Impeccable Table Manners

Rory and Elizabeth

Every rainbow must have its end, and after week upon week of glittering gay couples fizzing off the screen (?) and testing even the most liberal Guardian readers’ tolerance, we’re back to marvellous monochrome this week, with a straight pairing on the Blind Date column. Fabulousness cannot last, it’s not sustainable. It is mascara, your keys, your underwear – it never ends the night where it started. So all those who worried that gay people were being overrepresented in the column can now breathe easy; we’re now back to your default. Just as it should be.

Thankfully they look like nice people who would probably get off with each other in the right light if something by, oh I don’t know, Elkie Brooks or Bruce Springsteen was playing in the background. Meet Rory, a 31-year-old nutrition student, and Elizabeth, 26, a music PR. Click on the image to read the actual date before I pull up a chair and repeat the last syllable of everything they say to each other, like a child tormenting his babysitter.

I zoomed over to the restaurant’s website. It’s in Belgravia.

Not very informal. Sorry Rory (try saying that after a double gin and tonic and with a mouthful of Haribo).

I LOVE how they watermark their photography though – do you think there actually *is* a chair with this written on the back? I want to sit in it.

Readers may not be aware of the shocking scandal behind each Guardian Blind Date column – the newspaper’s staff have been so desperate to fill their pages they’ve been sending TODDLERS and adolescents on the blind dates, but none of them have made it to print.

We may mock, but Elizabeth is single, 26, living in London and a woman. That “an adult man” isn’t a throwaway attempt at humour, it’s a motto carved upon her arm to remind her just how many arseholes she’s met off Tinder so far.

My radio’s not tuned to the right station so someone who fancies women will have to fill in the gaps for me – is this a compliment? I mean, I guess it is, because he’s saying it in a national newspaper, but Victoria seems to be quite a divisive figure. You either like her personality or you don’t – both directions in the extreme.

Glasses. Some people really go ga-ga for them, don’t they? I wear glasses sometimes – usually when I want to scare people in a meeting, because I have a naturally stern demeanour anyway, which transforms into full-on vengeful android whenever I put my specs on, sadly – and the comments I get on them are quite remarkable. I went to SpecSavers a few months ago for an eye test – opticians, please chew gum, thank you – and the woman behind the counter was marvelling at my wonky old Giorgio Armanis like the man himself had sashayed into the room to show off his new collection. “Ooh I LOVE those,” she trilled, just as a screw from one of the dilapidated arms went pinging to the floor, “I bet you didn’t get them from here, did you?”

Anyway, as I discovered during my years of being pressed up against the doorbell by A N Other from Guardian Soulmates, you either fancy people in glasses or you don’t. And if you don’t, you should – when they take them off it’s like fucking Clark Kent and Superman. No wonder Lois Lane looked so smug once she twigged.

Hang on there, Hyacinth. Don’t tell me you haven’t missed this. Look, it’s better than “our past dating horrors” or “London life” or “BREXZZZZIT”. Actual conversation topics. I never want to talk to anybody about mineral mining, not even if it was the only way of reanimating Princess Diana, but all the others I will gladly, for the cost of a meal for two somewhere, have an opinion on. Try me.

Know what I mean?

Rory’s hopes of an “informal atmosphere” look to have been killed off with the expert precision of a zookeeper gutting a recently culled giraffe in front of a visiting group of horrified  but fascinated schoolchildren. I find it very difficult to believe Elizabeth hasn’t seen Pretty Woman, or any of the other Hollywood blockbusters from the ’90s which taught us everything we know about supposed etiquette, but there you go.

He mustn’t have ordered pasta, then. I’m just looking at the menu. I bet he got the steak. You can’t go wrong, can you, really? It’s not going to be a chewy old boot in a gaff like this, is it? Or sea bream, maybe. I’d have gone for the casserole. Just so you know.

There’s so much to say about this that I don’t know if I actually should. Because, you know, I get what he means, but why does he have to say it like that? Why do we naturally start looking for poisonous weeds amid the lush grass that is confidence? It’s ironic, isn’t it – or perhaps it isn’t, I’m sure a wordsmith will be along to correct me in a moment – that one thing we’re not very confident talking about is confidence itself? How much is too much? Who is allowed to have it? How many qualifiers and explainers do we need alongside it to signal that it’s the right kind of confidence, not the wrong kind? And who decides that? Confidence is such a controversial, lethal, wilfully bamboozling concept that I find it’s best to avoid talking about it altogether.

My dating profile, years ago, said I was looking for a man who was confident, among other things. I wonder why. What’s the big prize about being confident? Is it really so attractive? What does this say about the meek? Are they better or worse off? So maybe confidence should be left be,  added to the list of things were better off not mentioning: the fragility of human existence; why men dyeing their greying hair doesn’t quite look right; Top Gear.

Even I knew that. Is this rare? Also: the best thing. The best?
The B E S T?

I know coming from somewhere unusual and having someone know it can be quite the bonding experience – even though you don’t want to live there anymore yourself, funnily enough – but he hasn’t even been there! There is zero common ground other than he once listened in a geography lesson! I bet he hasn’t even heard of Shoprite!

I think Rory might think he’s a little wilder than he actually is.

CREATIVE, like a lie told by a child in serious trouble.
MULTIFACETED, like a town-hall clock.
UNPRETENTIOUS, like going to the shop in your slippers, totally unironically.

OPEN, like Patsy Kensit’s life in the first verse of I’m Not Scared.
INTELLIGENT, like a computer virus.
THOUGHTFUL, like a passive-aggressive note to a friend to remind them they still haven’t paid their share of the petrol money for that trip to Kirkcudbright in 1984.

Readers, a confession: Rory is getting on my tits a bit. Is it just me?

Elizabeth is in danger of joining him, to be honest. Right here goes:

I know we are all different and if we acted the same it would be a very dull world but being 31 and 26 and acting like a pair of ANTIQUE ARMOIRES in a deleted scene from DOWNTON SODDING ABBEY I mean I can’t take it anymore.

They seem like lovely people, but they’re too pure to be pink. Either that or they are pure filth and feel they should behave like this because their mothers are watching. I can relate. But let’s not hide behind words.

Something about the way this is phrased makes me feel profoundly sad. Especially when…

…it could’ve been so different.

Because, you see, you SEE, this feels like it could’ve been something else entirely if only they’d drank a little more wine, maybe, had a bit longer to get to know one another, to chill out. The date feels like it was conducted while both of them were still wearing their winter coats. With the hangers still inside.

Well this is a very gentlemanly thing to say – but Rory knows, like I do, that you arrive second if you want to make an impression. And that works across the board.

Elizabeth. Libby. (I’m guessing – she doesn’t look like a Liz, does she?) This is a shy 9. I love a shy 9. An 8 with a caveat. An 8 that looks back over its shoulder a second longer than it should, before turning away quickly. An 8 that says its hotel room number a little too loudly at reception so their date can hear it from the bar. An 8 that gets your number so they can “send you the link to that thing we talked about”.

Rory’s 8 doesn’t look very shy. It looks like a firm 8. This is no bad thing, ordinarily. But like all the scores in the Blind Date column, they take on their true value once the last question has been asked. Rory’s firm 8 looks like it’s eyeing up a new life as a 7, actually, doesn’t it? Let’s see.

YES Elizabeth. Let’s turn that Downton Abbey into an Uptown Funk.

Have another go, abandon the nerves, sod the shyness, meet somewhere with spit, blood and Carlsberg on the carpet.


Oh for fuck’s sake, Rory, she really liked you. Stop acting like a superannuated Holden Caulfield and chill the hell out. You’re 31. 41 looks and feels very different, believe me. Enjoy this moment. You are young.

Bloody hell.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Sophia Evans, both for the Guardian

Note: 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.  I’m not judging anybody. Much. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. 

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  1. Superannuated Holden Caulfied, absolutely! He thinks he’s too world-weary and cynical for her? But she is too sophisticated for his friends?
    What a poser! I was hoping that Guyliner’s wisdom would be able to recooncile those contradictory remarks for me but they still make no sense.

    1. Yeah, he didn’t come across too well. I think his bit about her being too sophisticated for his friends was nastily sarcastic. There’s a clue in her “what do you think he made of you?” answer that she picked up on his attitude.

  2. Do any of the couples ever actually get in touch with you about your take on them? I’m tempted to apply in the hope I’m chosen and then I can tell you what really happened after you’ve commented…

  3. Rory. Why did you have to say that at the end?? I will dislike Rory forever more now. Don’t worry Libby there are better out there’s for you. They may even be called Douglas. Ace blog as usual!

  4. “Let’s turn that Downton Abbey into an Uptown Funk” – this will live on forever, and be used often and without restriction, by me.

    Thank you for all you do – you are a beacon of satirical and sarcastic light blinking out from across the Atlantic Ocean.

  5. I… kind of know where Rory is coming from? I remember coming out of a relationship and being utterly convinced that, at my age, I should just accept that I would probably be single for the rest of my life.

    I was 26.

    And I would now give everything I own, and sacrifice everything I love, to be 31 again.

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