Photographs are unreliable souvenirs. The more time there is behind you, the less lucid and piercing the memories. You know you were somewhere and at a thing, because there’s a photo, but that’s all you know – the cold hard facts. The feelings change over time; they’re dulled. You look back, then, at pictures to jog your memory. The camera doesn’t lie, no, but you wouldn’t want it as your star witness in a murder trial. You look back and try to remember what was happening, how you felt, but only your blankly smiling face stares out at you, responding to the well-meaning “say cheese” of whichever poor sod you convinced not to be in the photo so you could be. But you can’t teleport into that head. You can never feel what it was like to be you then, not again. Because you know what’s coming up; you can see round corners and know all the next lines. The future you has ruined the past for you for ever – because this version of you remembers how it all went wrong.
I wonder what Michael, 24 a software developer, and 22-year-old graduate Laura will think in 10 years’ time when they look back at their Guardian Blind Date mugshots. Such hope. Untold eagerness. Will they regret wearing those clothes or wish they’d styled their hair differently? Or will they look back and say, “This was the moment when I could’ve backed out, but didn’t, because I wanted to be in the magazine more than anything”. Who knows. Read what happened on the date, before I crack my knuckles and do the usual.
Oh, and 24 and 22 – yes, we’re back plundering the kindergarten for participants. Pass me my anti-ageing cream and 40 quaaludes – I feel one of my heads coming on.
Michael is in blue and Laura is in pink and that’s just the way it is today.
Michael once read a leaflet in the careers office at school – which he can still remember very clearly because he’s 24 – that you should be direct and say exactly what you are looking for to avoid any misunderstandings or disappointments. So here it is.
Leaning out of a window and having a piano fall on your head is a pretty out-of-the-ordinary evening, Laura, so do be careful what you wish for.
I get the feeling Michael and Laura were the kind of students who wouldn’t read the entire test paper before starting an exam. As FASCINATING as this hug story is, neither of their answers describe a first impression.
“Lanky, nervous, teeth the colour of celery” – that is a first impression.
“Charming, friendly, could imagine divorcing him in 2024” – another first impression.
“Ooh we went in for a hug and aren’t we ever so awkward and adorable and OMG we’re useless, aren’t we, but it worked out OK in the end” is a Facebook message to a bored friend.
Being interrogated on a date is terribly dull. Oh, you think it’ll be great, talking about yourself for an hour to someone who at least pretends to be interested, but here’s a spoiler: you’re boring and don’t actually do that much, ever. The devastation when you run out of things to say about yourself and have to dig into childhood stories or lamenting confectionery brands that are no longer available in the shops is colossal. You may never recover.
Anyway, when you’re nervous and the person opposite you just sits in silence, staring into the sleeves of his Berghaus fleece, you may well find yourself asking a lot of questions.
I am quite glad I didn’t have front row seats for this particular matinee.
You “tried to kiss her to see if there was any spark”? What were you expecting? FLAMES to shoot out of her mouth? An enchantment to fall upon you both, leading to everlasting love?
This isn’t how you do it. It’s the initial spark that leads to the kiss, the kiss doesn’t reveal it. It’s like getting married to find out whether you’re in love, or buying a dog to find out if you’re allergic to them. The cart is before the horse, Michael, and there’s manure absolutely everywhere.
If this elusive, mystical spark wasn’t there in the first place, why did you try to kiss her at all? “Oh well I didn’t like her that much, but I figured true love’s kiss or whatever might create a spell and we’d fancy each other.” And why would she want to kiss you?
You didn’t try to kiss her because of this ‘spark’ nonsense – you just thought you might as well. While I’d usually applaud this, she said no and that’s the way it is. Brushing aside the absolute garbage idea that “not kissing on first dates” is even a thing, if she didn’t want to, she didn’t want to. A part of you died inside? Maybe try to kiss someone else – see if you can get the spark that can bring it back to life.
Either that or wire yourself up to a Ford Focus with jump leads. Spark. Honestly. Go buy a Zippo.
And yet Laura doesn’t mention this disastrous kiss at all. Not once, in the whole column, not even at the ‘Did you kiss?” question. What a shame she spared Michael’s blushes – they would have generated the only heat we’re going to get off this pair.
I’m skipping table manners because I don’t actually care what two CHILDREN think of each other’s eating habits. So long as they both ate their Alpha Bites, I’m happy.
But sadly she didn’t naturally generate electricity, so I’m afraid I’m out.
They both say “open”. Open. Like a door. Or a wound.
I’m sure Laura will be crushed to hear this. Do you see where this is going?
I’m sure after reading this, Laura’s friends would quite like to meet Michael too.
Isn’t this fascinating, this breakneck roller-skate down to the friendzone Michael seems intent on? Because he didn’t get to kiss her on the first date, he has naturally assumed that a) she didn’t like him and b) she will say so in this column and so he needs to get in there first.
This is the problem, isn’t it? This is what we’re dealing with now, not just with Michael, but with men everywhere. If they don’t get exactly what they want, if they’re rebuffed in any small way, it’s game over. Men on Tinder asking a woman if she wants to sit on his dick, two messages after saying hello, and being astonished and angry when she says no. Hordes of huffing, boring fucking MANSPLAINERS striding into conversations that were totally fine without them, scratching their bollocks and expecting everyone to drop everything and listen. A massive inability to accept they can’t control every situation, that their charm is far from instant, that their whopping sense of entitlement is distasteful and unwelcome. They never ask why others react this way to them. Aren’t they curious? Not even remotely? Do they think it’s everyone else who is wrong?
As Anna from This Life said to Miles during one of his many tantrums: “They say that when a baby is newborn, it doesn’t really understand that other people exist. It quite naturally assumes that the whole universe revolves around it. YOU are that baby, Miles. You never got past that first stage. You never found out that not everything on this Earth has got to do with you.”
And it isn’t ever going to change is it? We can see this stuff and call it out and grasp our heads in despair and write things like this, but it won’t change. Because these men don’t want to change; it’s not in their interest. To change would be to admit something was wrong, and they are taught to avoid that at all costs. They’re forever at the mirror, but they don’t see themselves at all.
You must learn from rejection, realise how useful it can be, how it can arm you for the future and fine-tune almost every decision you’ll ever face, accept there will be a “no” sometimes, and that it can make a “yes” all the sweeter when it comes, but a yes is not your divine right. Otherwise, rejection is all you’ll ever encounter.
And if you think I’m being hard on Michael, wait until you see his score. This is not my first time at the rodeo.
He said you were talkative, bubbly and genuine. Bubbly. Like an Aero. Talkative, like a parrot. Genuine, like the fiver in my fucking pocket.
Here’s a tip: when someone on the door of a ‘cool bar’ – especially one in Mayfair where your date was – tells you there’s a “20-minute wait”, it means “fuck off, you’re not getting in”.
I wonder if this is where the abortive kiss happened. All Bar One. Where else, eh?
I don’t think a slight change in geography was going to help you here, Michael.
Instead poor Laura had to go and stand in a queue for 20 minutes just to see if there was sufficient spark to charge their sodding iPhones – both of which have cracked screens, I’ll wager.
Oh, get over it.
The fact Laura didn’t mention it at all suggests either this happens all the time so it didn’t even register, or it just wasn’t that big a deal. He went in for a bit of a snog, she was, like, maaaate, we’re in All Bar One. Happens all the time. To me, anyway.
On to the scores now and all I can say is WELL.
Four. I sat and read all the answers. Twice. The date went well. That we live in a world where someone is penalised for showing an interest in your life and asking you questions makes me feel quite sad in a way. I mean, Laura is 22, a graduate. She probably hasn’t been on *that* many dates before, especially not formal ones like this. And how else do you get to know someone without asking questions? Sit waiting until they release their autobiography? Settle down with their Twitter timeline or have a good rake through their LinkedIn profile?
Asking a lot of questions on a date can be a sign that you don’t find yourself that fascinating, and that you would bore whoever you’re with if you started going on about yourself. I’ve done this. It’s a weird form of modesty. We are also told again and again and again, by mean aunties who like to make sure you don’t grow up ‘spoilt’, that it is rude to talk about yourself.
This 4 is not about Laura asking too many questions, or making Michael feel like he’s on a job interview. This 4 isn’t about Laura at all, she may as well have not even been there. This 4 is a man-baby throwing his man-rattle out of his man-pram because no teat was available to him.
You queued 20 minutes to get into a bar – you wouldn’t bother doing that for a bad date, a 4 wouldn’t get that much investment. You are face-saving, because you’re expecting her to give you a massive drubbing. She was an 8, at least – your rejection has brought the score down.
The 4 is you, Michael. The 4 is you.
Ordinarily, I’d be like, OMG, how could you not see this was a total disaster, but the truth is it wasn’t, was it? Laura is probably so used to telling boys to back up, she didn’t even consider it a minus point. I have a feeling a few more years of it will change her mind.
Laura has plenty of time to make mistakes – thank goodness Michael won’t be one of them.
Here we are then, the final furlong. The big question. Will Michael and Laura grace the polished floors and shiny brass rails of All Bar One again, or are they forever destined to be standing in separate queues and different ‘cool bars’ that they have zero chance of getting into?
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 bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great and that Michael is a stand-up guy who just made a mistake or whatever. 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.
Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. Like, for real, I’m out of the country.
Photograph: Felix Clay, James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian