A new guilty pleasure – Blind Date!

No Cilla Black, no TV appearances, no answering a set of three questions with pre-prepared wacky answers and no sneaking round furtively while essentially being unfaithful. Don’t worry, I’m not that bloke. These are not the blind dates I refer to. Let me explain…

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve probably learnt a lot about ourselves over the last 18 months or so. A global pandemic – previously exclusive to Hollywood – has made a lot of us sit up and have a good old think about who we are, what we do, where we’re going and such like. Although the ‘where we’re going’ part of that last sentence was pretty much restricted to round the block or within a mile radius of our houses during lockdown, so I suppose it probably didn’t take a lot of consideration.

Still, people discovered facets to their personalities that they had never realised were there. The resilience and resolve that got people through hadn’t always been evident before. Some discovered that with time on their hands they could create art or explore an imagination that probably hadn’t had its door opened since childhood. And others became past masters at hoarding and are probably still using toilet rolls and pasta that was stashed in a loft or garage in May of last year.

I went big on fitness. Like evangelically big. Exercising daily, running like my life depended on it and – oh, the horror of admitting this – staring at my newly toned torso in our bathroom mirror for minutes on end and like never before. Going back to work put pay to this, but for a while there I was…well, I wasn’t a skinny, out of shape middle aged bloke anymore!

I found time for other things too though. I dabbled with my ancestry online, I made all manner of garden improvements and I read a lot more than usual. And it was the reading that provided my new found guilty pleasure; The Guardian Weekend magazine’s ‘Blind Date’ feature!

At the start of lockdown, with an obvious chunk of extra time on my hands and set to stay that way for a little while at least, I upped my reading material. I’d flirted with The Guardian and The Observer before, but never committed to anything. However, when lockdown meant I’d be a lot less likely to get my hands on a Sunday newspaper, I plumped instead for Saturday’s edition of The Guardian. It was within these pages that I found my new guilty pleasure, the Blind Date feature.

The premise is simple. Two people – who presumably have taken part in some sort of application process – are matched up and sent on a blind date. Afterwards they answer some questions and said questions, together with a quick photo make up the feature. They go on a blind date and we get to read about it. So far, so not really of any interest to me whatsoever. Except it was.

I read the Blind Date feature every weekend in the magazine section of the Guardian. Always two different people, but always the same set of questions. And I found myself addicted pretty quickly.

Every week I’d look forward to getting towards the back of the magazine and getting a look at this week’s two potential lovebirds who would be faced with the following questions.

  1. What were you hoping for?
  2. First impressions?
  3. What did you talk about?
  4. Any awkward moments?
  5. Good table manners?
  6. Best thing about_______?
  7. Would you introduce them to your friends?
  8. Describe ________ in three words.
  9. What do you think they made of you?
  10. Did you go on somewhere?
  11. Did you kiss?
  12. If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?
  13. Marks out of ten?
  14. Would you meet again?

I’d start by having a look at the picture accompanying the article and invariably I’d be intrigued. Within seconds I’d be making a mental prediction as to whether these two would match well. As the weeks went on I’d be willing them to get on, like I was one of their grandmas commenting on the nice young gentleman or lady they’d brought to visit. Maybe it’s an age thing or maybe I just have a nurturing/caring side that I was otherwise unaware of, but it didn’t take me long to really care about the individuals put in front of me on a weekly basis. This really wasn’t like me, but still week after week it was how I felt. Clearly, lockdown was taking its toll!

Initially these blind dates took place via a Zoom call and I found myself intrigued by the idea of getting to know someone on the other end of a camera. It also meant that the final question – ‘Would you meet again?’ – was often an anti climax as the restrictions made it nigh on impossible to meet anyway. Thus, I’d be left feeling let down as couple after couple gave their date an 8 or 9 out of ten, then followed it up by saying that they were unlikely to meet up again. And thus, my cupid complex began to feel rather fruitless and it made me quite sad, really.

Some were sure that they’d meet up in the future and looking back at some of the clippings I kept I think I need closure. So if The Guardian would like to contact Huw and Charlotte from some time in Spring of last year, I’d be eternally grateful!

It was still interesting however to find out peoples’ first impressions and the topics of conversation and it got me wondering what directions I’d try to steer a conversation. Sadly, I concluded that it’d most likely be date after date spoiled by me droning on about football! Good job I’ve managed to burden my wife with me really! That lass is a saint!

When I read through the questions posed to the blind daters there was sometimes a hint of sadness, although maybe disappointment would be a better way of putting this. It might start when a dater was asked to sum up their ‘partner’ in three words. While one of them would be complimentary, on the other side you could sense the coldness with words like ‘interesting’ and ‘different’ and at this point I’d be preparing myself for a disparity in their marks out of ten for the date. The answer to the last question, ‘Would you meet again?’ would be all too obvious then and I’d be left somewhat pining for the next edition of Blind Date and at least a hint of romance between two strangers.

I still open the Guardian magazine every Saturday eager to read about another blind date. It’s been this way for probably over 18 months now and my enthusiasm shows no sign of flagging. Isn’t it strange what a global pandemic can bring into your life?

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