Impeccable Table Manners

Pádraic and Josh

We know this already, I’m sure, but when we go on dates we ask the wrong questions. To which we get well-rehearsed, beige answers. So it’s our own fault when relationships ultimately fall into the sea like precarious coastline hotels.

“Where are you from?” “What TV shows do you like?” “What do you think of Brexit?” All perfectly functional and occasionally revelatory, but dull. Where is the real meat? If you are going on a date tonight, or soon, slip another one into your repertoire, just for me: “When did you last leave a comment underneath an article on a newspaper or news website?” There’s a right or wrong answer, isn’t there?

I say this because on last week’s Guardian Blind Date, the comments were open (thank you to the person who mentioned this blog; that was not of my doing). Sometimes they leave them open; I have always assumed it’s simply a mistake as usually the articles are closed off from the prying keyboards of Stressed of Sidcup,and their grammarian, nitpicking, vainglorious army. It’s a pointless exercise, anyway – most of the comments were from people screaming they couldn’t believe comments were open, like toddlers who managed to wake up before everyone on Christmas Day, sneak downstairs and open all the presents of their sweeter, more lovable sibling. But some comments were complaints that the daters featured that week were gay. Yeah, the Guardian’s readers thought Blind Date was getting too gay. The call really is coming from inside the house, isn’t it?

Anyway, this means I am DELIGHTED to see that it’s gay men again this week – I’d have preferred gay women because they are thin on the ground in these dating reviews, but if they don’t apply, they don’t apply – and I’m equally thrilled they seem (spoiler) just as interminably dull as the last pair. Boring gay men clogging up your Saturday mornings – just the way I like it.

Click the pic to read what happened on the date between Pádraic,  a 26-year-old (it says here) trainee architect, and Josh, 23, a charity campaigns officer. My poison pen begins right after.

*ripple of laughter so polite you can hear Melania Trump’s jewellery shaking*

Aiming low is probably the best way to have a decent experience on a Blind Date, but if you’re telling me the aim of 75% of them isn’t to feel the thrilling, urgent grip of a stranger’s hand on their inner thigh, 23 minutes after dessert was served, then you are wrong. Surely you are wrong. Why do we all pretend we’re here for a night of urbane grumbling about the state of the world and the odd pop culture reference?

We’re here to get drunk and SCREW, surely? And I’m not just talking about the gay guys. Come on. I’m done with this.

This is very nice. Especially when you discover Pádraic is forgetting something…

Hmmm. I don’t hold with lateness. Especially on a first date. I mean, if it’s unavoidable – perhaps there was a brief nuclear holocaust en route, or you stopped to pet a dog that was dressed in a tuxedo – then some lighthearted texts to your date to explain should just about get you out of jail. When you walk into the bar or pub or whatever, all these minutes late, do not saunter, or stroll – you need to look sheepish, embarrassed, slightly harassed. Ideally, you’d walk in accompanied by the women from that gif (from Game of Thrones, I think, I don’t watch) who walks ahead of you ringing the bell of shame. Here, like this:

Topics of conversation or answers to questions posed on Fifteen To One? Who can say?

I guess I can forgive the university chat because for these two it happened, like, 5 minutes ago, but once you get a guy in his late 20s or early 30s who still has more to say about uni than a simple where he went and some polite response to your own, inane memories or knowledge of that city, you need to press the eject button. I had a lovely time at university but I also used to very much like doing a big shop at the Asda on the Old Kent Road, but I tend not to go on too much about either.

I’m not entirely sure why two men in their mid 20s would be cracking out the well-known aphrodisiac that is Alzheimer’s on a first date – surely that’s more for my generation, in eternal panic that THIS mislaying of your house keys is the one that plunges you into a spiral of dilapidation, wandering the streets of Shepherd’s Bush in just your socks and forgetting all your best relatives.

I do not binge-watch, as a rule. I did once rewatch the entire first series of Catastrophe in a night before the next one started, but I couldn’t sit through six straight hour-long intricately plotted episodes of some comic-book adaptation or tedious law drama like some do. It feels like self-harm. There’s too much else happening, too much air outside, too many cups of tea to drink, tweets to send, future to obsess over. Binge-watching feels like parking your brain outside a shop, and I’ve never yet had a conversation about boxsets that I haven’t wanted to end with the death of either myself or the person attempting to bore me into my eternal slumber, so thank you but no. No, thank you.

Suuuuuuuuuure.

Oh, amazing. Truly, a gift. Spoiler culture and the dictators who perpetuate it.

Here’s the thing: if something has been broadcast, even online and, yes, in a different country, the onus is not on the rest of the world to keep it from you, like it’s a surprise party or perhaps a terminal prognosis that would stop you from enjoying your friend’s wedding. It’s for you either to try to see it as quickly as possible, or to hide away from all social media, TV channels, news websites, and magazines until you have. Sound impossible? It’s no less impracticable than getting the entire WORLD to shut up.

Often, you will be lucky – I guess I can think of the Star Wars movies as a recent example – and there’ll be a genuine effort by everyone not to spoil it for others, so there’ll be a kind of unspoken agreement nobody will discuss the finer plot points, or the ending, or the outfits, or wherever your general interest lies. But you cannot, and should not, EXPECT this deference. If you are part of a small group who makes a pact not to reveal spoilers, then good for you; that is super cool or admirable, but remember: the rest of us signed nothing.

Drag Race is a tricky one because it airs overseas quite far in advance of over here and not everyone has the nous, energy or wherewithal to go looking for links to download or stream it. Often, then, there’s a grace period. But, you know, say it was two days ago – you literally cannot expect a gay man who watches that show to keep his trap shut about ANYTHING, let alone the result.

I do find it strange how we’re so keen to turn ourselves back into toddlers, unable to deal with disappointment or things not going our way, satisfied only by a constant stream of surprises. Imagine the strain on our hearts. Can you really not sit and enjoy the show now you know what’s going to happen? What is with this continual need for shock? Why are we so intent on creating drama or jeopardy in even the most mundane of situations? I know there is a certain buzz from having a genuine “WTF?” moment when you’re watching something, sometimes, but life can’t be full of them. Sometimes it’s better for you if you read ahead, take note of the spoilers – in life, surprises can be nasty, irreversible. Bone up on your own storyline; don’t leave everything to chance. Because, spoiler: you still end up being you.

This is what someone would write on your notes after they’d just interviewed you for a graduate scheme. A graduate scheme you would not get a place on.

“The best thing about him was he turned up before me.” Yeeeeees, I don’t think these two are going to be indulging in a spot of fleshy swordfighting before sundown, do you?

I imagine  these two going at it would be as much fun as watching the last two Pringles in a tube turn stale, anyway.

Somewhere out there a Radio 4 comedy commissioner is shouting for their nearest child to “Go get me my phone”.

About as much enthusiasm as going to the GP to have a lump checked or a child forcing down a Brussels sprout so they can have ice cream.

PASSIONATE, like a Maeve Binchy novel.
ETHICAL, like all the detergents in my extra-woke cupboard under the sink.
CHEERFUL, like a character who will almost certainly be murdered second in a Miss Marple mystery.

SMART, like a Foxtons estate agent who can calculate their commission and drink a Diet Cherry Coke at the same time.
CONSIDERATE, “like you were when you were younger, such a lovely little boy, a fine young man, not like now” – your grandma.
RELAXED, like the poppers have just kicked in.

23. An early night. Some people don’t deserve to be gay.

You have to feel sorry for straight people, who have only just worked out what “vada your dolly old eek” means, only to be confronted by yet more impenetrable gay references thanks to the internet and, some might say, us just wanting a little bit of something for ourselves.

Well, we all like to be liked. But the question mark at the end tells you a) that Josh really isn’t sure and b) he’s not too bothered either way. It’s a shrug, a whatever, a “Well I guess if I had to come up with something, I suppose it would be OK if he thought I was friendly”. And, luckily for Josh, who has perhaps never even considered what someone might think of him before – and how little control he has over that, so I imagine he may start pondering on it more now – Pádraic did think he was friendly. It was one of the first things he said, despite Josh being LATE. Pádraic is a better man than I – they’d be dredging canals by now if Josh has been coming to meet me.

“Coming up after these messages: what happens when an 8 is a 9 but they give you a 7 that is actually a 6? One half of a doomed couple tells their story.”

Another comment left under the Guardian Blind Date last week was a complaint they should get rid of the last question “Would you meet again?” I think they said it was unnecessarily cruel – I can’t remember and I’m not going back to read it. This is a nonsense opinion. This question is the lingering closeup just after someone loses the prize, it’s the “for sale: baby shoes, never worn”, it is the final sweet aftertaste of pudding, that you hang on to as long as you can before it’s washed away by the inevitable glug of water or wine or Pepsi Max (you asked for Diet Coke but they “just have Pepsi, is that OK?”).

This question must never die, even if it is in itself a mass murderer of hope.

Beautiful.

Photograph: Linda Nylind; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy – Lord knows they need it sometimes. Anyone participating in the date would usually be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please don’t take this personally.  It’s about what you say, not who you are. I’m sure the sex would have been ELECTRIC. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

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  1. Drag Race has been on Netflix for over a year; he’s got no excuse for not catching up. Especially since Season 6 is the BEST ONE.

  2. Season 6 was years ago, Oh and ‘spoilers’ its obvious who wins from week 3.
    I know every word of the first 18 minutes (just 18 Utube not 20) of season 9, despite it being on a wobbly phone behind some twinks head. So if this straightish woman can keep up, Josh, you need to step your pussy up.
    Team Charlie Hides
    In my defense I don’t watch much TV other than drag race, so my obsessiveness is permitted

  3. Maybe I’m being unfair (I usually am), but Padraic seems the sort who’d make my teeth itch after 5 minutes of being in his company – his try-hard lolz are grating.

    I had to laugh at your reaction to Josh wanting an early night at 23, however I suspect it was a tactical “early night” to spare Padraic’s embarrassment, since we know what his 7 really means.

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