Dating Magazine

Jess and Josh

By The Guyliner @theguyliner

Shall we crack on? I've got some eggs I want to scramble within the hour.

Today, our hapless romantics - or people who want to be in a national newspaper but don't fancy committing mortgage fraud or murder - are Jess and Josh.

Jess, is a 26-year-old PR account manager - a lot of clipboards - and Josh is 25 and a journalist. Amazing how, when you get maybe two or three same-sex couples in a row, "Loft Conversion, Planning a Third Baby" Twitter starts frothing over the threat of a supposed LGBTQ take-over of the Blind Date column, but when it's two people working (vaguely) in the media, as it is pretty much week after week - seriously who is stepping in to fill those goodie bags and miss those deadlines when they're away; it's an epidemic - nobody says a word.

Anyway, let's stare at Jess and Josh full-length, get a sinking feeling as we eye their speech bubbles and, well, hope for the best. Read the full version of the date on the Guardian website (I always miss at least one question and the column's continued existence ensures my reviews' survival too) before I go in there and wreak havoc.

Jess on Josh | Josh on Jess

Once you've read on, "at worst, a funny story" sounds quite optimistic.

Easy conversation. Easy. I mean, yeah, I guess. Nobody really wants to engage in a battle of wills on a first date, do they? Some people - men, usually, go cry about it in the loos if you're upset by this generalisation, boys - do actually enjoy this, though. A few times on dates I was tied up in knots - not in a good way - by men who seemed to think we should debate each other like sixth formers about all manner of stuff. I get there's now a trend to eschew echo chambers in favour of subjecting yourself to every bad opinion that was spat out on Question Time by someone with a face like an anus, but there is a lot to be said for quiet contentment and polite agreement. You want a challenge? Take a Rubik Cube out with you.

"I'll be honest" is never the fanfare to alert you that good news is about to follow it, is it? But at least she says she was willing to give it a go. In a way it can be good if you don't feel an instant attraction or connection because it removes that headrush, that urgency you feel to please them, and make them like you, and want you. You can just... see how you get on and, if they're not a raging arsehole, maybe grow to like them some other way. That said, some people live for that headrush, and to start anything with anyone without it would be unthinkable. And that's fine - but the Venn diagram of people who act like this and also, at some point in their lives over a glass of Pinot Grigio that has been watered down with their desperate tears, say that they "just love a bad boy", is a complete circle.

"Jessica." "Organically." We're on a conference call with Marketing, guys, and it's bad news from the components factory in Kuala Lumpur. I wonder what he means here. Why wouldn't he? Does he mean he would have to be paid to talk to her, like interviewing her for a story? How do you strike up conversations organically these days, anyway? Walking a dog, perhaps. Or being a lit-bro and chatting on the Tube with someone reading a book? Do we even have organic conversations anymore? Can't we all just... talk to each other on hookup apps or social media as God (Beyoncé) intended?

Anyway, Josh is hinting here that he wouldn't cross the sticky carpet of his favourite "Spoons" (🤮) to talk to Jess so there we go.

The word "haunts" used in this context is one of my favourites because it is so Agatha Christie, conjuring up the image of gentlemen's clubs with frayed curtains and smoky backrooms, frequented by syphilis-stricken playboys on the run from an arranged marriage with a horse-faced heiress, kicking up their heels round a roulette table with bright-eyed, dead-souled flappers who stow an emergency lethal dose of a sleeping draught in their bedside drawer just in case he gets them pregnant.

In this case, however, "haunts" probably refers to the same three terrible pubs within a dog's bark of Victoria Park.

Jess and Josh

I am going to be very charitable here and assume that when Josh says "hairdresser-level" he means the chat was very polite, impersonal, "where are you going on your holidays" kind of thing. That's clearly what he means. I would have phrased it "going to the hairdressers-level" but maybe The Guardian cut the line for space - and why wouldn't you? You certainly wouldn't want to miss any of the gold coming later, would you? If he meant something else, however, then yuck.

Again, I've read ahead and maybe a night in A&E having fruits de mer removed from your windpipe might have been a better way to spend the evening?!

Jess and Josh

Oh I dunno. I don't know whether Josh has any evidence she actually did this, but, yeah, I'm not massively into breaking off to text your mates during a date, but if you're going to the loo anyway and happen to text them, that is fine as long as you're quick. I can't really imagine Jess texting anything much other than "NO" and offloading a few emojis - I'll let you decide which ones - so I'm sure she wasn't away long.

Maybe she just needed to go and stand in a cubicle for a few minutes and take some very deep breaths or listen to a mindfulness podcast.

No complaints.
Jess and Josh

Literally the only thing they can agree on. Truly this question is the great unifier.

If this praise were any fainter, it would make the Turin Shroud look like a Pucci print scarf.

"She agreed with me." There's the bar, ladies. I guess this was the only thing they had in common, so Josh is clinging to it as a positive, like you might be cheered by the fact that your serially unfaithful husband had shagged everyone BUT your sister.

Jess's friends, reading Weekend magazine this morning:

Jess and Josh

I often wonder what the WhatsApp chats are like once a friend has appeared in this column. I mean, even if they have been an absolute arsehole, you HAVE to side with your pal, don't you? Although some weeks I've seen would test even the most devoted of blood brothers.

Josh's friends, reading Weekend magazine this morning:

Jess and Josh

Usually I'm, like, "ooh sure they would be fine, your friends aren't monsters, and if they are, you shouldn't hang around with them" but I think in this case this is fairly on the money.

No harm to Jess, but this is way more than three words - she has instead given us three options to pick from, like we're building a burger in TGI Friday's in 1997.

Potential secret Tory: In these days where everyone wears their political affiliation like it's a slogan T-shirt, can you be a secret Tory? They've certainly not been backward in coming forward, have they? It's the worst kept secret since Charles and Camilla doing sanitary protection role-play on their brick-sized mobile phones finally "revealed" they were at it.

My take on this? Maybe Josh said the word "woke" and either did it in a middle sarcastic voice or did inverted comma air quotes. I've talked about this before, but what the word was and what it meant - all too briefly enjoying its time in the sun - has now gone, and it has been appropriated by people desperate to lay their hands on another stick to beat others with. Like "politically correct" and "right-on" before it, any slogan you can think of that has originated from a need to see the world in a more open, enlightened, and truthful way has been quickly repurposed by those who want to keep us all in closed, dark, mendacious times. The second those in power feel even a flicker of change, notice even the tiniest shift in angle of the (steep, treacherous) playing field, they gaslight you into thinking you were the problem all along.

(Edit: I have no evidence this actually happened.)

Not for me: Negronis, but make it human.

A little dry: I'm guessing rather than dry wit, she means eating Ryvita without butter, on the hottest day of the year.

Polite: like an excuse, or a cough in a theatre to let someone know they're eating their Revels too loudly, so you can't hear Anne-Marie Duff emoting properly.

Quirky: like someone who has sex with only one sock on, instead of the usual two.

Articulate: like this is a slightly weird thing to say if you're clamming, as you do above, that the conversation was "hairdresser-level" and, as you do a little later on, that the conversation had no "substance". What does this mean? That she talked about piffling things way beneath you, but well - perhaps with a subjunctive or two chucked in?

What do you think Josh made of you?
I have a feeling he thought I was a hipster.


Jess and Josh

I didn't think people in their 20s even said that! It's like this week's date actually a work of fiction "penned" by a Telegraph columnist who once drank a craft beer out of a paper cup at Cornbury while watching David Cameron eat a macaron - which he pronounced "macaroon" to make a point.

If a 25-year-old thinks, you, 26, are a hipster, I would demand to see both of your birth certificates. You'll be saying he called you a rapscallion or a jezebel next. Anyway, hipsters don't exist anymore. Almost everyone with a Netflix account wears trainers, is vegan, has a book deal, and is plucking up the courage to say "polyamorous" out loud to their unsuspecting partner - it's not a huge thing anymore. Half the middle classes are hipsters now.

What do you think Jess made of you?
I wouldn't be surprised if she thought I was basic and lame. She probably thought of me the way I think about people who live in Clapham.

Lame and basic! Someone's swallowed an ancient entry from Urban Dictionary before leaving the house!

Oh, and the anti-Clapham sentiment:

Jess and Josh

Too easy! We've been making that joke since you were having your lunch money stolen from you at school. Clapham is now beyond parody. What is even the point? What's left to say?

I had a look back through old dates and FIVE years ago I said that it felt a bit passé to be down on Clapham - although I have gone back and forth on this over the years.

From 2015:
"I like to think we are post-Clapham and that it's OK to like Clapham again. It's even OK to live there, if you're on a graduate scheme at an evil bank or something and had a horse when you were a child. I'm not sure it's OK to "think about moving" there, though. Not yet."

But then again, from 2017, from a date with another Jess:
"I'm not sure I have time to count the ways in which Clapham, south London, is one of the most devastatingly unspecial places in the country. Yes, it has a common, and, yes, it has a Sainsbury's that looks like a spaceship, and, yes, for some reason every gay man who lives there wears a uniform of "never skips leg day and uses tooth-whitening strips" but I have never seen the big deal. As nights out go, it is super-average; the restaurants are no better than anywhere else in London; it's on the Northern line FFS. And yet youngish people are DESPERATE to get themselves down there, especially white middle-class ones with floppy hair and gym memberships that cost more than a designer handbag. I just don't get it. (I lived in Balham for two years in the "Noughties", which was WAY better but is now pretty much Clapham's very own loft conversion.)"

Anyway, it feels to me Josh is just absolutely desperate to get DRAGGED so let's not bother. I don't take requests.


Jess and Josh

Bad luck, Jess. At least she's not throwing him under the bus. Yet.

Jess and Josh


Jess and Josh

2020 is the year when barely concealed loathing casts aside that last, thin veneer of doubt and says, "No, we fucking hated each other"

Jess and Josh Jess and Josh ate at Bistro Union, London SW4. Fancy a blind date? Email [email protected]. If you're looking to meet someone likeminded, visit Liked this? Consider supporting me on Ko-fi. It helps with the blog's upkeep and really makes a difference generally. Preorder my second novel The Magnificent Sons on Amazon, Waterstones, Bert's Books, Book Depository, WH Smith, Foyle's, or wherever you like to get your books. It is a good book, thank you.

Jess and Josh
(Final cover to be revealed.)

About the review and the daters: Happy birthday Nana. Will be slicing a Mars bar in your honour later. x 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. Most of the things I say are merely riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments or replies. If you're one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I'll happily publish whatever you say. Please do tell me WHY you are like this. x

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