That might not even be his face. Earlier this year, having healed sufficiently to move from vodka to wine, it occurred to me that I needed to meet new people. And by people, I mean men. A friend suggested internet dating. Most people in the online pool were odd, or dull or nuts, or love rats, she said, I assumed she was exaggerating , but it was a lot more fun than slippers, Sudoku and the gramophone. I signed up to the biggest of the no-cost sites, filled in the questionnaire, posted a photograph that hinted at hidden depth and took two hours to write and polish my profile, distilling life experience and interests into nuggets, and offering fascinating glimpses of my inner world.
Gratifyingly, half an hour later I had two messages. You look very squeezable. First, can I ask — do you eat meat? I can see from your face that you have shadows in your heart. I think I can help. I logged off and sat for a while, staring at the screen. Then I logged on again, to see if anyone else had written yet. There was a message from someone called Freddie. They could be anyone. Everybody loves holidays and music and films and food, and wants to travel the world.
Everyone has a good sense of humour, works hard and likes country weekends; everybody loves a sofa, a DVD and a bottle of wine. So far, so conventional. But sometimes the people who have a lot to say about themselves can prove the more dangerous. Inside the anonymity of a dating site, nothing can be taken at face value. When I told the dating friend, she said: If you build it, they will come.
Create a search engine and a messaging system, then stand back and let people find one another. I started with men in my own city, of about the same age, education and outlook. The last thing most divorced men want is women of the same age, education and outlook. I can only tell you of my own experience, which is that mid-life men have high expectations, a situation exacerbated by being outnumbered three to one by women.
I was like a labrador let off its lead at the park, bounding up to people expecting to make friends. This was awful and humiliating. I know of dating site marriages.
Admittedly the woman in question is a goddess. The goddesses at least the under ones are probably swamped with offers. I asked my friend Jack for a male appraisal of my dating site profile. He said it was lovely, like me. You expect a lot. You make it clear you only want clever, funny, high-achieving men. That puts men off. There was an immediate response. He said he spent a lot of time with his lizards. I told the dating site veteran that I was having a poor response rate to the advertisement for my heart and soul.
She was shocked that I was admitting to being Did I want those kind of men, who judged people by their numbers? Would waist measurement be the next thing? Another friend said that the first friend was right. They were doing it themselves, to beat the system.
The trouble was, they were all messages from men who thought I was When I confessed, nobody wanted to meet. He thought I was probably older than that. The fourth strung me along a while. What kind of 50 was I? I was a spirited, cool, unusual 50, I said desperately. I still wore plimsolls and had a silly sense of humour, I said, citing Monty Python. I still bopped to 80s classics in the kitchen. Trevor had been dumped and was only just passing out of denial and into acceptance, he said.
He was doing the work but it was hard. Four thousand words of backstory followed. In return, I gave him mine. Another great long email arrived, talking philosophically about life and quoting writers.
It was charming, endearing; I reciprocated with my own thoughts, quoting other writers. We were all set. Then, the day before dinner, he cancelled. The last line of his message said: A short, sharp interview that I failed. Determined to exorcise the bad first date, I agreed to another, with an apparently jaunty tax specialist. By then my cup was empty. In all sorts of ways, my cup seemed to be empty.
Most of the encounters so far, on screen and in life, have been like this. As Jack keeps telling me, men are visual creatures. Her column on online dating, Mid-life ex-wife, will begin 22 November.