Impeccable Table Manners

Tom and Oona


You know that feeling when you have been at a dinner party – some might call it a soirée – all night and had to cope with somebody’s absolutely bullshit behaviour and even-more-bullshit opinions? Maybe they “can see Ukip’s point” or think “Sam Cam has really nice taste in handbags”. Something like that. Well, today’s Guardian Blind Date is that dinner party. And there is no exit. No handle on the door. And a rottweiler guarding it. You’re here for life.

Today we have Tom, 23 (no, really) and Oona, 26 (seriously). He works in HR (walks from room to room with a sheet of paper in his hand, looking busy) and she’s a deli manager. OK.

Read what happened on the date – hide all sharp objects before doing so – and then I’m going in. I am praying that venom doesn’t poison you from the inside. I may not make it to the end.

Tom | Oona
What were you hoping for?
Effervescent conversation.

Effervescent is a good word. I once wrote it in a Christmas card. Imagine that. Imagine receiving this card with “effervescent” in it. You’d worry the sender had a brain tumour, wouldn’t you? The recipient texted me the next day. “Were you drunk when you wrote that card?” they said. “Or were you just being pretentious?” I fessed up. Pretentious. Tom? Which are you?

What were you hoping for?
Someone with a bit of bite.

Maybe try sitting on a chihuahua.

First impressions?
Confident. Good-looking.

Why doesn’t “confident” feel like a compliment here? How would that be your first impression? What did she do – clamber over shark-infested waters to get to the table? Perhaps Tom is trying to say that she didn’t laugh into her hand or twirl her hair upon first introduction. Anyway, here’s Oona with a humdinger of a reply.

First impressions?
I was glad he looked older than he was.

What? Why? “I’m glad he looked older than 23.” What does this even mean? I’m glad he lied about his age? I’m stoked that he must have had a paper round that covered the north face of the Eiger?

What did you talk about?
Her boat-building lineage, improv drama, syllabub.

Line up all of the “eyeroll.gif” files in the world. Every single one. And then watch them all. And you still won’t have enough eyerolls. I rolled my peepers so hard they span out of my skull, went to the shop for milk, and came back with the wrong change.

“Boat-building lineage” – this entire column is the reason we can’t have nice things. “Syllabub.” Welcome to the try-hard Olympics. Bad news, you’re up against Geri Halliwell and she’s just had a vitamin shot. Here’s Tom again.

Any awkward moments?
The vaccination debate.

Were you PRAYING for measles to take you out of this dire date and into the great unknown? I know I am. Imagine two people in their twenties talking about this on a date. Like an editorial meeting in the sixth form common room. “The vaccination debate” – it isn’t a thing. Go back to lobbying the teachers to add Topic to the vending machine by the science labs.

Any awkward moments?
He said the waitress could take the (awesome) bread. I wanted the bread. I kept it.

Bread is awesome. I’m not really into a man deciding for me that I’ve had enough bread so I fully back Oona here. Except for the “awesome” – that makes me wish everything was on fire and I was made of pyjama. Bread isn’t awesome. It’s bread. (Bread.)

Good table manners?
Yes, I was almost certain she’d eaten in a restaurant before.

Tom feels to me like he’s auditioning for that BBC radio comedy we will all eventually get around to writing.

Good table manners?
Things like that don’t really come on to my radar.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a revolutionary. Even though I agree with Oona that table manners are not really a thing you think about unless someone is eating like a wild boar let loose at a christening, there is something about this answer that is so try-hard, I can’t get behind it.

Best thing about Oona?
She chose wine as if wine lists weren’t gibberish.

Wine has been coming up a lot on these dates, especially among the twentysomethings. Here’s a hot take from someone old enough to be your older brother who wishes you’d never been born: nobody cares whether you know about wine. Leave it to a sommelier.

Fuck your wine list musings. Do what we all do: pick the second or third cheapest and pretend it doesn’t taste like vinegar.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Yeah. “Would my housemate fancy him?” crossed my mind.

Oona, there’s a telegram for you. It says “You are not actually in a Richard Curtis movie”.  Any thoughts?

Describe Oona in three words
High-powered hippy.

“High-powered.” “Hippy.” Reader, I can’t feel my legs.

Describe Tom in three words
Bright, morally upstanding.

How can you be morally upstanding at 23? What about? Maybe he had some totally amazing opinions on GamerGate. Dunno.

What do you think she made of you?
I don’t think she suspected that I am actually three small children on each other’s shoulders under an overcoat.

This answer reminds me of a very funny post I read on BuzzFeed this week. Tom’s answer, however, isn’t funny. I know you’re in a magazine and trying to impress or whatever but this is rubbish. Congratulations, you’re Mrs Brown’s Boys in an H&M shirt. From three seasons ago.

What do you think he made of you?
I don’t think he fancied me.

You sure? But how could he resist that “boat-building lineage”?

Did you go on somewhere?
An inelegantly shotgunned pint, as the pub was closing.

“Shotgunned.”  Weddings, car seats I understand. A shotgunned pint? No idea. Tom, you’ve got the part. It’s fine.

And… did you kiss?
Southern European style.

You threw patatas bravas into her mouth?! This guy.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’d still drink wine, coffee and beer, but not in that order. Not much else, Oona was top company.

This face-saving is so pungent, I can almost taste it. “Top company.” I can’t believe someone who was born in 1992 actually talks this way. SCORES:

7.5. We may be quite different people. I’d like to find out.

7.5? Careful Tom, she might build a boat and row it right through your empty head.

9. I wish I had fancied him, everything else was lovely.

9. You did fancy him. 9 is a shy 10. “Lovely.” I’ve seen pensioners sitting on Brighton Pier with more verve.

Would you meet again?
She invited me to an improv night, possibly out of politeness. We’ll see.

We will, won’t we? That pong you can smell, readers? It’s a pre-agreed answer.

I suggested a comedy theatre thing. I hope he doesn’t think I was just being polite.

*polite laughter* What a perfect ending. Bless them. A glacé cherry atop a gleaming dog turd.

Tom, Oona – it’s been emotional. Let’s never speak of this again.

Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris for the Guardian


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