He lives between London and Oxford.
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I ask whether he is handsome. The next night, he calls me. He sounds young, and is surprisingly open. He says he likes good hotels and restaurants, long walks and log fires.
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I tell him I live in the middle of Exmoor, have horses, dogs, cats and rescued farm animals, and am recently divorced. We agree to meet the following night in the bar at Claridges. I tell him I have dark hair, and will be wearing purple Burberry platforms. I go to a lot of trouble to prepare for this date. I buy a black lace skirt and silver platforms from Prada, and get my hair done. I invest in a Hollywood wax, and an all-over light sheen of fake tan. When I get to the bar I'm so nervous I down a glass of champagne in one go, then text to tell him I've had a 'slight change of shoe: When he arrives I am disappointed: He has nice brown eyes, but is not quite tall enough for me.
God, I think, this is awkward. He orders me another glass of champagne, and tells me about his ex-wife. I find it annoying that, when I tell him I work for a newspaper, he doesn't even ask which one. After precisely one hour he asks for the bill, which immediately tells me he doesn't fancy me. I hobble off into the night on my shoes and text Mairead: He couldn't wait to get shot of me. I think I looked pretty good. Who are these men expecting, Elle Macpherson?
Contrary to popular opinion there are, according to Mairead, a glut of rich, single men in New York.
I find this hard to believe, having watched a great many episodes of Sex And The City, but I valiantly call skirt and shoes into service yet again wearing the same outfit acts, I as a sort of scientific control , meet Christie, from Mairead's sister agency, Premier Matchmaking, who is hand to arrange everything. Our chat reveals straight away how different the dating scene is in the U.
She tells me where my prospective date went to school and college, lists his many degrees, tells me he is 6ft 2in, divrced with no children, and is the CEO of a bank. She hopes very much I 'enjoy him'.
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I agree to meet P at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. I sit down at a table. He arrives, and although he is indeed tall and dark, resembling none other than Mr Big, I know in less than five seconds that I will never fancy him. But, after a few minutes, and much to my surprise, I start to enjoy his company immensely. What do you look for, I ask. He says women in New York are only interested in how much money a man makes. Don't you fancy the over-groomed, immaculate Manhattan type? The test is what they look like straight out of the shower. But I can tell he fancies me, this despite his lack of curiosity about me, and his disconcerting habit of continuing to talk into the remote of his mobile phone.
He keeps touching my arm and once, instead of saying, 'If I were to have a relationship with you', he says, 'If I were to have sex with you'. He is put off, though, when I tell him about my animals; particularly my anecdote about the fact I've trained my three lambs to kiss me on the mouth. That's a deal breaker. Men like to know they come first. After two hours, he pays for our drinks, apologising that he has to leave for a dinner engagement. He gives me his card, and asks me to ring him if I'm ever in New York again. We say our goodbyes and I go to freeze in the snow, trying to hail a cab.
After about ten minutes, a man asks if I need help.
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It doesn't bode well that it's my date, and I don't even recognise him! I think I cover up my amnesia, and he gallantly phones his driver to take me back to my hotel. He takes off his overcoat and buttons it around me, which I find presumptuous, as it ruins my outfit. I realise I am not very good at being looked after by a man, and that this comes across as detached frostiness.
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As I get into his limo, he tries to kiss me and I'm afraid I duck, meaning he gets a mouthful of hair. As I am chauffered through the streets, alone yet again, I comfort myself with the realisation that I could, if I'd really wanted, have landed my very own Mr Big.
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My final date, back in Britain, is a disaster. Mairead calls and asks whether I am interested in someone aged 40 who is in politics. She says he is 'charismatic and bright', which I take to mean ' hopelessly ugly'. He calls me, and I don't like his voice, which is on the soprano side. Founder Jill Kelleher wanted to start a matchmaking service geared toward high profile singles for whom maintaining privacy is a must, and started Kelleher International in , in San Francisco.
In addition to matchmaking, they also offer date coaching. But what if you could get the same incredible results, but for a smaller investment? Plus, matchmaking services are paid for by the month, which means no contracts. In fact, the typical VIDA client meets someone within the first, second, or third month of service!
Want to see if VIDA is a good match for you? It all starts with a short and confidential call with one of our elite matchmakers. Then, a house call. My matchmaker informed me that, to get to know me, she needed to visit my home. Exactly how all this fed into the matchmaking process, I never would come to know, aside from it perhaps confirming that I was good for the fees.
Regardless, I set to work on defining Miss Right more thoroughly: She enjoys walking, family, socialising. I set an age range, attached photos of women I fancied and hit Send. Less straightforward was my attempt to get that profile memorialised in the contract somehow. Yet my matchmaker was very good at not using aggressive sales tactics. Take your time; look at other options, she advised, while emailing me teaser profiles: In any other realm finding a home, hiring a key staff member I would never entertain paying all of the fees up front, with no part contingent on the basic delivery of the service let alone a successful outcome.
However, matchmaking is different. It deals in affairs of the heart. A contrarian, non-commercial streak in me embraced the romanticism of it all. Certainly I was persuaded that it would be odd, and probably indeed impossible, to pay a financial bounty upon meeting a romantic partner. Moving in together, marriage? None of this adequately explains why per cent of the fees needed to be paid up front. This was never convincingly answered, perhaps because my agency never needed to. It would be unfair to call introduction services confidence tricks, but my role in the arrangement increasingly came to feel like that of the mark.
There would be no close matches — not even a short-term relationship, let alone anything serious or marriage. One of the very first matches was the most promising: But a month later, her calendar miraculously opened up.
Within six months, my matchmaker had gone on maternity leave and was replaced by two other staff members. Before long, I asked for a partial refund and you can guess how that went. One curiosity throughout these match-made dates was that I, the man, invariably felt an obligation to foot all bar and restaurant bills. This was, apparently, the norm in these higher-end dating arrangements: Why should this be, in an era of greater gender equality? Just how unbalanced could things get on this expensive dating journey?