Looking after Number One: If you're not half of a couple, does it have to mean that something's always missing? Celia Dodd meets five single operators. I would really love to fall in love

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The Independent Online
Ian Moss, 31, a laboratory technician in Huddersfield, has been engaged twice. The first relationship broke up when he was 22. After six celibate years he lived with a woman for three years, until they split up more than a year ago.

MY PARENTS think I should be going to pubs and chatting women up, but I just can't do that. I imagine most women don't like it - they might feel hassled. That's something I can't get through to my parents, because probably when they were young you could trust people more.

During the first period on my own I tried everything to meet women and I'd get really disappointed if nothing came of it. Me and another single friend used to go out hoping to meet someone. But we're not very good at chatting women up - all the lines sound so corny.

Things would have been difficult if it weren't for my friend - we support each other. When things start getting on top of us we defuse the situation by joking about the fact that we're both 31 and still single, and will we ever meet the right woman.

We did try night-clubs for a period, but came to the conclusion that they're like cattle markets, everyone's there for the same thing. Even though you're not handing cash over, you are buying them drinks, and that's like paying for sex. It's not me. I've never had a one-night stand in my life, and I hope I never get to the stage where I want one.

I don't want to have a lot of relationships. Before a relationship gets sexual I want to have fallen in love. It's nothing to do with Aids; I'm an old-fashioned romantic.

I've met an awful lot of women in various ways - putting ads in the local paper and replying to them, joining dating agencies - but none of them seemed to click somehow. I think there is a stigma attached to personal ads, but it doesn't bother me.

I'm really casual about blind dates now, because I've done it so many times. I don't really get nervous. But the first few times were frightening. Beforehand, I'd think, she'll be wonderful and she'll think I'm a complete prat.

There were a couple of occasions when neither person dared to make the first move for about 10 minutes. And there are times where it's a total mismatch and you can't wait for the evening to come to an end.

When I was 22, I didn't think there was such a thing as people who don't get married. People expected me to get married, and I expected it as well. If someone had told me then that I would spend the rest of my life on my own, I'd have said, well kill me now then, life isn't worth living. I saw a wife and a family as necessary for a successful life.

I no longer feel that, though. I'd like to be a good husband and meet a special person and have a family. But there's an equal part of me that says I can have a satisfying, happy life on my own, that there are still things I can achieve. If I don't get married I'll be free to pursue a different career - my present job doesn't satisfy me at all. That has been my biggest frustration in life.

If I have a family I'll have to stay where I am - I couldn't afford to re-train or do a course - although that would be a sacrifice I would be willing to make. But I sometimes feel that time is ticking away. I don't want to be an old father.

There are times when I just hope the telephone's going to ring. Sometimes I just wander around as though I'm lost, as if something's missing. But the real loneliness is when you're doing something - watching television or reading an article - and you'd love to be able to discuss it. Yet what frustrated me about my last relationship was that my girlfriend didn't want to discuss things or share them - so I actually felt lonely in that relationship in the same way that I sometimes feel lonely now.

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