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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas