So. Where were we? Ah, yes. I was getting into dating as a cure for serial monogamy. Well, when I say 'monogamy' I am of course excising from the record the rather non-monogamous episode with that scoundrel Vronsky on the grounds that it was more than 10 years ago and the Statute of Limitations has expired. But essentially, there I was in 2002, having missed out on the excitement of 'dating' as a teenager, assuming it was even invented in the 1980's which I doubt*, mad keen to make up for lost time and enjoy a misspent adulthood.
Ah, the possibilities of new technology. Anyone that tells you there aren't any single men in London has merely set their standards too high. There's no point insisting on tall, or dark, or handsome, or rich, or poetic, or athletic, or funny or whatever else it is women are supposed to want from a man: he's just as likely to be Mr Wrong. So it was with a spirit of adventure that I accepted an invitation from anyone who emailed me and could also spell and demonstrate correct usage of the apostrophe (oh come on... low standards doesn't mean no standards). In practice, this sometimes meant two dates a day. I hasten to add that this was the early days of internet dating, there were many, many more men than women on the more popular sites, so it was very much a supply/demand issue, rather me being especially delicious. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Or a coffee.
And so, for several weeks, I became Costa Coffee's best customer. I drank espressi with ad men, capucchini with the IT guys, machiati with lawyers (maybe it's the wig-like white foam?), San Pellegrino with journos and a diet coke with a former marine doing 'private protection work' for foreign nationals. He didn't progress to cocktails.
In the midst of all this coffee drinking (wired? Moi?) an email drops into my inbox. "I had to look up Manolo Blahnik**,” it says, “But I guess that means I'm not gay". There’s little more to go on, barely enough to prove proficiency with English grammar and punctuation. 'All-comers', I remind myself, encouraged by the fact that he’d at least had a look at my profile, and I click through to his, as taciturn as his email, yet with promising photos. However, though buff and intriguing in manner of ‘strong and silent’ Heyer hero, Manolo-Man lives Abroad. No sense in whetting one's appetite for someone who's 500 miles away from The Sanderson - look, it was the ne plus ultra of cool in those days. Times change. I send something relatively non-committal in reply and think no more about it.
This being the early days of online dating, there's a certain Austen-esque etiquette to the process. You don't scout round after a likely lad, they are obliged to come to you, and make some courteous remark indicating interest. If he has a face like Nosferatu and lists the cultivation of flesh-eating plants amongst his hobbies, the polite form of refusal is to thank him for his interest, and say 'you're not who I'm looking for right now: wishing you the best of luck with your search'. And after the consumption of coffee - Costa's baristas being every bit an assiduous a chaperone as Charlotte Bartlett was for Lucy Honeychurch - things either progress to a second meeting or there's an exchange of' you're not who I'm looking for etc' emails.
Some men give better email than others, though this is, sadly, no guarantee of fabulousness. I meet up with one promising chap and discover that whilst his body was designed by Apple, his mind is definitely Microsoft Windows 2000, and realise that his mate Cyrano must have been helping him with the fancier elements of his on-screen wooing. And then there are those who tick every box, can quote poetry, have no visible literacy problems and dress unobtrusively, but with whom there’s absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. Sigh.
Anyway, if I detail all of the very nice men I met during my dating frenzy, I’m never going to get round to the story of Mr Trefusis.
Perhaps I have attention deficit disorder, but after several weeks of caffeine overdose and more expensive cocktails and sycophantic laughter than I knew I wanted, I realise that I have Worked Through Some Issues –I’m a quick study – and am ready to work out What To Do Next.
This is what I’ve learned. Hold your breath and wait for the astonishing insights:
There are a zillion single men in London. I don’t need to go out with the first one who expresses an interest. Hah! I can now say ‘Thank you for your interest but not if you were the last man on earth’.
Being picky is silly. Everyone looks pretty promising after a lavender martini.
Martinis are like breasts. One's not enough. Three's too many.
Through-put is easy. Chemistry is elusive.
I decide I’m still not looking for Mr Right. But I reckon I could cope with Mr All-Right-For-Now . Maybe I could meet someone I liked enough to progress from a coffee and a cocktail to a trip to the cinema? And what of Manolo-Man? Am I prepared to widen my dating territory outside W1? And what is the true identity of the International Man of Mystery? Will I work my way through The Sanderson's entire cocktail menu? Are you bored by this tale yet? Wait for the next exciting*** instalment….
*I think we called it 'getting off with' and, if that happened more than once, 'going out with'. **[about the only thing I'd put in my 'interests' box, not wanting my bluestocking tendencies to put prospective dates off]
***I realise this is a purely subjective judgement.