I recently received a press release entitled "How to avoid first date faux pas", which is the kind of thing I'm regularly sent because I think I'm on a media mailing list entitled "Could do with help".
It's a pretty baffling document compiled by a dating agency that specialises in "finding partners for the elite and successful", a service for which it charges a fee of £5,000. Per year. Plus VAT. Which is a hefty sum, especially considering you could send off the cheque and then accidentally meet the love of your life in a newsagent, or wherever it is the elite hang out these days.
Its advice centres around the topics of conversation you should avoid on your first date – namely religion, past relationships, politics and money – in order to give yourself the best chance of getting a second date.
The priority, it seems, is to secure that second date at all costs by suppressing all but the most benign information. Put on the blandest show imaginable. Use the word "hobbies" a lot. Allow the fence you're sitting on to become so firmly wedged up your arse that the other person is forced to see you again just to find out what you're really like.
"Well, she only just managed to conceal her latent homophobia, but the good news is that we're going to the Trocadero on Thursday."
What madness is this? I'm advised not to mention politics, but why not? And for how long? Who do I blame when I discover that I'm in a relationship with someone who thinks the Congestion Charge is stupid? Do I get my £5,000 back?
Anyway, before a recent date I scribbled down a list of bland topics including hods, Canada, ratios, crêpes, hanging baskets and melting points, and took it along with me. "Do you know the melting point of anything apart from ice?" I asked. "Nope," she replied. "Me neither." Pointless!
So I asked her how much she made a year after tax, knowing that if she looked horrified that would be bad, and if she told me it would be worse.
Fortunately she laughed, at which point things improved immeasurably. So there's my advice: talk about money. My invoice for £5,000 is in the post.
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