I don’t believe in soulmates, but I do know there is someone for everyone. And by that, I mean that even the vilest shoe in the shop has, somewhere, its twin to make a pair.
I went on a lot of dates. Well, I didn’t have a television and once you’ve read every book next to your bed twice and run out of pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal to ‘gaze’ at, your options are quite limited. I saw it as socialising, but with strangers. Because I went on so many, I would quite often separately encounter the two halves of the perfect pair. “Oh, another theatre bore. Great. He’d have been just right for that other cultured snob who bored me rigid back in January.” If I’d been a nicer person, perhaps, I would have dug to their numbers and introduced them over text: “Here, you two should hook up. Save you ruining someone else’s night.” I never did, though.
Hoping to find that someone today in the Guardian Blind Date are Richard, 32, a brand consultant and 30-year-old Charlie, a songwriter. Yes, I’m afraid heterosexuals have once again infiltrated the Blind Date column, but don’t worry, I’m sure there’s a gaggle of gays waiting in the wings to sprinkle glitter over it once again. Read what happened on the date before I turn up wearing the same dress as the mother of the bride and spoil everyone’s day.
Richard kicks us off and is in green. Charlie’s a rhapsody in blue.
Not one, but TWO Bridget Joneses.
Here you go, Rich. Treat yourself:
I can see it now. The anxious little hand to mouth gesture, perhaps a bit of bumbling as he stood up to greet her. Maybe one of them dropped a shopping bag or knocked a fork off the table. And outside the restaurant, their waiter peered through the smeared glass, stubbed out his Marlboro menthol and rushed inside, zooming over to their table to take their order before they broke something.
Exes. Don’t talk about exes on a first date. It’s like going to a wedding and talking about funerals or having lunch with your dad and saying you like Mum best.
Scrabble. I hate Scrabble. Because I’m a writer, people assume I love to play it and a set would often be whisked out in front of me at the bourgeois dinner parties I am no longer ever invited to. But Scrabble isn’t about words, it’s about tricks and points. It’s not a beautiful experience.
Boggle, however, is the best word game ever invented and I would happily star in a multi-million pound advertising campaign for it, should any PRs be reading this and like the look of my eye. Honestly, Boggle is ace. It is the red squirrel to Scrabble’s grey.
Jobs aside – because seriously, I couldn’t give a shit how you make your money unless it somehow means I will get to ride in a limousine all day, every day – these are very good conversation topics for a first date and I’d like to offer my congratulations to both. Well, I don’t like talking about food that much, really, but I know a lot of people are really into it, so I’m just going to back out of this room with my hands behind my head and let everyone live.
Are we in a magazine column or a new scripted reality show – YOU DECIDE.
In my experience, people who describe themselves as awkward and clumsy, or ditsy or a little bit gauche or whatever, need to be watched like a hawk. It’s a scam. You’ll fall in love with their little flaws, forgive them their faux-pas and then, before you know it, they’re texting you from a bar, at 1am, one-handed, saying they can’t make your brunch appointment tomorrow because whoops they got a little bit too drunk. You know where that other hand is? It’s down some other guy’s trousers and the sound you hear – that shattering noise – it’s your heart in pieces, on the floor, at their feet.
Anyone who volunteers the information that they’re a little bit awkward and random is an evil genius trying to throw you off the scent and I refuse to be told otherwise.
It’s table manners. Let’s go. I’m ready for these two klutzes.
I eat everything with cutlery. I hate eating with my hands so much; I can’t stand to have anything ‘on’ them. I once went on a date with a guy who watched me eat pizza with a knife and fork and asked me why I was doing that – FYI, none of your actual fucking business. Anyway, I went through the whole rigmarole about liking to have clean hands, and he sat back in his chair with curious bemusement, like he’d just watched a cow being milked for the first time, and told me I was “probably a little bit OCD”.
Nobody is “a little bit OCD”. Nobody. OCD is a nightmare for anyone who suffers from it. OCD isn’t about liking things to be tidy or carrying around hand wipes or never wearing odd socks. You can’t be “a little bit OCD” – never date anyone who says they are. They’re just TIDY; anyone can be that. Except me.
My nana was such a cutlery fanatic that she would cut up Mars bars into pieces before eating them. I would be allowed approximately one slice every half-hour. A much more elegant way to eat chocolate. This ritual taught me many things, including patience, how to inflict your patience on others, chocolate as a low-level method of torture and that I’d rather do three hours of jazzercise on the roof of an Austin Maestro than eat a whole Mars bar all at once.
“I talked her head off.”
Ugh, TWO Scrabble fans. How many Words With Friends games do you reckon they’ve played against each other so far?
This is all very sweet and the poem thing is… well, I guess that’s nice if you’re into that kind of shiz, but are these really the best things they could say about each other? Call me a shallow old snake but if someone was asked what the best thing about me was and it didn’t even include a HINT of one physical or behavioural characteristic, I’d throw myself out of a window. I mean, fine, if the face or the rack isn’t doing it for you, can you at least say one thing about my personality? Anything. Did I make you laugh? Is my chat amazing? Do you like the way I twirl my spaghetti around my fork or smile at waiters? Anything. Give me something. Don’t make it be about board games or my ability to listen. Make me feel amazing. It’s the BEST thing. The A1. The summit. Try harder.
See? No, sorry, Rich, all I’ve got here is [thumbs through notebook in fake concentration] SCRABBLE. Yeah, she liked the fact you were into Scrabble. No mention of your looks, I’m afraid. Nah, ‘easy-going’ didn’t make the cut either. Just Scrabble. Happy with that? Nope? Oh well.
Charlie is doing this all wrong. If I were single and on a date and had a wedding to go to the next day, you can bet that cheap-ass engagement ring – which we all know belonged to his ex – that I’d arrive at this wedding absolutely rip-roaring drunk, smelling of the first-date sex I had TWENTY FIVE minutes ago and dressed to slay. But not everyone is me and I am reminded almost hourly that this is a very good thing indeed.
brb, just booking a table at wherever this is.
Come on, Oprah, you’re on:
If they really did only partake in a small peck, then it’s a teensy bit shitty of Rich to suggest, with his “no comment”, that it was a little more than that. No comment means yes.
By the same token, if they really did go at it like two Dysons on a Persian rug, then Charlie’s coy answer doesn’t cut the mustard either. If you don’t want people to know that you scrapped the inside of each other’s mouths with dictatorial precision, there’s a really easy way to hide it. Text each other, and agree to say no.
Obviously one of you will ruin it by saying you did it anyway. Just make sure it isn’t you. Again, Oprah, if you don’t mind:
Yep. You should always arrive to a date between three and five minutes late.
OK, I’m calling bullshit on that “small peck”, Charlie. Two nines! Excellent. We’ve got a pair! I mean, they’re a pair of neck-breaking stilettos and the heel’s probably going to come off or get stuck in a grate because “clumsy”, but a pair is a pair.
The final furlong is upon us, only one more killer question awaits. Will this ditsy, klutzy duo meet up again? Will they trip up and fall into each other’s arms? Or is one of them about to get that fateful text from the club?
Wear crash helmets, you two. 🤕
Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re lovely. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. But let’s not pretend you’re even remotely awkward – I see you.
Photograph: Felix Clay, Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian