My Date With an Image Consultant

19/08/2013 14:02 BST | Updated 18/10/2013 10:12 BST

I would have to say that the oldest cliché in the dating world is the one surrounding humour. The late Christopher Hitchens once said that, in the sexual stakes, 'if a man isn't funny, he's finished'. As a man of great humour, I would be inclined to agree. Many times, in preparation for a date, I have organised my anecdotes. Like an athlete getting into 'the zone' I have looked within, sifting through memories in search of a recent irony to exploit. Last week, a female friend told me she could be 'laughed into bed' - good news for ugly humourists, however the assertion was belied by her predilection for morose hipsters. How can simple good cheer possibly compare to a moustachioed man on a fixie-bike?

It was a Friday night in a West End restaurant, and I was on a date with an image consultant named Laura. I listened as she dispensed generic life advice - a bit condescending, but perhaps this was the nature of consultants. I find they are all hard-wired to advise, irrespective of the topic. It must be something related to the job. Me, I work in HR and therefore always respond to bad ideas with 'that's a good idea, however...'. or 'I understand, but have you considered...' Such bland caveats cover everything from grievance hearings to choosing from the set-menu. Sometimes, our jobs really do define us.

"So," I said, "you're an image consultant, how would you rate my image?"

"I'm sorry?"

I motioned to my light blue slacks and matching work shirt.

"Interesting," she said, "blue on blue."

"Yes, just a coincidence though. I like the way you put that - blue on blue, is that a thing?"

She took a sip of her house red, "No."

I said, "could be something that denotes knowing cool, sublime, like Bob Dylan's classic album Blonde on Blonde."


"Only in clothes."

Laura pushed up her sleeves, and glanced at her watch.

I said, "well, I guess I'm having my very own Wardrobe Malfunction."

She suppressed a smile.

"You're an idiot."

It was one of those phrases that can be taken either way. Laura twirled a lock of hair, recalling some junk-psychology from the 90s, I took this as an encouraging sign. I threw the conversation back at her, an old tactic - if floundering, always get dates to talk about themselves. I have frequently been mistaken for a good listener, fraudulently accruing points for simply nodding along. As I listened to her stories of powerful individuals with a subpar sense of style, I considered my garish ensemble and wondered how I ranked - at best, one of her clients in reverse - a corporate peon with no fashion sense.

I said, "I believe life is all about experiences, trying different things, you know?"

"Yes, I'm the same," she said, "I like to go with the flow, see where things take me. I think it's about having the courage to try new things."

"Or as Small put it, you've got to search for the hero inside yourself."

Laura didn't acknowledge the quip - wasted, I thought.

She said, "I am lucky though, the people I work with are so lovely."

"Same here," I said, "the team are great. There's just two of us in my office, but we're cool."

She nodded, her eyes wandered over to the handsome waiter.

I said, "I tell you what, I did have this weird intern recently. She was one of those 'boss's friend's daughters' kids. You know the type, privilege heaped on them and still they act as if they got the thing on merit."

"Nothing wrong with using your connections," Laura said, "sometimes, it's the only way. Anyway, businesses can't afford to pay interns, most of the time."

"Sure. Still, she was keen. Every five minutes she was offering to make the tea. I appreciated the sentiment but I got one every time, regardless. It was forced on me. I suppose you could call it 'tea-rape'.

"Tea, what?"

The music hit a lull.


The waiter approached.

"Madam," he said, "everything is ok?"

Laura smiled and nodded.

She said, "still, I don't think it's right to say she had an unfair advantage. I mean, wouldn't you do the same for your child?"

A good question, I thought, as I scrambled for a witty retort. Still, it didn't matter. My light blue costume had scuppered the deal, and no amount of joking around could fix that.