Impeccable Table Manners

Scott and Ryan


Thursdays are the hardest when you’re single. Maybe Wednesdays too. Oh, you’d expect it to be the weekends, wouldn’t you, when everyone is out having fun, but the thing with weekends is that you can get lost in them if you try hard enough. There are brunches with friends and quick dinners in town and boozy nights in bars slinging your eyes from one corner to another looking for someone to take home. But on Thursdays, there is just Thursday – and you.

Thursdays are the day you text the one you love and say, “Shall we meet for a quick drink on the way home from work, get ready for the weekend?” Thursdays are cultivating a mild, mutual hangover you can joke about all day Friday over WhatsApp. Thursdays are cooking together, slating what’s on the TV, one more glass of wine before bed, vague discussions about what you might do at the weekend. But when you’re single, Thursdays are none of those things. Thursdays are a date who cancels, or one who won’t drink because it’s a “school night” or one who gets too raucous because “today is my Friday”. Thursdays smell of regret and wet dog, with the fear of an activity-free weekend looking ahead of you. I will never forget feeling alone on Thursdays.

Ryan and Scott

Hoping to turn their Thursdays into a lifetime of Saturdays are Scott, a 46-year-old research nurse, and Ryan, 36, a petrochemical consultant –ooh, here comes the science bit, concentrate! Read what happened on the date before I walk calmly over to the specials board and cross out everything they were about to order.

Scott is on the left, btw, and his answers are in the yellowy green or whatever that is. Ryan’s pink.

s hope

Every so often, a celebrity comes along who wouldn’t get a second glance if they worked behind the fag counter at Tesco (as I once did, while doing my A-levels, and it was my favourite job ever FYI). For some reason, they’re elevated to sex-god status and I sit and watch this unfold, puzzled, at home, like a pensioner who needs to get his grandchildren to set the TiVo. It used to be Benedict Cumberbatch (no), it’s currently Tom Hiddleston (seriously, he is just nothing, nothing at all) and for a tiny while, it was Chris Pratt.

This is a good picture of Chris Pratt:


He’s on the left, btw.

ry hope

“Someone who was OK to have a few drinks with.” That’s it, Ryan, really reach for the stars with your expectations here.

scott first

ryan first

Is “lovely smile” the new “sweet” or “chatty”? I tell you what “lovely smile” is, it’s “I don’t fancy you”.

If I walk into a room and the first thing someone can say about me is that I have a lovely smile, I’m done here, I’m beaten. Not that anyone will any time soon. I am an ugly smiler. Oh, yes, we’ve all heard of ugly crying, but did you know ugly smiling is a thing too? It’s when you look hot when you sulk, but you’re a dog when you smile. It’s why Posh Spice never cracks a grin. Brooding and miserable, Posh and I are beauty queens. Turn that frown upside down? Children run away in floods of tears and people hurtle toward us to throw a tea towel over our faces before we spoil the milk.

scott talk

ryan talk

Say what you want about this encyclopaedia of polite conversation, but what’s glaringly clear is that neither of them was listening to the other. Not a single match in conversation topics.

I do love how “his vegetarianism, my love for chicken” is thrown away like it’s totally insignificant. Knowing vegetarians as I do, and knowing committed meat-eaters who enjoy winding vegetarians up as I do, I can tell you this will have been quite a passive-aggressive marathon.

I did read somewhere it was perfectly possible to eat healthily/be a vegetarian/have a love for meat without banging on about it until the end of time, but I don’t think it’ll ever catch on.

scott awks


What used to amaze me as I staggered through the devastating corridors of singledom was how bad at playing poker everyone would’ve been. I’m not going to say my charms were playing to an empty house every night, but once in a while I’d see faces drop at my arrival. Because I like nothing better than to drive myself to the brink of insanity by worrying about what a stranger I don’t care about will think of me, I used to look out for it specially.

Some might be disheartened to see disappointment cross the face of a date, but I used to take it as a challenge. I would turn up the charm to 11 – yes, ELEVEN – and do things that I know had worked on men before. Talk a certain way, be a certain way – men are ridiculously predictable and easily led, like a trusting puppy. And then, just as I had made them fall in love with me, and they were pleading with me to have another drink, or go on somewhere or, and it happened quite a lot, asking if I wanted to go back to theirs, I would invent a deadline, or feign tiredness and bring the night to a close, and exit with a curt shake of the hand.

Why, when things were going so well? Oh, you really want me now, do you? I’ve grown on you, have I? Tell your face, four hours ago. Too late. Goodbye.

Anyway, reading back, Ryan says his first impression of Scott was “not nervous” which suggests he was, so let’s give Ryan a free pass for this one and sign Scott up for some Geri Halliwell-style self-confidence YouTube tutorials.

ryan awks


scott table

I know people really lose their shit over someone filling up their wine glass for them, but I detest it, and here’s why:

  1. If you have a little bit of wine left in your glass, and A N Other pours some nice chilled white wine into it, that wine will now be warmer as a whole. Warm wine is a no from me.
  2. The person filling the wine glass is usually doing this because they have finished theirs, and unless you have also emptied your glass, there’s a good chance they will fill your glasses to the same level as theirs, meaning you lose out on some wine.
  3. Either that or they will ridiculously overcompensate and fill your glass to the brim, meaning they’ll finish their next one even more quickly, and you’ll be playing catch-up from way behind and will have to start DOWNING it so they don’t, yet again, put lovely chilled white wine (or rosé if it’s sunny and you’re a bit basic like me) on top of tepid, slightly murky wine.

I don’t know whether these rules apply for red wine, I don’t drink it. Enjoy your black teeth and inability to stay awake for pudding or sex. In short: keep away from my glass of wine.

ryan table


I have said it before, and I will say it again. You cannot – and should not – share food on a date until you have at the very, very least snogged and mildly dry-humped them. Or unless you want to have sex with them that evening. Sharing food is a level of intimacy you shouldn’t encourage on a first date.

And it has to have been a really passionate kiss too, like a really dirty one up against a wall, drunk, while the rest of the pub slow hand-claps you in disgust.

scott three



Why does this keep cropping up, this horrible, “conference room full of slick-haired clean-shirts” buzzword? Why is it back? What is it doing in this supposedly romantic setting? It has no place here. It belongs on a feedback form, or hidden in a PDF about educational guidelines. Disengage from engaging, please.

Handsome, though. I dunno, call me handsome more than three times in an evening and, unless we’re blood relatives, I’ll probably fuck you.

ryan three


Don’t be fooled by “cute”. It’s a diss in a compliment’s overcoat. It’s what you say when you don’t know how to describe someone you don’t fancy, but don’t want to admit it. I mean, you know they’re not ugly, because nobody is truly ugly, but you want to make it clear you are not DTF.

Puppies, toddlers, babies, matching outfits, trinkets, cupcakes, ribbons – all cute. Men? No.

scott made of you copy


But you didn’t answer the question, Scott. What did he make of YOU, do you think? Are you frightened to say? Sometimes, we just have to say.

“I think he liked me, but in the way you would like your friend’s children. Out of duty, because they belong to someone you love, not because they’ve done anything interesting, or earned your admiration.”

ryan made


“Pleasant.” Was there ever a word more of a digestive biscuit or day without weather than “pleasant”? I like these guys, but if this date got any more sexless, it would feature all of our parents, reading out directions to one another in eye-drying monotone, from an outdated A–Z.

scott go on

Fucking Thursdays.

scott change

I had a quick squiz over at the restaurant where the Guardian sent them. I can only assume either Scott didn’t tell them he was veggie, or the person who arranges the dates used to have a vegetarian boyfriend who was particularly annoying, because this was on the homepage:

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 09.09.54

And this:

The vegetarian option? A napkin.

ryan change

Oh, it’s quite sweet that he wishes a nicer cocktail on his date.

The cult of Negroni though – what the hell is wrong with them all? It’s what I dread most about summer; that I’ll be dragged to some execrable pop-up on the roof of a condemned building and spend hours listening to why I really should try a Negroni, and how delicious they are.

Look, if you want to drink a cocktail that looks like mouthwash, tastes like a migraine that comes on every suddenly in the middle of Sainsbury’s and takes ages to make, thus holding up the bar queue, that’s up to you, congrats. You may, if you like, recommend it to me once, but when I politely rebuff you, saying I’ve tried it several times and don’t like it, you will ACCEPT this, and not bang on about how I “must like Negronis, everyone does” or how “refreshing” it is. I mean, seriously, are they on commission from Aperol? Bore off.

scott score

Half a mark was knocked off for that disappointed face, Ryan. As Beyoncé would say, don’t hurt yourself.

ryan score

A solid 8. Solid in this instance means “it will never be a 9”.

So here we are at the very end, the Negronis have been drained, the last of the flesh has been torn away from the chicken bone. We’ve had a pleasant evening in the company of two Tesco sandwiches drenched in Givenchy. Will we be seeing each other again? It’s the big one:

scott meet


ryan meet


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 editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re lovely. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. Just don’t get me started on Negronis. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Photograph: Alicia Canter; Teri Pehgilley, both for the Guardian

No Comment

    1. Sharing starters *cringe*. I hate sharing food. Not because I’m selfish mind. No, I just need to clearly know what’s “mine” and what’s “yours”. I can’t stand the the stress over who gets the last of the unhelpfully odd numbered morsels.

      “You have it”, “No, you have it. I insist!”

      I confess, I usually cave in and accept.

  1. At last, someone who agrees with me about the charisma free Tom Hiddleston – and the wine thing, so true, although, to be honest, I’m usually the first to drain my glass.

Leave a Response