 10.30pm, and we agreed it was late and we both had to be up in the morning. Then we continued to talk for another 15 minutes.


How did the call end?
With a camp wave.


Marks out of 10?

Nine is a good score. With a nine, I think you hope for more. An 8 is enough to eat someone knows you are interested but 9 is an invitation, isn’t it? Also, it’s very gallant of Matt to score so honestly when Adam has been doing his best in his answers to socially distance himself from any hope of romance. Sure, Matt can’t see Adam’s answers before he posts his own, but I’m guessing Adam’s demeanour on the date gave the game away too.

Well, also the fact that I’ve read ahead and know how this goes.

Marks out of 10?
Matt is a lovely guy. He’s definitely somebody’s 10 out of 10.

Pauline Fowler EastEnders zoom shot

This is actually one of the cleverest answers to this question. Well, I mean, we can all see straight through it so it’s not exactly the discovery of uranium but it’s relatively canny of Adam to avoid committing himself to any score – not a fan of numbers is he, after all – and instead give this, a 10/10 that even contains a compliment (“lovely”, like your mum’s new sofa) but is, in fact, a zero, because it also contains a brush-off. Who is this “somebody” Adam speaks of? Assuming their Zoom date wasn’t a webinar and we had other participants, Adam is saying here, “anyone but me”.

Would you meet again in-person?
Yes, but I don’t think Adam felt the same. My search for Mr Right For Me continues.

He’s out there, Matt. Maybe he’ll be the other attendee at LibDem conference in 2021.

pikachu trapped behind doors

Would you meet again in-person?
If he’s serious about a career in politics, I would advise against it.

Assume he means that unless Matt were to changes his politics, then no. Unless he is being direct and saying “Matt should not go into politics”. Feel free to explain it to us, Adam, in your own time.

Hope you enjoyed the review, but if you didn’t…

Uma Thurnam Kill Bill still raw about it

THE MAGNIFICENT SONS is out on hardback on 6 August.
Read an extract.

The Magnificent Sons HB cover

If you liked this post, please maybe donate to or to support food banks, and/or support my work on Ko-Fi

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, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. They seem like nice guys. 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; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. And, yes, I’m in my early 40s – what’s it to you?

Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. Hi Justin! I always feel especially excited when you post on a blind date. I wish you would do them every week, but I assume you are busy, and that is understandable. I am from Australia, but have not seen a Hemsworth in person (or on screen, which may make me unAustralian, but I haven’t been kicked out of the country yet). I watched Grease once, but was kissing my boyfriend so much, I really don’t remember large parts of it. Probably should watch it again! Best wishes during the pandemic, it’s horrible.

  2. Right, I will now order the book. This particular review was the clincher because:
    -I remember both Pippas but haven’t thought about them for decades;
    -still get clammy hands from *that* Blind Date meme;
    – yes to eating pizza with a knife and fork;
    -of course Rizzo.

    Loved this one!

  3. I still miss first Pippa.

    I interpreted the final answer as Adam saying ‘I have a past shady enough to sink my husband’s political ambitions, were it ever to be revealed in the press.’

  4. My new years resolution was to stop my book-buying habit which had gotten out of hand years ago, and only borrow books from the library. It’s the first new years resolution I’ve ever kept past February. Then pandemic hit and library is closed!

    I’ve gotten to the end of the unread books in my collection…and reading this week’s post about your book and the shit this pandemic has piled on its publication, has led to me happily breaking said longest-standing-resolution and have just pre-ordered a copy from hive (which from what I understand pays its taxes and workers fairly and donates to your local bookshop of choice – double win).

    Love your writing, keep it up, all the best x

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