Gender vs spender: The Cost Of Being Single

Unattached women spend more than twice as much as men on looking their best. What does that tell us about the dating battleground? Here, two writers prepare for a big night out

A week before

For my second date with my new crush, I start mentally sketching out my outfit a full seven days before Date-Day. Because I am going for the "Take me home tonight" vibe, I head to Topshop and choose a short black bubble skirt. Sadly, I realise I have no suitable first-time underwear. I find it hilarious when male friends complain about dropping three-figure sums taking women out to dinner, because women take the hit when it comes to pre-date preparation. All the boys have to do is show up and smile sweetly in the same suit they wear to work, having showered and perhaps applied a daub of aftershave. The cost for women is far higher, in time and cold, hard cash.

Five days before

I'm heading to Selfridges desperately seeking suspenders, plus killer heels. I bring a male friend, Jonathan, for second opinions. My eye is immediately drawn to the Gina stilettos with rhinestone buckle, dominatrix-chic. "Do I look hot or scary?" I ask John, modelling them. "This is scary," he says, pointing to the £365 price tag, "Jesus Christ! That's half your rent."

Slightly hyperventilating, I ask if he thinks that splashing out on lingerie would be a better investment. Can I justify spending £80 on a bra? "Are you kidding? If you play your cards right he won't even think about looking at your feet. Definitely go for the underwear." So I focus on a pink satin and black lace Agent Provocateur bra and underwear set, complete with fishnet stockings and stilettos. Palms sweating, I hand over my credit card and feel my knees turn to jelly when I spot the total: £203. "It's going to be worth it," Jonathan says. "He is going to have a heart attack."

Having just added to my spiralling debt, I know the feeling. Still, I justify the expenditure by telling myself that had I bought the Gina shoes, I would have spent twice as much. So, really, I saved £162. In Selfridges' sex toy emporium, I pick a mini bottle of Edible Mint Lube for £4.99. Being prudent, I also grab a three-pack of condoms for £3.55.

Visibly sweating, Jonathan bales out. But I'm in a full-on shopping frenzy, and since I had decided to go for the smoky-eyed temptress look, I buy a Benefit Bad Girls black eyeliner and shimmery body powder from Boots to pat on my push-up bra-enhanced cleavage. Total cost: £32.

Two days before

I make the trip to the salon to have the obligatory Brazilian wax (£30), since previous DIY at-home attempts in my nether regions have led to blood, sweat and many tears. There's also the matter of my feet, which due to my heel habit during the summer seem to have morphed into something befitting a Lord of the Rings character. So I opt for a pedicure (£28), but do my nails myself, thus "saving" another £15. I'm so nervous about seeing him that I've been biting them all off, anyway.

Four hours before

The big day has arrived and all that's left to do is frantically change my outfits a total of six times, do my hair and makeup and pull out the right pair of shoes, which takes more than three hours.

Half an hour before

I shell out £15 for a taxi because my shoes simply can't do public transport - and an umbrella because I forgot mine, and kissing in the rain only works when a couple is already in love. I'm not risking anything ruining my efforts tonight. In the end, I decide that the massive expenditure was worth it - because I really do feel beautiful - no matter what the date's outcome. And the taxi is my final expenditure, since it's my rule never to pay for anything on a second date, whereas he ends up spending close to £300 on dinner and drinks. So was it worth it? Well, we had a fantastic time and he's already called for a third date. I just hope that I can afford it.

COST

Topshop skirt: £29

Agent Provocateur bra, knickers, suspender and fishnet stockings: £203

Makeup: £32

Bedroom accessories: £8.54

Pedicure/Brazilian bikini wax: £58

Taxi: £15

Emergency umbrella/breath mints: £6

Total: £351.54

TIME

Shopping at Topshop: one hour

Shopping at Selfridges: three hours

Buying make-up: one hour

Waxing and pedicure: one hour

Hair, make-up and dressing: two hours

Total: eight hours

The man's story by Martin Deeson

Thirty-six hours before

As I get dressed in the morning, I idly wonder what to wear tomorrow night. But it is no more than a passing thought. "Probably my best suit," I think. I like wearing suits on a date - it looks like you've made an effort, and it's kind of sexy (as long as you look more brat pack than bank pack). And besides, I've got five of them and I never get to wear them for work.

7pm the day before

Back from work, I give my outfit a bit more thought. Perhaps a suit will look too smart. Perhaps I'll wear jeans. But that'll look too casual. I chastise myself for my complete lack of understanding of the words "smart casual". I don't really do smart casual. Unless I wear my best jeans and a suit jacket. Then I worry that this will make me look like a City boy trying to dress down. The phone rings and I start thinking about something else.

Two hours later

While cooking dinner I decide that I definitely don't want to look like I've made too much effort. Perhaps I'll wear my jeans with the ripped knee and a really old T-shirt and that way I'll look scruffy, but interesting. The microwave pings and I stop worrying and eat my dinner. I decide not to drink tonight to minimise any facial "bloat".

11pm

While brushing my teeth, I look at my hair in the bathroom mirror. I decide it needs washing. But my hair looks rubbish straight after I wash it, kind of like blond straw. And if I wash it now it'll be wet when I go to bed and then I'll wake up looking even more rubbish. I decide to leave it. After brushing my teeth I decide to brush them again with the whitening toothpaste I picked up for $12 on my last trip to New York.

1am

As I go to bed, I think: "No, I'll definitely wear my best blue suit. But will I wear a shirt and shoes? Or a T-shirt and trainers with it? Hmm. dunno." I go to sleep.

8am

I wake up and take one look in the mirror and decide I must wash my hair immediately and to hell with the consequences. I decide not to use conditioner as it makes my hair go flat and dead. I will live with the dry straw effect instead. I also use the whitening toothpaste again and wish I'd got my teeth professionally whitened and fixed years ago. I trim any pesky nose hair and cut my toenails in anticipation of the date being a success.

8.30am

After breakfast I decide to go back into the bathroom and exfoliate my face with some face scrub that must be three years old. I think I got it free in a goody bag after a magazine party.

8.40am

As I get dressed I decide I can't possibly wear jeans. I will wear my nice suit. Suddenly in a panic I wonder if my suit needs cleaning. I pull it down from the rail and give it a once-over. Not bad apart from something nasty stuck to the collar. It looks like wasabi. Luckily it comes off when I scrape it with a fingernail. Now, what shirt will I wear? The nice white one. I look in the wardrobe. It's not there. I look in the dirty linen basket. It is there. There's nothing for it, I'm going to have to buy a new shirt in my lunch hour. I cycle to work in the optimistic belief that this will lead to last-minute weight loss.

1pm lunchtime

I am not a natural shopper. I could go to Selfridge's menswear department but there is too much choice and time is short. I decide to go to Kilgour's on Savile Row and buy a white shirt. Hang the expense, it's a beautiful shirt which will last for years and it's worth the extra money for the experience of buying it in 20 minutes on Savile Row rather than going to Selfridge's and being overwhelmed with choice for an hour. It costs £130.

6.30pm

Get home from work, have a shower and my second shave of the day - to avoid the chance of giving my date razor burn. Faff around with my hair for five minutes. Get dressed. Call a cab.

COST

Whitening toothpaste: $12 (£7)

New shirt: £130

Total: £137

TIME

Buying shirt: 20 minutes

Faffing with hair: five minutes

Total: 25 minutes

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