I feel as though I'm about to sit my A-levels all over again. My first date takes place in London. Mairead phones to tell me about M, who is 46, in wealth management, whatever that is, and a divorced father of two grown-up boys.
He lives between London and Oxford. I ask whether he is handsome. The next night, he calls me. He sounds young, and is surprisingly open. He says he likes good hotels and restaurants, long walks and log fires. I tell him I live in the middle of Exmoor, have horses, dogs, cats and rescued farm animals, and am recently divorced.
We agree to meet the following night in the bar at Claridges. I tell him I have dark hair, and will be wearing purple Burberry platforms.
He laughs. I go to a lot of trouble to prepare for this date. I buy a black lace skirt and silver platforms from Prada, and get my hair done. I invest in a Hollywood wax, and an all-over light sheen of fake tan. When I get to the bar I'm so nervous I down a glass of champagne in one go, then text to tell him I've had a 'slight change of shoe: silver platforms, not purple Burberry'.
When he arrives I am disappointed: he looks ordinary, in a normal, brownish suit, clutching a briefcase. He has nice brown eyes, but is not quite tall enough for me. He sits down. God, I think, this is awkward. He orders me another glass of champagne, and tells me about his ex-wife. I find it annoying that, when I tell him I work for a newspaper, he doesn't even ask which one. After precisely one hour he asks for the bill, which immediately tells me he doesn't fancy me.
I hobble off into the night on my shoes and text Mairead: 'Am V depressed.
High end dating agencies in london
He couldn't wait to get shot of me. I think I looked pretty good. Who are these men expecting, Elle Macpherson?
Exclusive and Luxury Matchmaking Agency Seventy Thirty is one of the most high-end dating agencies in London, established in We cater to a select clientele of affluent and accomplished individuals seeking love and companionship. Our matchmaking services practises the following three tenets to ensure the satisfaction of our members.
Contrary to popular opinion there are, according to Mairead, a glut of rich, single men in New York. I find this hard to believe, having watched a great many episodes of Sex And The City, but I valiantly call skirt and shoes into service yet again wearing the same outfit acts, I as a sort of scientific controlmeet Christie, from Mairead's sister agency, Premier Matchmaking, who is hand to arrange everything. Our chat reveals straight away how different the dating scene is in the U.
She tells me where my prospective date went to school and college, lists his many degrees, tells me he is 6ft 2in, divrced with no children, and is the CEO of a bank. She hopes very much I 'enjoy him'. I agree to meet P at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. I sit down at a table. He arrives, and although he is indeed tall and dark, resembling none other than Mr Big, I know in less than five seconds that I will never fancy him.
But, after a few minutes, and much to my surprise, I start to enjoy his company immensely.
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What do you look for, I ask. He says women in New York are only interested in how much money a man makes. Don't you fancy the over-groomed, immaculate Manhattan type?
I ask. The test is what they look like straight out of the shower.
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Oh dear. But I can tell he fancies me, this despite his lack of curiosity about me, and his disconcerting habit of continuing to talk into the remote of his mobile phone. He keeps touching my arm and once, instead of saying, 'If I were to have a relationship with you', he says, 'If I were to have sex with you'.
He is put off, though, when I tell him about my animals; particularly my anecdote about the fact I've trained my three lambs to kiss me on the mouth. That's a deal breaker. Men like to know they come first. After two hours, he pays for our drinks, apologising that he has to leave for a dinner engagement. He gives me his card, and asks me to ring him if I'm ever in New York again. We say our goodbyes and I go to freeze in the snow, trying to hail a cab.
After about ten minutes, a man asks if I need help. It doesn't bode well that it's my date, and I don't even recognise him! I think I cover up my amnesia, and he gallantly phones his driver to take me back to my hotel. He takes off his overcoat and buttons it around me, which I find presumptuous, as it ruins my outfit. I realise I am not very good at being looked after by a man, and that this comes across as detached frostiness. As I get into his limo, he tries to kiss me and I'm afraid I duck, meaning he gets a mouthful of hair.
As I am chauffered through the streets, alone yet again, I comfort myself with the realisation that I could, if I'd really wanted, have landed my very own Mr Big. My final date, back in Britain, is a disaster. Mairead calls and asks whether I am interested in someone aged 40 who is in politics.
She says he is 'charismatic and bright', which I take to mean ' hopelessly ugly'. He calls me, and I don't like his voice, which is on the soprano side. We arrange to meet for dinner, but I'm past caring by this point, so I'm afraid my grooming is a little below par, but I think I still look nice - clean, anyway.
He is at the table, already sitting down. He stands up; there is little difference.
Why are men so short these days? I ask whether he keeps the fact that he uses an upmarket dating agency quiet, but he says no, why not use an expert to help him get what he wants? Which is?
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It turns out he was in a long-term relationship until two years ago, and is only just ready to date again.
He tells me he is 'past dating beauties with fake breasts and blonde hair, the sort who make you look good'. Do men really, in the 21st century, think those sort of women are an asset? He gets nervous when I say this. An hour and 45 minutes later, he asks for the bill. As we leave the restaurant, he doesn't even offer to walk me to my car, which, given we are in Soho and it's late, I find quite cavalier.
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I learn a lot on my dates. That, despite money and success, men are as clueless and fearful about meeting potential partners as we are.
That bankers aren't always boring, and that a lot of the talk about models and eye candy is just their way of ego-boosting. There are different theories as to why this is, one being that women are more willing to invest substantially in finding the right life partner, another being the perception of a depleted pool of eligible men in other walks of life.
My eyes widened. Unwittingly I asked whether this was pounds or dollars.
It was pounds, of course; we were sitting in a Chelsea pub, not in the West Village. Her own eyes narrowed. Finally I offered alcohol. Champagne, that ever reliable pick-me-up. Most dates were pleasant enough. Indeed, two women became friends.
Matchmakers meet clients in person for just a couple hours of their lives, and feedback given after each date does little to alter this reality.
Understandably, everyone wants to put their best side forward on paper and in photos; profiles tended to be of little use ahead of dates. In exclusive dating as in life generally, much comes down to happenstance. Far more effective for me have been events where it is possible to meet several people on the same night.
The most promising of all have been activities that I enjoy doing anyway, which include literary events, yoga and travel the Weekend FT is crammed full of suggestions for such activities, should you ever be stuck for candidates.
Online dating services such as Match. It makes conversation easier as you immediately have something in common with your fellow attendees. Traditional matchmakers are entering the space as well.
One distinctive newcomer in London is The Sloane Arranger, catering to a set that founder Lara Asprey defines as much by shared values as by type of education or physical appearance. Other newcomers in the traditional matchmaking space have also sought to offer more flexible fees arrangements. The Picnic Project is a bespoke agency set up by Suze Cook, a former marketing manager at Microsoft, who spotted ways to improve the dating process while she was single.
If we took a fee from every person who contacted us, then we would probably be retired by now. For everybody else, my advice would be to consider your alternatives. And keep your sense of humour.
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