Recently, I was asked to take part in a photoshoot, and the anxiety around what I was going to wear to be photographed was off the scale – it was “nuclear apocalypse en route after brunch” huge. Photographs are so permanent, so damning, that you at least want to make sure what you’re wearing looks good. Timelessness in clothes is tricky to pull off – as my school photos will testify; I particularly regret the polo shirt with tennis rackets’ motif, aged 7 – so you want to go for something that looks good, makes sense, or can at least be explained away with the excuse you lost all your possessions in a tropical storm moments before arriving on set.
So it’s good to see two people totally untroubled by worries over what to wear on a photoshoot, as we meet Tom, a 24-year-old cyber security graduate who is the second Blind Dater to wear a roll-neck in a month, and Catherine, also 24, a marketing event manager, who is on her way to a Halloween party dressed as every woman on her first day at work in 1993.
Read what happened on the date before the dressing down really begins.
Tom on Catherine | Catherine on Tom
What were you hoping for?
A nice relaxed evening eating good food and drinking lots of wine.
Lots of wine. I am a big encourager of young people on dates to get drunk and see what happens. You might as well. Tom and Catherine are both young, so, yes, I would say, have a couple of wines, and if you like each other have one or two more, and if you hate each other, have TEN more
What were you hoping for?
Somebody who wasn’t taking part in Ocsober.
I am trying really hard to think of a word that looks uglier than “Ocsober” written down. Ocsober (God no, it really is the ugliest) is what Australians called Stoptober – which is almost as bad – so either Catherine is Australian, or she has been to Australia, or perhaps she lives with Australians. Either way, Catherine was hoping for somebody who was not taking part in an abstinence initiative 12,000 miles away. Sounds achievable.
By the way, spoiler: alcohol gets mentioned a lot on this date and I have some thoughts on that.
She was really well dressed and had a great smile. She didn’t seem too nervous.
A great smile! Ah, that’s nice. There are good smiles and there are bad smiles. I’m not a huge smiler – my face all crinkles up at the sides now so I look kind of old and like an unmade bed when I smile. Some of us are meant to smile, and some of us are meant to stare dead ahead like a zombie. Smiling is apparently good exercise for the face muscles and keeps you looking younger – explains a lot – but I’m afraid eye-rolls are much more satisfying and communicative so I will stick with those thank you very much.
He seemed pretty nervous and was quick to admit he’d already been for a pre-drink next door.
Where do you stand on the term “pre-drinks”? Quite presumptuous isn’t it, in a way? It’s an assertion that you, or whatever you’re doing, is the main event, the headline act, and anything else will either be the support, or the afterparty. Pre-drinks always feel rushed, like you can’t relax. “Oh we’re just having this hurried, uncomfortable drink – that we won’t have time to finish – because of our social hangups about arriving somewhere early or sober.” I have known people look at a bus stop information screen, see there were 7 minutes to go until the next bus, and suggest “nipping into the pub” a five-minute walk away. “Might as well wait for the next bus now we’ve got a drink and are settled” is usually the next thing you hear. Five hours later, your pre-drinks are “the drinks” and the rest of your friends aren’t talking to you because you never turned up.
I know a drink is a popular way to steady nerves – I am well-known for tanking a couple of glasses of what I actually call “nervous wine” when I arrive anywhere on my own – but I hope Tom wasn’t too stocious when he turned up. A date turning up drunk is so horrific, believe me.
What did you talk about?
Our journey in, whether we’d done something like this before, family, hobbies, TV shows… the conversation flowed.
Fake vegans, Jack Whitehall’s dad and the time Tom third-wheeled his brother’s anniversary dinner.
TV shows/Jack Whitehall’s dad is kind of a ✅ I guess. (I find his mum much more interesting, as she was in a really good Heineken advert in the 1980s).
Family/third-wheeled whatever whatever I don’t care – ✅
Fake vegans – I’m pretty over most non-vegans’ take on veganism, fake or otherwise, tbh. The joke used to be that all vegans talked about was being a vegan, but now even that small pleasure has been co-opted and discussed into irrelevance by people who think they are “semi-vegan” because they don’t eat cheese on a Sunday, or have a meat-free lunch once a week. Let’s say it loud and proud: your eating habits, quirky diets, “look at me I’m so interesting” abstinence, “om nom nom” pizza fetishisation, the order in which you put jam and cream on a scone, and how much you love coffee are quite possibly (definitely) the dullest things you can ever tell another person about. Unless someone asks you about it – and if they do, you should probably move away from them because if they’ve asked you, it means they also want to tell you – then just get on with your food regime and leave the rest of us alone. Body issues, food anxieties, impostor syndrome, pointless comparisons – they are only encouraged by your fascinating story about how you only eat dry Ryvita on a full moon because of the holistic properties of rye and the gravitational pull. Ugh. Shut up.
Any awkward moments?
None. She was funny and easy to talk to.
Only when introducing ourselves. I’m a firm believer in the double-cheek kiss, Tom is more of a hugger.
Good table manners?
Polite and well mannered.
Very nice, well observed. Good.
Good table manners?
Yes, and very good at keeping my wine topped up.
Best thing about Catherine?
Her demands to get the wine with the highest alcohol content, and her smile.
Best thing about Tom?
He was keen for a second bottle of wine.
Would you introduce her to your friends?
I think so.
Only “think so”? You know, if you’re not sure about someone, throw them to your friends; they’ll soon tell you what’s what.
Would you introduce him to your friends?
Probably not. Tom has never been to Surrey, which wouldn’t go down well.
He’s never been to Surrey? I’m not sure I can think of anything worse than the crime of never visiting Surrey other than… being from there maybe?
I had always thought Surrey was the kind of place you end up in by mistake anyway, even if you don’t mean to go. Like, sit on any train out of Waterloo for longer than 20 minutes and… whoomp there it is. I didn’t realise there was any cachet from going to Surrey, or that it was an important requirement before talking to someone from Surrey. What is brilliant about this is even though Catherine is clearly joking, it paints such a clear picture of her friends it may as well have been a 12-part documentary series about them. I don’t even need to fill in the gaps, make any jokes, or drag out any of my usual tired metaphors – it’s all there for you, laid bare, with braying laughs, flaxen hair that has never known the warm embrace of a decent conditioner, ruddy cheeks and, of course, the pièce de résistance: performative alcoholism in lieu of a personality.
Describe Catherine in three words
Funny, confident, charming.
Funny, like the first flushes of gastroenteritis in your tummy.
Confident, like someone who drinks WINE.
Charming, like a bottle of wine with a Poirot moustache and a Maserati waiting outside.
Describe Tom in three words
Chatty, engaging, friendly.
Chatty, like… WINE.
What do you think she made of you?
I’m hoping she found me easy to talk to and get on with.
After a few wines, Tom, Burke and Hare were easy to get on with, so I’m sure you were fine.
What do you think he made of you?
He probably thinks I’m an alcoholic. When ordering wine, I asked for the one with the highest alcohol content.
Seriously, the fetishisation of alcohol issues, assuming liking gin (or wine) makes you more interesting, and mistaking a deathly hangover for a decent storyline are kind of… weird. Where is it coming from? Have you not get anything else for me? I know nothing about you two except you act like nobody ever poured you a glass of sodding wine before.
Did you go on somewhere?
We stayed and finished off a second bottle of wine.
Did you go on somewhere?
The restaurant gave us an extra bottle of wine, so why would we leave?
And… did you kiss?
Nothing more than a peck.
All that wine and not even a snog? What a waste.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’m not sure I would.
Tom to have remembered he was on a first date. He dropped the C-bomb a couple of times and used “mate” and “oi” far too often.
The C-word probably doesn’t belong on a date unless you’re very sure you’re in the right company. I don’t know where Tom is from (LADSVILLE or BANTERTON possibly) but even after the gallons of turps-strength wine they claim to have thrown down their neck, he should’ve read the room properly and seen that the Duchess of Surrey was not one to be C-bombed, especially on a first date. I swear too much, either when I’m nervous or showing off, so perhaps that’s what was happening here. As for the “oi” and the “mate” complaints…
I have absolutely had enough of the pair of you. Now I need a glass of wine and it is not even 10am.
Marks out of 10?
Would you meet again?
We’ve exchanged numbers.
Catherine and Tom ate at Sophie’s, London W1, sophiessteakhouse.com. Fancy a blind date? Email email@example.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 and not what they may actually be like in real life. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll publish whatever you say. But seriously, wine is not a personality; you’re going to need something else as backup.
NOTE 2: Buy my book.
NOTE 3: The Impeccable blog is usually published on Sunday mornings, or whenever I want, tbh. I’m like that.