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Then, Tinder came along. Tinder interacts with Facebook , making it more likely that you will identify others you know when dating online. I was drawn to the idea of a personalised service that would be discreet yet effective, so I used the web instead to search for a traditional matchmaker. Most matchmakers I came across were clearly seeking wealthy, international clients, typically with offices in Mayfair. The one I picked appeared more down to earth, its premises located outside central London.
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She was well spoken, in her early thirties, attractive and not pushy. Part of my brain began turning: At our first meeting, we discussed everything you might expect: 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.
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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.
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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.
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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? I was about to find out.
Here, a deeper truth about the way this exclusive dating world works was revealed: There are different theories as to why this is, one being that women are more willing to invest substantially in finding the right life partner, another being the perception of a depleted pool of eligible men in other walks of life. Unwittingly I asked whether this was pounds or dollars. It was pounds, of course; we were sitting in a Chelsea pub, not in the West Village. Her own eyes narrowed. Ditch the selfie and big up your ex.
Can hypnotherapy stop my 'binge drinking'? Oh come on, women are just as badly behaved as men. Do we really need women shouting about their periods and sex? Warwick's naked Calendar Girls have come out stronger. People put invest in it so they can meet someone like them. Nowadays people have much higher expectations. The birth of mobile phones, social media, tweeting texting and chatting online have changed human nature.
People cancel by text now. And that culture has spread into the dating world — people want what they want. The set-up is distinctly old-fashioned, as Mairead explains: I had a nice time. Not mind-blowing, not terrible, just quite normal. But it was still very different to going on a date with a random bloke I met in a bar, or someone on Tinder. Both evenings ended at a civilised hour with a peck on the cheek — after which, Jo calls me with feedback — which is excruciating. As it happens, although I had a lovely time with both men, I felt pretty ambivalent about seeing them again, and told Jo as such.