Robbie is white with brown straight hair and is wearing a grey T-shirt and blue jeans. Aaron is black with curly hair and is wearing a striped shirt and snow-washed jeans with rips in the knees
Photograph: Mike McGregor/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Robbie and Aaron

This week, the Guardian’s Saturday magazine, the Blind Date’s official residence, features a global dating special, which matches up couples in Amsterdam, Paris, Beijing, Sydney and New York on Blind Dates. I’m always a little dubious about familiar formats popping up in new locations – remember when they sent the EastEnders cast to Ireland?! – but perhaps it’s a timely move given in recent months the GBD has been overrun with a) straight people and b) scenarios that wouldn’t exactly have me rushing to look away from a wall of slowly drying Farrow & Ball cinder rose. Yes! It’s the midseason gear-change!

However, I only have one pair of hands, so I’ll be reviewing the date in N.Y.C. in the hope we’ll be getting some F.U.N. from our G.A.Y.s. (The others are worth checking out – especially Bella and Sheree in Sydney. Meet, then, Robbie, a 35-year-old director of partnerships (wow that really rolls off the tongue doesn’t it) – on the left in the grey T-shirt, and Aaron, 28, an artist, on the right in the stripes.

Robbie is white with brown straight hair and is wearing a grey T-shirt and blue jeans. Aaron is black with curly hair and is wearing a striped shirt and snow-washed jeans with rips in the knees
Photograph: Mike McGregor/The Guardian

Read what happened on the date – beware, it’s a novella – and then return here where, like a beleaguered New York waiter in a diner, I will half-heartedly wipe your table and tell you exactly what is wrong with you.

Robbie on Aaron | Aaron on Robbie

What were you hoping for?
Good chat with some kind cutie who likes to laugh. Wasn’t disappointed.

CUTIE. Okay, so Robbie sounds a bit like he’s about to judge a pageant of heavily made-up toddlers with ballgowns tucked into their nappies, but the ‘wasn’t disappointed’ makes up for it. And, hey, it’s better than the standard ‘Good food and good company’ answer.

What were you hoping for?
An interesting date, great conversation and a delicious meal.

Oh. Well, at least some of the words are different. Everything is bigger in America, including the dictionaries.

First impressions?
As soon as I entered the restaurant, the host gave me this knowing look and said: “Oh my God, he’s adorable.” I sat down, already a little intimidated, but he put me at ease right away. I stumbled through some sort of, “Wow, so, what do we even do here?” and he threw back something like, “Oh, is this your first time talking?” I loved that: he knew how to poke fun without making me feel like a dope.
My first question was, “Have you ever been on a blind date?” To which he responded, “Well, actually I was on a recent season of The Bachelor.” I totally fell for it before he started laughing, admitted it was a joke, and I knew then the night would be just fine.

Careful, lads, hold some information back for the memoirs. Are we on a date or setting the scene for a new Netflix rom-com? Regardless, it’s a great way of making us feel like we’re on the date with them, instead of outside the restaurant in the lashing rain and peering in through the grimy windows, trying to imagine what they’re saying or thinking.

What did you talk about?
Four hours is a long time, you know? The usual suspects: how growing up only children has empowered and/or destroyed us. What it’s like to date in the NYC gay scene (“complicated”). His many adventures acting and singing on stage/screen. Whether the bread appetiser moment was special just for us because we were on some enchanted date, or was in fact given to every guest (everyone got it – disappointing).
What did you talk about?
What didn’t we talk about? We covered everything from family history to the airspace control Oprah has, and eating McDonald’s off the floor.

Can you believe all this actual editorial we’re getting rather than the usual clutch of topics listed like a set of diseases on a GP surgery registration form? Do I actually need to be here? Let’s see.

Growing up as only children. Oh I covered this last week.

Dating in the NYC gay scene. Like London, I imagine, but with more skyscrapers, fewer pleases and thank yous, more charcoal smoothies the next morning, and better teeth. Am I close?

The bread appetiser moment. Brushing aside the cute Friends B-roll story attached to this, let’s talk about moments. Lots of things are moments now. I feel like it’s something Mariah Carey started in only semi-seriousness a few years ago and now everything we do, when presented to the public for scrutiny, is a moment. It’s just catching on in the UK – John Lewis has ditched its drearily authoritarian slogan ‘Never knowingly undersold’ for a brilliantly Californian ‘For all life’s moments’ – and soon we will all be having moments of our own. A restroom moment (going to the bog). A carbs moment (eating a chip). A tranquil moment (being a freelancer when no work is coming in at all). A frostbite moment (not being able to turn the heating on because this is a joke country and normal people are worried about energy bills). Moments everywhere!

Eating McDonald’s off the floor. We all have our secrets.

Oprah’s airspace control. One of my top five flash scandals of recent weeks has been the revelation that AA-listers have been flying their private jets down to the offy on the corner to get 20 Bensons and a pint of milk. It’s such a grossly unrelatable act of unrepentant environmental terrorism that I can’t help but admire it. The guilt in me that it’s unlocked is incredible. I felt bad enough for staggering to the Co-Op in jogging bottoms, Doc Martens and an overcoat with a bag for life and being caught by the Google Street View car (see below) but now I know there are actual humans taking 15-minute plane rides to return a cardigan to their local Primark, I feel duty bound to make more effort.

Me, caught by the Google Street View camera, wearing a bright yellow hat, a brown overcoat, a trailing scarf, burgundy joggers, and a pair of black Doc Martens. I am carrying a Co-Op branded bag for life, which is bright blue
Me, caught by the Google Street View camera earlier this year. Yeah. (Image: Google)
Any awkward moments?
We played the “How old do you think I am?” game, and he was pretty convinced we’d been in high school around the same time. I ended up being three years older than the max of the range he guessed, which is actually a compliment I think, but also made me want to reach for my walker.

Hahaha. Never, ever, ever play this game. The correct answer when someone asks you to guess their age is either to go at least five years younger than you actually think – does not work if you’re on a date with, say, Zelda from Terrahawks – or, like all good first daters, turn it back on yourself and say, ‘Oh I reckon a good few years younger than me – so how old do you reckon that makes me?’ and then laugh about it and stop asking stupid questions like this because age really is just a number and if we all stop reacting to people’s ages like they’ve just opened up their overcoats to show us they’re actually made up of three Oscar statuettes and a calzone with a face drawn on it, the world would be much better off.

Any awkward moments?
When I found out neither my date nor the waitress had seen Game of Thrones.

I have never seen it either. I know some people like to tell the world things they haven’t done in the hope it makes them look edgy – so many men I dated combusting to let me know they’d never seen Heathers or Mean Girls, I mean, congratulations, I guess you’re straight now, I hope it turns out to be everything you dreamed about? Anyway, the only bit of Game of Thrones I have seen is a supercut of all Dame Diana Rigg’s bitchiest one-liners on YouTube, and one episode of that prequel that just started on Sky. We thought we’d give it a go. Yeah. I’m very happy that it enriches the lives of those who enjoy it. It was not my kind of thing. Not even Matt Smith trying to bonk with a semi lob-on, naked but for a ‘Madonna Blond Ambition Tour’ party shop wig could keep me interested. I am sorry.

Good table manners?
I wish that were something I thought about at all. He used his hands to grab utensils and eat the food in a pretty run-of-the-mill way, which was nice.
I don’t recall any slurping, spitting or unbuttoning of his pants, so A+.

a man licking his lips

Feels like it’s going well, no? I mean, these dudes are giving us novels-worth of material when a good old ‘impeccable’ would do, but if they bang as much as they talk, these two aren’t going to leave their room for a week.

Okay, a big moment, I don’t know if this is a permanent thing or just something they’ve added for this dating special, but we have… a NEW question. There have been changes to the questions over the years (‘Would you take them to meet the parents?’ was thankfully excised many years ago) but this is the first addition since I started reviewing eight years ago. Eight years. Eight. God. Anyway. Here we go.

What did you order?
I’ve been vegan for long enough that my taste buds have mostly died off. You just learn to order the only option on the menu that works. But Aaron thankfully took the reins, and most of the plates were shared, so he took one for the team at a Michelin-starred restaurant to eat mostly vegetables and garnish with me. That was really sweet.

Did you notice? A literal fucking essay but Robbie still does not actually tell us what he ordered. OMG I love New Yorkers so much – just all this info that tells us nothing. From this answer, we get that Robbie is a vegan, but he’s cool enough to make jokes about it, and he’s an old hand at ordering off a hostile menu. We learn that they shared ‘plates’ (a v annoying restaurant term invented because ‘dishes’ is too confusing, maybe?). We also discover that Aaron is the kinda guy who likes to take charge of the menu (I’ll pause here for the inevitable intrusive judgements about sexual roles). We learn they went to a Michelin-starred restaurant, but beyond ‘mostly vegetables’ Robbie doesn’t tell us what they ate! Imagine him in the witness box! He would have hardened prosecutors in pools of jelly on the floor, begging this loquacious kid to stop telling the court about the time he held a funeral for the bugs on his ‘windshield’ and just answer the damn question.

What did you order?
Turned out he’s a vegan and I am not. We went to a restaurant of shared plates. I let him choose three delicious appetisers, I got my carnivorous entree and we shared a brilliant orange sorbet.

Thank God for Aaron then, the details man. Some kind of meat, and an orange sorbet.

Best thing about Aaron?
He’s got this way of telling these over-the-top, captivating stories without being performative, but he can also bring it back down to make the other person feel seen and heard.

Ah this is a brilliant answer, I think… oh hang on, he’s not done.

Earnest moment: there can be times and spaces within the queer community where we collectively trend towards positions of ruthless judgment rather than acceptance. Aaron’s energy is just pure light. It’s clear he’s got some seriously good vibes going on.

The irony is not lost on me that Robbie makes a very touching comment about the ruthless judgement in the queer community midway through this light scalping by a fairly ruthless and mildly judgey older gay man hiding behind his keyboard. Meta. But he’s right, of course. It isn’t limited to the queer community, but I do feel like it hurts even more when negativity or cruelty comes from another LGBTQ person. It comes, I think, from being a little more on our guard and sensitive to slights or comments that might be meant harmlessly. Maybe things we say about one another feel more loaded because many of us have quite complicated backstories whose threads are tangled up not just in our own thoughts about out sexuality and/or gender but years of mitigating the expectations of others too. There’s the old cliché that an acerbic nature is a defence mechanism and while it’s likely true, it doesn’t excuse intentionally vicious behaviour. Also, I’d point out that nobody is duty bound to give anyone a free pass just because they belong to the same marginalised group. We are individuals, after all. And now I’m talking even more than Robbie so I’ve really stitched myself up there, haven’t I?

Best thing about Robbie?
He doesn’t take himself too seriously. That, with his openness, makes for the kind of person anyone could enjoy.

Truly, two delightful guys. Maybe the NYC dating scene isn’t so bad after all!

Describe Aaron in three words
Present, vibrant, fabulous.

PRESENT, like a gift-wrapped sample of body cream that the woman on the Lancôme counter slips into your bag when you spend £800 on cheek highlighter. You will never use the body cream.
VIBRANT, like in the first paragraph of a travel feature written by someone who’s never been abroad before and can’t think of another way to describe the busy city they’re sitting eating a taco in.
FABULOUS, like your recently divorced auntie and her mates having lunch in the All Bar One right opposite the register office where the ex is marrying his PA (who is called Jonathan)

Describe Robbie in three words
Present, inquisitive, enjoyable.

PRESENT, like… oh, I love this word. It’s very ‘lady with beach waves doing a back bend on her Manhattan balcony’. I suppose the concept of being present sounds odd, at first. I mean, he was on the date, he was there, how much more present can you be? But in modern parlance, it means each of them was listening, interested, committed to the chat and the situation. The moment! It also probably means they only looked at their phones once every 25 minutes – possibly to a pre-agreed schedule.
INQUISITIVE, like a fox shredding your bin bags right in the middle of the street, exposing that this week you’ve actually bought and eaten, two boxes of Findus Crispy Pancakes (minced beef flavour).
ENJOYABLE, like you might say after finishing a lemon posset or a Georgette Heyer, not meeting a person, but we are in New York City, baby, so we will just deal.

What do you think he made of you?
“How did this charming, hilarious, gorgeous, zero-red-flag-carrying gay make it this far without a boyfriend?”

Robbie is a delight, but his default setting is ‘Can I possibly turn the next thing I say into a pilot for a TV show?’

What do you think he made of you?
I hope I made him laugh, and think. I’d like to have come off as a mature, spontaneous and authentic individual.

This is another great answer from Aaron – these two are so earnest, I don’t know where to put my face. If this is how deep they’re going in on date one, can you imagine five years down the line? You’d be able to jet wash the gold leaf off Big Ben with these levels of intensity.

And … did you kiss?
My oma reads this column! I’m clutching my pearls. We didn’t kiss. Does that mean it’s over? We hugged twice, which is basically a kiss.

"You're like a rom com character."

I fear Robbie is wasted directing partnerships, whatever that means, and should be in LA making Uncoupled less boring. Is two hugs really a kiss? Only if it’s corroborated by Player Two…

And … did you kiss?
We hugged. I don’t think we made a romantic connection, so no kiss.
Sharon from EastEnders slaps some balloons in a rage
BBC

No matter! Haven’t we all had a beautiful ‘moment’? One that will… oh hell there’s still three questions to go. I feel like I started reviewing this in 2017.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Because of his line of work, it’s clear he’s an incredible singer. It could have been unsettling for him to sing at our table. Still, it would have been cool. I feel like our server would have been down with it.

The One Where Robbie Gives Us More Character Development But No Plot.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. It was a stunning cream leather ankle boot, but at some point during the date, I thought I lost a toe.

Madonna saying 'to fashion, to love, to l'amour' and toasting with her glass

A stunning cream leather ankle boot. Perfect. No notes.

Marks out of 10?
9.
9. Romance aside, I don’t think it could’ve gone better.

the scene from the godfather where Michael tells Fredo 'you broke my heart'

Proof, as if we needed it, that you cannot and should not score each other a ten unless there are romantic feelings. We are on a blind date, not a playdate.

However, as I am always keen to point out: making a new friend has much more potential than a romantic liaison, and is harder to do. Take it from someone left in London while the rest of my once super-close social circle have scattered far and wide for babies, jobs, and rents they can afford. Go on every date with an open mind. It’s easy to fancy somebody, that’s why we have posters of hot celebrities on our wall as teenagers. Making a connection with someone, who wants to know you for who you are and not the image you present, and is willing to give you the time of say with no motive other than you’re cool to be around – that’s the true jewel. Common ground is holy ground.

So while Robbie and Aaron may not have been able to talk themselves into a romance, there still seems to be plenty left to say.

Would you meet again?
I would. In fact, I’ve heard he hosts pretty epic dinner parties and hope to score an invite.
No doubt about it!
Matt Smith as Doctor Who saying 'there is, surprisingly, always hope
BBC

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Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review

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, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. 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 or fill our feeds with hate. This is a gay date in that it features two men using he/him pronouns, but I don’t make any assumptions about how they choose to sexual identify. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. And, please, for me, just list what you ate for dinner. The public needs to know. 

Aaron and Robbie ate at Crown Shy, New York. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com

14 Comments

  1. Yesssssss! This was my favourite of the blind date specials and I hoped you’d review it. They gave so much more info than the U.K. daters; it was a joy to read. (Also, that Sharon gif was perfect haha)

  2. Yes, this was a joy to read. Interesting, intelligent, fun, the sparks flew in every direction. And you wrote a perfect post – I really hope they will have more dates together.

  3. Loving having extra dates to read, and thank you for your review, I always enjoy them!
    But my big question is “Do you read Georgette Heyer, and if so, which book/s are your favourite?” I hardly know anyone who reads them (I am in my 40s, but my mum had them, because her aunt had them!) so I have reading them since I was a young teen. There are issues with the books, but they are my ultimate comfort reads. “The Talisman Ring” is one of my favourites, and I would say “The Grand Sophy” except for the antisemitism.

      1. Definitely love The Talisman Ring (it’s funny!), The Grand Sophy has amazing descriptions of the outfits and balls. She wrote murder mysteries too, but I haven’t tried those yet, just the regency novels. The Masqueraders might be one you would enjoy too! Have fun, let us know if you enjoyed any!

  4. These special overseas blind dates have been a refreshing shake-up. I’m so glad you covered this one, it was particularly good. If, in the future, one of the standard blind dates is a bit snoozy, and you went back to recap one of these other international ones instead, I would very much welcome that.

  5. I loved these two. The longer space made several of the international dates so much more fun to read – and the first impressions were actual first impressions for once!

  6. These were really fun – I particularly liked the French pair being very French.

    “what did you order” is a great question.

    Is that the correct use of “performatively” – I don’t think it is.

  7. Loved the queer rep in the international blind dates – especially one of the people on the Parisian date being a trans guy! Which is maybe a first for guardian blind date? made me very very very happy to see xx

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