What a week, what a year, what the hell. Let’s not do current affairs here unless it’s absolutely necessary; this is a safe space. There is nothing left to say, anyway – it’s all being said, at Glastonbury main stage decibel levels, everywhere else.
So, in the last GBD before Christmas, my true love gave to me… Rosie and Ella.
Rosie, on the left and doing what I can only describe as the jazz hands of someone who is on their 45th photo and has run out of poses, is 22, and a charity worker. Ella, who looks like she’s hiding a stolen terrarium behind her back, is 24 and a civil servant. Such deliciously vague job titles they could be doing anything from folding jumpers to managing multimillion pound budgets. Who knows? It doesn’t matter, this isn’t LinkedIn – absolutely no chance here of any motivational memes from CEOs who get up at 4am to slug a shot of wheatgrass as their partner looks on, imagining what life will be like once the divorce goes through.
Read what happened on the date in full on the hallowed HTML that is the Guardian website, before reconvening here for whatever the hell it is I do.
Rosie on Ella | Ella on Rosie
What were you hoping for?
To meet someone interesting, enjoy some nice food and not get roasted in the write up.
I wonder at which point on the date you start to think about which parts will end up in the write-up. Do you change your behaviour accordingly? I’ve never thought about it too closely before because… well, I just haven’t, but it must be quite scary if, say, you drop a clanger really early on and spend the rest of the date knowing it will probably end up in the pages of a national newspaper! But I suppose going on it is optional, so you take your chances. I was going to say it may stop you being yourself but, as we have seen in over 12 years of its existence, on a GBD, the real you comes out eventually.
What were you hoping for?
Something along the lines of that famous old Blind Date column: “I left my knickers at a house party we crashed”. Failing that, a fun evening with tasty food.
My heart always sinks when I see a ‘failing that’ employed in this question because… reach for the moon, Ella; don’t have backup plans. Plan A all the way. The incredible legacy of the infamous ‘knickers date’ is that it would be impossible to live up to. So you’re better off aiming to retain your knickers.
She was really friendly and I could tell it was going to be a nice evening.
Smiley. Immediately put me at ease.
This energy is a little ‘polite nodding at one another at a parents’ evening (before the head of geography brings out the slightly warm wine)’ but I’ll take it.
What did you talk about?
Berlin, where we’d both recently been, London, Morpeth, vegetarian cooking, the Blind Date column (meta), Nick Clegg (negatively), queer fantasy novels, drag kings, yellow carrots.
Cooking, recent holidays, coming out stories, lots of wonderful queer stuff.
Berlin/recent holidays ✅ – I went to Berlin once. I really loved it and would like to go back. Unfortunately on my first night I fell out of a lift and banged my head on a concrete floor and got concussion and had a blinding headache for weeks but, still, it was very nice.
The Blind Date column (meta) – Meta, yes, but understandable. I mean, as the Titanic was sinking, those still left aboard probably talked quite a lot about the fact the Titanic was sinking.
Queer fantasy novels, drag kings/lots of wonderful queer stuff ✅ – I know some of us still get a bit of a bee in our knickers (if we haven’t left them at a party) about the word ‘queer’, but it’s not aways been an insult – it’s been used in academia for years. Young people use it more often now because it’s more inclusive than specific labels and if it makes someone feel like they belong, I am all for it. I wouldn’t use it to describe myself as a person because I’m gay and I’m fine with that – although I once did on Twitter, about being a queer child, which seemed an apt description, but I got lots of really angry replies from people who were spectacularly missing the point – but I’m happy to be known as a queer author or someone who writes books with queer characters. A bit more understanding from everyone would probably go a long way – but, no, straight people, this doesn’t mean you can start calling people ‘queers’ again (assuming you ever stopped)
Nick Clegg (negatively) – Hahahahaha. Least necessary clarification ever. Ugh.
Good table manners?
Impeccable. We were both up for three courses and sharing multiple starters.
I can’t fault someone who suggests ordering two types of cheese as a starter.
An impeccable in the wild! It’s been a while.
Best thing about Rosie?
Her genuine interest in the world.
This is, genuinely, a very lovely thing to say, but whenever daters talk about ‘genuine interest in the world’, I always imagine a wide-eyed toddler, sitting alone on a perfectly manicured lawn, picking up a wasp and gazing at it in wonder, taking in its shape, and sounds, and the feel of it like they’ve never seen anything quite so magical, before putting it in their mouth and screaming loud enough to be heard over the music in a branch of Desigual.
Describe Ella in three words?
A lovely person.
I feel I overuse the world ‘lovely’. I worry it’s becoming the 2020s equivalent of ‘nice’, which has long been banished to the linguistic tundra of non-committal compliments. But what can we say instead that doesn’t sound like hyperbole or sarcasm? I mean, I am huge fan of the words ‘magnificent’ and ‘glorious’, but they can be jarring to someone not expecting them. I remember once writing in a Christmas card, ‘Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a glorious New Year’ and its recipient texting me days later to ask if I’d written it drunk. No, darling, it’s called writing, look it up. Etc.
Describe Rosie in three words?
Engaging, funny and interesting.
ENGAGING, like one of those terrifying skyscraper-cum-hoarding buildings on Times Square in New York, that incessantly play trailers for movies you will never go to see and adverts for confectionery that contains additives banned in 37 countries.
FUNNY, like watching someone who had far too much confidence drilled into them at whichever boarding school they went to fall absolutely flat on their face in a work meeting. (They will still get promoted over you, I’m sorry.)
INTERESTING, like the colour you painted that wall. Are you sure? Don’t you think it’s a bit dark? Well, maybe if you got another lamp. Up to you. But you did ask.
What do you think she made of you?
I think positive things.
Adept at finding a semi-decent pub with seats on a Friday night.
SEATS. At 22 and 24. Disclaimer before I continue: obviously there are some people who need a seat more than others, at any age, and I am aware of that. OK. SEATS. When I was younger, I used to refuse to sit down in bars at the weekend (I went to bars in my twenties, not pubs, it was the long nineties). To sit down was to admit the night was to be a failure, there was nothing left to see, all possibilities were closed to you. Becoming possessive over some random table and claiming it for your own felt too restrictive – what if the ‘vibe’ got more interesting in another corner of the bar and you were stuck over here with someone very carefully tearing a crisp packet along the seam so they could fold it out into a serving dish for all to share the seven crisps within (another pet hate of mine)? Anyway, youth and boundless energy bought for £3 off a man outside the toilets kept me on my feet for a good decade or so and I had this bizarre aversion to ever taking a seat. If you wanted to psychoanalyse it you could say it was a fear of missing out and perhaps a hangover from hiding my true self as a closeted gay man or whatEVER but, anyway, times have fucking changed and I love a seat and if I see even the suggestion of a spare one I will hurricane myself right across the pub (bars don’t really exist anymore and if they do they don’t want old men like me in them). Anyway, a seat – it’s not always just about sitting down. But there should definitely be more of them.
And … did you kiss?
No, it was more of a friendly than romantic connection.
We did not.
The knickers are staying unlost, everyone.
Marks out of 10?
An 8 from Rosie seems fair enough – it’s a non-sex 10, if you know what I mean. Ella is giving ‘all 10s’– were there new categories we should be considering? What might they be? Looks? Personality? The way they can spot a wonky bar stool across a crowded Wetherspoons?
Would you meet again?
For sure. We might go to some queer venues and events together as friends.
Definitely, as friends. A trip to She Soho has been suggested.
If you are LGBTQ+ and looking for somewhere booze-free in the city to hang out and just be yourself and meet other people who might be a bit like you, or maybe even a lot like you, the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre has a popup at Bankside, just along slightly from the Tate Modern (more or less next to that Starbucks). 60-62 Hopton Street, Blackfriars, SE1 9JH, LondonThey are open over Christmas, but closed 27 Dec–2 Jan. Pop in for a coffee! All ages welcome.
As you may know, as well as doing this, I also wrote books. Do consider buying one of them! Maybe as a Christmas present? The Last Romeo is a cautionary tale about gay dating and pretending to be much cooler online.
And a third is coming out in April 2022 if you fancy preordering; it really makes a difference to how a book performs upon release. It’s a rom-com, about two IDIOTS and their friends. Links to retailers here
About the review and the daters: 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, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. There has been an increase in readers being quite horrible about the daters – this isn’t what we should be about. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments and will report any abusive tweets. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself or assume I agree with you. 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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. And save me a seat at your table; I’m 45 (for another five days eeeeek).
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