The seven ages of love: 20s

Rob Sharp, 28, gives his take on love and sex at his stage in life
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Indy Lifestyle Online

One evening, when I was 21, I was at a party within the grounds of a 16th-century palace as 1 million worth of fireworks exploded above my head and a beautiful Swedish-Ghanaian medical student whispered into my ear that she loved me. Fast forward seven years, and the last girl I saw dumped me with a five-line email then posted my boxer shorts back to me. It seems that matters have rapidly deteriorated in my love life.

I would not say I am particularly successful with women. I lack good looks, I have scant charm, and have little or no intelligence. I can barely string a sentence together most mornings. Anywhere I do get with girls I would attribute to two things, which are the ability to induce pity in others and fox-like cunning. I jest of course (I have an IQ of 256), but hard-hitting attributes such as these are necessary to get anywhere with the opposite sex.

As I described to one friend recently, being a single male in his twenties is like being caught up in a "love Vietnam"; albeit in my case without the necessary equipment. It is a bloodbath out there, and in the presence of far surlier, impressive specimens, one needs to have one's wits about one. I am of that age where I am surrounded by lots of other single men and women, who all have plenty of opportunities to meet people. Some of them have sports cars. Many feel unsatisfied with what they have.

To try to address such issues I went out for a night on the town with Dr Victoria Lukats, psychiatrist and dating expert for dating website parship.co.uk. Victoria and I met in the upmarket environs of the Soho Hotel in central London. It was her plan to take me out on the town and advise me on where my love life was lacking. She had previously asked me to complete three questionnaires which looked at how comfortable I was dating girls and we looked at the results. She said that I seemed to have an above-average ability to meet girls, although I did not tell her that I had slightly exaggerated on my form, and that I had not really seen 17 women in the last three months.

She said that the pattern of such behaviour "was somewhat striking", and added that this was a problem only if I thought it was. I interrupted her to lay out my position. "I am not picky," I shouted, banging my fist down on the bar. She countered this by saying I could be "falling into a series of casual encounters" rather than actively pursuing the kind of woman I would like to date.

"The only thing you seem a little reserved or shy about is approaching a woman you haven't been introduced to, for example a stranger in a bar," she continued. "Of course, you don't necessarily need to be able to chat a woman up in a bar in order to have a relationship but it all helps." But approaching women in bars, as all men are aware, can be a risky business, and one that I prefer, personally, to avoid. Unless I already know them.

Victoria also suggested enlisting the help of my friends and family. Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust my mother to make a complicated casserole, let alone decide what woman I go out with. And going to my friends is a bit of a problem, because the well-trodden "networks" that exist from university and work mean that inevitably you will end up treading on someone's toes for example, by unwittingly hitting on an ex-girlfriend or relative of a friend.

Victoria said I should choose my venue carefully. "I think you want to meet highly intelligent, attractive women who share your sense of humour, probably mid- to late-twenties, professional, definitely single, living in London, possibly working in media." Where would these women hang out? "Nice bars in central London on a Thursday or Friday night." Go figure.

Following her advice, we ended up in a trendy bar. The only single ladies seemed to be a group of 21-year-olds, who were well-attired and surrounded by a ring of men, facing outwards, collectively vigilant. I decided that I would rather talk to Victoria, who seemed like the most interesting person in there. She is an attractive lady in her early thirties, equally well-turned out, and has a flirtatious manner. Because her job was essentially to boost my confidence by paying me compliments, I soon developed an inappropriate crush. "Your chances of chatting anyone up are slightly ruined now, because they probably think we're a couple," she cooed. She told me I needed to be more pro-active talking to single girls. "Attractive girls do not need to chat men up," she said. I took another sip of my drink and began to get restless.

The problem I have with her advice is that, if I genuinely thought someone was interesting, I might be able to strike up a conversation and find common ground. But the idea of going "out on the pull" is just wrong. More importantly, I don't think men have evolved enough to be able to do it without being blindingly obvious, and therefore looking desperate. Categorising the whole courtship process is a very, very bad thing.

Victoria and I parted company amicably. Maybe I am destined to be single for many more years to come, a "tumbleweed" blowing its way through the media, destined to stare into the middle-distance and suffer earnestly for his art, alone, without the comfort and cherishes that a good woman could provide. It is a daunting prospect but one that I am willing to brave for the good of the male species; and the future good of the universe.

Rob Sharp can be contacted for light chat, maybe more, at r.sharp@independent.co.uk

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