Photographs: Alicia Canter, David Levene/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Summer and Mark

It’s that part of the summer where I start to get mildly hysterical from the heat, especially at night when I can’t sleep. Thankfully I now have a phone to scroll through in these moments so I’m not, as I would’ve done in 1999 and all subsequent summers until my first smartphone, staring up at the ceiling repeating the “¿Dónde está el hombre con fuego en la sangre?” line from Geri Halliwell’s seminal first solo chart-topper Mi Chico Latino over and over again.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the first Impeccable review. FIVE YEARS. Can you believe it? I’m going to be celebrating it soon in a very special way, but nostalgia is boring so instead of mooning about how far we have come together, let’s say thank you very much for reading/dating, and just GET ON WITH IT. Onward!

Fittingly, with it being summer and all, we have an actual Summer in our midst. Summer is 26 and an art publisher while Mark is 32 (Mark email me details of your skincare regimen as soon as, thanks) and is a technical delivery manager. Right.

Here they are in glorious full-length wonder.

Photographs: Alicia Canter, David Levene/The Guardian

Strong patterned looks, slight “can I talk to the manager” air about both of them, good hair. We’re on. Read the full details of the date in the Guardian (please make sure you do this) and then come on back here so we can get on with what we have been put on this Earth to do: BITCH.

Summer on MarkMark on Summer
What were you hoping for?
I was told he was a cyclist, so nice legs.

Best of all was that Summer was kind of hoping to see them. Can you wear shorts on a date? I think you can. Why not? You may as well put things on display if you think it might help, especially if your chat is substandard and you’ve got a coldsore or something. My legs aren’t *bad* considering – I don’t do “leg day” but I cycle and do squats or whatever – and I like to avail myself of short-shorts if it’s warm. I suppose my days of being able to do this without people backing away from me like I’m a ricin-filled Jiffy bag are numbered, given that society dictates the only kind of flesh allowed to be in display is young and taut. Just kidding, I’m going to wear shorts as short as I want, for as long as I want. No amount of pass-agg, “ooh you look very summery” fuckery can stop me.

What were you hoping for?
I didn’t want to be paired up with one of those stuffy, shy-Tory types.

On or around his 67th birthday, Mark is going to vote Conservative. It will be over some trifling matter like availability of parking on the basique cul-de-sac he’s living on by then.

First impressions?
Charmingly boyish.

Is it a blessing or a curse to “look younger” than you are? I’ve never really understood how people decide what you’re *supposed* to look like, anwyay. Are there a set of criteria written down somewhere on the back of a sheet mask that say you should have a certain number of wrinkles by 32, or that your eyebags need to be a particular depth?

I was accustomed to people saying I didn’t look my age for years – they just couldn’t help themselves – and I think they expected me to enjoy the compliment, because we value youth above all, it appears. But all I could think about was that I was being congratulated on a genetic quirk, ultimately temporary, and that one day people wouldn’t say I looked young for my age anymore, and then where would I be? Ladies and gentlemen, I would be here.

Anyway, you can still look “boyish” without looking particularly young, it’s about the features, really, so goodness knows what I’m banging on about.

First impressions?
Relief. See above.

Well, yes, you would not see Summer walking toward you and think of someone who was a tactical Tory voter on local parking issues, would you?

What did you talk about?
Berlin, philosophy and acid communism.
Wanting to move away from London. I talked a bit about hauntology, which probably came off a bit pretentious. We were both slightly trashed towards the end, but I think there was something about films.

Acid communism. Here you go.
Hauntology. I’d never heard of this but have googled and… it actually sounds really interesting and I am probably now going to become fascinated by this.
Moving away from London/Berlin. ✅ (Spoiler: Summer is moving to Berlin.) A match! I’ve been to Berlin once. It was a brilliant city. So huge yet hardly anyone living there – mind you this was back in 2011, before the 78th Pret opened in Shoreditch and everyone who lived there suddenly realised they were living in a purposefully scuffed version of Disneyland and had thus “sold out” without actually realising, so packed up whatever musical instrument they’d spent a decade pretending they could play, bid tearful farewell to their ironic hairdresser, and went off to ruin Margate, Bristol, Lisbon, and… BERLIN to reinvent themselves as a “digital nomad”!

Any awkward moments?
No olives on the menu.

They’re at an Italian restaurant so, yeah, I guess that might be a bit odd.

Any awkward moments?
Summer said she’d waited six months for a Blind Date because there’s a dearth of applications from straight men, and I told her I wouldn’t call myself straight.

YES MARK. Sexuality doesn’t come up that much in the Blind Date column. When we see a couple who present as a man or a woman, we never consider them as anything other than “straight”, and when it’s a same-sex couple, we also assume they’re gay. They might not be! We’re just trained to think that because it is more convenient to assume than think any more deeply. In a way, we can’t help it.

I can’t assume Mark is bisexual because that might not be the point he is making there, but the B part of LGBTQ+ does seem to get a lot less attention than some of the others and can be a subject of derision from all quarters, including straights. Especially straights, but not them alone. This comes not only from a lack of understanding, but an unwillingness to understand, to give up the tiniest extra scrap of energy that it takes to think about this kind of stuff. This is why I live in fear, slightly, of an over concentration on things having to be “relatable” because I wonder if some people aren’t being encouraged to step out of their own worlds. Yes, enjoy your relatable lives and characters and shows but also take the time to acknowledge others’ experiences.

It’s like pronouns and that kind of stuff – another thing we just assume in the Blind Date column, as it is rarely discussed. (Should I start using “they” for all daters? interested to know what you think.) It doesn’t take that long to get your head round. To misquote Maya Angelou: when people tell you who they are, believe them, accept them. It’s not what you’re used to, it might be difficult to unlearn certain things or retrain, but make the effort. I think if more people made the effort generally around things like sexuality and gender, life might be a bit more fun, once you’ve got all the technicalities out of the way.

Anyway, we stan a non-straight icon. Well done, Mark.

Good table manners?
He smeared food all over his face; it was appalling. No, of course not: it was pizza – it was fine.

As we have acknowledged over the five LONG years I have been doing this blog, this is the worst question of the lot so you can’t blame Summer for workshopping some snarky material here even if it does come across a little like a sarcastic teenager telling you that actually ‘Monster’ isn’t a Nicki Minaj song, she just has a verse on it, CHRIST Uncle Justin.

Good table manners?
I’m not really in the business of policing other people’s behaviour.

I don’t think my goodwill for a person has ever drained so fast.

What do you think you’re on the Blind Date column for, Mark?

Best thing about Mark?
His self-awareness. He mentioned the communist manifesto, but not in a sixth-form kind of way.

What is a “sixth-form” kind of way? Uninformed, is that the suggestion? Or desperate to appear clever? I tell you, I can think of plenty more sixth-formers I’d rather see in charge of the world than the supposed adults making such a balls of it. As Marina Hyde wrote brilliantly this week, we have a potential prime minister who still literally crows about his schooling as if still drunk from his end of term prom and not a 55-year-old man, so perhaps being a bit “sixth-form” is all you need to get ahead in politics. Of course it depends on your sixth-form and whether swans were served in the school canteen, usually.

Best thing about Summer?
She had a really interesting background. Also up for drinking on a school night.

Ooh, look, a “school night” mention. Mark really is boyish. Hang on, Summer mentioned sixth-form, Mark talked of a school night – are they real adults on a date or just two sets of three second-formers standing on each other’s shoulders beneath a raincoat, trying to sound grown up?

Describe Mark in three words.
A natural blond.

Thank you for that searing insight, Summer.

Describe Summer in three words.
Colourful, friendly, characterful.

Colourful, like her hair!
Friendly, like a long-suffering mother who is so desperate for her son, 37, to move out of home, that she welcomes any women he brings home with open arms, in the hope this is FINALLY the one. It is never the one.
Characterful, like a draft script for EastEnders?! I mean I don’t know what this word even means wtf?

What do you think she made of you?
She said I was more interesting than she’d expected.

If this praise were any fainter, it would be an albumen print of my last nerve.

Did you go on somewhere?
To a pub round the corner, where I had to dodge a few exes.
To a pub on Columbia Road.

FUNNILY enough I once went on a date with a man to a pub on Columbia Road – the Royal Oak was always my favourite place to take a date, fact fans – and we bumped into his EX and then he confessed to me, through floods of tears, that he had engineered the whole thing. Wild. I blogged about it, obviously.

And… did you kiss?
Yeah, duh.
Yeah, briefly.

YES.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Probably not showing up two pints deep.
I wish I’d had a few tinnies on the walk to the restaurant.

Hahaha. “Summer was…animated and I… had to drink three absinthes to catch up.”

Marks out of 10?
Rating an experience according to its perceived value is such a capitalist construct, but I’d give it a solid 8.

Absolutely desperate to find Summer’s profile on TripAdvisor now. “Rating an experience according to its perceived value is such a capitalist construct, but I will give the cuisine and cleanliness at Hotel de la Merde four cases of gut-twisting dysentery out of five.”

Still, this is all getting a but much, isn’t it?

7.5.

I’m quite anti point-fives generally – my father always asks for “2.5 sugars” in his tea just to wind me up, don’t think I haven’t noticed, Dad – and especially when you are rating a person, as much of a “capitalist construct” as it is. It’s saying “not quite good enough”. As regular readers will know, a 7 in the Blind Date column is generally a 1. The kind of 1 that is nice to your face but will head straight to your local NIMBY neighbourhood messageboard to leave a SCATHING post about the state of your azaleas. So to put a point-five on it is an extra insult. That’s not just an anonymous messageboard post, that’s a hand-written note pushed through your letterbox, which says, “And your hair is shit, too”. Signed.

Would you meet again?
Depends what he says about me in this column.

You are moving to Berlin, though.

Would you meet again?
Sure, why not?

Can love blossom long distance, or must Mark make his way to the land of the currywurst and give Berlin a go?

Summer and Mark ate at Spelzini, London E1. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit soulmates.theguardian.com

NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. Unless it refers to capitalist constructs because I would struggle with that tbh.

I have a book out:

4 Comments

  1. Of course Summer’s moving to Berlin. I live there and you can’t throw a cat in Neukolln without hitting a dozen smug Summers.

  2. Happy anniversary for five years of this blog, I do hope you celebrate it because it really is an achievement of yours that is worthy to celebrate. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds your Blind Date write-ups funny and fun, an essential part on my weekend reading! Thank you, Justin, hope the rest of your summer is pleasant. Do celebrate!

    I find Mark clearly smart and kid of cute. For someone that reminds me of Alfred E. Neumann, Mad magazine’s mascot. Recently invoked by Trump as an insult to Pete Buttgieg, the first (openly) gay man running for President. Mayor Pete zinged back that he wasn’t old enough to get the reference. Good one! And, his comments about not being completely straight was refreshing, and good for him.

    “Rating an experience according to its perceived value is such a capitalist construct, ..”
    Summer sounds unbearable. I think she was joking, ha-ha here, but also not joking. Hope she finds happiness in Berlin when she meets hundreds of unbearable ex-pats just like herself.

    Thanks again for the blog.

  3. There’s a short, passionate relationship that burns out after 5 weeks just waiting for these two to enter into it…

  4. Having been made aware of this blog by a friend who I know is infinitely funnier than I am, I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only regular reader who for whatever reason doesn’t comment. Is everyone else’s excuse simply fear Justin will witheringly judge the lameness of our comments as he does these dates?

    Anyway whatever I find myself looking forward to this more than the BD column itself these days.

    Much as I love GBD / first dates / dinner dates etc I find that apart from the all-too-rare romantic fireworks dates they’re most heartwarming when they’re just lovely people who unfortunately don’t have that “spark”, as seems the case here.

    As someone who’s been on their fair share of internet dates this seems like a fair reflection of the overall odds of finding true love (or whatever). If you’re lucky most dates will be a pleasant but not earth shattering 7-8. Keep your chin up and stick with it. And at least the car crashes will make good anecdotes.

    I’ve forgotten what my point was.

    I guess thanks Justin for making them a good read whatever the scores.

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