Online Dating the Old-Fashioned Way

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The expression ‘online dating’ seems to crop up everywhere nowadays. Websites such as  e-Harmony, Match.com and Plenty of Fish are thrust at us constantly. It’s the cool way to try and meet the person of your dreams and, of course, totally socially acceptable.

However, meeting a partner through a dating agency wasn’t always considered to be hip. In fact, quite the opposite is true. You were sad, a social outcast, desperate even,  if you had to resort to paying an agency to introduce you to a potential partner.  The shame of it…

Let me take you back to 1996…

I had ended a six year relationship and after a few months of singledom felt it was time to go on the hunt for a new man.  I was in my late twenties and having met the majority of my previous boyfriends in pubs and clubs, I felt this was not something I wanted to do again. But how else was I realistically going to meet a decent man? My workplace was definitely not an option. Most of the guys I knew were attached, so short of bumping into ‘Mr Right’ in the street, it was unlikely to happen. I knew of a couple of girls at work who had met their partners through an agency called Dateline and although they were fairly open about the fact, they were the subject of a lot of office gossip. My mum also had a friend that had met her husband through the same agency, and had suggested that I should think about joining. I was appalled at the suggestion. I wasn’t a sad character. I didn’t need to join the ranks of the ‘desperately seeking’ .  However, over the next few weeks, the idea grew on me. So, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt just to find out a little bit more.

I was an avid reader of Cosmopolitan back then, which was one of the glossy magazines where Dateline placed their colourful ads showing cheesy grinning couples. I cut the reply coupon out, filled in my details and posted it off with apprehension.

A few days later, I received a glossy A4 folder containing various forms, leaflets and a paperback book, which told the reader how they could find love with Dateline, and featured some success stories. It sounded perfect. Too good to be true.  They convinced me to join. What could ever go wrong?

You were required to fill in a very lengthy questionnaire, mainly consisting of multiple choice questions,  which attempted to elicit as much information as possible about an individual. I recall that one of the questions asked how attractive you thought you were. The choices were average, attractive or very attractive; I boldly ticked attractive. The magical Dateline computer would then process all the answers you provided and churn out a list of perfect matches. The cost of membership was £150 per year. For that you got an initial list of six names of potential matches, and your name would also appear on lists sent to  people you were matched with. I convinced myself it was a good investment to find everlasting love.

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This is how I imagined the Dateline computer to be (Image from Carry on Loving – 1970)

A week or so later, I received my list of matches. Six names, addresses and telephone numbers of men within a 20 mile radius of my home. Reality then hit. I was going to have to pluck up the courage to contact these men. I decided to leave it a few days to get used to the idea.  Once I felt bold enough, I looked down the list of names. Which name to pick? I decided the first one was the best place to start, I was a nervous wreck. Just the kind of woman you want to call you on a Sunday evening. He answered, and I introduced myself and said I had received his name from Dateline. He informed me, in a very pompous manner, that he had met someone already. Not a pleasant experience and I decided I didn’t have the nerve to do it again. So, I decided to write a letter to the next name on the list, Jonathan. By hand, using proper writing paper – it was before the internet and email were in common use in homes, and I didn’t have the luxury of my own PC and printer back in 1996. I recall that I spent ages drafting a letter to Jonathan, and no doubt filled it with complete drivel.

Meanwhile, I received a phone call on my landline a few days later from a guy called Mark; he had received my details from Dateline as part of his list of six names. We had a brief, nervous chat, and arranged to meet in a local pub on Saturday lunchtime.

I was incredibly nervous as I walked into the pub. No photos were used by Dateline, so you had no idea what someone looked like before you met them. You relied on a few brief details exchanged beforehand.  We did find each other, and the date lasted about an hour. That was enough. He was incredibly boring and just the kind of person I didn’t want to meet, He went to great pains to tell me about how he liked to watch ‘The Magic Roundabout’ when he was ill. He told me that he liked to take his time with these things and didn’t fall in love on a first date, but he might contact me again. I wanted to tell him that he was quite safe from my attentions and not to bother contacting me again, but instead smiled sweetly and said that I understood.  I felt quite unsettled by the whole process. If he was the type of guy I was going to end up meeting, I’d rather not bother. I stopped to buy a bottle of brandy on the way home. To make things worse, when I got home, there was a reply from Jonathan waiting for me; he had met someone from outside Dateline.

That was it as far as I was concerned. I was not going to contact anyone else and if I got any more calls, I would say I wasn’t interested.

A week or so later, I got another call. My resolve not to bother went out of the window. Another date was set up. And then it started in earnest. I received call after call, night after night. I didn’t arrange to meet everyone I spoke to, but in the space of three months, I met 16 men. One day, I had a date at lunchtime and another in the evening.  I met some of them two or three times  One thing that was common throughout was that most of the men I spoke with, and met, worked in professions where there were few women, with engineering being the most common.

I also had my fair share of dating disasters along the way. I was stood up a couple of times. Bored to tears a number of  times. But if was all fairly innocent, as in no sexual encounters. In fact, there was never any suggestion of any, and to be honest nothing was further from my mind. Apart from a guy called Alex that is. We met quite a few times, and he was a bit quirky, quite different to all the others that I met. He came round to my house for a meal one night, and I had suggested that he stay over (in the spare room) so he could have a drink. I was hoping that he might sneak into my room during the night. But to my disappointment, he didn’t. I decided to take him a cup of tea the next morning, and my clumsy attempts to seduce him failed. So that was the end of that.

The last man I met through Dateline was with no 16.   Shortly afterwards, I received another letter from Jonathan telling me that he was now single. I wrote and told him that I had now met someone. And the not-so-lovely Mark did contact me again, some two months after we met. I took great delight in telling him I was inundated with male attention, and I would not be meeting him again.

And I ended up getting married (eventually) to no 16…

 

Adventures in Naturism

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I enjoy being naked outside, but given the climate of the UK, and the fact that I am in the wrong part of the country for nudist beaches, it’s something that has rarely happened. In fact, publicly, only on two previous occasions.

I recently told a Twitter friend about my (very limited) experience of naturism, and they, surprisingly, expressed an interest in ‘having a go’. So, having agreed that we would brave it in the buff together,  we set about finding a suitable and reputable place to visit that was also convenient for us both to get to, given we live over 200 miles apart.

Having conducted a lot of research, and in the process discounting several ‘dodgy-looking’ establishments, we settled on visiting Clover Spa and Hotel in Birmingham, which has received excellent reviews. You may recall that Clover was the subject of one of Alex Polizzi’s Hotel Inspector television programmes a few years ago.

On a relatively mild day in March, we eventually found each other amidst the chaos of Birmingham New Street station.  We were both apprehensive, as not only would we be getting our kit off in front of each other, but it was the first time we had met in person too.  However, any pre-nudity nerves we had vanished as soon as we arrived at the spa.

We were made to feel very welcome as soon as we arrived and were given a guided tour of the facilities, which were spotlessly clean. The only time we both felt awkward was at that particular point, in the spa area, when we were clothed and everyone one else was naked.

Once we had stripped off in the communal changing area, keeping eyes averted of course, we entered the spa  clutching the provided towels, and both immediately relaxed. We tried the sauna first, which was spacious and very relaxing. From there we went to the outdoor hot tub and spent over an hour chatting to various lovely people. We then moved to the steam room, albeit a brief visit as it was quite intense, then on to the deceptively comfortable heated stone loungers.  These felt amazing and I could have quite easily fallen asleep. Back to the sauna for a short while before braving the plunge pool to cool off. Finally, another hour or so in the hot tub, by which time our four hour spa session had sadly come to an end.

During the day, we spoke to so many interesting and kind people, all willing to share their naturism experiences with us. We explained many times over that we had only met in person (and seen each other naked) for the first time that day. Which, of course, caused much amusement among the other guests.

It was a truly amazing and liberating experience and I would highly recommend it as a safe environment for anyone wanting to try naturism for the first time.

And, yes, we’ll probably visit Clover again, I think…

A Brief Encounter

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 A secret account.

Trying to get noticed.

Won’t take no for an answer.

Persistent messages.

Finally chatting.

A great rapport.

Built slowly over months.

Shared secrets.

Trusting too easily.

A mid-life crisis?

A request for a lunch date.

A meeting at a station.

A pleasant surprise.

Can it be the same person?

An afternoon of culture.

Matchstick men and dogs.

A definite spark.

A reluctant goodbye.

A flurry of messages.

A poem at dawn.

Too good to be true?

Bombarded with messages.

Made to feel special.

Phone calls galore.

Another meeting planned.

Statues at the beach.

Another poem.

Showered with messages.

Made to feel wonderful.

Secret meeting in a park.

Swamped with messages.

‘I can’t wait to see you’.

Poems abound.

False promises made.

An illicit overnight stay.

Full of passion.

A few revelations.

Back to reality.

Altered behaviour?

A notch on the bedpost?

Perhaps it’s imagined.

Fewer messages.

Another meeting dawns.

Seems enthusiastic.

But a bombshell is dropped.

Something has happened.

A peculiar thing.

Really hard to believe.

A stressful week follows.

Then ‘ I still want to see you’

But something feels wrong.

Emotions take over.

Messages aplenty.

Talking me round.

An afternoon of lust.

But something is missing.

Left alone to travel home.

No message that evening.

Feeling used and angry.

12 hours later.

‘Did you get home ok?’

Too late really.

To ask that question.

Messages dwindle.

Excuses made.

Christmas comes.

New Year passes.

Minimal contact.

Not a priority.

Conscious not to chase.

But a blunt question asked.

‘Yes, I still feel the same’.

Not convinced.

A meeting planned.

Not sure how I feel.

Needn’t have worried.

Cancelled that day.

Not surprised.

Contact feels forced.

This needs to end.

Blunt question again.

Do you want to continue?

‘I can’t wait to see you’.

A fool for believing.

Follow your instincts.

A new date is made.

But to no avail.

Two days later.

Dropped.

From a height.

Excuses.

Feeling stupid.

For trusting and believing.

And not giving up.

Allowing such treatment.

Left wondering who the biggest fool is.

Secret Twitter Accounts: A Modern Mid-Life Crisis?

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One thing that has struck me since I have been using Twitter is the number of ‘secret accounts’ that are out there. The definition of secret presumably being that the ‘other half’ doesn’t know about it. It would appear that we are all looking for something more; a new and exciting dimension to our everyday lives. ‘Humdrum’ was a term used by a fellow secret account holder to sum up their life.

Some of you may remember a BBC sit-com called Butterflies, from the late seventies, in which Ria Parkinson, a 40-something middle-class housewife, wanted to make her mundane life more exciting and formed a secret relationship with Leonard, a successful, divorced businessman. The relationship remained innocent and was never consummated, despite an obvious desire by both parties to have sex. Ria was married to Ben, a dentist, who never knew of Ria’s mid-life crisis, or her relationship with Leonard.

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To me, the themes that run through Butterflies have an awful lot in common with the secret accounts of Twitter; apart from the fact that Leonard probably never gave Ria a picture of his cock, unless he went to the trouble of getting a roll of film developed by Truprint.

We seem to be looking for fun, passion and excitement; a phrase which a few Twitter friends will have heard me use before. Our relationships must be missing something fundamental if we can share our innermost thoughts, secrets and desires with virtual strangers, yet our partners remain oblivious to the people we long to be.

Perhaps it’s the thrill of doing something illicit and having a second ‘virtual’ life/dirty secret. Maybe it’s reaching a certain age, when our own mortality is getting closer. We can all no doubt remember the excitement of setting up an account and getting those first few followers. But also quickly realising that a good proportion of Twitter has a secret account, and that there are similarities between many marriages in terms of lack of sex, attention and affection. Or is it just a bit of harmless fun? After all, we only live once.

Twitter seems to provide a medium for us all to be the person we secretly wish to be.  I am in my forties and was acutely aware that if I didn’t take the plunge and reveal my hidden desires and true personality, and say and do things that I may not have the courage, or chance, to do in real life, then I might never do so. A mid-life crisis maybe? Some people portray an image of being a ‘playboy’ or a ‘serial shagger’, yet in reality, they are the complete opposite and would run a mile given the opportunity to be the person they pretend to be online.

It’s interesting to wonder how many online secret friendships remain on a virtual level and technically innocent in nature, like Ria and Leonard. But is that enough for us, and will it satisfy any impending mid-life crisis?  Or will meeting our Twitter crush be an anti-climax and shatter the illusion we have of that person?

None of us are in a position to judge each other for the reasons behind our secret accounts. We are all outside looking in and don’t know the circumstances of other people’s lives. Only the parties in a relationship know what goes on behind closed doors. But, of course, you never really know who you’re talking to on Twitter; could our partners have a secret account too?!

A Few Things I Find Sexy In Men

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Tall men

A bit shallow of me I know, but I have always had a thing for tall men; the taller the better. Maybe it’s a primitive urge for protection; I don’t know. But there’s something reassuring and comforting about them towering over, and looking down on you.  My first boyfriend, when I was 17 was  6′ 4″, and they (mainly) got progressively shorter over time. However, as I keep telling myself, size isn’t always everything…

 

The right smell

A powerful, sexy aftershave or cologne is a huge turn-on for me. I love to have a guy pass by and leave a trail  of lingering, musky sexiness behind.  I can’t quote any favourites as I am a bit out of touch with men’s fragrances, but who can forget the mighty Kouros, the scent of Friday and Saturday nights in late-eighties and early-nineties town centre pubs!

 

Motorcycle leathers

I have no knowledge of, or particular interest in, motorbikes, but there’s something about a man in black motorcycle leathers that is incredibly potent and invokes lustful thoughts in me. Especially when there’s a group of bikers standing round their machines, crash helmets off, posing on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I join the throngs of people milling around, all eager to look.  Except I’m drooling over the bikers and not the bikes.

 

Grey hair

I find grey hair on a man very alluring. And I don’t mean I’m into octogenarians. Grey hair looks so distinguished and suave and, for me, there’s always a bit of cheeky charm associated with it.  So guys, forget the Grecian 2000! Grow grey gracefully; you never know who is lusting after you!

 

And, of course, if you combine all of the above…

 

 

Body Confidence

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So, why do I choose to post ‘sexy selfies’ and show my boobs and bum on Twitter?  Well, there are two reasons: first, it has helped to improve my body confidence enormously and, secondly, to be frank, I enjoy doing it. I have never been a ‘skinny chick’. Far from it. But I never thought of my body in a positive way as being voluptuous or curvaceous; only in a negative way as fat, plump, overweight or one of the multitude of other derogatory terms used in society.

I was always ashamed of myself for not having a flat stomach and felt I had to profusely apologise to boyfriends who saw me naked for the first time. In the workplace, I was generally more rotund than the other girls of my peer group and I carefully avoided the ‘how much do you weigh?’ discussions that inevitably occur in office chit-chat. Even my mum reinforced the belief that I was fat by frequently telling me that I would do well as a belly dancer as my belly wobbled so much! I had to conclude that having a washboard stomach seemed to be the most important life goal for the majority of women, but I knew that was never going to be a possibility for me.  Consequently, I never really believed that ‘larger’ women could be considered as desirable and attractive. A belief I held until last year.

Since around the age of around 18, I have had a bit of an exhibitionist streak, which has rarely been allowed to surface, due to my poor body confidence and less-than-enthusiastic partners. Having reached a point last year, where it was time to push a few boundaries, I decided to find out for myself if anyone really did embrace the ‘curvier’ figure and would genuinely find my body shape and size attractive. At the same time, it would give me an opportunity to explore my exhibitionist side.

I set about with my long-suffering iPad and experimented, over several days, with various images, finally deciding that a black and white filter was kinder to the flesh, which also gave me a bit more confidence that I might look marginally attractive. It took an awful lot of courage to post the first few pictures on Twitter. They didn’t get much response, as I had very few followers, but that wasn’t important. What mattered to me was that I had gained the courage to show a body that I was fundamentally ashamed of.

I pushed myself to post a picture nearly every day and I quickly began to get some wonderful comments from people; many of whom are still loyal followers nearly 12 months on. Those pictures were, and always will be, tasteful, and hopefully are considered as erotic by some. I enjoy taking the photos and I try to be creative and vary the images.

I don’t post photos as regularly as I used to but, when I do, I am still delighted by all the positive comments I receive. Reading them brings a smile to my face, and I try to reply to each one.  I don’t think I have ever received a negative or nasty comment, but I know that others have and it truly saddens me that a few narrow-minded people feel curvy women should stay covered up. Voluptuous and curvaceous is sexy and curves really do rock!

Ice-breaker

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So, this is my first blog post and, in order for you to find out more about me, here are 20 random facts…

I love polka dots/spots.

My favourite flower is a tulip.

I have a dry and sarcastic sense of humour, which not everyone appreciates.

My favourite colour is red.

I am not very self-confident.

I detest smoking.

I am quick-witted. Usually.

I don’t particularly like, or participate, in any sports.

I am terrified of worms.

I don’t like the wish list culture that has developed on Twitter.

My favourite film is Pulp Fiction.

I hate shellfish.

I would love to live at the seaside.

My favourite food is Thai. Followed closely by roast lamb.

I like to push my boundaries and try new experiences.

I am obsessive about eating my 5 a day; it’s often more.

I am rarely life and soul of the party, but prefer to sit back and observe when in a group of people.

I have an excellent memory.

One of my favourite songs is Higher Love by Steve  Winwood.

I love Twitter!