Impeccable Table Manners

Sam and Milly


Socks again for Christmas. Liver and onions for tea. That guy asking you out on another date and knowing you’ll say yes. The dog needing to go out just as you put your pyjamas on. A new series of Masterchef. Bumping into your least favourite colleague in the pub and them saying “Would you care to join us?”

It’s that sinking feeling. The lurch in the stomach. The tingling of the fingertips. The overwhelming tiredness. However, let’s face this together and read what happened on the date between 26-year-old trainee surveyor Sam (that’s the guy) and Milly, 23, a communications officer, before I gulp, murmur, “Of course, I’d love to join you” and take my seat.

Sam kicks us off.

sam hoping

Amélie came out bloody ages ago, when Sam was about 12. Either he’s been dreaming about this for a long time or he Googled “films that Guardian readers will have heard of and liked” and picked one he’s seen.

milly hoping

“You know, one quality I simply cannot abide in people? Rudeness. I can’t stand it,” said every outrageously rude person ever ever ever. I hope Milly doesn’t disappoint.

sam first 1

I didn’t realise people still said this about things other than prosecco or bars of Aero. I thought “bubbly” had died out when perms and neon leotards and portable TVs were all big the first time round. “Bubbly” is old personal column code for fat, but interesting, no?

Anyway, either Sam is one of those retro dudes who still says thing like “skill” and “ace” and is throwing some expert shade – even though Milly isn’t fat – or he’s just plucked the first word that came into his head.

“Amélie.” Yeah, he’s just plucked the first word.

milly first

How much are you willing to bet one of the first things Milly said to Sam was: “Ooh, aren’t you tall?” or similar? Tall people live for that shit. We don’t say it to short people, have you noticed?

At least she didn’t say “He looked like the Shard in a T-shirt”, I guess.

sam talk about

“Hummus addictions.” Looks like I have finally found a food-related conversation topic even worse than my own (totally genuine) statement on a date once, when asked what my vices were.
My answer? “Ryvita.”
Ryvita. My vice.
Not cocaine, or cherry vodka or being tied up, but crispbread. He took me home but I suspect it was out of sympathy.
I deserved to be alone.

“Traumatic childhoods.””Mindfulness.”
I’d have switched tables. With anyone. A couple on their 40th wedding anniversary.
“Yes, I know you are celebrating or whatever, but the chat over here has moved on to daddy issues and I could really do with five minutes off. Can you take over?”

kmilly talk

Note the “surveying” out there all on its lonesome at the end. Not included in the breathless list of first-date topics, but by itself in a barely concealed staccato cry of boredom. Milly didn’t talk about surveying, but Sam did, and Milly wants us to know just how dull that was, without being rude. She doesn’t like rude.

sam awakward

It seems one of them swears a lot and the other doesn’t, and while this doesn’t shed any light on who’s doing all the effing and blinding, the fact that Milly got Sam to hold her glass while she drained the life out of a Marlboro light – or perhaps a rollie, I hear that’s big again now – I’d definitely put a few quid on it being her. I hope so.

Smokers. What are they like, eh? I used to smoke; I was insufferable. Now I don’t smoke, I’m just as insufferable, in different ways.

My last boyfriend smoked – we gave up together, him lasting three days – and I would never go outside with him when he went for a fag, and he never asked me to. Aside from some general moaning about how much he spent on them and that he was always nipping out for a smoke, I never really said that much. Although once, when he had been outside a pub for ages fag-ashing his bonce off, while I sat inside with an empty glass and a reluctance to give up my seat in a busy bar, I texted him: “I’M THIRSTY, YOU SMOKING COW”. He kept it for years.

ANYway, Sam should perhaps have got over his fear of expletives and used one the first time Milly asked him to hold her glass. There’s chivalry and there’s a smoker using you for a side table. I reckon she’d have admired his pluck, of nothing else.

milly awkward


Sam. FFS. How he got away without a fork in his eye, I have no idea. I would scorch the earth if someone said this to me.

Table manners!

sam table manners

milly table

“We hated each other but we’re going to Polyfilla over that by being overly gracious on the question we think matters the least of all.”

Tapas are really easy to eat politely – you order something else.

sam best thing

It’s a bit like saying “you do you” or “you have to be true to yourself” this, isn’t it? It’s not a compliment; it’s actually saying “you won’t be who I want you to be and that’s kind of annoying, but I’m out”.

“She was perfectly comfortable being a “see you next Tuesday” (giggle) and I applaud that.”

milly best thing

“He’s such a well-mannered boy.” – My grandmothers, their friends, people they’d talk to in Asda doing the shopping, the cashiers in M&S, and a whole host of other old ladies. Good manners are important, but I’ve never met a 23-year-old with them – well, none that weren’t virgins, anyway – but if this is a big deal for you, cool.

And, you know, the age thing – not exactly the height of good manners.

“Interesting tan lines.” I’m guessing Milly is reaching here because she believes “it’s nice to be nice”.

sam three

milly three

Sam with his confidence shtick, Milly with her politeness. This has the bristling efficiency of Mussolini’s favourite train line but the romantic spark of a post office queue full of people shaking off wet umbrellas. These are the most Bake Off contestant adjectives ever.

Give me GRIT. I know it is there.

sam made iof you

Hahaha Chrrrrrrist. I can feel Sam’s bottom lip wobbling over the pudding from here. Milly: amazing, but you’re supposed to save stuff like this for the column.

milly made

This is quite sweet, really. Kind of what you’d say if you thought maybe your humour had gone over someone’s head or you’d behaved kind of OTT and wanted to clarify that you are actually a normal person. sam after

milly after

This answer perfectly sums up  the differences between the two. Sam “watched the lightning”, Milly “had a few jars”.

Milly sounds great, really. Convivial. I bet she doesn’t take off her makeup before she goes to bed, booms at people to move down the Tube in rush hour and stubs fags out in coffee cups. Has a bad date? She shrugs. Gets chips on the way home. Laughs with her mouth wide open. She will always have chewing gum and she will always offer it to you in times of crisis.

Sam… well. Sam watched the lightning.

sam kiss

milly kiss

“Could the instore cleaner please make their way to aisle 5. We have a large spillage of ‘no fucking kidding’.”


sam change

Haha ooh I bet Sam was on the receiving end of a relentless truth-bomb ravaging once those “few jars” were safely down Milly’s neck.


sam scoresss

milly scores

Not even from the lightning, Sam? LOLLO. I bet his original answer to the journo had a lightning reference, how could he not?

Milly’s keeping things friendly with her disclaimer, there, but a 7 is, as we all know in Guardian Blind Date land, a 1.

sam meet again

“We lead very different lives.” This is a touch dramatic. If you don’t really like someone, just say. Don’t pretend you’re a Hitchcock blonde walking into the mist at the end of the movie while the leading man bumps his gums with his hand outstretched, begging you to stay.

milly meet again

This seems like a sweet sign-off from our Milly, but it’s a scorching hot BURN and if you can’t recognise this,  you need to get schooled.

Got an enemy you’d rather see drown in custard than succeed but you’re just too classy to call them out? No problem – just say you “wish them well”. It’s “fuck you” in furs.

“My date was a dreary manchild who bored me to cardboard about his job, tutted his way through all my smoking, whinged about holding my glass, moaned about my swearing, pointed at the lightning with his mouth open, and said I looked OLD – but I wish him well.

Course you do.


Photograph: Linda Nylind; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

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 this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

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