Impeccable Table Manners

Rafael and Chris


Here we are again.

This week we have two men! There was a time you couldn’t move for gay men in the Guardian Blind Date column, it was like 11pm on a Friday night on Grindr in here, but lately we’ve been subjected to the troughs of heterosexuality. Rejoice, then, that once more we are back in the warm, comforting glow of two blokes who have almost certainly danced to a Kylie record (not Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – another one) in the last decade.

Our star-crossed lovers are 39-year-old CEO Rafael and Chris, 38, a senior probation officer. Here they are in glorious Technicolor. Rafael is the one with hair and Chris is the other one.

Photograph: Sarah Lee; David Levene/The Guardian

Let’s not comment on their outfits. I mean, what on Earth would you say? There is nothing to say. before we get down to business.

Rafael on ChrisChris on Rafael
What were you hoping for?
A fun evening, and the opportunity to get to know someone interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have someone who has never read this column before.

What were you hoping for?
Not to look like Roald Dahl’s BFG in the picture.

I do love to see that Roald Dahl meme go round which is a quote from, I think, The Twits and says, “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Ironic, really, because Roald Dahl was an absolutely stratospheric antisemite – Google it, please don’t @ me about this – and, well, he kind of looked like a bag of celeriac in later life, didn’t he? So he was certainly right about that the old “ugly thoughts” thing.

First impressions?
He seemed really anxious. I thought he was having a bit of a nervous breakdown, so I tried to put him a bit more at ease by making a few jokes, which seemed to work.

“A nervous breakdown.” I would probably have run this answer over in my head a few times before committing it to email, to be honest.

First impressions?
Well-dressed, friendly, laid-back, my age (bonus).

Well-dressed! OK. Friendly is good. Laidback is good too, I guess, I don’t know; nobody has ever called me it. What does laidback mean, anyway? Does it mean you go around saying “heeeeeeeey” like the Fonz? “My age (bonus)” feels so unspeakably disingenuous here; I can’t help but think Chris might have been secretly hoping the Guardian would go rogue and put him with a ripped, dewy-cheeked, dead-eyed jock who just turned 25. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

What did you talk about?
Our backgrounds, jobs, dating experiences, music. Being two gay guys over 35, we’re both massive Madonna fans and had a thorough dissection of her new single.
Our mutual love of Arcade Fire (no one I date knows them and we discussed one song of theirs in some detail), the perils of dating apps, the lovely waitress. We did not tip her, which I am feeling some guilt about).

Backgrounds always makes me think of desktop wallpaper. Remember when that was a huge deal, and you would spend ages selecting the right wallpaper to reflect whatever personality you had decided you should make people think you had that week? Customisation used to be so exciting before everyone realised how ugly it was.
Jobs well I guess you have to talk about them to be polite.
Music ✅ “Being two gay guys over 35…” made me shiver a little. I’m 43 and so I now have two say “Being a gay guy over 40…” (I literally never say that, why would I?) and I can exclusively reveal that moving up to the next age group on a survey is horrifying. There is something about the “over 35” that doesn’t sit well, and I guess it is that age-old (ha!) trick of dismissing a huge swathe of the population just because they are above a certain age. The over 40s, the over 50s, like you lose every distinguishing characteristic just because it takes you longer to blow out your birthday candles. As Madonna herself would say, it’s reductive.
I am quite surprised that nobody Chris dates has heard of Arcade Fire, as they were quite famous for a while unless… he’s been dating those 25-year-olds he was definitely relieved not to turn up and find earlier.

Any awkward moments?
There was one point when he asked me my type and I mentioned I had a big thing for Spanish men. I hope he didn’t take that as a sign I wasn’t interested.

All Spanish men? No particular one? Any? General Franco? Alfredo Galán Sotillo? The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition? Nothing boils my water more than glib fetishisation borne of dreary stereotypes. Like those basics who say, for example, “I love an Irish accent”. Oh really? Get hard when you see archive footage of Ian Paisley, do you? “Such a shame you don’t have a Yorkshire accent,” dates used to say to me, time and time again. Well, Peter Sutcliffe had a Yorkshire accent, “petal”, would you like me to send him round instead? Honestly.

I’m afraid I have some news about “Spanish men” – very, very few of them actually look like Enrique Iglesias, just like most Brits don’t resemble… oh I don’t know, Richard Madden. I think Jake Gyllenhaal is very pretty indeed, but does this mean I “have a big thing for American men”? No, it doesn’t, does it? Trump is American.

(Many fetishes like this may be offensive to the object of them, while others may get off on it, and some may feel they have to pretend to be into your “thing for Greek dudes” because they have low self-esteem. You don’t really know which until someone volunteers this information and I’m sorry if this is a bit of a buzzkill, but I would say if you do harbour these longings for a particular section of society, be careful how you share them. Nobody wants someone to feel like shit, do they? Also maybe examine where it comes from. Is it from a good place or is it rooted in prejudice? Oh, baby, you have never met a fun sponge like me, trust me.)

Any awkward moments?
Me arriving as a red, hot, sweaty mess and having some evident chest sweat. When I spilt red wine on my white top… fab!

One of my biggest anxieties is arriving somewhere looking sweaty or flustered. Summer is a nightmare for me. I have often wondered why I can’t be one of those floaty, unbothered summer people who arrive everywhere looking pristine, rather than Brian Blessed clambering out a dodgem car.

Also: a white top! Are we in Ibiza?! Was an episode of Footballers’ Wives being filmed?

Best thing about Chris?
He was really inquisitive, has a great sense of humour and a spot-on taste in music.

The squirrel obsessed with the guttering on my bathroom roof is inquisitive too but I wouldn’t want to go halves on a plate of tacos with him.

Best thing about Rafael?
He is really intelligent and funny – we had lots in common.

Having lots in common is such a relief, isn’t it? I think we forget. I went on so many dates with so many men – most of them attractive, apart from that summer of low self-esteem where I said yes to everything – and I can’t tell you how dispiriting it was to realise, despite the barefaced lies and filtered selfies of their profile, there was absolutely nothing to bind us together apart from the fact we were both stupid and unfortunate enough to be in that very place at the same time. So when I would find a man I had something in common with, or found genuinely interesting, it was such a bonus. Often, these weren’t men I’d found obviously, immediately attractive either. Ugh, this is getting like a self-help fridge magnet. Enough.

The “three words” answers are a fucking mess today, btw. Check this shit out:

Describe Chris in three words
Fun. Easygoing. Cute ears. (OK, that’s more than three.)

Fun is good. Fine.
Easygoing is a synonym of laidback, isn’t it? I suppose this is a way of saying someone is very – 90s alert – “chilled out” but it could also be interpreted as someone who doesn’t give enough of a shit about stuff and sometimes that can be infuriating. One of my favourite ways to wind up my boyfriend – I have hundreds, he’s gradually becoming immune to them – is, when asked where I want to go for lunch, feign disinterest and say it’s up to him. Oh how we laugh, two hours later, when we still haven’t picked anywhere.
Cute ears. Did you scroll back up to have a look at Chris’s ears? Yeah, me too. I suppose this is a compliment – I have cute ears too, fun factlet for you there – but the issue is, this is two words and also, like, the shittest compliment ever. Just say you found him cute if you must. But his ears?! What next? Awesome clavicle? Handsome larynx?

Describe Rafael in three words?
Intelligent, great company.

And then you get Chris coming in and taking a great big dump on the concept too, with his three words that are actually just, kind of, two. This is unacceptable and, as a result, I will not analyse this answer and instead offer you a picture of camp icon Yootha Joyce looking as perturbed by this absolute fuckery as I am:

What do you think he made of you?
He sent me a nice text afterwards saying he was interested in meeting again, so I guess he enjoyed the experience.

“A nice text.” Readers, your Auntie Janice has somehow possessed Rafael and is now answering on his behalf.

What do you think he made of you?
Northern, a waffler, a good laugh (I hope?).

“What did you think of him?”
“He was northern.”
Do you see why this doesn’t really work as a concept, Chris?

Did you go on somewhere?
No, by the time we finished dinner it was almost midnight.
No, we were still gabbing at half eleven and it was a school night.

GABBING. Oh no, Auntie Janice has got control of BOTH keyboards. Next, she’ll be recommending bath mats and making you a cup of slightly too hot, a tad too weak, and a modicum too sweet tea – in a fucking blue mug, so you can’t drink it unless you are one of those sadists who doesn’t believe tea only tastes good from a white mug – before revealing she never liked that haircut you had done the week before Will won Pop Idol.

And… did you kiss?
I never kiss and tell. Well, rarely.
No. Two manly, lovely hugs.

A manly hug. Manly. I know these, I have had a few of them. They generally involve making full body contact yet in a total sexless way – perhaps slightly at an angle so there is no risk of nipples touching – and then perhaps doing a “waaaaayyyy”, like the noise people make when someone drops a tray of glasses in a pub. This will then be followed by two to three slaps on the back to signify the hug is over and you can comfortably disengage but OH DEAR it appears my straight mate has an erection – wonder what that’s all about, eh? Etc.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Not a thing! Four hours flew by.
That we had ordered more cocktails.

Hahaha looks like the hours only flew by for ONE of our dastardly duo this evening.

“I had such as wonderful time!”
“I wasn’t drunk enough.”

Marks out of 10?

Would you meet again?
I’m not sure there was a romantic spark, but I would be keen to meet up again.
Yes, as friends.

Rafael and Chris ate at Provisioners in the Dixon Hotel, London SE1. Fancy a blind date? Email If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded visit

This post is dedicated to Paul Condon. A good guy. RIP.

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. No comebacks on my point about fetishisation, though, sorry; I’m not interested.


  1. How have you overlooked the comment that the waitress was ‘lovely’, but that they didn’t tip her?

    These people are monsters!

    1. I wrote a couple of lines but deleted them as there was better stuff happening. The meal is usually free so unlikely they would have been presented with a bill – I’m assuming confusion and awkwardness prevented them tipping her, rather than inherent evil.

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