I told him I was busy for the next three weeks and made my escape: Heart Searching: Sometimes there are hearts and flowers, sometimes non-starts and glowers. Two readers describe their very different experiences

IN 1982, when I was 32, a seven-year relationship ended and I spent the next nine months discovering that I enjoyed my own company and that of my women friends.

Teaching in a girls' school, I was unlikely to meet anyone through work, and in any case there's not much incentive to go out on wet Friday nights in February. But when the summer came I thought I might enjoy being part of a couple, so I tried the only avenue I could think of - Time Out's lonely hearts column.

I received lots of replies, but they took a fair bit of weeding. Out immediately went the misspelt, the ungrammatical and those written in green or purple ink - sorry, I'm a bit of an intellectual snob - and also out went those who wrote of their interests in fast cars or Club 18-30 holidays.

In the end I made arrangements to meet only three: Mark, who described himself as a 'headhunter' in 'the media'; Tim, a lawyer; and James, who described himself as 45 (a bit over my undeclared age limit) but who sounded quite promising - interested in food, wine, the theatre and all the other conversational currencies of my like-minded friends.

Mark was much less attractive than his photograph, which had showed him smiling quirkily, suntanned and relaxed on holiday - possibly some years earlier, since his hair, black in the photograph, was now nearly grey. He spent a great deal of time establishing that he didn't 'need' to use ads to meet people, and his conversation consisted mainly of lists of all the fascinating and beautiful women ('Ah, yes, Ingrid,' with a self-consciously quirky smile of amused reflection) with whom he spent his time. He'd come armed with photographs of himself and all the Ingrids on various holidays/house- parties/barbecues.

I decided I simply wasn't interesting enough to distract someone so clearly fascinated by himself and didn't - as I'd said I would - ring him later. But why had he answered my ad? Did all the Ingrids find him as boring as I did?

I arranged to meet Tim a week later at a restaurant. Tim was a company lawyer, and an expert on Saudi contract law. My mother had been very excited at the prospect of my going out with a lawyer (though I hadn't told her how I'd met him - there is still a stigma, and there certainly was in 1983).

The evening was a disaster for me, however. We began by exchanging the usual sort of personal details - jobs, preferences in music and so on - but I dislike talking about teaching when I'm not at work (everyone went to school, so they're all experts on 'education'). That gave him a clear field on 'great Saudi contracts I have negotiated'. I started by trying to nod encouragingly, but he hardly needed it. He clearly loved his work, and couldn't imagine that I didn't find this as fascinating as he did. At the end of the evening I told him I was very busy for the next three weeks, and made my escape.

I'd arranged to meet 45-year-old James at Sloane Square tube station, and, circumspect this time, said I'd be wearing blue, but went in pink. There was only one possibility at the tube station - a dapper gent (there's no other phrase for him) of at least 65, wearing a striped blazer with a carnation in his buttonhole. He looked at me with a kind of doggy hopeful yearning - despite the pink - as I walked past and I guessed he'd been stood up many times in the past; but I'm afraid I went straight home.

Lying seems to be endemic in these arrangements: my ex-boyfriend's 58- year-old mother was advised, when she joined an agency, to say she was 10 years younger since 'men don't want women over 50'. I'm told I don't look anything like my 42 years - but am I now a hopeless case?

Shortly after the James incident I met someone, and the relationship lasted nearly six years. I'm on my own again now, but I'm still more inclined to trust to chance. I don't really think I'd ever meet anyone suitable through an agency - otherwise, why is it that for every female journalist who does one of those 'I joined a dating agency' articles, the outcome is always the same? The men are hopeless.

And then there are the 'dinner- party' groups. I read two articles shortly after these appeared on the scene, and the writers made the same point - the men were really just hoping for more sexual partners. It was the women who were exchanging phone numbers and arranging to see films, go shopping together and so on.

One of the problems of the agency method, it seems to me, is that it takes no account of chemistry. My friends invite me to dinner with 'nice' men who, on the surface, have everything I like: they're interested in films, theatre, food, art galleries, gardens, music, country walks and politics.

I work with a nice man who theoretically ought to suit me; and there's another who lives two flats away who also likes the same sorts of things I do. But I don't fancy any of them, whereas the six-year realationship was with someone all my friends thought completely unsuitable - 'What on earth do you have in common?' - but who made me laugh.

Marilyn, London

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice