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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 12h ago

Two gentlemen sharing the billing on this week’s Guardian Blind Date. On the left in the red is Josh, a 26-year-old (it says here) admin assistant and on the right in black is Freddie, 22, a freelance photographer.

Here they are from top to tail:

Photographs: Venetia Menzies, Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Untold riches at our disposal here. Read the full account of how they got on during dinner, before I bring the highlights on the dessert trolley. Spoiler: it’s a custard pie and it’s going in someone’s face.

Josh on Freddie | Freddie on Josh What were you hoping for?
Someone straight-acting and sexy whom I would have a crush on.

What an opener. Straight-acting and sexy – surely this is tautologous? There’s nothing sexier than a straight-acting gay guy is there? Nothing. Hmm. Perhaps this statement has made you angry, especially if you’re a gay man who’s been taught to suppress his more “visible” characteristics for a quiet life. Did it feel, for a moment, like all this was behind us? I have some bad news.

What Josh has said doesn’t anger me, but it does sadden me, in a way.

It’s sad because it prioritises and prizes traditional masculinity over everything else when, all things considered, the world could do with less of it.
It’s sad because it automatically excludes swathes of bright, eligible, charming young men, and speaks to a sense of “other” and suggests, however stealthily, there is a right and a wrong way to be an attractive gay man.
It’s sad because saying something like this usually comes from a place of insecurity or internalised homophobia. Statements like this are a product of a person’s environment – and that doesn’t sound like a good place to be.
It’s sad because it reinforces the inescapable feeling that if you’re not like the straight boys you’ll never be good enough.
It’s sad because it’s a weird, arbitrary term that contradicts itself. Straight acting is just that: acting. While not every man who fucks men is gay, by its definition, a “straight-acting” man would not do what gay men consider the norm – be it brunch, decent conversation, or having gay sex.
It’s sad because it assumes there’s no light and shade to any of us, that we don’t each have masc or fem moments all the time, that we’re either all or nothing, with “all” being masculine and “nothing” the feminine – because masculinity is the desirable default.
It’s sad because it suggests being effeminate, camp, or screamingly homosexual is embarrassing, shameful, unwanted, attention-seeking, and unnecessary.
It’s sad because it’s highly likely there are men out there who would also say Josh is far too fem, and not straight-acting enough for them, but Josh has either yet to realise this (he totally has btw, judging from later answers) or even acknowledge the harm these preconceptions can do, and how he perpetuates them.

We all have our instant attractions, our clichéd turn-ons or physical preferences that either make us pay attention or draw us in that very first time. Tall boys, big blue eyes, money. But these are superficial, cosmetic, temporary kicks. Traditionally, I’m predisposed to paying more attention to dark haired men. Not all dark haired men are the same, however, and after about ten minutes (seconds) of talking I could always judge whether my myopic focus on their hair colour was justified. You can’t lump people together based on some arbitrary characteristic – people are people. I’ve dated men with wildly different features, physiques, personalities, and levels of masculinity and femininity – they only had one thing in common. Me. They brought something out in me, and I them, and we charmed each other enough to overlook our narrow, superficial criteria and go beyond them, because we had a connection.

I have seen that flicker of despair in a man’s face when I arrive and he sees I’m not the hulking, mass brute he was hoping for – despite all evidence to the contrary in my photos – and I’ve also seen the ripple of relief from other guys who were grateful I wasn’t as camp as they were dreading. I can honestly say neither of those reactions made me feel particularly good about myself – they just made me edgy. So which am I? Masc or fem? And when? What was the magic ingredient? Should I be sad Guy A thought me too effeminate? And was I allowed to be proud Guy B thought I was just masc enough? Where does all that come from? Hint: it is a huge lake of slurry within and all around you.

You fancy who you fancy, I get that, but we’re being conditioned to doubt ourselves at every turn and it’s not doing us any good. How can we be comfortable in our own skin if we’re preoccupied with not being too “gay”? Fear of attack and ridicule already has many of us living half-lives in public. Is this what we really want, this hierarchy?

We are different things to different people at any given time – we can never truly be the men we think we are because we forget we’re not the only ones doing the watching, the judging, the deciding. Labels are not just something we give ourselves to empower us – they are assigned to us, at every moment, by lovers, strangers, and friends. We cannot change things overnight but we can at least get our own houses in order. It starts with the individual. Time is fleeting, it’s later than you think; what seems vital today will one day be dust. You may as well be yourself – and if they don’t like it, fuck it. But if you don’t like it… well, there’s some work to do.

Whatever you think of Josh, his attitudes and his phrasing, yes, it’s a shame he expressed them here, like this, but he’s not unusual or original among gay men in 2019. Far from it. Be sad for him, yes, and hope his mind opens up to new, “scary” ideas in the future – but dragging him online isn’t the antidote to this pervasive toxicity. It won’t change his mind, nor will it make us feel any better either – if anything, it risks making us feel even more alone.

I’m so glad we could have this little chat.

What were you hoping for?
Not a disaster.

Again, I have some bad news.

First impressions?
I thought he could have made more of an effort – he wore a leisurely jumper, hadn’t shaved, hadn’t done his hair.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but if you look at Josh’s shirt in the photo, it looks like he’s had a puppy writhing on him all afternoon. Imagine turning up to a photo shoot – there is an iron in that studio, I have been in it – looking like you were driven there in the back of a getaway car, only to slag off your date’s appearance.

Also: “hadn’t shaved, hadn’t done his hair” – this isn’t just straight-acting, Josh, this is method straight-acting. Celebrate! Your heteronormative prince has come!

First impressions?
He shook my hand (I prefer to hug).

The rule is when you are disappointed with your date is to hide it. Josh did not come here to play, however.

What did you talk about?
He was really excited when I told him I had seen Duncan Bannatyne off Dragons’ Den every year at the Portuguese resort I holiday in.

So what Josh is doing here, as far as I can tell, is trying to tell us that Freddie is a little bit basic and overexcited by this admittedly tenuous link to the outer peripheries of what you might generously call the world of celebrity. But then when you take a few moments to process this, you realise that Josh has actually brought this up in the first place in an effort to… I don’t know, impress Freddie?

I mean, is that all you’ve got? You holiday every year at the same Portuguese report – which is borderline pensioner behaviour, can we please see your birth certificate because the FBI are twitching – and see Duncan Bannatyne and thought this was worth bringing up with a 22-year-old? I wonder how many times Josh had to say the name again and again before Freddie twigged. “You know, off Dragons’ Den? The Scottish one? Owns… I think it’s health clubs? Kind of leathery, looks like he’d be nasty in an argument. No, that’s Alan Sugar, he’s not on Dragons’ Den.”

Honestly. You’re gay, 26, and live in London (I assume), and the closest to celebrity you’ve got is being seven sun loungers away (three on one side of the large perimeter fence, four on the other) from Duncan Bannatyne? You’ve never even stood next to that guy from S Club Juniors in a gay bar? Or seen Gok Wan round London Bridge? Everyone else has.

What did you talk about?
Our families, his Britain’s Got Talent and Greatest Dancer auditions.

I don’t think I have anything to say here.

Any awkward moments?
No.

Nor here.

Any awkward moments?
When he revealed that he’d never been on a date before.

I went on my first ever date at 34, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Josh  had to wait a while before his first one. Maybe he was late coming out – for every enthusiastic, liberated teenager who announces his sexuality at 14 on social media, there are three guys scared, puzzled, and unsure who are worried how people might react, how it might change their life, and what it will mean to them in the future. I don’t know if this is the case for Josh – maybe his dating app patter is absolutely terrible – but if he was late to the party, this might explain the “straight-acting” thing because one of the very first things many men embrace upon coming out is a large serving of internalised homophobia. I wrote about this once, but can’t find it. I will publish it again when I do.

Good table manners?
When I came back from the toilet, he had his coat on, ready to go. I think at that point we were just relieved we’d got through it.

Good table manners?
At one point, he pointed his knife at me while he was gesticulating.

OK, steady on, Hyacinth.

Best thing about Freddie?
His attitude: very polite and pleasant, and he had a big smile all the time.

Rictus grin, probably.

Best thing about Josh?
He was quite weird, which I liked, because that’s how some people describe me.

I have always thought “weird” was just another way of saying someone was rather hard work and a little… boring, so this reflects badly on both, tbh.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I wouldn’t; we come from completely different worlds. No, but it was fun to spend time with someone different.

 

Describe Freddie in three words
Feminine, pleasant, excitable.

I know people are going to almost choke to death at this casual “feminine” here, hammering home as it does Josh’s first point and why he seems to be approaching this date with a lack of enthusiasm that would make a teenager trying to avoid doing homework on a Sunday go, “wow”. But we must get away from this idea that “feminine” is bad. It isn’t. He means “effeminate”, anyway, I think, but well, all those summers sipping Mateus Rosé in his Portuguese resort must’ve fried his lexicon slightly.

Gay men react against being called feminine because we’re taught that to be like a woman – the traditional definition of femininity there, of course – is bad and makes us less in the eyes of… GUESSSSS WHOOOOOOOO… straight men, and the other gay men desperate to ape them. It’s all tangled up in sexism, misogyny, fear, and self-loathing and our best reaction here is “so what?” rather than running to grab our nuclear warheads. I have written about this loads and loads and am working all this weekend, so don’t have time to chew your steak for you – please do go and do some reading around this and think about what your reaction is saying to the wider world.

Describe Josh in three words
Enthusiastic, quirky and fun.

Freddie, were he old enough, could well be describing the twins from Pat Sharp’s Fun House here, but he’s not.

What do you think he made of you?
He probably thought my personality was a bit mature. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought I was posh.

OK.

What do you think he made of you?
I hope he liked me.

Well, he didn’t say he didn’t. You may well get a day or two at his Portuguese timeshare yet!

Did you go on somewhere?
No, I did hope to go to a nice bar in Mayfair, but we would never be friends, let alone date.

Yeah, we get it.

And… did you kiss?
No! Freddie wasn’t my type, and I think he felt the same way about me. No, I didn’t fancy him.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have gone on about how we should be friends, when I knew we never would.

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 2w ago

Hi.

Here we are again.

This week we have two men! There was a time you couldn’t move for gay men in the Guardian Blind Date column, it was like 11pm on a Friday night on Grindr in here, but lately we’ve been subjected to the troughs of heterosexuality. Rejoice, then, that once more we are back in the warm, comforting glow of two blokes who have almost certainly danced to a Kylie record (not Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – another one) in the last decade.

Our star-crossed lovers are 39-year-old CEO Rafael and Chris, 38, a senior probation officer. How long do you think Chris deliberated before typing “senior” in the field where they asked him what he did for a living? Ten minutes? Fifteen? As for Rafael being a CEO, well, I suppose that is quite impressive but if you think about it I am also a CEO of… myself. Those bearded twins who started the cereal cafe empire are CEOs too, so it’s not as elite a club as you might imagine. Anyway, here they are in glorious Technicolor. Rafael is the one with hair and Chris is… the other one.

Photograph: Sarah Lee; David Levene/The Guardian

Let’s not comment on their outfits. I mean, what on Earth would you say? There is nothing to say. Read the Guardian’s version of events before we get down to business.

Rafael on Chris | Chris on Rafael What were you hoping for?
A fun evening, and the opportunity to get to know someone interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have someone who has never read this column before.

What were you hoping for?
Not to look like Roald Dahl’s BFG in the picture.

I do love to see that Roald Dahl meme go round which is a quote from, I think, The Twits and says, “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Ironic, really, because Roald Dahl was an absolutely stratospheric antisemite – Google it, please don’t @ me about this – and, well, he kind of looked like a bag of celeriac in later life, didn’t he? So he was certainly right about that the old “ugly thoughts” thing.

First impressions?
He seemed really anxious. I thought he was having a bit of a nervous breakdown, so I tried to put him a bit more at ease by making a few jokes, which seemed to work.

“A nervous breakdown.” I would probably have run this answer over in my head a few times before committing it to email, to be honest.

First impressions?
Well-dressed, friendly, laid-back, my age (bonus).

Well-dressed! OK. Friendly is good. Laidback is good too, I guess, I don’t know; nobody has ever called me it. What does laidback mean, anyway? Does it mean you go around saying “heeeeeeeey” like the Fonz? “My age (bonus)” feels so unspeakably disingenuous here; I can’t help but think Chris might have been secretly hoping the Guardian would go rogue and put him with a ripped, dewy-cheeked, dead-eyed jock who just turned 25. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

What did you talk about?
Our backgrounds, jobs, dating experiences, music. Being two gay guys over 35, we’re both massive Madonna fans and had a thorough dissection of her new single. Our mutual love of Arcade Fire (no one I date knows them and we discussed one song of theirs in some detail), the perils of dating apps, the lovely waitress. We did not tip her, which I am feeling some guilt about).

Backgrounds always makes me think of desktop wallpaper. Remember when that was a huge deal, and you would spend ages selecting the right wallpaper to reflect whatever personality you had decided you should make people think you had that week? Customisation used to be so exciting before everyone realised how ugly it was.
Jobs well I guess you have to talk about them to be polite.
Music  “Being two gay guys over 35…” made me shiver a little. I’m 43 and so I now have two say “Being a gay guy over 40…” (I literally never say that, why would I?) and I can exclusively reveal that moving up to the next age group on a survey is horrifying. There is something about the “over 35” that doesn’t sit well, and I guess it is that age-old (ha!) trick of dismissing a huge swathe of the population just because they are above a certain age. The over 40s, the over 50s, like you lose every distinguishing characteristic just because it takes you longer to blow out your birthday candles. As Madonna herself would say, it’s reductive.
I am quite surprised that nobody Chris dates has heard of Arcade Fire, as they were quite famous for a while unless… he’s been dating those 25-year-olds he was definitely relieved not to turn up and find earlier.

Any awkward moments?
There was one point when he asked me my type and I mentioned I had a big thing for Spanish men. I hope he didn’t take that as a sign I wasn’t interested.

All Spanish men? No particular one? Any? General Franco? Alfredo Galán Sotillo? The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition? Nothing boils my water more than glib fetishisation borne of dreary stereotypes. Like those basics who say, for example, “I love an Irish accent”. Oh really? Get hard when you see archive footage of Ian Paisley, do you? “Such a shame you don’t have a Yorkshire accent,” dates used to say to me, time and time again. Well, Peter Sutcliffe had a Yorkshire accent, “petal”, would you like me to send him round instead? Honestly.

I’m afraid I have some news about “Spanish men” – very, very few of them actually look like Enrique Iglesias, just like most Brits don’t resemble… oh I don’t know, Richard Madden. I think Jake Gyllenhaal is very pretty indeed, but does this mean I “have a big thing for American men”? No, it doesn’t, does it? Trump is American.

(Many fetishes like this may be offensive to the object of them, while others may get off on it, and some may feel they have to pretend to be into your “thing for Greek dudes” because they have low self-esteem. You don’t really know which until someone volunteers this information and I’m sorry if this is a bit of a buzzkill, but I would say if you do harbour these longings for a particular section of society, be careful how you share them. Nobody wants someone to feel like shit, do they? Also maybe examine where it comes from. Is it from a good place or is it rooted in prejudice? Oh, baby, you have never met a fun sponge like me, trust me.)

Any awkward moments?
Me arriving as a red, hot, sweaty mess and having some evident chest sweat. When I spilt red wine on my white top… fab!

One of my biggest anxieties is arriving somewhere looking sweaty or flustered. Summer is a nightmare for me. I have often wondered why I can’t be one of those floaty, unbothered summer people who arrive everywhere looking pristine, rather than Brian Blessed clambering out a dodgem car.

Also: a white top! Are we in Ibiza?! Was an episode of Footballers’ Wives being filmed?

Best thing about Chris?
He was really inquisitive, has a great sense of humour and a spot-on taste in music.

The squirrel obsessed with the guttering on my bathroom roof is inquisitive too but I wouldn’t want to go halves on a plate of tacos with him.

Best thing about Rafael?
He is really intelligent and funny – we had lots in common.

Having lots in common is such a relief, isn’t it? I think we forget. I went on so many dates with so many men – most of them attractive, apart from that summer of low self-esteem where I said yes to everything – and I can’t tell you how dispiriting it was to realise, despite the barefaced lies and filtered selfies of their profile, there was absolutely nothing to bind us together apart from the fact we were both stupid and unfortunate enough to be in that very place at the same time. So when I would find a man I had something in common with, or found genuinely interesting, it was such a bonus. Often, these weren’t men I’d found obviously, immediately attractive either. Ugh, this is getting like a self-help fridge magnet. Enough.

The “three words” answers are a fucking mess today, btw. Check this shit out:

Describe Chris in three words
Fun. Easygoing. Cute ears. (OK, that’s more than three.)

Fun is good. Fine.
Easygoing is a synonym of laidback, isn’t it? I suppose this is a way of saying someone is very – 90s alert – “chilled out” but it could also be interpreted as someone who doesn’t give enough of a shit about stuff and sometimes that can be infuriating. One of my favourite ways to wind up my boyfriend – I have hundreds, he’s gradually becoming immune to them – is, when asked where I want to go for lunch, feign disinterest and say it’s up to him. Oh how we laugh, two hours later, when we still haven’t picked anywhere.
Cute ears. Did you scroll back up to have a look at Chris’s ears? Yeah, me too. I suppose this is a compliment – I have cute ears too, fun factlet for you there – but the issue is, this is two words and also, like, the shittest compliment ever. Just say you found him cute if you must. But his ears?! What next? Awesome clavicle? Handsome larynx?

Describe Rafael in three words?
Intelligent, great company.

And then you get Chris coming in and taking a great big dump on the concept too, with his three words that are actually just, kind of, two. This is unacceptable and, as a result, I will not analyse this answer and instead offer you a picture of camp icon Yootha Joyce looking as perturbed by this absolute fuckery as I am:

What do you think he made of you?
He sent me a nice text afterwards saying he was interested in meeting again, so I guess he enjoyed the experience.

“A nice text.” Readers, your Auntie Janice has somehow possessed Rafael and is now answering on his behalf.

What do you think he made of you?
Northern, a waffler, a good laugh (I hope?).

“What did you think of him?”
“He was northern.”
Do you see why this doesn’t really work as a concept, Chris?

Did you go on somewhere?
No, by the time we finished dinner it was almost midnight. No, we were still gabbing at half eleven and it was a school night.

GABBING. Oh no, Auntie Janice has got control of BOTH keyboards. Next, she’ll be recommending bath mats and making you a cup of slightly too hot, a tad too weak, and a modicum too sweet tea – in a fucking blue mug, so you can’t drink it unless you are one of those sadists who doesn’t believe tea only tastes good from a white mug – before revealing she never liked that haircut you had done the week before Will won Pop Idol.

And… did you kiss?
I never kiss and tell. Well, rarely. No. Two manly, lovely hugs.

A manly hug. Manly. I know these, I have had a few of them. They generally involve making full body contact yet in a total sexless way – perhaps slightly at an angle so there is no risk of nipples touching – and then perhaps doing a “waaaaayyyy”, like the noise people make when someone drops a tray of glasses in a pub. This will then be followed by two to three slaps on the back to signify the hug is over and you can comfortably disengage but OH DEAR it appears my straight mate has an erection – wonder what that’s all about, eh? Etc.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Not a thing! Four hours flew by. That we had ordered more cocktails.

Hahaha looks like the hours only flew by for ONE of our dastardly duo this evening.

“I had such as wonderful time!”
“I wasn’t drunk enough.”

Marks out of 10?
8. 7.5.

Would you meet again?
I’m not sure there was a romantic spark, but I would be keen to meet up again. Yes, as friends.

Rafael and Chris ate at Provisioners in the Dixon Hotel, London SE1. 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. No comebacks on my point about fetishisation, though, sorry; I’m not interested.

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 3w ago

I like my rituals. Sometimes, to an outsider, they can seem obsessive, or a sign I’m set in my ways, but there’s a reason outsiders are outsiders, isn’t there? Anyway, my Saturday morning rituals have been, for quite a while now, set in stone. Wake up feeling jaded, make myself a cup of tea in a china mug with my initial on it (maybe that makes me basic, but I’m sorry your name doesn’t begin with the best letter of the alphabet), and let out a guttural sigh when I see the Guardian Blind Date headline. Today was no exception.

Am I alone in wanting that particular innuendo to make haste into retirement? I loathe it with a passion usually only reserved for bad guitar music. Imagine being a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, and having to wield a syringe, only for the patient to say something about “you’ll just feel a little prick”. I’m assuming this is why the docs et al actually say “you’ll feel a little scratch” because they were sick of patients turning into low-rent Sid James characters who can’t read the word “shaft” without absolutely losing their minds.

Anyway, fine. As we can see from the headline, today’s daters are Grace, who is 24 and a brewery ambassador (come on, what the hell is this supposed to be, are they trying to say she drinks beer for a living, or is this a fancy way of saying “works in PR”, no doubt cooked up when stocious on an ale called something like “Old Pig Wart” or “Maiden’s Teat”) and a 33-year-old head of programming (computers? ITVBe? oven timers? who knows?!) called Marcin. No, not a typo. Marcin. I’d never heard that name before so I googled and apparently it is Polish in origin and the most famous Marcin I could find is a martial arts expert. My sympathies are immediately with Marcin here because I too have a name that people always either get wrong (“Jason, isn’t it?”) or tell me, for no reason whatsoever, that my name is “unusual” (as it used to be before Timberlake and Bieber came along). How fascinating to hear what you think about my name, said nobody ever. Why not tell me your thoughts on my nose next?

Anyway, voici the original date in the Guardian; read that before we investigate further.

Marcin on Grace | Grace on Marcin What were you hoping for?
A fun evening, good story and memorable experience.

“A memorable experience.” Just so long as you’re remembering it for the right reasons, and don’t remember it because you got run over by an Austin Montego on the way home.

What were you hoping for?
Someone a bit fit with similar interests to me and a right laugh.

“Similar interests.” Yes. When someone asks me what my interests are, I go blank. What do I like? What do I actually do? I usually say writing (“but that’s your job!”) and when that is dismissed, I’m forced to say reading because people noticeably reel if you don’t mention, within seconds of confessing you’re a writer, that you don’t read twenty books a month – well that’s once they’ve got my favourite “Who do you write for? Anyone I’d heard of?” out of the way. *sound of champagne glass shattering*

First impressions?
Tall, punctual, friendly, confident and open.

Lot of adjectives here.

First impressions?
“He is very posh! Looks like he works in finance…” I actually said before I went [on the date] that blue suit, brown brogues would be my worst nightmare – and he was wearing just that. But he was welcoming and relaxed.

“Blue suit, brown brogues would be my worst nightmare.” Your worst? The absolute worst? Worse than bad breath, a fascination with oil-filled radiators, a confession your date once got a caution for exposing himself in Waitrose, a verbal tic of saying “actually” at the end of every sentence, two tickets for an Ed Sheehan concert, or breaking down on a ring road on Christmas Eve with only an M&S three-bean salad for company? You need to broaden your worst-case-scenario horizons, hon.

What did you talk about?
Beer, wine, yoga, Morocco, family, climate change, plastics, Bali, India, bad dates and marriage. Not in that order, though. Family, yoga, his time in Bali (I joked about people who go to Bali to do a yoga course and find themselves: it transpired he had done that).

Family
Yoga
Bali  – OK, first Grace was worried about the suit and brogues, and Marcin turned up wearing them, and now she makes a “joke” about Bali and yoga – let’s just pause there so my eyes can roll right out of my head, do three circuits around my lounge and then clank right back into place – and it comes to light Marcin has done just that! Once she’s finished doing some work on her rather odd preconceptions, perhaps she could consider a career being some kind of clairvoyant. She could make a fortune trotting out mild coincidences to gullible innocents at the end of Brighton Pier, to the comforting background groan of three hundred fruit machines resolutely refusing to pay out.
Morocco – I went in June, one year. Literally do not do that if heat is not your thing.
Climate change – A huge, pressing issue, yes, but first-date material? What are they? Newsreaders?
Plastics – I’m assuming they mean old Coke bottles and bags for life, and not these much more fascinating plastics:

Hang on, they’re still going.

India – oh good, a “travel person”
Bad dates – it is hugely bad dating etiquette to swap dating horror stories on a first date. The big risk here is you expose that, in fact, the main problem on all your dates is… well, you.
Marriage – I prefer divorce: fewer letters, sharper syllables, sounds great screamed out a passing taxi. I would much rather be a divorcé than a husband, but sadly one begets the other and I don’t like wedding cake.

Any awkward moments?
I did have to check my blood sugar before dessert, but she was not put off by it. In fact, she asked to have her blood sugar level tested, too, after which, I explained the rules of the “blood, sugar, bingo” drinking game… When he said he worked in finance. When I said I was vegetarian and he said his philosophy was: “Meat a day keeps the doctor away.” When he took out his insulin needle and asked if I wanted “a little prick”.

Ever since someone told me, years ago, that one way to tell you have undiagnosed diabetes is that your wee smells like sugar puffs, I became obsessed by it. I went to the doctor and everything. They did that sigh they teach them on the last day of medical school (if they taught them it earlier none of them would complete their training) and told me I was fine.

“When he said he worked in finance.” What’s awkward about that? Why is she fixated on this? It’s the Guardian, readership: Islington – who did you think was going to turn up? A poet? A chiselled actor? A tortured artist? Look, everyone needs a job and they can’t all be in PR or being in charge of guest lists for corporate gigs (which are always held at Sway, aren’t they?).

“Meat a day keeps the doctor away.” Marcin. Come on. That is… no. No.

Good table manners?
Impeccable. Even when she lunged for my apple crumble dessert: she did it most gracefully and warned me it was going to happen.

I don’t like puddings, mainly, but I do love an apple crumble, so if Grace (ironically monikered, it would appear from this answer) came lunging at my apple crumble, no matter how elegantly, there would be trouble. To say the very least.

Good table manners?
Absolutely. He was incredibly polite, a proper gentleman.

I do like to be polite. I am, mostly. I hate rudeness so much; it makes me feel really flat and tired. What is most annoying is the world seems to belong to the rude, or those who confuse assertiveness and arrogance. Who told them that? Who decided that was how it was going to be? Who decreed that fortune favoured those who barge past, push in, click their fingers, sigh loudly, act like they own the place?

I know we’re encouraged to put ourselves first to achieve our goals and make our lives as comfortable as possible, and this is very important and absolutely right, but the trouble is that this positioning, this comfort, usually comes at the expense of someone else’s, so along with that, we should also learn to be accommodating. It is not a sign of weakness to let someone else have their way once in a while. Kindness is so hugely underrated. Breezes are much easier to withstand if you bend to them occasionally. What I always remember is that while you may barely give a second thought to your brashness, the person on the receiving end may dwell on it all day. I can’t tell you how dispiriting it is, especially if, like me, you work alone so don’t speak to many people during the day, for your one interaction with a stranger to be tarred by their abject rudeness. Imagine being an older person who doesn’t get out much, turns on the TV for “company” and longs for someone, anyone, to say something to them – a hello, a kind word, any empty pleasantry – and come face to face with a bitchy shop assistant, or abrasive bus wanker, or impatient control-freak on the street. No person should be able to count the days since somebody last smiled at them.

Yes, everyone is going through their own stuff, you can never tell who might be having a bad day, and we all have our reasons for behaving how we do, but seriously – we are an ensemble cast. We should act like it.

(I went through a phase of pointing out to people if they’d been rude to me, but it only made things worse because, reader, they didn’t give the slightest of fucks.)

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Yes. A few would be awed by her knowledge of and enthusiasm for craft beer. I think we move in different circles.

Hahahaha “different circles”. I have never seen anyone so at pains to distance themselves from a date. I’m surprised she didn’t go sit outside.

Describe Grace in three words
Hippy, passionate, fun.

Hippy? Do they still exist in 2019? Is Marcin secretly three 75-year-olds standing atop one another under a (blue!!! finance!!!) trench coat? Perhaps this explains why Grace is so horrified by Marcin’s poshness, what sounds like a fairly run-of-the-mill job, and – the true big bad – his brogues. There’s trying too hard, and then there’s Geri Halliwell on Instagram.
Passionate – I’m not being “funny” but there are some words that really sleaze me out and “passionate”, especially when used in this sense, is one of them. Ugh.
Fun – They do seem like they’re having fun, I guess. Despite themselves.

Describe Marcin in three words
Kind, intuitive, regal.

Kind – ah you see, this is nice. Nice to be kind, nicer to be noticed for your kindness, and nicest to be the person who appreciates it. Well done, Grace.
Intuitive seems so loaded here. I wonder what she means. Surely she is the intuitive one with her dead-on guesses about the suitm, job, and yoga retreat in Bali?
Regal

I was puzzled by this “regal” because, well, it’s quite a negative word. I always think of Princess Margaret being casually racist on her private island when I hear it.

What do you think she made of you?
A posh aristocrat – she told me as much, despite my attempts to dissuade her from that illusion. I think he thought we got on well, but could tell we had little in common.

I… I honestly don’t care enough to analyse this. I just can’t be bothered. I feel like I’m reading back a play I wrote when I was in sixth form. Marcin is a lord of the manor and Grace is a maverick queen of craft beer and beard oil. Fine. I am done. Here is Joan Collins looking fed up, instead:

And… did you kiss?
No. And… did you kiss?
No.

Devastated.

 

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I would have asked if we could have shared her burrata. We should have ordered more booze.

Fascinating.

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 1M ago

I keep moving. I am always moving. I take the stairs, not the lift, never stand on the escalators if on my own, but walk up them instead. I don’t pause to look in shop windows, or watch buskers or the cup-and-ball conmen; I walk on, quickly, with purpose – because I like to get where I am going, yes, but also because I know it’s harder to hit a moving target. If you dart past the rest of the world, allow yourself to be a blur, you’re less likely to be noticed, to attract their attention, get them to question whether there’s something different about you that they either desire, fear, or feel powerful enough to exploit. Experience has taught me perpetual motion is my greatest protection.

But it doesn’t always work. It failed me this weekend, at around six in the evening on Saturday. Saturday had been a brilliant day. I love Saturdays, always have. I got up early, in a decent enough mood, wrote up my regular review of the Guardian Blind Date, had breakfast, then left the house to go to one of my usual places I go when I need to do some work. I got around half of it done, before meeting my boyfriend for a late lunch – steak and eggs, there was a mixup with the order but it was fine otherwise – before heading to the supermarket and grabbing some essentials, then returning home so I could do more work before we went out. So far, so beautifully mundane. Just before six, my boyfriend and I left the house to go into town for a concert. I realised I still had a pair of sunglasses in my coat pocket that I didn’t need, so I ran back to the house and unlocked the door to leave them in the hall. If I hadn’t done that, my night would’ve been different. Oh, all the “ifs” life loves to throw at you; there is an endless supply waiting to be obsessed over for all eternity.

At the end of our road, we turned left then right, just as we have thousands of times before, arriving at the main road that would take us to the Tube station and into our exciting night ahead. We were feeling quite giddy and silly, laughing about something – we laugh a lot. Out the corner of my eye I spied a man, a little younger than us perhaps, it was hard to tell. He was with another man. They were the under the influence of something – eyes a little too red for it to be booze alone, but no big deal, it’s Saturday, live your life. He saw us and made a diagonal across the pavement, aiming for us. He started singing September, by Earth Wind & Fire, coming very close to us and interrupting our conversation, immediately casting a dark shadow over our frivolity. I’ve been around the block enough to know potentially aggressive behaviour when I see it and my trick with this is usually to pretend I haven’t noticed. Looking at my watch is a good get-out, or looking into my phone screen with puzzlement or deep concentration also does the trick. But it was too late; we had made eye contact. We carried on walking, looked away, and very pointedly did not look at one another – it makes them angrier, you are talking to an expert here – and his demeanour changed entirely.

“Smile then, for fuck’s sake. What’s the matter with you?”

My boyfriend, who had been laughing at whatever I was saying, replied that he was smiling. I wasn’t though; I do not take requests. 

I am now reminded of the time when I was small and staying at my nana’s and my uncle and his friend came home drunk and tried to get me or my cousin to do some kind of dance or “performance” for them in exchange for 50p. Even the smallest bit of change is like gold doubloons to a child unused to cash, but I refused. My cousin would dance or sing or tell a joke and receive her 50p and that was fine for her, but I didn’t think any amount of money was worth being the focus of their attention. My polite “no thank you” only encouraged them more. Why was I so special I wouldn’t dance for them? Why not just get it over with and take my 50p? I wouldn’t be moved. As it so often does when you refuse to comply with drunks, it turned nasty and I became the centre of attention all the same. The spiteful nickname they had for me was wheeled out – “Quentin”, after Quentin Crisp, I did not know who he was at the time, I was around seven or eight – and they mocked my voice or mannerisms, finally getting a kind of performance from me, which came in the form of my tears, and went unpaid. But I have cried my last tear over men trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do. 

I could’ve smiled back at this stranger, and perhaps it would’ve all been over and we’d have been allowed to go on our way. Allowed – that word is doing some heavy lifting there. But I had no way of knowing the outcome. What if I smiled back and he took it as a come-on, or decided he didn’t like my smile, or one of another hundred potential conditions or criteria I had no hope of satisfying. Why should I smile back, to order, anyway? What a disgusting compromise to make, to be commanded to brighten someone’s day at the expense of your own. (If you believe this is an isolated incident, ask any woman you know how many times a man she’s never met before has stopped her in the street and told her to smile. It will be double figures.)

So I didn’t smile. Mistake. Just like a baby frustrated not to get the toy they desire, or the drunk uncles after their performance, the man turned resentful, remarking how we’d quickened our pace to get away from him, before going where I’d known from the second I saw him that he would: “Faggots”. Not once, not even twice, multiple times, spat out with venomous precision. “Fucking faggots.” Screaming it now, as he walked by. We hurriedly went to cross the road. The man he was with caught my eye, trying to silence his friend.

I finally spoke. Why should I be mute? “That is a disgusting thing to say.”

“Fucking shut up. Shut the fuck up. You fucking faggot. Fuck off. Shut up.” People stared but nobody asked if we were OK. Fine. I get it, but I challenge anyone who has ever trotted out the “sticks and stones” cliché to take a sustained, threatening attack like that because even if the names don’t hurt, the bile, the intent, the assured poison of their delivery – they are the sticks and stones. And then some.

An older woman was walking a few paces behind the men. She spoke to me as she passed us. “That is my son. I’m sorry.”

Still winded, I managed to say: “He called me a faggot. That’s disgusting.”

She shrugged, not breaking her stride. We held back and watched them walk on, before disappearing into a pub.

I now found myself in a position unimaginable only seconds earlier. I was shaking, frightened, electric shocks going through my body. Both my boyfriend and I looked like ghosts, wracked with energy and shame. I suddenly felt exhausted, yet hyper. We walked on, but I was too distressed to revert to default mode, so we popped into a little bar where the staff are friendly and know us, and sat and had a small glass of wine.

Looking into my wine, then at my boyfriend, then out of the window at the street, I thought about my past and every moment that brought me here, every memory unfurling and whirling round me like a cyclone. And then I thought about the future, and what it would take for it ever again to feel like it actually belonged to me, depended on my own actions, and not the will of a stranger.

Then, when the wine had been drained, we stood up and left, walking back out onto the street where everything was much as it had been before for everyone else – but changed for ever for me. Another chip away at my reserve, another layer of security torn off. Home, but no longer where my heart is. Thank goodness I still have my sense of melodrama – not all power has been taken from me. We walked on, quicker than usual, to the Tube station to take us away, away, away.

We keep moving. We are always moving.

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 1M ago

I’m not a religious person and I invoke the name of God very rarely but I admit I let out a rasping sigh and cited the supposed great creator when I saw this headline:

There is an old saying (which I love because I find martyrdom and all its associated iconography visually appealing) which goes “These things are sent to try us” and I believe this is, as ABBA would’ve trilled, me finally facing my Waterloo.

Alejandro – here I will pause for any gay readers to sing the refrain from Lady Gaga’s 2010 hit single of the same name – is 28 and a tutor. Maths? Cello? Mindfulness? We will never know. Lucy is 26 and a management consultant. At 26 my job title was Vengeful Temp Who’s Just Given Up Smoking And Hates You,  so I admire Lucy’s commitment to career progression here.

Read the full date on the Guardian website and roll your eyes right out of your head before plonking them back in it to assess my review.

Alejandro on Lucy  |  Lucy on Alejandro What were you hoping for?
The Daenerys to my Jon Snow (minus the incest). My future husband. Failing that, something different to the usual Tinder/Bumble/Hinge date.

I’m afraid I don’t watch Game of Thrones so this reference is lost on me. BTW I don’t think I deserve a prize for not watching it – amazing how avoiding something is often a personality replacement, isn’t it? – I just can’t be arsed. My 18-year-old godson asks me, every time I see him, whether I’ve watched it and when I say to him no (still) he tells me, “But it’s full of gay sex” and I then have to remind him that I have seen and had plenty of that in my time and he has the good grace to go bright red – your reddest tomatoes couldn’t compare – and leave the room. Actually, I lie: I have seen some of Game of Thrones: someone told me Diana Rigg was in it so I went onto YouTube and watched a supercut of all her scenes and I have to agree with “the internet” and say she was marvellous. But I feel I’ve seen enough.

“The usual Tinder/Bumble/Hinge date” is such a depressing, leaden thing to read from a 26-year-old. That’s level of weariness I would expect from a cirrhotic piano player in a grubby cocktail bar, not a *checks notes* management consultant in the prime of life. My tip for surviving dating apps: go on them less often, and download Bejweled or Wordscapes instead.

First impressions?
Fashionably late, great leather jacket, good fun.

Fashionably late?

Don’t be so ridiculous.

First impressions?
More American and less Spanish than expected, based on his first name!

I once went on a date with a guy called Marcus and was really (!) surprised (!) to discover he was not, as I’d imagined, a Roman soldier but just a guy from Buckinghamshire with halitosis and an obsession with Steve Coogan!

What did you talk about?
The sexiest member of the Tory front bench (Philip Hammond, apparently), her thesis: the media’s depiction of female torturers at Abu Ghraib. How sexy Putin is on horseback, whether Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May is more attractive, feminism, podcasts about serial killers.

Sexiest member of the Tory front bench: Choosing the sexiest member of the Tory front bench is like choosing which basement you’d rather be found dead in. Philip Hammond looks like an empty, haunted KFC Bargain Bucket but I guess there is no accounting for taste.
The thesis: I think I’m getting “one of my heads”
How sexy Putin is on horseback: Congrats on being two edgelords (so far) blissfully unaffected by anything this guy does, so wonderfully able to throw back your heads and expose your exquisite dentistry in celebration at what a “sexy ledge” this hugely harmful person is.
Corbyn/May attractiveness: fine. You realise this is how elections are decided, right? I’m not going to rise to this but can I JUST say – on a very superficial level –  if I were Corbyn I would wear nicer suits and maybe buy a shirt that would stay white when I washed it, and if I were Theresa May I’d buy the Aussie three-minute-miracle recovery and repair mask because her hair is dryer than her fucking banter.
Feminism: I’m assuming they’re both in favour of it but going from their answers so far (we are TWO questions in), I can’t be sure.
Podcasts about serial killers: I have feelings about this. I find the glorification of murder – or the treatment of it like it’s some kind of “guilty pleasure” like M&Ms, S Club 7, or a phone case from Primark – quite disturbing. Maybe I’m wrong, perhaps I’m weird, but the casual treatment homicide gets pretty much everywhere makes me feel ill, and makes me wonder whether… something needs to be done about it. Not to get all “pulpit on Easter Sunday” here but our keenness to dismiss human life and the taking of it is actually… odd. It’s really odd. When people say they’re fascinated by serial killers, I wonder what part of the tale excites them so. It’s worth remembering that for every serial killer to exist, someone else’s existence has to cease – there must be at least one victim. I grew up just outside Bradford, in Yorkshire, and was only five years old when the Ripper was caught, but I still remember (and have been told about, often, by women in my family and beyond) that air of fear. It wasn’t a storyline, it was real life, and thanks to the police not giving much of a fuck about the victims for long enough, it went on far, far too long. My mum once told me about being followed near the flat we lived in at the peak of the Ripper murders, and how scared she was, and didn’t know what to do,  every possible scenario going through her head – few of them good. Thankfully someone came along walking the other way and the guy gave up and retreated. She was lucky and, as a result, so was I. Women didn’t come home. Their families, their mothers, their fathers, their children, wondering where they were, peeping their heads round doors to see only unruffled beds, not slept in, their things just as they left them, as they would now always be. They never came home. Think about that. And then scrub forward to the juicy bit on your podcast. (I’m not slagging anyone for enjoying these podcasts etc, honestly, but if they are real-life at least think about what had to happen for you to get your pleasure. Someone never came home. Investigate your own excitement and make sure it comes from a good place.)

Any awkward moments?
No, despite offering constructive criticism on one another’s Hinge profiles.

I once went on a date with a guy – I didn’t blog about it at the time because I didn’t want to reveal either of our identities, but hi Steven – and he got his phone out and went through every basic thing I’d written on my dating profile. When he had finished his Dorothy Parker routine – or so he thought – he was so pleased with himself and all I could answer was, well, the most obvious answer. “Yet you were taken in by it and asked me on a date all the same, so who’s more stupid? You or me?” (It’s you, Steven.)

Any awkward moments?
I’m not sure he appreciated me taking the mickey out of him for almost choosing quinoa as his main. Also, on the walk to the tube he started talking about performing CPR rectally (he’s an ex-doctor).

Making fun of people for eating quinoa is about as zeitgeist as a mother-in-law joke.

Good table manners?
A separatist piece of miso cod may briefly have escaped her plate at one point, otherwise, flawless. Impeccable.

Best thing about Lucy?
Excellent chat, including the revelation that she wore a beret to primary school.

I’m going to have to go to the electorate on that “excellent chat” tbh, but I am happy it went well. I googled for a few seconds to see which school it might have been before remembering life is short.

Best thing about Alejandro?
He’s driven and passionate.

So is a Ford Ka with Pepe Le Pew at the wheel.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I think they’d scare him off.

Lucy’s friends wear Halloween masks at all times.

Describe Lucy in three words
Effervescent, anti-coriander, imperceptibly northern.

Effervescent: Lucy is 52% Berocca.
Anti-coriander: Dull fact – I used to like coriander, now I don’t. Maybe I am the problem.
Imperceptibly northern: That’s two words. Here’s another two:

Describe Alejandro in three words
Intelligent, talkative and engaging.

Intelligent: You know how you can set a Google Alert to be notified when someone talks about you on the internet (NEVER DO THISSSSSSSS TRUST ME)? Imagine if in real life there was an alert you could set so when people mentioned you in a conversation – in actual, human form – you would know. And then imagine how hard you would get if someone said you were intelligent. It would be amazing. And then they would maybe call you “faggot” in the next breath and the spell would be broken. Ah.
Talkative: In 2019 I now take this to mean, “stared up from his phone to say I had spinach in my teeth”
Engaging: Either Lucy is a regular reader (HI LUCY I LIKE YOU MORE THAN THIS REVIEW WOULD SUGGEST) or she just loves saying really basic things.

Did you go on somewhere?
No, we both had early starts ahead. It became apparent that the evening wasn’t going to continue when he ordered a cappuccino instead of a second bottle of sauvignon.

And… did you kiss?
No. We did not.

Fascinating.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
For the restaurant not to have sold out of chilli and lime glazed calamari – it sounded fantastic. I would’ve got stuck into the dessert menu.

I detest answers like this. Say something with substance here or GTFO and leave the Blind Date column to the kind of people we want to read. The ONLY time I will accept “oh I wish I’d tried the fucking Chateaubriand” bollocks is if the daters are on a side hustle and taking payment from the restaurant to big it up a little. SPOILER: I used to live round the corner from the restaurant these two went to and let me just say, I hope things have changed because WOW that used to be one hostile place to go eat/drink. It’s only SE1, you know, not 90210.

Marks out of 10?
7. 6.

Seven plus six equals 13. Thirteen is an unlucky number for some, and indeed many a fantastic song has stalled at Number 13 in the charts, including Lisa Scott-Lee’s Electric and the lesser-known buzz single by Diana Ross called I’m Coming Out. This 13 is particularly unlucky because we have had to sit through all that  to get to it. Ah well.

Would you meet again?
I’m afraid not, I think we’re looking for different things.

A clue? The point? A side-winding thermal body belt? Who knows?!

Would you meet again?
As friends, absolutely.

Lucy and Alejandro ate at Village East, London SE1. 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..

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 1M ago

What do spoons mean to you? Nothing, perhaps. Maybe beyond their primary functions of stirring tea, shovelling yoghurt into your mouth or, if you’re so inclined, cooking up your drugs on, they hold no value or emotion for you. I think – no, I know – that is the correct, default option. But for me they seem to be more than that.

I was at my mother’s in Yorkshire recently and she was showing me her new cutlery. It was nice, modern, but it meant she needed to clear out the numerous sets she already had. We err toward hoarding as a family, but occasionally we find moments of strength. First to go were the lime-green-handled horrors nobody ever loved, and then it was the turn of the set she’d had when I was a child – a very seventies stainless steel set with roses engraved in the handle – a wedding present, she tole me, even though I already knew the story. For reasons I can’t explain, I asked if I could have one of the teaspoons to take back to London with me, and she said yes, immediately washing one and setting it aside for me to take, completely understanding – even though I didn’t myself. Sentimentality works best when it goes unremarked upon. This… moment was then followed by my inquiring where my childhood Donald Duck spoon had gone, with varying – unreliable – accounts of what might have happened to it. A mystery, as it turns out, but it reminded me that my mental hierarchy of preferred spoons, and also my intense feelings for favourite ones, began when I was very small.

When I used to go stay with my paternal grandmother she would serve me my morning cereal or Ready Brek – always a favourite – or whatever and ask me which spoon I wanted to use. While it’s quite common for parents and other relatives to now spend infinite millennia negotiating with children about what they do and don’t want to do, like they’re difficult popstars, back then relaying options to children was absolutely unheard of. My mother used to say “You’ll get what you’re given” so often, I thought it was her pet name for me until my early teens. But no, at Grandma’s, with our mutually beneficial privilege of being an extra generation apart and thus not confined to the rules of parenthood, I had a choice.

Grandma’s cutlery drawer was like something out of an antiques shop – one of those huge, old wooden trays that contains all kind of artefacts, spanning decades and trends like a very niche jumble sale. I remember its handle, the drag of it as I pulled and the scraping of it against the unit. There were silver-handled sets, those ones with the ivory handles (were they made from bones, I used to wonder, they looked like they were) and various attempts to drag the cutlery collection into modern times with ugly ‘80s plastic-handled sets, some of them with their ends chewed by other, less discerning grandchildren. But the prize – the god-tier spoon you might say if you stole and edited memes for a living – was the one spoon that stood alone. It was, from the shape of it, a soup spoon, but thanks to being very small and having no idea of the social norms that would do their best to trip me up over the years, I was unaware of this at the time. Its handle was wooden – dark but with the natural grain of the wood showing through – and started wide at the spoon end before tapering down into the subtlest of points. It felt satisfying in my hand, substantial, and was perfect for mixing up my porridge or sludgy Weetabix (with hot milk, God you eat some shit when you’re a child). It also had an extra cachet in that I was not its only admirer.

Everyone wanted to use that spoon, and me and my (favourite) cousin would bicker over who got to use it if we stayed over at the same time. These conversations would start good-naturedly, often right before we went to bed, both of us insisting the other should have it, like pensioners trying to decide whose turn it is to pay for the tea and scones, but secretly – I need to check with her but I’m 99% sure she felt the same – each of us determined, no matter what we promised now, that we’d be the one smugly swirling it round our breakfast bowl in the morning. Next day, our politesse of the previous night would be forgotten and it was every grandchild for themselves. Shamefully, as I used to stay over less often than she did, and I was older, I’d say it was handed over to me more often than it was to her. Whoever lost would immediately protest it was absolutely fine, that they didn’t mind or care, but the lie would be burned upon their face like a bitter scar, the loser’s mouth tight and furious, throat unable to unclench. Breakfast uneaten, ruined.

After our grandfather died and Grandma moved into a smaller place, the spoon followed, and I remember being shocked in my twenties to open her cutlery drawer and see it still there – its varnish faded and metal scratched, but still, even then, feeling absolutely perfect in my hands.

When Grandma went into a home, my cousin and I met up to go visit her together, and couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the spoon. How could we possibly have lost track of it?! We had been disloyal to the memory of the spoon. Who’d cleared out all grandma’s stuff? Didn’t they realise the significance of the hallowed spoon? We surprised ourselves with the strength of the memory, but it was too late to ask Grandma, as her faculties had long since began their departure and she was struggling to come up with our names, let alone the whereabouts of a spoon. Sorry, the spoon.

Every now and again, when we see each other, we bring up the spoon and I know that for the briefest of seconds, we are united in our desolation that the spoon will never be found again.

Unless… hang on. Yes, I’m definitely going to riffle through her cutlery drawer next time I’m round her house. Just in case, just to check.

That spoon is mine. But, of course, I will be willing to share. Eventually.

The main image is from The Matrix and features Keanu Reeves looking at a spoon that is’t actually there (apparently – I haven’t actually seen the film).

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 1M ago

I’ll level with you, my heart didn’t exactly lift seventy storeys off the ground when I saw this headline:

“Acquired” has to be one of the least sexy words out there. You acquire companies, diseases, not feelings. And I’m not sure how many more Jameses and Emilys with job titles like these I can take. So you will forgive me if I enter this one feeling more than a little trepidation. I am not expecting this to be the ride of my life. As rollercoasters go, this one is already looking mightily rusty – let’s hope the dips, whirls, and ramps are more exciting than they first appear. Because, believe me, I am perfectly willing to scream if we don’t go faster.

Anyway, thanks to my screenshotting wizardry up there, you now know exactly who and what they are, so let’s dive straight into the… what is it? Analysis? Recap? Dissection? I was interviewed the other day and I had to explain what I do and there is something very unsettling about saying what you do out loud. There is always the danger, too, that someone will ask the most dreaded of questions: “Why?” To which there is only one answer you can ever get away with: “Why the hell not?” Onward.

James on Emily | Emily on James What were you hoping for?
I’ve never been on a blind date before, so I guess first and foremost I hoped not to embarrass myself. I wanted what everyone wants from a first date: instant chemistry and top-notch chat.

Instant chemistry? Do you? Really? No effort at all? Never underestimate the glorious feeling of a slow burn, as you sense the “chemistry” start to happen. Couples who sit smugly side by side in the pub and tell you, “We got on from the very first moment; it was like we’d known each other years” can usually be found five years later, arguing over who gets to keep the colander as they pack up the flat above an M&S Simply Food in south London that they’re about to move out of, separately.

What were you hoping for?
The fireworks you see in films. And plenty of wine.

Blimey. He wants instant chemistry, she’s after fireworks. Can’t you just go blow up a science lab together? Anyway, please stop taking romcoms seriously – they are making us all insane. The point about movies is if you behaved in real life like the characters in a romcom do you would be spending most of your days either a) friendless, because WHOA you’re annoying, b) in prison for stalking, or c) penniless, as they never seem to do any work beyond sit in their chair and halfheartedly flirt with other colleagues. That is not your job.

First impressions?
I fancied her. Nice work, Blind Date.

YAY!

First impressions?
Late, tall and ginger.

Ah, Christ. Late. Shame. As regular readers will know – if indeed you exist – I am very anti-lateness but I was talking about this to someone recently who told me how anxious it makes them that some people are sticklers for punctuality, because they can’t help being late. Obviously if you have issues that make getting anywhere on time difficult – I won’t list them because I don’t want my friends reading this and then claiming they have such an issue as an excuse why they are late to meet me for a drink again – then that’s fine, nobody wants to make you feel uncomfortable. But, in my book, unless I know there are reasons preventing you, if you arrive at exactly the predetermined time, you are in fact, late. I wonder why all my friends moved away.

As for the other two things she says, I am also v v anti just listing some facts as a first impression. It’s about how you felt, Emily, not what you could see. I read Emily’s answer in the voice of a toddler who has just seen something for the very first time. Snow! Pineapple! Horse! Tall! Ginger!

What did you talk about?
We compared embarrassing date stories, our upbringings in secluded towns and how we are both cat people. Holly Willoughby, our worst date stories, cats and Madeleine McCann.

Date stories
Secluded towns? OK, maybe I’m interested. What constitutes a secluded town? Sounds kinda spooky, a bit M. Night Shyamalan. Sadly, I am guessing that James and Emily did not grow up in tiny, primitive hamlets in which someone was hanged for being a witch every Thursday, but in fact two dreary dormitory towns with one cash machine and a post box, upon which a small piece of graffito marks the great village crime wave of 1978.
Cats  Good for you
Holly Willoughby What on Earth for? I like Holly but… why are you talking about her on a date?!
Madeleine McCann I have to leave the room if someone starts talking about that documentary. I just can’t spend any more time fascinated by this Midsomer Murders subplot when there are far more timely cases out there getting ignored and underfunded because of the country’s obsession with white middle-class people. Honestly, the Royals are more interesting than this savourless bunch of tapas-nibblers. I am sorry for their loss but no more. Please.

Any awkward moments?
Only when I instinctively said, “Oh dear, I don’t know,” just as my mum would, during the occasional moment of silence. Only when he asked if we’d had any awkward moments… that one was entirely his fault.

Good table manners?
Yes. Yep, he was determined not to be defeated by three courses, red and white wine.

Defeated by three courses, red and white wine?! Or as most of us would call it, “Snack Wednesday”.

Best thing about Emily?
She laughed at my jokes, even though they weren’t funny. His love for dating: he used to work for a dating column and now he has finally made it into one.

If he worked for one, could he not… just put himself in it? I wonder which one it was. Are there others? Why would you want to be in a different one from this one? Well, tbh, why would you want to be in any dating column at all, but if you’re going to be in one, this is the one. Others… are just that, others.

Describe Emily in three words
Funny, smart and confident.

Funny is so important in dating that you’d think it came naturally to most, but as anyone who’s sat desperately trying to decode the ceaseless innuendo coming at you from a near stranger as you wait for for your strozzapretti pesto rosso in the Cheltenham branch of Zizzi can tell you: it does not.
Smart is a nice thing to say if you are talking about one of the following:
– A pallbearer’s suit
– A puppy’s ability to finally climb up onto the sofa – whereupon you will ban it from doing so ever again
– A friend’s child you want to compliment in the hope it will stop the parents banging on and on about its “reading age”
Otherwise it’s just a bit empty.
Confident is good. This is an interesting thing for a man to say about a woman because it has so many layers – and we tend to misunderstand what confidence actually is – but I believe James means it genuinely here.

Describe James in three words
Funny, outgoing and chatty.

Funny. A double-funny! And, see, James, she did like your terrible jokes. Or, at least, she is willing to say so in a magazine!
Outgoing always makes me think of another word to describe someone who says things like “books are boring” or will only go to pubs where there’s no wifi so they can talk at you.
Chatty is one of my least favourite words in the English language. I’m sorry.

What do you think she made of you?
I think she found me endearingly dim.

I am a little worried about James’s confidence levels. I know self-deprecation can, in small doses, be quite charming and sexy but I’m sure you are not as dim or unfunny as you think. At least I hope you’re not.

What do you think he made of you?
That I talk and love wine too much, and am bad at directions.

Women in this column – particularly those on dates with men – almost always think they talk too much and I think that’s quite sad. As we have learned in the last couple of years especially, women haven’t been allowed to talk enough. Most men, I hope, would prefer a talkative, expressive woman than one who just sits there while they strain to entertain them.

Dating can sit quite at odds with generally accepted behaviour elsewhere, because we expect certain things in the name of courtship, and these habits are hard to break. The man feels he must crack jokes, the woman feels compelled to laugh. The whole thing about who pays for dinner, gets to choose the venue, whether to pull the chair out for someone or not. All these rules, courtesies, and traditions operate under the guise that they’re keeping us safe by reminding us who we are and what we should be doing, but they are, in fact, holding us back. Manners and politeness aside, the rule book needs rewriting. I do not volunteer.

Did you go on somewhere?
Emily understandably called it a night at 10.30pm, as she had to be up at 5.45am the following morning. No, much to his dismay. I had to make a long trek home and it was only a Tuesday.

Oh well.

And… did you kiss?
I can confirm that we did not kiss on the lips.

Then where did you kiss her? On the asshole? Just say no, man.

And… did you kiss?
Just on the cheek.

Oh, right. Cheek. Fine.

Marks out of 10?
7.5. 7.

Wow. Consider myself fully less than whelmed. Sevens. Home for 10:30, on a Tuesday, with sevens. You realise, don’t you, that it’s Saturday, and I got out of bed before 8am to do this? That there are literally tens of people clicking through to this page wanting to read some actual ROMCOM romance that the pair of you seem so fond of, and instead we get as much “chemistry” and “fireworks” as a cold Deliveroo.

Would you meet again?
I successfully acquired Emily’s phone number, so we shall wait and see… He said we should read the article together. I haven’t received a text yet…

James and Emily ate at The Gun, 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, although I can’t promise I will find it remotely interesting.

OH LOOK:

MORE ABOUT CONFIDENCE: In my most recent British GQ column. I write for them weekly and it goes “live” every Wednesday evening around 8pm.

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The Guyliner by Theguyliner - 1M ago

We return to the scene of our many previous crimes, the mortuary of hope that is the Guardian Blind Date column, to meet two 24-year-olds who have clearly exhausted all other avenues of meeting new people.

It is, sadly, a heterosexual date, but I guess we have to let them infiltrate our world every now and again – just as long as they don’t ram it down our throats, eh? Amy is an event producer (lots of clipboards and shouting about ice sculptures I imagine) and Harry is a management consultant (I honestly don’t know what this is – do they come in every new tax year and sack people?).

Read what happened on the date in the Guardian and then please return for my dissection. Kettle’s on.

Amy on Harry | Harry on Amy What were you hoping for?
Someone incredibly fun.

“Incredibly fun” is quite a reach when it comes to Guardian readers, Ames. Have you never read the comments underneath any article? Do they even know what incredible fun is? If it doesn’t cost twice as much as normal fun and has to be bought from a delicatessen in East Dulwich, they’re not interested. LOL jk please keep commissioning me, thanks.

What were you hoping for?
Somebody interesting, challenging and funny.

If Harry isn’t careful he’s going to use up all his adjectives before he gets to the question where he actually needs them. I’m not sure why you would want to meet someone “challenging” on a first date. Challenging how? Challenging you to what? A poker game? The Marble Zone on Sonic the Hedgehog? A duel? I don’t really want to go on a date with a Question Time audience member tbh but you do you, Harry.

First impressions?
Tall, confident, great glasses, easy to talk to from the outset.

Did you scroll back up to have another look at Harry’s glasses? Yeah, same.

First impressions?
Smart, relaxed, engaging. The pizza and cocktails were nice, too.

What is this, Harry? A first impression or your TripAdvisor review of the entire evening? Absolutely nobody cares what the pizza and cocktails are like. Also, the word “engaging” needs to be retired unless used to describe two basics planning to get married. It’s a non-word, the “nice” of the 21st century. You don’t have to say how you felt if you’re saying something is engaging, just that you felt something. It’s a copout. Anyone using this in future columns will feel the full force of my gifery.

What did you talk about?
His days as a DJ, modernism, the art of finishing projects, Danny Dyer, finding catharsis in writing, that another season of The Thick Of It is long overdue. Aspirations, anthropology… She also schooled me on architecture – turns out I know zero.

Alliteration always seems like a good idea at the time, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I guess modernism is a  here.
His days as a DJ – Lord save us from straight men, spare time, and remixes.
The art of finishing projects – Deadlines and the threat of eviction usually do it for me, guys.
Danny Dyer – My favourite DD fact is that he was friends with/ a mentee of Harold Pinter.
Finding catharsis in writing – Excuse me while I just laugh with terrifying hollowness into a Tesco bag for life until my breathing calms down.
Another season of The Thick of It – No, I don’t think so tbh. What would it parody? We are beyond satire! The looking-glass has been fully penetrated and has absorbed us! Also that last special was not that great, I’m sorry.

Any awkward moments?
I went to faire la bise and he greeted with a hug so I sort of kissed his neck.

One day I will write about my teenage obsessive francophilia; it’s quite the story and all started with French onion soup aged 9. Anyway, “la bise” is that thing they do in Europe of kissing one another several hundred times on each cheek by way of saying hello. I am quite into it tbh. When I was 21 I lived in Belgium and was closeted and it was quite a thrill to see men doing la bise to one another like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Good table manners?
He ate his pizza with a knife and fork, otherwise impeccable. Following a lengthy debate about eating pizza with a knife and fork (or not), it was clear that Amy did have excellent table manners.

I eat pizza with a knife and fork. What the fuck has it got to do with you? It’s like these people who moan about you having your steak how you like it, or being particular about egg yolks (set, never runny, and not hard, don’t @ me on this), or… well anything food-related. I can exclusively reveal that my decision to eat pizza with cutlery will not:
a) change the flavour of your own pizza
b) cause some kind of tear in the space-time continuum or whatever
c) ever be any of your business.

If, after watching me eat pizza with a knife and fork, you decide I am no longer fuckable well GUESS WHAT…

Why do I eat pizza with cutlery? What’s it to you? (I don’t like eating with my hands or food coming into contact who my fingers unless absolutely necessary. That’s it really. Is it weird? Who cares?)

Best thing about Harry?
He embraces eccentricity.

“He’s weird.”

Best thing about Amy?
Very intelligent – the conversation was incredibly stimulating. Amy seems to think about the world in quite a similar way to me.

“She too is weird.”

Would you introduce him to your friends?
He’s chatty, fun, liberal and up for getting pissed, so I’m sure they’d get along. I think she vaguely knows some of them anyway.

You know, it’s a sign that I’ve been successfully groomed by social media so that when I see the word “liberal”, I do a little groan – a bit like a hamster realising it is just a hamster and not, as it had hoped, an eagle, or Jourdan Dunn.

I mean, I am liberal too, I guess, but there is so much gaslighting online about how being liberal is officially bad, I sometimes wonder what we are supposed to do. I think if I see one more right-wing columnist reappropriate “woke” as some kind of insult or eye-rolling “state of the nation” metaphor then I’m going to become extremely non-liberal and go on some kind of insane crime spree or perhaps wander the streets shirtless, screaming.

Describe Harry in three words?
Witty, tactile, original.

Witty, like a last-minute guest on Have I Got News For You who steals the show and is immediately offered their own series. Don’t get too attached though: they tweeted a joke about child murder in 2011.
Tactile, like the timing of this could not be worse tbh.
Original, like that Leftfield song. Do you know the one? I used to listen to it really loudly on my headphones on the way into university, in my second year (the one I failed LOL more on that another time). I have a crystal-clear memory of walking along Lodge Road with it blasting into my ears. I imagine I must have had a 28″ waist at the time. Christ.

Describe Amy in three words?
Curious, polite, funny.

Curious, like a cat that has decided that, yes, jumping on top of the wardrobe will definitely be worth it.
Polite, like children in soaps never are, have you noticed? Why aren’t they? Why do they all go “off the rails” at 11? Can’t anyone just be boring anymore?
Funny, like haha not peculiar, I imagine.

What do you think he made of you?
He said he thought I was “really great”, but that was after three bottles of wine and earlier in the evening he’d said I was quite scary, so who knows? I think she found the conversation interesting and had a fun time.

Three bottles of wine? Nice one. “Really great” is nice enough but strange how Harry didn’t have his adjective collection out with him on the date. Perhaps that’s why he’s now rammed his answers with all his favourites from the thesaurus.

Did you go on somewhere?
Yes, to the oldest gym in the UK, now a wine bar.

I googled these oddly specific keywords yet found nothing – I didn’t try very long tbh but I assume it’s that one by King’s Cross? – but I guess this is a nice bit of information to have… IF YOU ARE JUDITH CHALMERS. Honestly, who cares. Did you bone?

Did you go on somewhere?
We did – we found a very nice bar and then went to Soho, and went our separate ways at around 2am.

And… did you kiss?
A bit. A gentleman never tells.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I really regret declining the pudding menu. We should have gone to a club.

“I really regret declining the D.”
“We should have fucked.”

There, fixed it for you.

Marks out of 10?
9. 8.

Amy’s is a 10 and Harry’s is a shy 9. How do I know? Because I KNOW.

Would you meet again?
Yes. Yes – I had fun and usually find it hard to tell what I think after one date.

Just say yes, Harry, no need for the embellishment – you’re not recording an audiobook.

Anyway, good news! Well done! Next time try four bottles of wine and see how many inhibitions you can toss away.

Amy and Harry ate at Happy Face, London N1C. 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. Use as many adjectives as you like – I can take it.

ADVERTISING: If you haven’t bought my book yet, you are a cop. Please fix this and purchase it as soon as possible. Apparently, if I don’t pay the rent my landlord says I have to, like, live somewhere else? And also, like, exposure is not a valid currency. Is she for real? Buy my book.

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Here we are again, then. 14th February. Hearts, flowers, huge ecologically destructive helium balloons, cheap chocolates, even cheaper sentiment and lager and lime-flavoured condoms as far as the eye can see.

It has been tradition for most of us – who don’t have a vested interest in peddling romantic tat, at least – to slag off Valentine’s Day as a huge sickly con and its devotees as slobbering morons tricked into buying off-the-peg romance. Cynicism is the thing. And I have more than enough of that to go round. For years now, I’ve dismissed it, rubbished it and assured anyone who buys into it that they’ll be first against the (pink, heart-encrusted) wall should the revolution come.

But the only thing I like more than being horrible about everything is a carefully timed backlash against a backlash against a backlash so here it is and here we are. 14 reasons “V Day” (remove yourself from society if you ever say that seriously) is actually a good thing.

1. You get the chance to insult your other half in the name of love

Most of us, I’m sure, have lost count of how many times we’ve longed to tell our  other half just how insignificant they are and how we have in fact ‘settled’, that they are a permanent irritation. Valentine’s Day now gives you the chance.

To come home from work on a Tuesday in September and hand over a card like the above would probably result in a full-scale row and bowls of pasta being emptied over your head. Dole out the disses on Valentine’s Day, however, and the sentiment HAS to be accepted not only as a joke, but an affectionate one. They CANNOT get mad at you. It’s liberating.

2.  You can judge how much a piece of shit someone is by the flowers they get delivered to them at work

Given that almost everyone you meet at work these days seems to have had some bizarre kind of media training, and says things like “I hear you” instead of “your idea stinks and you have the business acumen of a Brazil nut”, working out how who you can and can’t trust from 9 to 5 has never been tougher.

If you can hang on to your job until the week of Valentine’s Day, however, you will soon benefit from the most perfect indicator of dickheadery imaginable. Simply wait in your veal-fattening pen, as you wonder whether that whirring sound is your hard drive’s fan or your brain counting the hours until shutdown, and watch out for some flowers. It’s a scientific fact – and I can show you the research if you like, in the lines of my face – that 95% of people who have Valentine’s gifts delivered to them at the workplace are absolute garbage and not to be trusted.

Oh, and the bigger the bouquet, the more of a duplicitous and monstrous piece of work they are. Be warned.

On the rare occasion that this entire delivery has not been carefully stage-managed by the thirsty recipient, it means their partner has actually arranged this of their own accord, but that doesn’t get your colleague off scot-free. Choosing to become entangled with such a person proves they show poor judgment and they should not be trusted. In fact, they are probably already stealing from petty cash. You should search their desk.

If you have a partner who does this for you and you’re all touched, don’t be – he’s just letting you know he’s massively insecure and thinks you’re having an affair with a colleague.

3. Insecurity over what your Valentine’s gift actually means keeps you on your toes and is the key to a healthy relationship

Chocolates last year, but flowers this? Lingerie the year before, but a nice dressing gown today? Is your man saying you’re need to up your game in the sexiness stakes? Who knows?! Why don’t you drive yourself mad thinking about it until February 13 next year?.

4. Flashmob/viral/YouTube proposals

Absolutely nobody proposes marriage anymore unless there are at least three phones trained on them to capture the ‘moment’.

There’s no greater thrill on Valentine’s Day than watching someone spring back in horror because their boyfriend starts filming them on their phone. “This is it!” they think. And sometimes it is, but usually he’s just trying to position you correctly in the middle of a filter saying “BALL N CHAIN” on his Instagram story.

5. It really irritates single people

Single people are annoying, aren’t they? I spent long enough as one and dating them, so I should know.

“When am I going to meet someone?” they groan, as you drain your third glass of pinot and hope they remember they haven’t bought a round yet and that you promised your partner (how modern) you’d be home for Corrie.

Valentine’s Day is your revenge – they hate it. They tell you how much they’re dreading it, how inferior it makes them feel and how stupid it all is.

You remind them Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about secret crushes anyway, not being in a couple, but that doesn’t help and oh look they’re crying. Maybe keep quiet, eh?

Fast forward a year when they’ve finally convinced someone to go out with them and all of a sudden they are all over St Valentine’s traditions like there’s no tomorrow. Turncoats.

6. This:

7. Your partner getting it wrong can give you a power trip worthy of Kim Jong-Un

If your other half forgets/buys the wrong gift/gets too drunk or generally ruins Valentine’s Day for you in any way, you can pretend this has really upset you and can live off the position of power this puts you in for the rest of the year. You own them.

Until you shift things around again by getting off with someone at your office Christmas party.

8. Reading out the Valentine’s Day messages in the local paper is never anything but hilarious

In among the execrable “wuv u snugglebum”s and incredibly earnest proposals of marriage that would probably have worked better in person, you may find the odd gem:

Matt Nicholls/Launceston Examiner 9. You’re quite likely to get sex

Whether you want it or not. Even though you can’t move after that romantic meal of steak and chips. Despite the fact you have to get up really early for a meeting tomorrow. It’s Valentine’s Day – you’re doing it. Come on, get on with it. It’s ROmantic.

10. It’s going to be a busy night on Tinder or Grindr, let’s face it

11. Tacky restaurants really need this

Orlando’s Trattoria down the precinct lives for this day, and the more restaurants like this stay open, the more room there is for you in the ironic pizzeria-cum-burger joint – with live vinyl scratching contests on a Sunday – that’s putting Orlando’s out of business six doors down.

12. The loveless feel loved, even if it is just for a day

It’s the one day of the year when even the most stone-hearted feel obliged to give affection, where the downtrodden, long-suffering partner will get confirmation, be it through a wilted bouquet or some perfume off the market, that their feckless other half does actually know they’re there. Confirmation you’re not actually invisible – it’s underrated.

Sure, it’s business as usual the following day, but hey. Some people don’t have time for hearts and flowers any other day of the year. Whether they’re basic as hell is up to you, but if it’s special to them, it’s kind of sweet. Right?

13. Nobody can slate you for blaring this out on Valentine’s Day

Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On [Official Music Video] - YouTube

14. Cynics enjoy slagging it off

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