Photographs: David Levene/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Rachel and Ty

Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start, so you just try for the beginning and hope for the best. To say my Twitter mentions were “busy” this morning would be an understatement, so I guess we’d better get on with what you’re here for.

This week we have 22-year-old Rachel, who is a client services coordinator and Ty, 27, a consultant. Coordinating what and consulting whom, we shall now, sadly, never know, but here they are in their full regalia for your perusal:

 

Photographs: David Levene/The Guardian

Considering it’s Pride Week and I am indeed a notorious gay man, being served this feels like weapons-grade homophobia.

However, I think it is important to focus on the positives and so, before we begin, I would like to state that I like Ty’s trousers. Read what happened on the date – through your fingers, I imagine – and then we’ll get going.

Rachel on TyTy on Rachel
What were you hoping for?
To meet the love of my life, obviously.

Rachel is likely joking, but I’m going to come right out and say that at 22 you should not be looking for the love of your life. The love of your life will, inevitably, get in the way of all the things you should be doing at 22. While of course it’s handy to have someone on hand to take “candid” shots of you on holiday for the ‘Gram, I do feel you need to wait a few years before declaring anyone the love of your life. I mean, how can you tell? You’re not dead yet.

What were you hoping for?
A manic pixie dream girl or free hummus.

For the uninitiated, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an old, gross Hollywood trope, like a kind of ancestor to the Cool Girl, except the Cool Girl drinks more beer and is better at pool than all the “lads” who want her so desperately – until she shows a flicker of emotion. ANYWAY, Ty is joking of course and I think I should warn you if his humour isn’t grabbing you so far, then you should buckle in because, as we will quickly see, this isn’t a date, it’s an audition. The “free hummus” refers to the fact the daters have been sent to The Real Greek which is… well that’s shockingly bad luck isn’t it? The other week a pair were sent to a restaurant where even your own breathing was added to the bill.

First impressions?
Considering I was 10 minutes late, I thought his first impression of me would be fairly low. But he was 15 minutes later than that, so I was both relieved and a tad irritated.
She was cool and comfortable with my lateness.

DOUBLE LATE. What a treat.

I guess you can explain away ten minutes as a public transport problem. It happens, especially if you’re the kind of sadist who enjoys lying about issues with public transport. But if you are late, you must learn the hard way how annoying it is, so for Ty to be an additional 15 minutes late – while it does make my heart race and the colour drain form my face – is kind of delicious, in a way.

I know there are some people who just can’t be on time, and they panic about it and worry they are seen as unreliable, and I guess they get a free pass because we all have our own shit going on. But, and this is a big but, in fact I would go as far as to say that I cannot stress this STRONGLY enough:

If you’re late for a first date and have no valid explanation, nor even so much as a care that you have inconvenienced them,  you can get fucked.

Waiting. It’s awful. The longer you wait for stuff, the more time you have to think that maybe it’s not right for you, or not meant to be, or that somehow bad is coming. Time waiting is time worrying. Think of all the occasions you have to wait. Dentist surgeries, GP waiting rooms, train platforms. They say good things come to those who wait but L-O-fucking-L, they certainly reckoned without Rachel and Ty didn’t they?

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

What did you talk about?
His friends, his family, his job… there was little leeway for a two-way conversation.
Books I hate, stuff my friends told me to say on the date, philosophy, this other date I’d been on, this other date Rachel had been on.

Books I hate. How fascinating. How, I dunno, edgy? It can be nice to have a good bitch about stuff with a mate but it takes up so much energy, it’s not sustainable – that’s why drag queens are only onstage for an hour. I think to be so outwardly negative – especially about popular culture – on a first date is such a huge red flag. It really is. Why on earth waste time telling someone who does not know you at all what you don’t like? It’s like those blithering wank-wands on dating apps who have a huge list of who they don’t want to meet and what they’re not into. Telling someone the things you hate without context or balance isn’t informative, but it is very revealing. It reveals that spending any time with you would be about as much fun as  colonic irrigation, by a trainee who is the very definition of fingers and thumbs, using a DustBuster.

Stuff my friends told me to say. Maybe Ty is a bit socially awkward or hasn’t really done dating before – I mean the maybe is doing some seriously heavy lifting there but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt – but if this is the case maybe his friends should have advised him to try out his training wheels on Tinder or other places where hope goes to die, rather than go in the Blind Date column – the dating equivalent of whacking it all out on the worktop and asking who wants to suck it first.

Anyway what Rachel is trying to tell us – like Lassie desperate to communicate that somebody has fallen down a well again (seriously close up these wells, people) – is that Ty did not shut the hell up. This is a problem because we are conditioned to have laser-focus on who’s doing most of the talking, and what about. Once an encounter is over, and we’re telling someone else about it, we refer to how they “droned on and on” or “just sat there, saying zero”. What’s extra brilliant and frightening is it’s so hard to gauge the perfect amount you should be talking. 50-50 split doesn’t always work because – and please allow me to be frank here – some people are so boring and witless, their voices start to feel like air pollution after a while. Coincidentally, these tend to be the people doing most of the talking. I can talk a lot if necessary, but I much prefer to listen, and ask questions, mainly because I like to show an interest in people and, being a gay man who writes for a living, people are literally desperate to brand me an attention-seeker or whatever. But I also love to listen and interrogate because people can’t help but show themselves to you, and I’m addicted to both the elation when you realise they’re exactly who you thought they were, and the crushing blow when you discover they are not. And, of course, both those feelings work the other way too.

Any awkward moments?
Our debate about Pip from Great Expectations – turns out you either love him or justifiably hate the guy.

Part 108 of on occasional series: conversations I never want to overhear in a lift that has got stuck between floors, and, no, I don’t even have any water with me.

Debating Great Expectations on a first date sounds like something two A-level students would do – well, really square ones who did poppers, like, once at a party and Jordan’s mum had to call an Uber to take them home and it was just soooooooo embarrassing. It’s almost like a fake intellectual thing to do. Imagine the scene: each dying on a hill over Pip from Great Expectations, in the middle of a Real Greek. I’m sure the waiting staff were really impressed.

Any awkward moments?
It was remarkably un-awkward.

Good table manners?
He stole his unfinished pint to take on the tube.

I genuinely do not know what to say. So let’s just allow the moment to breathe and read that answer again.

He stole his unfinished pint to take on the tube.

Let’s never speak of this again.

Good table manners?
Her ability to manipulate food with a knife and fork was good.

I know you want me to drag Ty here but, look, he does have a point about the ridiculous concept of table manners as an actual thing. I mean, she managed to put everything in her mouth. What more can you say? So, yeah, comedy sometimes works better in your head but I have no problem with this answer.

Best thing about Ty?
He knew what he wanted to talk about, and he did it well – he is clearly confident, which is a good trait.

Then why does it feel like a diss in this instance? I am definitely getting the vibe that Ty was heavily coached by friends before this date and that his supposed confidence may have been off the peg, and thus in need of some kind of alteration for the best fit. I’m really looking for the rainbow in that terrifying sky.

Best thing about Rachel?
When we divided the leftovers, she let me have first pick – I’m sure the homeless guy I gave all my food to appreciated that.

There are lots of things I could say here but instead I will say that this is a nice thing to do.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I’m not sure he is particularly similar to my pals.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
They wanted to FaceTime me and say hi, but I was being sensible.

OK, so this is a lot. This is… I don’t know. I’m exhausted. It’s like fighting fires. Every time my brain processes an answer, something else comes up that sends it into disarray again.

I think when it comes to friends, you have to surround yourself with people you can trust, and who have your best interests at heart, so long as it isn’t too much of a burden on them, or a one-way thing. While on paper this answer looks like about ten “WTF” gifs all playing at once, permanently burned into your retinae, maybe Ty’s friends are those really extra people who are very involved with each other and like to cheer each other on very visibly and vocally. It’s just how some people are. UnBEARable, you might say, but it’s good to know someone’s got Ty’s back.

What do you think he made of you?
I think he thought I was quite chill? But if I’m honest, I’m not very sure, we didn’t talk about me much.

I feel for Rachel here because there’s nothing more unsatisfying than coming away from a conversation feeling that not only were you unable to contribute, but that whatever you said would be so undervalued, or dismissed. It’s so demoralising. Yes, there are wallflowers and there are foghorns and with a bit of luck we should all fall somewhere in between, but please, if this date teaches us anything, let’s all try to be a bit more curious about other people. Giving someone a moment to speak is generous and it also enriches you because if you’re stuck in broadcast mode, you’ll never learn anything about anyone else or their world and what it means to them – and your life, and your own personality will be all the more bankrupt for it.

What do you think she made of you?
Probably that I’m a bit of an idiot.

Well, Ty, you do, if nothing else, seem to possess a degree of self-awareness.

Did you go on somewhere?
We were both quite hungover and I was ready to call it a night by 9.30. Make of that what you will.
Rachel got the tube home and then I went and hung out with my fake cousin and a girl we met who was on a stopover in London.

OK, ignoring Ty’s sodding life story there, that they were both hungover kind of makes it clearer to me why this date is like watching 20 trucks crash into one another repeatedly, some of them on fire. When you’re hungover, you’re not your best self – you shouldn’t be on the date, to be quite honest. I can’t really imagine the kind of boozing or huffing you’d have to be doing to get a hangover at 22 or 27, but to do it the night before a first date is kind of dim and also… a little disrespectful. Lucky both of them were absolutely hanging at the same time, and so it doesn’t really matter on this occasion, but can I just say how absolutely awful it is to turn up on a date and find the other person is hungover. It is so draining. Like, I put the time in for you, I’m hot and I’m here – what the fuck do you think you are doing?

The trouble with hungover people is they think their hangover – and how they got it – are absolutely riveting. I have some very bad news for you: you’re dull. Nobody cares about how you did shots at 4am, went back to the afterparty, got sold some really bad pub-coke and dropped half of it down the loo, had to wait ages for a taxi, then made it into work on about three hours’ sleep. NOBODY. While your night last night sounded great fun, they weren’t actually on it, and its akin to somebody sitting down with a large mug of tea, taking a long pull of a B&H, and telling you about their dreams. Unless I was in it, and we fucked, I don’t care. And even then I don’t care. All your date cares about is that they now haver to endure an awkward couple of hours with a husk of a person who smells like a pub 30 seconds after the doors open, and looks like Beetlejuice on dress down Friday.

And… did you kiss?
Nope.
Nope.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Him taking a bit of interest in what I had to say.

She went there. Can’t blame her, really.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’d do it the same, but in Greece.

I think you’d be better off on a mates’ holiday, and maybe FaceTiming Rachel instead?

Marks out of 10?
Four for effort.
I’d give Rachel a four, not because the date wasn’t good but because I wanted to make a Mean Girls reference (Four for you Glen Coco, you go Glen Coco!).

Would you meet again?
I don’t think so – although it turns out we roam similar parts of London, so it may be more of an awkward run-in than anything else.
As friends, for sure.

I’m not entirely sure these two were on the same date. Like Ronan Keating’s seemingly mute girlfriend, sometimes I say it best when I say nothing at all.

Rachel and Ty ate at the Real Greek, London W1. Hahahahahaha. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit soulmates.theguardian.com

NOTE: 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, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. PLEASE do this because I have QUESTIONS.

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5 Comments

  1. ‘and its akin to somebody sitting down with a large mug of tea, taking a long pull of a B&H, and telling you about their dreams’

    Okay – I don’t entirely disagree, but my nan used do almost precisely this, except in her case she’d be telling me about everything that happened in Emmerdale. And I found it infinitely charming.

    About the youthful hangovers though. Yes! Who the hell gets hangovers in their 20s?! I’m in my 30s and still unburdened. Okay, fine – I’m 39. In a few months, I’ll be lying about my age, like Jez off Peepshow, who wants he and his boyfriend to be ‘a couple in their thirties’. Damn, I probably ought to find a date sharpish.

    I am worried about the fallout of hangover-free drinking, of course. I see myself as healthy, (hey – I totally got ID’d in M&S for buying gin in a can, a couple of weeks ago,) but perhaps if I’d had hangovers as a result of nascent drinking activity, I’d be Daft Punk’s quad now – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Meh, best not to dwell. Oh sugar, it’s almost two in the afternoon, on my day off. Barkeep!

    1. Miserable date. Pity they didn’t go to a fancier restaurant, but not sure that Ty would have been able to handle it (and there might have been a diplomatic incident if he’d tried to take his drink home). As you astutely note, so many solecisms (and so casual given that the date will be splashed over the aether and in the print Guardian): 25 minures late, hangovers, tsk-tsk! Cgg

  2. I had far more hangovers – proper ‘unable to stand, stabbing pain in one eyeball’ level – in my 20s than in my 30s or 40s. Mostly explainable by the crap alcohol I drank then.

  3. Personally I’m elated by this. I was worried that a lot of the recent blind dates were so mundanely average you might give up this blog. This should be catnip for you Justin.

    I wouldn’t mark someone down for being hungover in fact the opposite. And hey, they were hungover but STILL SHOWED UP (admittedly late). And to the fucking Real Greek. At least that shows a sliver of commitment.

    Playing devil’s advocate, maybe it’s possible Tye wasn’t as bad as he comes across, and just turned up a bit squiffy and she shut him down? And if he’s so super duper confident why does he need a dating crash course from his mates beforehand?

    But I think we can all agree. More terrible dates or amazing rare ones where underwear is left at a house party you crashed.

  4. To be fair, as soon as i was done with reading the actual date on Saturday, i was rubbing my palms together going “oh boy oh BOY” and REALLY looking forward to Sunday morning. So super ecastatic to read this.👏

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