Alt text: Sam has short brown hair and is wearing a black jumper. Jenn is blond and is wearing a flowery, er, blouse? Dress? Dunno.
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Sam and Jenn

Impeccable Lite: As I’m still busy working on any fourth novel which you’d all BETTER buy, and this week’s Guardian Blind Date has been causing something of a stir on the socials, this week’s review is another ‘lite’ one. This means I pick just THREE questions for further discussion, by which I mean a quick lash of my poisoned pen (typing fingers). That said, if you’re looking for character assassinations, you’ve come to the wrong place – I haven’t done that since around 2016. More or less. Ish. This is just about the answers they give!

On the wrong end of Cupid’s arrow this week are a 29-year-old lawyer Sam and Jenn, who’s 30, and an HR manager, two jobs that are both 80% photocopying.

The headline for this date was ‘She ordered four shots of tequila before she’d sat down to dinner’, which sounds promising, right? Hmmmm. and then return here for my take on three of the key answers.

Sam on Jenn | Jenn on Sam

Best thing about them?
Her stamina – Jenn goes hard or goes home. She only yawned once during our eight-hour date.
He’s fun! I felt at ease and time flew by.

Eight hours on a date. A full working day with an hour for lunch. Stamina is an understatement. For most people, an eight-hour-long date includes the standy-uppy on the night tube home. Oh. Just me? Never mind. As you can see, the date is going well, and when you’re in that zone, there’s no feeling like it. When everything just works, the cogs click into place, the stars align, the drinks taste sweeter and lovelier and go down like water, the anecdotes are the funniest and most fascinating you’ve ever heard, and… has there ever been anyone so beautiful to show an interest in you? The night opens out in front of you like a great big… er, tablecloth.

However, the trouble with an eight-hour date is that you’re probably spending at least half of it so p*ssed that you could be on a date with Cookie Monster or a Tesco bag for life filled with cotton buds and you’d be none the wiser.

‘This could be the one!’ you tell yourself in the filthy mirror in the pub toilets – at least you think it’s you. Have your eyebrows always been that shape? Why are your eyes all red, and is that… vomit on your chin? No, sure it’s fine. ‘This is the one. Tonight starts here. I’m gonna go back out there and tell them.’ You pop a chewing gum in your mouth like it’s a magic pill that will make you look like you did at 7pm. It isn’t, and it doesn’t, and you still look like Zelda from Terrahawks after two sessions of microdermabrasion, but luckily when you go back to your date they’ve just ordered seventeen flaming Sambucas and have forgotten their own name.

Anyway, they’re having a good night on the rooftop at Duck & Waffle (kissing) until 3am and we should celebrate that if nothing else. (Btw: congrats to Duck & Waffle for all this free publicity, and commiserations to Hawksmoor Borough, who actually paid for their free meal but barely gets a mention. That’s showbiz!)

Marks out of 10?
A strong 8.

Now. Right. When I do the regular Blind Date reviews I tend not to look at what people are saying on Twitter because I don’t want my review to be influenced, but as I’m sitting writing this at 9:20 pm on a Saturday night, I’ve seen a fair bit of comment on Twitter and the majority of it’s in this vein:

The trouble with the Blind Date scoring system – or perhaps the genius of it – is that the criteria are a mystery. There are no set guidelines for the daters on which aspect of the process they’re actually rating out of ten, and this is why it’s so random and terrifying (and also fun to dissect). Possible aspects include:

– The romantic potential of the match

– The actual date itself, as in the evening as a whole

– The date’s personality

– How much they fancied them

– How much they hated them

– How much they’d like to p**s off their ex.

As regular readers will know, I consider a 6 a zero. It’s a ‘thanks for coming, but… I accidentally forgot to tell you I’m emigrating to, er, where’s really far away? New Zealand, yes, that’s the one’. It’s a buh-bye, a brush off, an assertion this was not fun, don’t let the door hit your ass etc etc, so you cans forgive The Internet for wondering what part of an eight-hour date where they got on so well that various houses on fire were set to be seething eight envy. When a score like this comes out of the blue, after a good date, there a few possibilities, which include:

Buyer’s regret: woke up the next morning and thought, actually, I was caught up in ‘the moment’ and now that I’m not just a steaming-drunk, raging erection in top-to-toe Arket sale, I’m not sure I *did* meet the love of my life after all

Pre-emptive strike: they assume the other person is going to give them a low score

Look at me: trying to look clever and interesting in a magazine, or go viral. Careful what you wish for, babe

3/5 syndrome: no real understanding of scoring systems, but having not been BLOWN AWAY yet not MORTALLY OFFENDED by the experience, the dater picks what they feel is a ‘fair’ score that won’t give the other dater any false hope. I call this 3/5 syndrome because be it a film, book, TV show, or restaurant, the tone of a 3/5 review varies so wildly between reviewers, it’s the most unreliable score of all. Go for 4 or 2 and get the f•ck off the fence, guys. Half 6/10 and what have you got? 3/5!

Evil: the person is evil and has probably even killed someone before. May even be a Maroon 5 fan

As for Jenn’s ‘strong 8’, if you kiss someone and really like them, I’d say a 9 is the usual, so one thing this pair have in common is a fondness for under-marking. Worth saying, actually, that a northern 8 is a southern 9. Why? Because it is.

Would you meet again?
Yes, definitely, as friends. Sadly, I don’t think there was a romantic spark, but I loved every minute of our marathon date.
We exchanged numbers, so who knows.

Ah, the spark. Where’s a gallon of kerosene when you need it, eh? What is the spark? Different things for different people, I guess, but for me, it was a brilliant word to wheel out when I wanted to make clear to someone who may or may not have just left my flat with their underpants in their pocket, that we wouldn’t be doing it again. Some call it chemistry, others call it attraction, it’s… just that feeling I suppose. Some can suss straight away that there’s no chemistry as soon as the person walks in the room, which usually means they don’t fancy them instantly. I’ve always thought that’s short-sighted. People can grow on you – why have such narrow criteria you exclude potentially brilliant people? Some people let the date play out and see where it goes. How far would you go to see if there was a spark? Stay for one drink? Shake hands at the end? Bum them in an Uber while Magic FM plays Anita Baker at you?

Unless they had horrid personalities or were strangers to breath mints, used to let them kiss me (and more often than not take them home to be perfectly frank with you), but I’m a gay man and you know what we’re like – just as long as we’re doing it in the privacy of our own homes, eh? And as I said before, I’d make my assessment the next morning. (Disclaimer: very often I was also the one getting the ‘thanks but no thanks’ text. But I really didn’t care.)

Basically, the spark is both crucial, and absolute bollocks, and there’s no litmus test, it’s just… an energy, a vibe, a feeling. The pair of them were drunk, and at the end of what sounds like an exhilarating evening, they kissed. The key is how you deal with what happens next. You could argue that the 6 is on the low side – which it is – and that it’s a little dodgy to mention that you wished you hadn’t been quite so drunk. Have some respect! Do it over text before it goes in the paper, at least. It’s textbook distancing – walking away whistling from a broken vase – but let’s be real: this isn’t Danny snubbing Sandy at the pep rally in Grease. Jenn doesn’t exactly sound like she’s desperate to see him again. ‘Who knows?’ Exactly. It sounds to me like they both knew exactly what was happening. It was a night to remember , but that’s all it was, one night – and we’re lucky they could remember even an hour of it after putting away all that booze, let alone that they ate chips at 2am.

What’s great about the Blind Date column is how relatable it is. After 12 years, we’ve seen every kind of date there is, and have all, at some point, identified with one of the daters. The most successful dates, the ones that make us react the strongest, are the ones that remind us of our own past situations, ones where we’ve triumphed, maybe, but also ones where we felt powerless, frustrated, and mistreated. Let’s just thank our lucky stars we never played them out in a national newspaper.

And just in case you’re not convinced, Jenn got in touch with me and had this to say: ‘i want to make really clear about my date is that i cannot remember making any comments about his height!!! absolutely mortified that he said i was disappointed that he wasn’t 6 foot, i absolutely love a short king and i feel this is a COMPLETE misrepresentation!!’

And as for the 6? ‘genuinely i’m not too gutted about the 6 (although vindicated that everyone thinks it was harsh) as what he said about me was actually very positive!! also he was a 7 but i was being kind so gave him a strong 8, wish i hadn’t bothered.’

Jenn also put the cry-laughing emoji at the end but I can’t allow that in my newsletter, I’m afraid. But there we have it, panic over. NBD.

If this all feels a little too close to home, maybe we should have a Blind Date support group? Air our sixes and below in an understanding, safe environment? Meet on the rooftop at Duck & Waffle, perhaps? See you there for some truffle chips. Just don’t even try to kiss me if you’ve got a 6 in your head. Tens only.

Thanks for reading this ‘mini review’ which, in the event, took almost as long to do as a regular one. My reviews are having a mini break because I’m trying to write another novel and promote THE FAKE-UP, i.e. the one that’s coming out on 7 April – there will be an EXCLUSIVE extract from THE FAKE-UP in my next newsletter, so do stay subscribed if you’re interested.


If you enjoyed this, and have a few spare coins, you can support my work by chucking me a small tip and buying me a coffee via micropayment site Ko-fi. I genuinely appreciate every single one.


My GQ column last week was about trying to clear your head without sawing it off – I tried 30 days of journalling.

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. Kissing on a rooftop is better than NOTHING.

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Date originally published in the Guardian on Sat 5 March and this Lite review was originally sent to subscribers of my newsletter The truth about everything* – to subscribe go to 

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