Our resident GP Rosemary Leonard lacks just one thing in her busy life – the perfect partner. We challenged her to put a dating agency to the test.
To be honest, I’d given up on men. I’d had a couple of boyfriends since my divorce eight years ago, but they didn’t work out. And ways, I have two wonderful sons, a great career as a GP, writer and broadcaster and some incredibly loyal girlfriends, so wanting a man as well seemed a bit greedy.
But there is a bit of a hole in my life. I’m at that age when most of my friends are settled into coupledom and I’m the only single person at local gatherings. I never seem to meet anyone new at work – not men anyway. It does appear that once a woman is in her forties, it is assumed she is attached. Having no wedding ring doesn’t mean anything these days.
So one evening a couple of years ago, a group of my closest friends joined me up for Club Sirius, an Internet dating agency. “Your Mr Right is out there somewhere,” they proclaimed.
Well, sadly, Sirius was a dead end. It seems many men find the idea of dating a successful woman who is earning more than them a bit intimidating. Then there’s the hair issue. Just whoa re they trying to kid with long, wispy strands across the top?
So back to happy singledom.
Then I met Karen Mooney, who runs Sara Eden Introductions. She clearly viewed me as something of a challenge and I was persuaded to have three trial dates. Here’s what happened to me…
Peter, 49, was an Oxford graduate and management consultant. He’d never married, has no kids, and financial success meant he had no need to work hard anymore. He spent two days a week teaching at a business school and was doing some charity work in between playing a lot of tennis. A self-confessed perfectionist and commitment phobe, he said he was finally realising that he might be missing out of something. After speaking to him on the phone, I was really looking forward to meeting him. We agreed to have dinner at my local Café Rouge.
I spent ages beforehand pondering the what-to-wear dilemma, mentally sifting through my wardrobe time and time again. Smart casual must be one of the most difficult dress codes on earth. In the end I opted for an aqua, knee-length linen mix skirt, with a matching beaded cardigan and a simple white top underneath. Oh yes, and pale blue kitten-heeled mules. A bit of makeup (not too much – I know it puts men off) and I was ready – though hardly calm inside. I was a bag of nerves and wondered why on earth I was putting myself through this angst all over again.
It was easy to recognise Peter (I’d seen a photo) but I was astonished to see his attire – an old rugby-style shirt, a well-worn pair of jeans and ancient brothel creeper shoes. He looked as if he was dressed for an evening at the local with the lads! I know it’s the man underneath that really matters, but somehow his attire didn’t send out exactly positive signals in my direction.
I think everyone expects the first few minutes of a date like this to be a bit awkward and I started the conversation by asking about his journey and thanking him for doing the travelling. After a glass of wine, the conversation was easier and he turned out to have a very dry sense of humour, which I liked. When he ordered a French dish off the French menu, in French, and the waitress didn’t understand him, he said, “Shall I try Italian?” But that special spark wasn’t there. I didn’t find him sexy and it wasn’t just the clothes. Even a suit wouldn’t make up for the real problem, which was that I fear I’m “voicist”. I love a strong Northern or West Country accent, but this was Midlands, which for some reason just doesn’t work for me. We’ve agreed to have a game of tennis, but I think we both sense there’s not going to be any romance.
I knew this one was going to be different. Not only was Richard a couple of years younger than me, but this was a man who had listed shopping as one of his hobbies. We agreed to meet at a bar in Sloane Square, a suitably trendy venue for a successful self-made businessman. What took me by surprise wasn’t his dapper attire (I’d expected that), but the fact he was soooo good-looking. This was a seriously handsome man. Not only that, he was courteous, chatty, amusing, could talk about his feelings and seemed to genuinely like women. And full marks to him to agreeing to be photographed!
I was bemused that someone like him should be using a dating agency, but it seems that men, too, find it difficult to know who is single and available. I really liked him – especially his honesty. He admitted that, in the past, he’d felt depressed and lonely and I found the fact that he’d built up an incredibly successful kitchen refurbishment business from nothing, despite suffering bad dyslexia that he left school without any qualifications, really impressive. But it does mean that we’re very different. Above all, as much as I want to remain close friends with Richard, I feel our backgrounds are worlds apart and I think he would find me a bit of an intellectual bore. I do hope we stay in touch, though, as he’s such a terrific guy and I really like him.
I knew David rode a motorbike, was 52, divorced over ten years ago, had two children, one at school, one at university, and was ready to settle down again. But he was very much a free spirit. Lo and behold, her arrived for our early evening drinks in very sexy leathers, though he did take the jacket off to reveal a smart shirt, complete with MCC cufflinks. Even though my knowledge of cricket could be written on the back of a postage stamp, it did make a useful starting point for our conversation.
Tall, with a distinguished mop of silver hair, he worked as a freelance accountant and management consultant, which gave him the flexible lifestyle he needed to spend afternoons at Lords. We had shared a love of skiing and mountains and once we got started, we just talked and talked. A jazz band started playing in the bar and I was sad to have to leave for my book group. Apparently I arrived there with a broad grin on my face. The following week I was taken to Ronnie Scotts, and again David was in leathers – I did begin to wonder if he possessed any normal trousers. It was another really relaxed evening, but I realised that we were complete opposites in our attitudes to work and money. It transpired that he’d had financial problems in the past, a big no no for me. But he’s a lovely guy and has proved to be a great companion for listening to a soulful sax on a sultry summer’s evening. And as long as I remember to take them with a rather large pinch of salt, him compliments and charm were incredibly good for my ego.
P.S. None of these dates was my Mr Right, but thanks to Karen, I’m feeling more positive about dating agencies. They sent another man in my direction and, though it’s early days, it’s looking good.