Impeccable Table Manners

Michael and Tom

It’s an impossibly beautiful morning as I sit writing this. The sky is perhaps the bluest it has been for ages, there’s sun streaming through the kitchen window – and revealing all the dust and smears on my laptop screen but let’s not dwell – and every now and again a bird tweets. Nothing could spoil it.


Meet Michael, 27, a special education needs tutor and 23-year-old Tom, who is a PhD student.

Photograph: Andy Hall for the Guardian

Two educational bods who could do with Topman vouchers for Christmas? What’s not to love? Read what happened on the date (have a can of Red Bull handy) before I go in and really give them something to cry for.

It’s back! The spark! The elusive, catch-all “excuse I’ll use when I don’t fancy them” that’s been so sadly lacking from recent dates. This spark, and lack thereof, has got me out of many a jam. Liked a guy perfectly fine on the date and then discovered he had morning breath that could stun a crocodile? “Sorry, I just didn’t feel a spark.” Watched a date arrive and decided within two minutes I could never love a man with an asymmetrical haircut and a tie-dye Ramones T-shirt in his wardrobe? “I’m not really getting a spark, are you?”

If you want to see a spark, you need to apply some friction – you’ll get there in the end. Let’s not pretend it’s anything other than that, like we’re all a bunch of Pepe le Pews waiting to be thunderstruck by whichever “cat with paint on its back” that wanders by.

“Easy to be around.” Underrated. There are plenty of people who’ve been in relationships years who look about as comfortable with each other as you would be sitting in a bathtub filled with lightbulbs.

As for someone “fun”, I am always reminded of the wonderful Victoria Wood character Kitty, when asked if she liked fun, she pulls a face that could scare the hundreds-and-thousands off the top of a trifle and wails,”No I don’t. I had enough of that in 1958 when I got trapped in a lift with a hula hoop salesman.” Strong same.

You fancied him, you mean. Cool!


Gay men talk about coming-out stories in much the same way straight people talk about their loft conversions or fitted kitchens to other heterosexual strangers at barbecues. It’s our go-to, the one thing we all have in common (unless we’re not out) and so we compare and contrast, finding out a considerable amount about each other along the way. It’s like the way dogs sniff each other’s bottoms.

Recently a TV presenter whose name I can’t remember – because all straight people look the same to me and do they even have names I’m not sure it doesn’t really matter me me me – said he couldn’t understand why gay people still had to come out and that it wasn’t as big deal to him in his “middle-class bubble” or something and I was like, OK. And then, later in the week, a gay Conservative student went into the vault of bad opinions, found the most putrid rotting carcass of a take they could find, roused it from its perma-slumber in the fires of hell and trotted it out, a heap of bones on the end of a frayed leash. “It’s harder to come out as Tory than to come out as gay,” they said. Rightio.

So to anyone who thinks coming out doesn’t matter and that we “shouldn’t have to” or should stop “going on about it”  – plenty of gay people do this too btw; I’m not attacking the other lot with their chipped crockery and terrible underwear – should perhaps stop and think further. Remember that we don’t come out for YOU, we come out for ourselves and perhaps those who have yet to find their own way with their sexuality that we might help by doing so. And it’s still one of the most life-affirming things we can do and one of the most politicised and scrutinised part of a gay, bi, lesbian, or trans person’s life and if you don’t like it why don’t you just French kiss an electric socket and leave the rest of us to do what the hell we want? Thanks.

Rollercoasters? OK. Niche. Politics? Stop it. You’re gay. Talk about Madonna or your favourite drugs in the ’90s or how MEAN all other gay men are except they aren’t or Photoshopping in magazines or who’s had the best surgery or how you could never live in San Francisco but love to visit – oh hang on these are just things I like to talk about. I forget we’re not a hive mind. Carry on.

I don’t like theme parks. If God had intended us to stand in line for two hours only to be thrown about in the dark and emerge with whiplash and the vomit of the small child sitting three rows back, he would have a) given us adjustable seating instead of buttocks and b) tumble dryers would be big enough to fit five people inside.

Life really does move pretty fast, doesn’t it? We’ve gone from “not my type” to “here, hand me your phone so I can find you some men who might actual fancy you and not waste your time by coming on a Guardian Blind Date when in fact they are planning to…………………

“…move to sodding Birmingham.” If this is true, fine. But if this is a way of friend zoning than this is so spitefully impressive that I’m having respiratory issues.

I know. However, the Guardian sent them to a restaurant called Tapas Revolution so we can actually forgive them for ordering tapas because, well, you know, it’s like going to a restaurant called Noodles! Noodles! Noodles! and asking if they serve chips. (They probably do, tbh – everywhere does.)

Anyway, the vegetarian bit is what I find most interesting. This is coming up again and again on the Guardian Blind Date. “He didn’t mind being restricted.” Fuck him, he could’ve got some albondigas or chorizo to himself if he’d wanted. Top tip for anyone going to a tapas restaurant: there is no law that says you have to share – the floor doesn’t open to reveal a giant, fang-baring bowl of patatas bravas that tears you limb from limb. It’s perfectly fine to eat a dish all to yourself if it’s not to the other’s liking. Oh, and anyone who says “sharing is fun” has clearly never watched a roomful of excited children dip their adorable yet grubby hands into a huge bowl of Skittles and then feel obliged to take one from them when they offer it to you, wiping their nose on their sleeve just seconds before popping the sugary germ-bomb into your mouth.

“The best thing about this person was that they didn’t spot what I consider to be a negative character trait but in fact sounds absolutely fine.” I mean, does Michael need a Geri-sized vitamin shot of self-esteem or is he playing to the cameras here?

“Ooh I’m so KOOKY and WEIRD and STRANGE and OUT THERE.” *Sips camomile tea and slowly turns the pages of the Observer, on a brown sofa in a room painted magnolia with one picture on the wall. Favourite cheese = Kraft Singles*

I can hear your screams from here. I can. They are baying, guttural, carried to me on a turbo-charged hurricane. But, you see, when one of you is 23, and the other 27, those four years – a mere bagatelle for old crocs like me and my friends – are in fact a yawning chasm. There’s a world of difference between a 27-year-old and someone who’s 23, especially if you’re both gay, At 23, 27 is an unfathomable, far-off age – it is beards, knowing about coffee, going for walks, appreciating corduroy, a Werther’s Original-scented blowjob. Whereas, when you’re 27, 23 is a yapping chihuahua with no road sense, but who you’d still probably bang anyway because 23.

Interesting, like someone else’s bank statement.
Kind, like the smile of a librarian finding a boiled sweet in the pocket of his cardigan.
Fun, like the date happening at the next table who were sharing a bottle of poppers.

Approachable, like a dog in a Christmas outfit.
Good-looking, like oh mate no don’t say that he didn’t say it about you oh mate noooooo.
Driven, like a car. Into a lake. At midnight. No survivors.

Oh gays and their gin! What are we like? Honestly! (Plymouth or Tanqueray 10 for me, thanks; be freer with the gin than you are with the tonic. Now I’m yours for ever; what can I do for you? Keep pouring btw.)


This is interesting because I always thought the default behaviour when you weren’t interested in someone at all was not to say very much. Don’t you just nod dumbly through your drink and smile politely at their jokes, letting them have the floor if not your heart? It seems time has moved on, and Tom used the opportunity to babble on at poor Michael, not even giving him any screen time to make up for the thundering lack of romance between them. “Well, I’m here now,” Tom may have thought to himself. “I may as well talk my brains out about rollercoasters and other stuff that doesn’t matter because HEY I’m moving nearer Alton Towers tomorrow!”

I think your ears and your boredom threshold are pretty glad you didn’t, Michael.


A shy nine from Michael there, I feel. Tom’s is a gentleman’s 1. You wouldn’t be happy with that seven if you’d just done an Argentine tango on Strictly, would you?

Disclaimer: The comments I make about the couples are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which have usually been edited for space, brevity and drama. You both seem like good guys and I guess if there’s no spark, there’s no spark or whatever. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story.

Note: If you’ve liked this, do think about sharing it on your “socials” so someone might commission me to write something for money. I’d be very grateful. Winter is coming. Also, I have a novel coming out and at least three people have said it’s not that bad actually so if you want to preorder, then Google “The Last Romeo Justin Myers” and purchase from your preferred retailer.


  1. Looking at the menu, it is an odd place to send a vegetarian to, do the Guardian consider this when they pick the location.

  2. Pushing through a bit of insomnia, I binge-read half a decade of the homo first date columns feeling slightly pervy and increasingly morose as these fairly earnest dudes deliver cringe-worthy post mortems on their mostly dead-on-arrival dates.

    I’m fairly convinced that The Guardian must have a massive financial stake in Grindr et al and their column is just a craven ploy to turn us all into of pack of dating averse, left swiping nitwits.

    And then I find Guyliner who reads between ALL the lines in the most hilarious way while offering hope that there’s still something to be said about the slow and lingering dance to romance.

    Play on, big fiddle.

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