Omena and Felix
Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Omena and Felix

I had my Covid-19 vaccine yesterday. It was quite an odd, exhilarating feeling after. Walking out of my local community centre after just ten minutes of brisk but friendly efficiency, it felt like I was finally moving forward in some way. Not so much that a weight had been lifted, because there are heavy burdens of the pandemic we will all carry for a long time, but a glimmer of something – light, energy, hope, positivity, I don’t know. The sun was shining and the air was crisp and I felt kind of youthful and relieved, like the sun was recharging me, and the vaccine was a little booster shot of springtime. I’ve barely gone out over the last few months, and if I have I haven’t enjoyed the experience, so I was glad my turn came. Apparently, 1% of the population was vaccinated on Friday 19th; I hope they all felt a little lighter too. We’re getting there, aren’t we?

Anyway, the upshot of this is that vaccine yesterday = today feeling like I spent the last three days gouching my face off on the floor of Sankeys Soap sooooo this may not be a full service Blind Date review, but while we’re here and before the delirium takes me, let’s say hello to Omena, a 26-year-old teacher living in Barcelona and Felix, 28, and an administrator living in London. Here they are in the hallowed pages of Weekend:

Omena and Felix
Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

Read all about the date on the Guardian website before reconvening here for some well-placed jabs of my own.

Omena on FelixFelix on Omena
What were you hoping for?
To meet someone cool, kind and on my vibe, to get to know and meet when I relocate to London.

Cool, and kind and on my vibe – feel like Omena is asking a lot here from the GBD column, tbh. Kindness especially difficult. Oh, you can meet loads of people who say they’re kind – maybe they even have it in a little hashtag in their bio – but it’s one of those things you can’t actually profess to be; it’s decided for you, by others. Much like claiming you’re popular – only the rest of the world can tell you that. Anyway, fingers crossed!

What were you hoping for?
To meet in person, but due to Covid it was not meant to be.

Well, no. Here we are. Still. You can feel guilty, can’t you, for missing human contact, no matter how inconsequential? Over 126,000 people have died, there have been some truly outrageous things happening during the pandemic, and… the government is still in the lead in the polls, so it can be easy to feel hopeless. And yet all you want to do is walk into a bar, order a Tia Maria and Diet Coke – or Archers and Appletise with Coke, whichever’s your favourite – and have a bar person say ‘Oh, it’s not Coke, it’s Pepsi, is that okay?’ so you can answer, sweetly, grateful to be talking to strangers again, that NO of course it isn’t fucking okay, you asked for Coke, get real, Jesus. The absolute nerve.

First impressions?
Not my usual type, but he was chatty and interested in getting to know me. Plus, I was intrigued by his passion for baking!

Ah, ‘not my usual type’ on question 2. I wonder how this is going to go, said nobody ever. Anyway, I’m not sure how Omena managed to twig Felix was into baking from her first impression unless he came onto the call wearing a chef’s hat, stirring a big bowl of Bake-Ur-Own butterfly buns mix, and translating everything he said from centigrade to Fahrenheit to Gas Mark and then back again.

‘Interested in getting to know me’ is a big ✅, both in the fact Felix has demonstrably shown this interest and that Omena has picked up on it. It’s rare. People ask fewer questions now. Of course, it is worth remembering that when most people ask you a question, it’s because they want you to ask it back.

First impressions?
She was very friendly, confident and looked absolutely stunning.

Harry Styes dancing at the GRAMMYs

I love the word ‘stunning’. Let’s write it out again, in caps. STUNNING. You look stunning, babes. I’m stunned. Set phasers to STUN, hun. It always feels very sincere said on these terms, between friends, especially – I know a lot of gay men and straight women who use it, I find it comforting. However, as someone who is currently flat-hunting, I see the word STUNNING applied far too often to badly converted death hovels with bizarre, ramshackle conservatories, shower cubicles in the hallway, and a so-called ‘stunning’ view of a brick wall and seven dumpsters. Zoopla and RightMove at the moment are both like stealth marketing websites for a new 10 Rillington Place movie. ‘Stunning views’, generally means you’re on the fifth floor, there’s no lift, but there’s a window over the kitchen sink that you can look out from as you imagine falling to the ground.

BTW if you know a landlord who is not a sociopath and has a two-bed flat to let, please contact me.

What did you talk about?
Everything from religion to our families, goals and online dating. He is Nigerian like my Dad, so we talked about Lagos, and our travels around Africa. To be honest, Felix reminded me of my dad when he was younger: similar interests and outlook.
Culture, long-term goals, what we do for fun, relationship history, where we see ourselves in five years, religious background, travel, films, social justice, wine.

Religion ✅ – Must we?
Travel
Long-term goals/where we see ourselves in five years – aren’t they the same thing, Felix? Also… is this a date, or an interview to work at Foxtons?
‘he reminded me of my dad when he was younger’ – some women are looking for a man just like their father, others are… not.

Any awkward moments?
Not really. Well, actually, at one point he sang a gospel song to me. It would have been lovely for another person, but I hate being serenaded.
None.

Harry Styles in Dunkirk looking worried

I wonder how long he sang for. And what he sang. Did he look into the screen while he sang, right into Omena’s eyes? Or did he look away, fixing his gaze on a random point in his kitchen – a pedal bin, a knife block, a random spatula that had fallen down the side of the washing machine that he’d never noticed until now? Maybe he closed his eyes as he sang? Is this better, or worse? I suppose it depends on who’s singing to you, what they’re singing and, if we’re honest, how much you fancied them before they started singing, but I would probably fall in the ‘no’ camp on this one too. Unless it was supposed to be funny. And even then… no. There are too many unknowns. I also don’t like being read to, which is a bit ironic as part of my job as an author (I’ve written three books, buy them, cheers) is that I have to read aloud to others and stand (or sit) there thinking, this is the worst thing in the world, surely they hate this, but then they applaud and it’s fine. (Tip: if you have to read aloud to someone, really PERFORM it, be more exaggerated than usual, as it will come across better – reading in your normal voice, even if you are a very interesting and vivacious person, will sound like a drone after approx 15 seconds.)

Okay, I am feeling quite ill now, so will have to move a bit faster and try to wrap this up. Stay with me.

How long did you stay on the call?
About 4.5 hours. I can talk for England, but he did most of the chatting, so the hours racked up.

Oooooh this ‘he did most of the chatting’ feels like a loaded comment. Regular readers will know that often I bemoan the fact that women daters always worry that they talk too much. It’s this bizarre gender stereotyping thing that men should be strong, silent and repressed, and women can’t help but be blethering gossips. I loathe it. I can be a talker, I love to talk, and men are the most gossipy people I know – and I don’t just mean gay ones. So I suppose, here, Omena was expecting to be the one doing all the talking, but Felix was chattier – and because of these weird rules we have, maybe it turned her off. Okay, there’s also the singing and the fact he reminded her of her dad and… yeah I think we can see how this is going.

Best thing about Felix?
He seems a down-to-earth, interesting guy. I would never have predicted that he loves to bake brownies and red velvet, or like pop music. It’s a shame he is so different to me: I prefer grime, Afrobeats etc, and would take a plate of rice and chicken over dessert any day!

See? Omena likes her dad just fine, but she doesn’t want to date him. Fair enough.

I also feel the same about dessert. I just can’t be arsed. If it didn’t get me looks in restaurants – HA remember restaurants, no me neither; I can’t work out if I actually miss them or not – I would have another starter instead of something sweet, right at the end. Imagine, for your third course – or fourth or fifth if your parents gave you a deposit to buy your flat – asking for a nice carpaccio, or something tomatoey en croute.

Best thing about Omena?
The fact that she loves doing different, fun activities amazes me, and she can make me laugh.

I’m not a huge fan of the slightly patronising modern overuse of the word ‘wholesome’ but Felix does seem like a lovely guy and the perfect date for someone but… not our Omena.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Possibly. I have a few Nigerian and Christian friends he may get on with.

Michelle Visage saying 'Do you'?

Their three words answers are such a MESS I’m livid.

Describe Felix in three words?
Down to earth.

DOWN, like you feel when you see your uncle – the one who starts every other sentence with ‘I’m not being funny but… now follows you on Twitter and has seen you tweet ‘HOLE PIC?!’ at KJ Apa.
TO, like the word ‘to’, I mean what am I supposed to write here? Okay, ‘TO‘ like you write at the bottom of a sheet of notepaper when you want them to turn over to read the other side, but you don’t see why you have to be polite about it.
EARTH, like the fucked, gently broiling planet of gruel we all coexist on.

Describe Omena in three words?
Smart, caring, nice smile.

SMART, like a dog who has learned to open your bedroom door and leave a ‘message’ for you at the foot of your bed when you sleep past 8.
CARING, like a lovely nurse, or a friendly doctor, or a wee nun – but one of the nice ones, not the terrifying ones that Irish writers always talk about.
NICE SMILE – this is two words, Felix, so we have four words here, okay? Do better. Anyway, NICE SMILE, so probably not very like a reality TV star who has just got back from an Eastern European country where they were having their teeth ‘done’ – and rather than look like a person smiling back at you, it stings your eyes slightly like someone’s opened the fridge in a dark kitchen. (Remember to colour match your veneers two or three shades lighter than your current teeth, and not with the bathroom suite in a Marriott hotel.)

Okay. I’m properly fading now, sorry. Ugh. Anyway, let’s get a move on.

And…did you swap numbers?
No, we swapped Instagram handles.
No, but we added each other on Instagram.

This might seem like a definitive ‘friends only for ever’ move (and in this case it probably is tbh) but for the uninitiated, Instagram is a pictorial hotbed of sexual tension, damp undergarments and carefully curated flirtation tableaux. Instagram Stories is the digital equivalent of setting yourself up in a neon-lit window on the Reeperbahn and, quite frankly, after the year we’ve all had, who can blame them? An Instagram handle swap is a commitment to at least like a few posts and watch the first two nibs on their Instagram Stories and, gradually, see what happens. But not here, where it is a polite acknowledgment that there’s no need to ever speak again, but you wish them no ill will. Instagram: it’s not just for buying clothes that don’t fit you and weird labour saving devices that clog up your kitchen drawers.

Marks out of 10?
6.5. He was a lovely guy, very polite and it was a nice chat.
7.

Madonna going WHAT

ONES. Two ones. Despite Omena’s disclaimers, this is a one. Felix, too, scoring a numero uno here.

Which is why it’s no surprise that Omena says…

Would you meet again?
Most likely not, unless as friends.

So it stands to reason that Felix’s answer will be…

Would you meet again?
Yes.

Lawrence Chaney laughs then stops

Oh.


Apologies for this; I really don’t feel well.

If you enjoyed it despite it being the humourless rant of a man whose immune system is being gently throttled by Astra Zeneca, and would like to show your appreciation, consider sending me a one-off tip on Ko-fi. No subscription or obligation, the blog remains free. 

My second novel, The Magnificent Sons, is out on paperback on April 15th. Preorder it so I can buy FOOD in 2021! Thanks.

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. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself. 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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. And, please, I must know where Felix’s eyes were during the singing.

Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com

11 Comments

  1. My sympathies completely and utterly. Had my AZ vaccine on Tues and by Weds lunchtime was struggling to do anything. Thurs was a write-off.

    Kudos to you at all for doing what you’ve managed to here. Start safe and rest, and it will pass.

  2. As Bill Clinton used to say, ‘I feel your pain’, Justin. I had my AstraZeneca vaccine two weeks ago and a few hours later I was so cold my teeth actually chattered, as if I were a cartoon character. I spent the night being introduced to points on my body’s thermostat I had no idea were there.

    Please rest, let it wash horribly over you and take it easy for a few days afterwards.

    Very best wishes for a swift recovery.

  3. Hope you’re feeling better by now. Your observation on describing yourself as a ‘kind person’ rather chimes with my own pet hate – people being ‘kind to themselves’
    How can that work ?! Kindness is altruistic- surely bestowed on others, not oneself 🙂

    1. Aah, I tell people to be kind to themselves, because so few are. By which, I elaborate, I mean “treat yourself like you would your best friend”. If your best friend was having a bad day, or was hurting, you wouldn’t go “You deserve it”, but so often you do to yourself. So yeah, I’m a very strong advocate for being kind to yourself. I think the world would be a much better place if people were.

  4. Thank you for your sacrifice. In a moment of stupidhead stupidity, I had my AZ vax at work, the day before a 14 hour shift. It was basically like a one day reliving of actually having Covid, with the addition of feeling like I’d been punched in the arm.

    The one time I’ve been serenaded, many years ago, was by this poor trainee G.P. who sung me one and a half Robbie Williams songs. I was like: “Okay, yup, he’ll do one and then we’ll get back to conversation or heavy flirting or something. Hey, do you want to… nope, he’s started another one. Should I be worried for his potential patients, that he’s so disastrous when reading a room? Okay, now I’m thinking about a doctor’s surgery, rather than doing it. Yup, I’m going to go home and finish that bottle of red I opened, when I used it in that casserole.” I sense he would have continued, if I hadn’t left. And maybe he did, for himself, which is what I might have done in his position. A shame really, he was an attractive guy. Don’t misunderstand, I like the sex, but I don’t need it That much.

    I’m so pleased BD seems to have survived the cull, thus far. If this column were to stop, I’d be beside myself. I have spent money on you as a novelist, Justin. Don’t jest expect free stuff – someone has to fund all those post-lockdown trips to the barber shop.

    Feel better. x

    1. I agree with that sentiment entirely, but take issue with the word ‘kind’ – maybe it’s pedantic of me! But you can go easy on yourself etc, kind I definitely reserve for gestures to others – it implies consideration of someone else, at least in my book

  5. Thank you for doing this even while feeling grim.

    “Not my usual type” = doesn’t date men who wear hoodies on their dates

    “Like my dad” = gives the impression he was born in the 1950s / good Christian boy

    Also, I have been platonically smitten with a friend ever since she ordered another round of starters instead of dessert the first time we had lunch together.

  6. In my experience men often talk more than women and they also interrupt and talk over us a lot, even repeating ideas we’ve had and presenting them as their own. But men are visibly annoyed and comment grumpily when women interrupt them (as I’ve done by accident sometimes trying to find a gap in the conversation led by the men at the table). Which makes the whole “women talk too much” scenario even more frustrating. I got the sense that Felix talked so much that Omena couldn’t get a word in. Or maybe he didn’t listen to her full replies but rather talked over her?

    In fact, in mixed groups [studies](https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics/article/abs/speaker-sex-and-perceived-apportionment-of-talk/16666BA97B7BE41FFB16A5693BF60C23) it has been show that even though men out-talk women, when asked, the perception is that women talk more.

    Thank you for repeatedly addressing this frustrating reality. I don’t think most men do it deliberately, I don’t think they’re aware they’re talking over us. Society teaches us all from a very young age that males are superior and females are inferior. Hopefully gen z will teach their kids otherwise. And I agree with you, men gossip a lot.

    I hope you’re feeling better now. I have my first covid vaccine appointment this coming Monday, which I am excited (and now nervous) about.

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