Impeccable Table Manners

Scott and Peter

When you’re gay, and of a certain age, you spend most of your time trying to convince people – and perhaps even yourself – that you don’t fall into a stereotype.

“No, I don’t like Kylie, actually,” you find yourself saying, even though you’ve been to see each and every one of her tours (you even went to Showgirl twice – good wasn’t it?).

“Yes, I would consider myself non-scene,” you will fib on your dating profile, even though anyone chucking a casual glance at your Instagram would see your top nine grid consisted of only pictures of you in whichever gay pub in your city has the nastiest toilets, clutching a pornstar martini with your gold lamé pants tied around your head.

The most common gay stereotype is actually bleating on about not fitting into a stereotype, something we have to do simply because we think it makes us more attractive to others, be it other gay people or bloodthirsty, fist-swinging heterosexual people who want to stove our heads in.

scott and peter

The Guardian Blind Date column has been awash with rainbow couples in recent weeks, of all shapes and sizes, and at different stages of stereotype denial. Still too few lesbians and trans people, though; it’s like only gay men are attention-seeking enough to appear. Who knew? This week, we have Scott, 32, a project manager and 31-year-old Peter, who is a teacher. A project manager and a teacher – I can feel the sexual tension fizzing off the page already, can’t you? Read what happened on the date before I walk in wearing a blood-stained wedding dress and wreck the whole thing.

Scott | Peter
What were you hoping for?
Good chat, laughter, a spark.

A spark! We’re all looking for that, aren’t we? As Tracey Thorn once sang on Massive Attack’s Better Things: “You say the spark’s gone? Well, get an electrician.”

What were you hoping for?
Good company, good food and good wine. I got all three.

Can you honestly put your hand on your heart – or swinging brick, in my case – and say that you have hoped for good food and wine on a date? “Yeah, I’m meeting him in the Royal Oak at 7 – hope the ale’s good!” Get out.

In fact, if the food is terrible on a date, it can be a fantastic bonding experience. There’s nothing worse than two foodies gargling casserole and saying how ‘piquant’ the starter was – give me two drunken old soaks guffawing at the fact their prawns were off any day of the week. There is unity in horror.

First impressions?
Tardy. Pete was 45 minutes late: he got lost at the tube.

A few things to note here. In my experience, dates rarely recover from lateness, especially a 45-minute wait. It immediately sets up a bad atmosphere, and when the latecomer does eventually stagger through the door – and I’ll wager “lost at the Tube” actually means “changed outfits six times and left the house late” – it’s all you can talk about.

Having a look at where they met, I am guessing Peter – or “Pete” as Scott tags him here, how tantalisingly familiar – went out of the wrong exit at Old Street station. We’ve all done it.

Also: Scott actually waited 45 minutes for Peter? Forty-five?! Just how long has it been, Scott? Nobody in their right mind would wait longer than 30. And by 30, I mean 20.

First impressions?
Wearing a suit – always a plus.

fat controller saying 'you are wrong'

Turning up and finding my date sitting there in a suit isn’t high on my checklist of “good first impressions” but maybe you have a kink for estate agents or pallbearers, I dunno.

What did you talk about?
Classic 90s TV shows such as Challenge Anneka, our big 30th birthday parties, the fact that I’m in a dodgeball team, plus plenty of innuendo.

Clint Eastwood going yuk

A tenner says all this “innuendo” was about balls and dodging them and “oh LOL I’m gay so that’s the very opposite of what I’m used to doing when it comes to balls LOLOL”. Just a hunch.

Food, music, TV, sport, travel.

Peter reading out BBC2’s Boxing Day lineup from the Radio Times, there.

Any awkward moments?
Nope. The night flew by.

Cat looking out at the rain

Certainly sounds like it.

Any awkward moments?
Me arriving late.

Poor Peter. Forever tarnished with being late. It is the kind of thing, should these two ever get together, that will be brought up again and again, at dinner parties and barbecues and wine-tasting evenings and even, about 15 years down the line when they’re trying new things, in the sauna, to the young guy sitting between them with their hands on his knees.

“Oh, we have a funny story about how we met,” Scott will say, with a twinkle in his eye. Peter’s peepers, however, will glaze over and he’ll stare into the distance, even as the young buck’s towel slips to the floor, wishing that maybe he should’ve kept on walking once he’d come out of the wrong exit at Old Street.

It’s table manners next. Anyone who obsessively sanitises their keyboard before sitting down at their desk may want to look away now.

Good table manners?
Yes. We had nibbles first and both just used our hands.

Nibbles to me are served on a tray by inept hosts at boring parties. Nibbles are stale cashew nuts, out-of-date Boursin on softening Tuc crackers, olives bought from the petrol station on the way home, swimming in oil. I went to the website of the restaurant they ate at to see what they might have chosen – five fucking clicks to get to a “Download menu” option, btw; thanks for the amaaazing user experience – and saw nothing nibbly at all. Maybe they took a bag each of Seabrook in and shared those.

“Both just used our hands” – oh the jokes write themselves. Let me know when they appear on the page.

Good table manners?
Very good. While I made a veggie watch me eat meat.

I know safe spaces are important and whatever, but I don’t think even the most militant vegetarian would expect you not to eat meat in front of them if you were on a first date. Peter’s answer, however, does make it sound like this may have been an issue.

Unless Peter had go-go-gadget arms and was wrenching lambs out of a field long-distance, whacking their heads on the table to stun them and eating them raw, gurgling with maniacal laughter, I don’t really see the problem.

“I made a veggie watch me eat meat” sounds like someone breathlessly recounting a night in Chariots in the pub the next day.

Best thing about Peter?
He’s a good conversationalist, has a nice smile and a wide-ranging vocabulary.

“A wide-ranging vocabulary.” Is that a thesaurus in your trouser compartment or are you merely contented to observe me? “Sapiosexuality is so hot right now!” as Paris Hilton would, sadly, probably never say.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
If this was going somewhere serious, or if they wanted to know about dodgeball.

Kenneth Branagh saying 'darlings'

Describe him in three words
Intelligent, cheeky, confident.

If there’s a word that’s had an identity crisis in recent years, it’s “cheeky”. I want impudent young rapscallions in the playground to reclaim this word for their own, and stop it being applied to chicken, or gin and tonics, or men in their 30s chuckling every time they say the word “length”.

Eclectic, enthusiastic, easy-going.

Alliteration! Always a good sign that you’ve really thought it through and aren’t merely picking three words that all start with the letter E.

What do you think he made of you?
Late. Which is not me at all.

See?! It becomes a thing. Don’t ever be late; this is what happens to you. Even if you do it once, you become that person. Word gets around, so people coming to meet you will set off later and thus be late themselves. YOU will get the blame for this.

“Well, you’re always late,” this piece of shit will say as they saunter toward you. “So I thought I might as well be too.” Do. Not. Be. Late. It is a weakness. They will exploit you.

Did you go on somewhere?
Home, alone. It was pretty late when we finished (they had cleaned the kitchen and were waiting to leave) and we both had work the next day.

man from project runway saying 'what'

And… did you kiss?
A quick peck on the cheek. For a first date, that’s sufficient.

Man sighing

I’ve no doubt in my mind that Scott manages his projects with determination and precision, but “for a first date that’s sufficient” sounds about as sexy as a self-checkout going on the wonk and blurting out “unexpected item in bagging area” over and over again, like a Dalek narrating porn.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Move it to a Friday, so we could have gone on.

now that's more like it

OK, Scott, I take that back. You are actually a gay man I can identify with and not a cash machine in drag.

I’d be on time.

Oh, you were late? You never said!

SCORES, then:

Marks out of 10?
7. It would have been 8 if he hadn’t been late.

man saying 'I'm going to lose my shit'

I don’t think I can handle a single further mention of this lateness. People are going to die today. I haven’t felt this anxious and angry since I was stuck in a really long queue in Uniqlo. So, yesterday.

Marks out of 10?
7 – as a teacher I never give full marks, so 70% is a win.

This is the least sexy sentence I’ve ever read in my entire life. “70%.” Why, thank you.

So now we’ve gone through what The Apprentice contestants seemed determined to call “the process”, will these two Bic biros want to see each other again? Scott obviously had a taste for the way Peter nibbled his nibbles – will they move things to a Friday and dance the night away?

Would you meet again?
We’ve exchanged numbers, so we’ll see what happens.
Yes. It’s good to see someone in daylight as well as at dusk!

Britney saying hot

Next week: I’m away. So see you in two. x

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. These are actual jokes – including the gay stereotype stuff. It’s meant lightheartedly and I’m not saying you’re not a totally Masc4Masc gay who loves rugby. If you don’t find it funny, maybe go watch some sport and calm down, bro. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian




  1. “Next week: I’m away. So see you in two.”

    Noooooo! The week when I personally know one of the people taking part. No chance of a double blog when you’re back?

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