Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

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The Independent Online

It's been a while since I've done any internet dating, but after staring at fog that looked like something out of a vampire film, I decided to reactivate my accounts on three websites. I find it strange that people are still embarrassed to admit they met online. To me, clicking on a profile is no more random than bumping into someone in a bar. Besides, I can flirt in my slippers a definite bonus in winter.

At first, I was thrilled when, after only four hours, I had 60 new messages. But I soon remembered why I had tired of internet dating in the first place: the profiles all seem to merge into one. I enjoy candlelit dinners as much as the next girl, but I'm perplexed by guys like "Ready4therealthing" who list "long walks on the beach" and "soulful conversation" as interests. It's as if men have compiled a list of what they think women want, drawing inspiration only from the covers of romance novels.

I was nostalgic for Craigslist, the website where people post messages telling the world whatever they're looking for. There's a Casual Encounters section, where men run ads like: "The sex toy guy: I'll supply the toys and hotel, you bring the batteries and you!" At least they're direct.

A friend who runs her own PR firm suggested that I try a website where you can hook up with sugar daddies. I'd browsed so-called "millionaire" sites in the past, but been put off by profile headlines like: "Do you want to drive my Ferrari?" and "Have you ever dreamed of being Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?" I can't say that my life plan ever included streetwalking. Still, since I'm not a gold-digger but do value success, I decided to take a chance.

Despite my promise to restrict my hunting time to 10 minutes a day, searching for new members is highly addictive. I got really excited when I saw "WhyNotMe", a cute six-foot-four banker, so I added him to my Hotlist. Within five minutes he sent me a message back: "Loved your pic... I'm married, but offering an allowance of 4-6K monthly, depending on frequency of meetings!" I politely replied that I can pay my own way, and don't date married men.

I have to say that the site has improved, but the vast majority of emails I got were still from grinning, fifty-something Jack Nicholson lookalikes standing next to boats and sports cars.

But after wading through tons of winks and flirts, I made contact with two cute prospects, including a 41-year-old producer named Mike. I emailed him to say that I was taking my love life off-line, at least for now. He wants to keep emailing, but I took a chance and suggested that we meet for a drinks. The true test of chemistry has to happen in the flesh.

If all else fails, there's an airbrushed photo of a lovely man named Charles who seems very keen to contact me, and swears that we are soulmates. He's stuck in Nigeria waiting for a cheque to clear all I have to do is send him 5,000 and we can live happily ever after. The scary thing is, he's not the least believable guy to have contacted me this week.

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