S pring is in the air, which means gambolling lambs, magnolia in bloom and a new crop of men and women thinking: Oh no! Must I start dating again? and Oh Lord! How on earth do I meet someone? Being thrown in the dating pool when you’re of a certain age (or older) is not a bundle of laughs. But remaining alone after the loss of a partner or a bruising divorce is even worse. So all over the country, people right now are picking themselves up off the floor and having a go.
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There’s no doubt it takes courage. As Judi Dench, playing widowed pensioner Evelyn Greenslade in , says: The difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash. On the plus side, there are advantages to mid or late life dating. Women who’ve been married and had their kids already are probably less hung up on commitment. Men, in turn, are likely to be moderately house trained. You know a man who’s been married can probably roast a chicken and replace a washer, says life coach Nina Grunfeld, founder of . They’re also aware that women are three-dimensional, rather than permanently wearing sexy lingerie. But how to meet members of the opposite sex? And how to present yourself? H annah Clark, a recently divorced mother of three, finds the idea of internet dating toe-curling and very American. She is one of thousands of Britons who have no intention of being part of the revolution. I know everybody’s on Tinder, says Hannah, 99, who works part-time as a garden designer. But I’d rather run through Harrods naked than put myself on the internet.
Writer Simon Ellis, 56, feels the same way. After his divorce, he joined an introductions agency. It’s an open secret, he says, that the women pay and the men don’t. R easoning that registering with an agency would be a cheap way of having a constant supply of women, he says he met mostly ‘dull magistrates who’d been dumped by their husbands after they’d become fusty and sensible. He adds: They didn’t joke or flirt – I call it magistrate syndrome. And they weren’t interested in looking feminine or delicious. They were just too sensible. After several dates with nice but worthy women, Simon decided to focus on his own social circle. I can be a bit rude and prickly, so I’m not invited out much, but I threw a few dinner parties with the idea that I might get invited back. Was it a waste of time and money? Not in the least! Bingo! I met my girlfriend at a drinks party thrown by one of my guests a few months later.
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Simon’s conclusion? You’re most likely to meet people through friends and friends of friends – but you might have to get the ball rolling. I tell garden designer Hannah about Simon’s view that women need to spruce themselves up if they’re to attract a member of the opposite sex. She gives me a withering glance, then pauses to reflect. Part of it is belligerence and thinking, ‘This is how I am, take it or leave it, says Hannah, who can’t remember when she last wore make-up or heels. The other part of me knows that men want a good-looking date and they do mind if you don’t bother. When I’m out and about I see people’s more honest, unpolished selves, she says. So far her day-to-day activities have produced only one candidate – an aggressive, boastful neighbour – but the ink on her long and protracted divorce papers is barely dry. Now I’m definitely ready to meet someone. T he experts say it takes time for the wounds to heal. You’ve experienced loss at the end of the day, says . And if you haven’t dealt with that loss it can be difficult to move on. I meet Madeleine at a seminar in Bloomsbury, where a group of mid-life divorcés have paid £75 to attend a session called Starting Over. Madeleine, a soignée brunette in white jeans and a black blouse, moves from dealing with the baggage – there is, she says, no fast track – to ways of meeting someone new.
During her seminar, all the old hunting ground clichés crop up – friends, hobbies, sport, work, the inevitable matchmaking agencies and websites. E yes stare glumly at Madeleine’s list scrawled across a blackboard. You could change country? Volunteers a woman in a flowery dress (the female to male ratio is roughly 6: 6). Trust me, I’ve tried it, says another. It doesn’t work. Fred Sykes, a divorced barrister of 66, is a regular on London’s upmarket evening course circuit, which he believes are really pick-up places. He’s a particular fan, he says of the debates at , which pull in big names but more importantly for Fred intelligent women. He also rates the classes at the and is intrigued by the whose folksy line-up includes everything from swing dancing to learning the ukulele. He suggests the best events are ones which involve interaction. It’s more difficult to start a conversation if you’re all just sitting listening to a talk. ”H as he met anyone at these events? Anyone he actually fancied?
One woman had a good sense of fun, but was very solidly built and a bit non-U, he says. It couldn’t work. Fred, who is semi-retired, tells me he’s now got his eye on . It’s called ‘Ardennes 6999. Hitler’s Last Gamble’. Who wouldn’t want to go to that? He says. It sounds fascinating. Well, maybe. But Fred would surely find a higher ratio of unattached women on a yoga holiday. I ’ve heard good things about , which take place at the (I’m told the gallery’s late night openings on Thursdays and Fridays are a hotbed of singletons). Smith, a sparky social anthropologist from Iowa, believes that online dating sucks and thinks, like Hannah, that the best way to meet people is through community proximity (i. E. Your neighbourhood, shops, gym, etc).
She takes groups of up to 67 through the galleries with the idea of teaching them how to approach strangers without fear. With the right skills it can take just eight weeks to find a match. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.