Get more at your local farmers’ market

I thought I might have a nice story to tell my grandchildren the other day. I was having dinner with some friends of mine and they mentioned a charming stall-holder at their local farmers’ market whom they had talked to several times whilst buying his delicious soup. On their latest visit, the good-looking soup-seller had a sign on his stall stating that he was ‘looking for love’ and asking interesting parties to ‘apply here’.

My friend, who has very patiently listened to my dating tales over the last few months, enquired politely and mentioned that she knew someone who might be interested. Having obtained his contact details she agreed that I would drop him an email with a recent photo and a little bit about me.

It sounded like a good opportunity. He was my age, an entrepreneur with his own music company and fledgling soup business, and as a result, too busy to go out much to meet new people and not keen on online dating.

Sadly it turned out – at least he was honest – that he was looking for some female company but love wasn’t on offer: he was just looking for the occasional night together with no strings attached. I think he should change his sign…. talk about misleading advertising!

Rethinking Mr Perfect

It’s easy to end up with a very long list of values and attributes we look for in ‘Mr Right’ – if I’m honest I wouldn’t date half of my exes if I met them now. Which probably explains why I’m currently single.

So a new book which argues that if you are a single woman over 30 who wants to have kids you should stop waiting for the perfect man and marry the first half-decent one who likes you has really made me think.

The book is based on the author’s own experience and research conducted among 30-year-olds. Underlying the entire premise is her conviction that they all long for conventional family life.

There are so reasons why I can decide that a date isn’t suitable: their occupation; their height; their aversion to cats; their shoes…. By the time I finally met someone who ticks most of the boxes, it is highly likely that I’ll be well past child-bearing age. Though having seen friends reduced to exhausted shells of their former selves as a result of motherhood I’m not wholly convinced that I want children anytime soon (see my post on freezing eggs!).

I suspect sales of ‘Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr Good Enough’ by Lori Gottlieb, published here next week, are going to be very healthy as it hits upon a dilemma that many 30-something women face – do we bite the bullet and settle for someone ‘ok’ or hold out for ‘Mr Wonderful’ who makes us weak at the knees, when a) we may never meet such a man or b) we meet him when we’re 50, suffering hot flushes and starting to invest in support underwear.

Bella DePaulo, author of ‘The Living Single’ blog on the internet, has called Gottlieb’s ‘husband-fixation’ ‘tragic’ and considers comments the author made to be ‘nakedly and proudly regressive’. Ok, some  women truly are happy being single and child-less – I can find many recently-published paperbacks by thirty-something women on the joys of singlehood in the bookshop. But in my opinion most women do dream of finding someone to share the rest of their life with, and I think our quest for perfection and increasingly high standards in so many aspects of life poses a real threat to some of us ever settling down. Now, onto Amazon for my copy…

The science behind singledom

The media seems fascinated by mathematical formulas dreamt up by PR agencies and scientists to apparently explain such mysteries as happiness and how old you are likely to live for. The latest, from maths genius Peter Backus, shows that there is a one in 285,000 chance of you meeting your perfect partner. Not exactly high!

Backus found that out of the 30 million women in the UK, only 26 would be suitable girlfriends for him, taking into account the number of single women aged 24 to 34 living in London and the percentage of women likely to find him attractive. Though how he worked out the latter is anyone’s guess.

The news isn’t exactly positive for singletons but may reassure them that finding someone suitable is a numbers game. I’m not sure I believe any of it, there are far too many couples around for this to have any truth! But you do often have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet ‘The One’…..

The boomerang generation

Apparently the recession has forced half a million adults between the ages of 35 and 44 to return to live with parents in 2009 due to debt, unemployment, property prices and rising numbers of relationships breaking up.

The bank Abbey, which carried out the research, says there are also around 440,000 between the ages of 25 to 34 who have been forced to return home.

The findings aren’t that surprising – being made redundant can have a huge knock-on effect on a person’s self-esteem and subsequently cause relationship problems. But living with your parents when single must make dating more difficult.

Most women look for financial stability in a potential partner, and men tend to look for independence. A first date admitting that they have had to move home due to money problems and/ or redundancy would be a big cross in many people’s eyes, especially those in their mid to late thirties who are most likely looking for a long-term relationship.

Let’s hope the economy bounces back in 2010 or there will be even more relationship break-ups – those of parents whose money runs out after their children move back home!

Changing our dating behaviours

It is so easy to get used to acting and thinking a certain way. We forget that there are different ways to see things, and alternative ways to behave. But as the saying goes, “If we keep doing what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got.”

My longest patch of singlehood was four years and it felt like an eternity, especially when close friends were busy getting engaged, having babies or just enjoying good relationships that made them happy and fulfilled. I felt like the longer I was single the less chance I had of meeting someone and looking back I believe that was true BECAUSE I was thinking that. If we believe something, life has a funny way of making sure that reality matches our outlook.

It was only when I consciously tried to give a guy I met much more of a chance than I would have ordinarily, and made an effort to change that voice in my head saying that I’d never meet anyone, that things started to change for me.

Ok it took me four years, but I finally came to the realisation that I had been dismissing men because they were one or two ticks short of an incredibly long wishlist, and continually reinforcing my belief that I would be single forever by telling myself that on a daily basis.

It’s very difficult to get out of an ingrained way of thinking and behaving and that’s why it really helps to have another person who can objectively look at your situation, and most importantly your beliefs and ways of thinking. A professional coach is best-placed to do this as they have no vested interest and can be totally impartial. It was seeing a life coach a couple of years ago that made me start thinking about my values and what I wanted in life, and the sort of person that will make me happy.

Personal matchmaking agencies becoming more popular

With long working hours and the pressures of busy careers, many Londoners find it difficult to find love. Personal matchmaking agencies are on the rise and look set to become accepted as just another professional services – like using an estate agent to find a property or a recruitment consultant to find a new job.

Like online dating, using a matchmaking service has lost the stigma which used to be attached to it a few years ago. Instead of the sad thirty-something accountant still living with his parents and lacking the social skills to find a partner, you are more likely to meet an interesting, successful and social guy who has been too focused on building a career to date if you use a matchmaking agency today. Indeed if you want to meet a very successful man with a few millions in the bank you can opt for one of the high end agencies such as Berkeley International or Seventy Thirty, as long as you have a spare £6k to get you through their doors.

The past two years have seen a huge increase in membership of matchmaking agencies. One factor is the much higher chance of success of using an agency to find Mr or Mrs Right compared to online dating. This is due to the in-depth psychological profiling of all members together with informed intuition on the part of the matchmaker who looks at important factors involved in whether two people will get on, such as values, background, interests and aspirations. This removes risk and weeds out the many players who are only interested in no-strings sex, or in having a fling behind their partner’s back, who litter online dating sites, not to mention the weird, socially inept and unbalanced. Agencies will reject those applicants, together with those who are obviously a lot older or – dare I say it – heavier than they claim.

If I was single I wouldn’t think twice about signing up with an agency, finding that special someone is too important to be left to chance. Personal matchmaking is a safe and trusted alternative to meeting men in bars which, let’s face it, has definitely lost its appeal when you’re in your thirties and more interested in cosy dinner parties with friends!

Dating website TV ad found to be a big con

The advertising watchdog has found the eHarmony TV advert to be misleading. I always wondered how the dating website can substantiate its claim in the ad that 2% of the 4 million Americans who get married every year – that’s a highly unlikely 80,000 people – met on eHarmony.com. It turns out that they are unable to.

Following complaints from viewers, the Advertising Standards Authority investigated and ruled the advert as misleading because it claimed a “definitive figure” of marriages based on a 2007 online survey of 7,000 people (errrm, so they used the responses of just 7,000 to make a claim that 80,000 people met on their site, highly scientific – not!)

As a result of other complaints from the public the ASA also said that the ad failed to make clear that in 20% of all cases eHarmony is unable to find a match for those who have taken the time to register on the site.

Out of curiosity, and obviously rather bored one evening, I decided to register on eHarmony.co.uk to see how it is different from all the millions of other dating websites out there, and why it claims, rather bizarrely, to be a “relationship site” rather than a dating site – I mean, talk about meaningless marketing rubbish! That American voice-over is high on my list of the most irritating things ever.

I soon regretted it. The process of going through all the personality profiling questions takes well over an hour. At the end I was told I had just one match. ONE, in the whole of London, which apparently has around 4 million singletons. eHarmony.co.uk is clearly struggling to convince people to finish the registration. My match was a rather unattractive lanky kitchen assistant around five years younger than me. If that’s the best they can do, hopefully the irritating advert will disappear from our TV screens forever!