Scott is wearing a blue shirt and trousers. Maria is wearing a tie-dye style top and jeans.
Composite: Linda Nylind and Martin Godwin/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Scott and Maria

Today, Scott and Maria, who look like they’re working the reception of a halls of residence and are about to show your first-born to the charmless cell they’ll spend their first year stressing, frotting, and doing mushrooms in. Scott is a 26-year-old teacher and Maria is 30 and a freelance graphic designer.

Scott is wearing a blue shirt and trousers. Maria is wearing a tie-dye style top and jeans.
Composite: Linda Nylind and Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Read what happened on the date on the Guardian website and then return here for the ad libs.

Scott | Maria
What were you hoping for?
Small plates and big chat.

Small plates – “yes please, I’d like to either spend the entire date starving, or struggling to find a space to put my wine glass on a tiny table swamped by Ikea GLADELIG bread plates”.

What were you hoping for?
To find the love of my life, of course!

At 30? Are you? How long are you planning to live? I’d maybe wait another ten years.

First impressions?
Phew, she’s really easy to talk to and knows what half the wine on the list is. This should be a very lovely evening.
Really sweet. He was there before me, which will be a shock to my friends, as I’m always the first to arrive anywhere.

I feel like these two have been reading romcoms in preparation for this date. A fiver says one of them binged One Day on Netflix the night before. Anyway, I approve.

What did you talk about?
Fizzy water. Em and en dashes. How orange wine is made. Not being able to do outdoor PE due to prowling wild bears.
Stuff we both geek out over, like the nuanced difference between a hyphen, an en and em dash. Teaching students. Moving to London. Our families. Stand-up comedy. Performing. Music.

Fizzy water. I’m a big fan of fizzy water. God imagine saying such a thing. Not entirely surprising I was bullied at school, is it? However. Still water? I don’t know her. She’s dull, she’s dead, she just sits there. Fizzy water is great fun of parties, she’s sparkling, she’s somehow very FRENCH and wild. She is the cocaine of waters for retired revellers. Sadly, my dentist has told me I have to break up with fizzy drinks – yes, even water is bad for your teeth ffs – so my daily cordial has decidedly less of a bump.

Em and en dashes and hyphens – ✅ Am also a big fan of this chat. Maybe I should have been on this date? This could have been a polycule! As much as I love em dashes they are pretty much dead in regular writing, especially online, unless you’re American. Saying goodbye to that long slender friend was a wrench — so sad. But I still have my my dead en dashes – which I overuse – and while hyphens may be dying out I still find them the height of chi-chi.

Most awkward moment?
Asking Maria what it like growing up in Toronto. She is from Vancouver!
He mistakenly identified me as being from Toronto rather than Vancouver. Understandable, but for a Canadian it’s like mistaking Brighton and Blackpool.

Regular readers of this column will know instantly that this is practically flirtation compared to some of the clangers that get dropped here, so don’t worry, all is not lost.

Good table manners?
Excellent. I usually hate eating out on a first date but felt very at ease thanks to Maria’s disarming persona.

Yeah, I have never really held with eating on a first date but the premise here demands it. And if you still want to shag someone after watching them grapple with stewed octopus then you will never go off them – it must be love.

Good table manners?
Perfect. It was a cute sharing-plates restaurant, and there was no fighting over the cheddar bites. He played fair.

CHEDDAR BITES. Hang on I need to see this menu; it sounds like a 16th birthday party in the church hall.

While you’re waiting for me to look at the menu, please pre-order my new novel LEADING MAN, which is out on Thursday 9 May (next week):

The cover of LEADING MAN which features the main character dressed in a coat and scarf and holding a briefcase and a book. Plus the caption "Dependable sidekick or romantic hero. Who will Leo choose to be?"

Available at all good retailers including Waterstones, Bert’s Books, Lighthouse Books and Amazon. You can read the first chapter here btw.

Okay so the menu actually looks pretty nice and the restaurant is near where I live, so maybe I’ll go! The ‘bites’ Maria refers to are actually cheddar beignets, the misnaming of which I’m sure has made the chef’s stomach flutter upon reading. I would really need to know how small these plates are though, because, you know; I’m no good at anything with a rumbling tummy, except being a massive BITCH.

Best thing about them?
She was warm and made me feel comfortable. She was also wearing great blue eyeliner.
He had that British witty charm. I was laughing the whole night.

Aren’t they lovely? What nice things to say. I don’t know what ‘British witty charm’ is tbh, but I know non-Brits seem to like it. I remember one non-UK guy I dated who, in his text DUMPING me, said I was like his ‘own little Hugh Grant’ which was both touching and also made me want to go and set fire to a civic building.

Describe Maria in three words.
Corking, witty, humdinger.

CORKING, like your £4.99 wine.
WITTY, like, oh I don’t know, Hugh Grant I suppose.
HUMDINGER, like trying to assemble a B&Q chimenea while coming up on a mixture of Pink Lady pomade and tramadol.

Describe Scott in three words.
Warm, funny, empathic.

WARM, like your £4.99 wine, 45 minutes later.
FUNNY, like that smell when you walk into an estate agent. What is it? Fear? Duplicity? A BOSS suit in desperate need of a dry clean?
EMPATHIC, like Esther Rantzen interviewing toothless cockneys at North End Rd market about the dog who said ‘sausages’

No kiss, because of the rain.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
I’d have liked to have stayed for longer.
Nothing – even the rain at the end was picturesque. OK, maybe I’d have brought an umbrella.

Jodie Comer as Villanelle saying 'oh, lovely'

Emily Henry is taking notes!

Marks out of 10?
A solid 9.
8, a nice evening, but the first date is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s good to leave room for things to flourish.

Love Scott’s hopeful 9 –perhaps caused by hunger from his ant-sized sharing plates dinner. Maria’s 8 is in accordance with the official Guyliner-approved Blind Date scoring system, that a very lovely time with no tongues or ‘extras’ must be an 8, maximum.

Would you meet again?
Yes, we swapped numbers before going our separate ways.
I think so – we exchanged numbers.

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


If you loved this, you might love my new comedy LEADING MAN, out on Thursday 9 May. Early reader reviews say this:

“This is easily one of the best books I have ever read. This is the kind of book you recommend to everyone you know, because it is a gem, and they will find something in it.

“You really care about [Leo], his choices, the people he ends up with. And there are twists and turns galore, even in the final pages of the story. Six stars out of five.

“I like when I do not expect what’s going to happen, and I GASPED several times while reading Leading Man.

Leading Man is funny, heartfelt and full of meaning.

It features my favourite main character, Leo, a Sondheim-obsessed gay drama teacher with a mum who drops cigarette ash into clean laundry, a big brother who’s attached to his childhood bedroom by bungee rope, and friends who maybe take him a little for granted. Perhaps my strongest supporting cast yet, too. It’s one of Stylist’s summer picks – read more about that here – and I don’t care where you get it from – support an indie if you can! – but here are links to Waterstones, Bert’s Books, Lighthouse Books and Amazon.

There’s a cool playlist of music featured in the book, too:

Don’t fancy a book? No worries. Consider leaving me a small tip on Ko-fi.

Buy Me a Coffee at

Or, obviously, there’s a Substack, called The truth about everything* and most of it is free.

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

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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. HOW BIG ARE THE PLATES?

Scott and Maria ate at Little Cellars, London SE5. Fancy a blind date? Email



  1. Always lovely to see your recaps! The three of you inspired me to learn the difference between an em and en dash — I’d been using them both for years and had no idea.

    1. Apparently Gen Z really dislike Gen X’s love of ellipses and find them aggressive and threatening. They don’t get they are supposed to be self deprecating. Not sure what gen you are but just a warning …

  2. “…made me want to go and set fire to a civic building”

    I don’t know what’s so wonderfully unexpected about ‘civic’ in that line, but it caught me enough by surprise to get a genuine laugh-out-loud.

  3. Beautifully written, as always, and particularly hilarious. Laughed out loud several times. Also has an undercurrent of hope/joy, which is welcome.

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