What brings you together can tear you apart in the end, and what attracts you to people does usually turn out to be the first thing you want to change about them once the honeymoon period is over. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones.
” when your love was still fresh salad will become the very things you scream at each other about and want to destroy, once everything’s gone limp and soggy. What going out for dinner means, usually, is you have to pretend wherever they’ve chosen is fine, or risk looking a picky bitch if you suggest somewhere else, or you have to choose a place to eat yourself and worry about what this choice says about you. 5 cries at Timehop, 5 doesn’t get tagged in nice photos, 5 is a loser.
Hoping things are going to stay sweet and crunchy for at least the duration of the date are 26-year-old Jack, a PR executive (is paid to send out emails which start “Hey, hope your well!! x”) and Emma, 23, a school evaluation coordinator (no idea, but it looks good on Linked In I’m sure). Are you coming over too flash, too common, too rough, too uppity, too cultured, too fat too thin etc etc. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never watched anyone eat and thought “Phwoar”. I have a rule, and it is a rule I tend not to say out loud to people too often because it makes them look at me in a slightly curious and horrified way, like they’ve just discovered something very inappropriate under my floorboards. Over £9.99 = shit, sorry Dad, I swear I’ll replace it, I swear, no I did sip it and enjoy it, I really did, you were right, it had an amazing vintage.
I mean, I’m sure we’d all pay good money to watch Joe Jonas and Zac Efron feed each other bananas and raspberry Magnums topless, while Jake Gyllenhaal filmed it on his Samsung, but the sad fact is that most of us have the grace and charm of a Staffordshire bull terrier trying to chew a club sandwich when we eat. If you arrive bang on time, at the time you have arranged to be somewhere, you are in fact . There simply isn’t enough time for us all left on Earth for me to even start on steak-splaining and how majestically unfuckable it makes you, so let’s move on to the cocktails out of coconuts instead.
There are noises, spluttering as you try to answer a question before you’ve quite finished chewing, spillages, slobbering, grunts. I do have another rule, however, which is beautifully contradictory but hey it’s my party and attendance is not compulsory, that you should arrive around three to five minutes late for a date for OPTIMUM effect. Spoiler: nobody has ever accused me of being easy-going in my life, but I insisted on opening my own savings account at 4, read dictionaries for fun and didn’t laugh at a joke until my mid-teens so maybe it’s just me. You’re not supposed to know anything about wine except that it comes in three “colours” and is priced according to how guilty you should feel after drinking an entire bottle of it in half an hour. The only people I can think of who’d like cocktails in coconuts are those really awful posh people that even Tatler won’t write about, who wear smoking jackets from the age of 14, went to “the school” – to say where is terribly common – actually know someone in real life called Algernon, and have rosy cheeks and straw-like blond hair.
Plus, if you’re out for a meal and decide you absolutely hate them by the end of the first course, you can’t actually “do a runner” as Emma suggests, you have to sit there, with no escape from the eating habits of Uncle Disgusting, for another round of food at least. This means they’ll be there to see you make an entrance and you’d better make it good because first impressions are bought and sold on the way you own that swing of the pub door, baby. They frequent tiki bars with their braying pals, wear racially inappropriate outfits at “colonial” fancy-dress parties, fall in love with people who look exactly like their parents and, sadly, probably own the very ground on which you’re standing. And well lookee here, just like magic, here comes an awkward moment. Being oblivious or being fully aware you’re in a car crash? “He probably thought I was scatty.” “He probably thought I was crazy and talked too much.” Even when asked to imagine the opinion of a man who she’ll never see again, has no interest in and has roundly savaged on the pages of a national newspaper, Emma still goes for self-deprecation.
And don’t get me started on chopsticks, shelling prawns, slurping pasta, soup splashes, trying to eat your leftovers, asking if you “want to try some” of theirs, sharing platters, “excuse fingers”, faux-embarrassed giggling at suppressed belches, exclaiming “aaaah” and sitting back in their chair after devouring a belly-busting steak, picking their teeth, complaining about perfectly clean cutlery, being overly familiar or imperious with the waiting staff, filling your wine glass for you and giving you less than he gives himself, ordering on your behalf, proposing to share a dessert, whispering that puddings are “naughty” and that you “mustn’t” before ordering their biggest dessert on the list and, worst of all, leaning in for a kiss –and, yes, that spinach between their teeth – and leaving you with a mouth that tastes of onions. Easy-going seems to be one of those phrases that’s losing all meaning. Nobody gives a toss about your virtue signalling for the much maligned brave souls who toil at the frontline of recruitment, Emma; those mercenaries can look after themselves. So your parents transferred some money into a school’s bank account and all of a sudden your uniforms got a lot more ridiculous and a lot less itchy? If someone is doing something for you, you need to say thank you. Forgot to mention her pony and childhood skiing holidays as she lavished her sourdough with Vitalite? I’ve only room for one respectable in my life, and it’s Mel and Kim’s. Or maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t know what else to say. It makes me wonder whether the vibe she got from Jack was that he didn’t like her at all and was going to skewer her here. I long to understand, to read between the lines, but I can’t seem to work it out. I reckon you’d have been better off arriving four hours late and asking one of the waiting staff what time they finished, Jack. There is something quite disturbing, really odd, about someone mentioning which school they went to, or that they went to school at all, on a date, when they’re 26. Is it an attempt to identify any links with your alma mater? That said, why does this make her feel uncomfortable? You can sound a bit like a stuck record after a while, however, especially if they say “you’re welcome” back every time you thank them. I once went out for a dinner with a man who said, halfway through the meal, “Do you know how many times you’ve said thank you during this meal? It’s a bit much.” Reader, I said it only one more time that evening, and it followed the word “no” and meant a cold shower for him and a hearty chuckle on the bus home, alone, for me. I go in quite hard on straight guys who take part in this column sometimes – and it does seem here that Jack is only interested in things she’s achieved, rather than what she was like as a person, which I usually detest – but I wonder here whether Jack simply can’t find the words to be anything other than polite. Not even for a chance to see their eyes widen in horror and watch them lightly rip the piss out of him as they threw another Sauv Blanc or pint of craft beer down their necks? If this is the case, does it mean her answers are authentic, and it really was like going on a date with a leather cigarette case? I’m a bit disappointed, if the date was as bad as is suggested, that Emma didn’t say “I don’t care what he made of me”, but she’s the one answering the questions, not me. Were you taught, at this very posh school of yours, to soldier on, to never complain? Time of death for this date: 30 seconds after Emma pressed SEND on the email back to the Guardian journalist. Bragging about education on a date is more common than you’d think. Perhaps there should be an agreed limit on the number of thank you, to save awkwardness all round, or a contract you sign on being seated at the table which says: “I promise to feel gratitude for everything you do for me this evening and, to save time and breaking up the conversation, will say thank you only AFTER you pour the wine and not when you offer, and when you place anything else on the table or take it away. Jack was taught how to use cutlery properly at his Academy de Snoot for le Terminally Posh school, I imagine. Sometimes the best way to put someone off you is to introduce them to your friends; it can be a more effective repellant than your own BO or UKIP-voting tendencies. I wonder what Jinty, Tressolea and Pongo will make of her? Or did Jack merely sit there in mild amusement, doing that impenetrable face that men who are mildly amused do, and it spooked her a bit? Yeaaaaaah, I’m going to go with my original assumption that the date really was that bad. Because, this date sounds like agony – I’ve had to get up from the sofa three times to go and wring out a tea towel just to get some release – and yet you have, either valiantly or dimwittedly, revealed nothing of this. For people who have nothing else – and think how gloomy the last 8 years must have been for Jack if he’s still banging on about his school at 26 – their education, the last time they didn’t really have to think much for themselves, takes on an almost mythical quality. If you’re dating someone and aren’t sure about them, the temptation is to hide them from friends until you’ve made up your mind about them. Why not throw them to the lions and see how they manage? Not even a nightcap, no awkward farewell drink in a noisy, about to close, All Bar One round the corner? I once sat on a date with a guy, who wasn’t as pretty as he thought he was and really should’ve tried harder, while he explained, in minute detail, his entrance exam and interview for drama school. Sometimes there’s no greater thrill than feeling the pinch on your arm by a friend who “wants a word” and trying not to laugh as they very earnestly ask you what the hell you think you’re doing with this guy. This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.