Arriving at the restaurant early, the first thing I did was beg the maitre d’ to change tables to avoid the overhead lighting (so unflattering for the older woman).
Next, I ordered a glass of Chablis to quell my nerves. The night before, two friends had come over, armed with vodka, to help choose my outfit.
‘Not the red dress it screams desperate,’ said one. ‘Definitely not the high-heeled Jimmy Choo boots. What if he’s shorter than you?’ said the other.
No diamond rings in case he’s an impoverished artist. The tatty old Prada handbag would work, apparently, because ‘it has a whiff of Oxfam about it’. I’ve not done this much prep for a date in, well, decades.
But there’s a lot to think about when you’re going on your first ever blind date at 65. Particularly when that date has been arranged by Femail — and you both get to give your verdict, warts and all, in these very pages.
This is so far from the way I usually date. Normally, I would Google the hell out of a potential suitor, show his picture and biog to friends, even check online to make sure he is exactly who he says he is.
This is so far from the way I usually date. Normally, I would Google the hell out of a potential suitor
This time I didn’t even know my date’s name, which felt like going back to the Dark Ages of dating. Actually, it made things more exciting — and slightly terrifying.
I had no idea how to present myself. You want to look adorable but not a doormat, powerful not intimidating, sexy not slutty. And then there’s the vital matter of red lipstick or pink?
In the end, I chose on-trend, fitted black flares, which flatter one of the last good bits about my body — my legs — with low-heeled Zara sequinned boots. A black sleeveless polo under a 20-year-old Amanda Wakeley suede jacket (which my date admired and even stroked . . . I think I purred).
I was as ready as I would ever be. But as I sat at the new table, I started to ponder. A blind date at my age — am I insane? An eternal romantic? So weary of being single I’d try anything? Probably all of the above.
Throughout my long, often truly glorious, occasionally reckless, sometimes disastrous dating history that now spans more than 45 years, I’ve met partners in many different places.
My first boyfriend Derek at a high school party; next love Mark at work on my first newspaper; my husband John in a bar; my first of five fiances Christopher in the street outside my house, and on it goes.
My last engagement began, and ended, in lockdown. (I blame Covid.) Since then, I’ve been casually dating a few men, but nothing serious.
Given the transformative rise of dating apps over the past ten years, that’s the way it tends to go these days, isn’t it? It’s easier to meet people, harder to trust or make a lasting connection.
In the beginning, Bumble was a fun new way to date (I never fancied the more brutal world of Tinder). I probably met about eight men, none of them keepers. But gradually, for all the women I know it has become a soul-sapping experience, full of men just up for casual sex (yes, even in our 60s —and lots of younger men like older women) while we are looking for commitment.
I’ve also met a succession of rotters and frauds — even a Tinder Swindler who, thanks to me being vaguely financially savvy and having a very good accountant, only robbed me of my dignity.
Until now, I have never, ever in my whole life had a blind date. But, frankly, my own choices don’t seem to be working out.
I’ve always enjoyed dating, the thrill and challenge of meeting new people. I think too often we see it as a chore, rather than something to be relished. But perhaps I’ve grown tired of trusting my instincts only to be, too often, disappointed.
History tells me I’m attracted to 6 ft 2 in-plus ruggedly handsome men with lots of hair. The classic alpha male. But as one friend rather cruelly observed: ‘Tall, dark and handsome — so how’s that worked out for you?’
So I decided to hand over the decision-making to the pros.
I volunteered myself for the now legendary Femail Blind Date page, partly because devouring the Thursday feature has long been one of my guilty secrets. I just love peering into other people’s romantic lives, seeing if modern dating is as much of a game of Russian roulette for other women as it has been for me. It’s addictive, hoping they will find love but prepared for the kick in the guts when they end up hating each other.
Ahead of my own Blind Date, all I was told was that he was age-appropriate (I specified 60 to 70, I’ve no interest in a toyboy), a creative person and, horror of horrors, reads the Guardian!
As the day approached, I was surprisingly anxious, yet filled with a juvenile belief this could be The One.
Yes, I still hope for that, every time. Isn’t it what all single women want?
Far from giving up or lowering our expectations, I think this hope becomes keener as we get older. That we meet the one to love and settle with for the last big chapter of our lives. It’s a myth that older women lose that longing for lasting love, however emotionally bruised they have been. So there was a lot at stake when a smartly dressed man in a suit (no tie — nice touch) made his way to my table.
He introduced himself as Andrew and immediately said I looked ‘great’, ‘lovely, actually’, offering first an awkward handshake, then a more reassuring kiss on the cheek. Nice soft skin
He introduced himself as Andrew and immediately said I looked ‘great’, ‘lovely, actually’, offering first an awkward handshake, then a more reassuring kiss on the cheek. Nice soft skin.
Despite having rehearsed my opening line with my friends beforehand, I nervously blurted: ‘I’ve just had two hours of hair and make-up for the photoshoot, I don’t usually look this good.’
Andrew said he would bet I look great in jeans and a T-shirt. Lucky for him, as that’s my usual out-of-work attire. And he didn’t squirm when I started devouring his chilli squid starter. Men who don’t share food share nothing, so it was a case of so far so good.
It wasn’t love at first sight, no lightning bolts, but, frankly, that doesn’t happen to people in their 60s. We’re grateful for a tremor rating above three on the Richter scale. They say the first cut is the deepest — and I believe that it’s similar with your first love; it gets gentler with the years.
I must admit I was a little dismayed that Andrew did not fit into any of my usual categories (not that tall, not much hair). But as my friends always say, I need to step out of my comfort zone.
Beforehand, I had been allowed to specify my requirements and red flags. My date had to be kind, clever, single, sexy and solvent, not on an NHS waiting list for a knee op. Sorry if that sounds mean. I thought long and hard about the ‘solvent’ bit. I really don’t care what he earns, as long as he has a job he loves, or is financially independent. I’ve worked hard all my life for what I have, I do not want to become someone’s cash machine, again.
I was filled with a juvenile belief this could be The One. Isn’t that what all single women want?
Most women my age want the same thing as younger women, though maybe we’re less afraid to come out and admit it. A man we can trust and love and share our lives with — but not necessarily our bank balance.
And sex matters to most older women, too. We may not be able to swing from the chandeliers any more but, let’s face it, it’s an essential part of intimacy. We may not be at our peak, exactly, but reclining on a fine, high, golden-lit plateau of our sexual lives.
So we need to know: are his working bits still, er, working? For me that’s a deal breaker. (Although I mulled it over and decided not to raise the issue on a first date.)
I normally feel at a slight disadvantage on a first date, as most men I meet already know who I am thanks to the frank opinions I share in these pages. So it was a pleasant novelty that Andrew hadn’t been told of my identity, beyond the fact that I write for the Mail, and I got no glint that he recognised me. (Well, he does read the Guardian.)
I was slightly dreading we might end up falling out over Brexit and the date would be over. Refreshingly, politics never came up in conversation.
It didn’t take long to realise he is clever and curious and, like me, loves words and movies. Odd to say, having just met him, but I feel he has a kind heart. And he has a great sense of humour. He has a son around the same age as my stepson, Max, so we swapped stories about thirtysomething lads, not to be repeated.
He admitted he suffered from anxiety about what each day would hold. I said I did too — but I only felt anxious about how great it could be.
Yin and yang. Could that work? He’s a lot more into therapy than me, and told me has performed the ancient Chinese art of chakra healing on a neighbour’s cat. I said if he tried that on my Ted, he would lose both his hands. Andrew has never been married, which worried me.
You would have thought that at 67, he might have taken the plunge once, especially with a child involved. Is he a commitment-phobe just looking for another companion? I do worry about older men who are just scared to be alone and lonely. I’m a lover, not a carer.
Green flag — we both live in London, red flag — he doesn’t love his new flat and I love my cottage. I don’t want another guy who moves his toothbrush and half his wardrobe into my place after a week.
In summary, my first blind date Andrew was lovely, kind, funny, thoughtful and clever. Oh, and having exchanged numbers, we’re arranging to meet up next week. I’m looking forward to it.
Did sparks fly? It was more like the long warmth you get from an open fire when the coals are still glowing. But they are alight, at least.
‘Why didn’t he say I had a broad bean between my teeth!’
When asked if sparks flew, Amanda said: Definitely, we are already planning to meet up next week. I’d have liked to go on for another drink, but the roofers working on my cottage had a crisis so I had to leave after the meal
Dating past: I’ve been dating for more than four decades, with a marriage and five engagements under my belt. Since lockdown, I have only dated casually.
Pre-date nerves? Beyond the scale. I’m a confident person usually – but I was racked with nerves.
First impressions? Andrew had sparkling blue eyes, a lovely smile, and seemed gentle and clever. The first green flag was that he was gentlemanly, looked me in the eyes attentively when he spoke and didn’t use his fork like a spoon.
Easy to talk to? Yes – incredibly, we talked and laughed for three hours. I was a bit worried when he said he was retired. I fear he will have too much time on his hands when I’m still working full-time.
But I liked that he has had a really interesting career in movies and set up his own company, which he has now sold, and is doing charity work for the visually impaired in theatres and with hospitals.
We both had sirloin steaks, mine medium not bloody, his well done. Both carnivores, tick. On a blind date you notice the little things. He didn’t complain when I ate his chips, either.
He also asked me if I liked to be cuddled. Hugging I adore, cuddling is too cloying for me.
Embarrassing moments? When he said he did chakra healing on cats – and didn’t tell me I had a broad bean wedged in my front teeth.
Did sparks fly? No fireworks exist for over-60s, more like a glowing ember. That said, he ticked a lot of boxes and we kissed on the cheek as we parted.
See him again? Definitely, we are already planning to meet up next week. I’d have liked to go on for another drink, but the roofers working on my cottage had a crisis so I had to leave after the meal.
What do you think he thought of you? Absolutely no idea. As a Guardian reader, he might have a view if he Googles me.
Would your friends and family like him? Yes, they’d warm to his charm and like that he’s kind to me.
BLIND DATE VITAL STATISTICS
Vital statistics: Divorced, single for a year, one adorable stepson.
Current role: Journalist. would like to meet NO vegans, non-drinkers, whingers or blokes with allergies, especially to cats as he’d have to share our life with my moggie Ted
Vital statistics: Single for eight years, never married. A son in his 30s.
Current role I used: to have a management training business but have also been an actor.
Would like meet someone: self-aware, generally tolerant, able to laugh at the world and themselves, with a warm personality
‘I wish I hadn’t brought up London’s sewers during dinner’
When asked if sparks flew, Andrew said: Yes – for me. Amanda’s a force of nature. She’s an attractive woman, clearly highly intelligent with a quick mind and is a hard worker. I really respected her
Dating past: I’ve had several long-term relationships and been engaged a couple of times but never married. I’m mostly on good terms with my exes.
Pre-date nerves: Five minutes before we were due to meet they kicked in.
First impressions: Amanda was welcoming and looked really lovely in an orange top and dark blue trousers.
She already had a glass of Chablis and while I was going to have sparkling water she came out with a rather amusing Australian expression – ‘I’m not toasting with a wowser’ – so I had a gin and tonic.
Easy to talk? Yes, we covered trendy vegetables, like purple sprouting broccoli, and how little love peas and broad beans get now.
We had a good laugh about it and Amanda talked about her family’s vegetable garden at home in Australia. Broad beans remind her of her father.
Amanda did ask why I’ve never married and it’s one of those questions that is a complex one to answer.
Embarrassing moments? No, although I did learn that talking about London’s sewers and the problem with people flushing wet wipes doesn’t go down well with sophisticated women at dinner (we did eventually laugh about that one).
Did sparks fly? Yes – for me. Amanda’s a force of nature. She’s an attractive woman, clearly highly intelligent with a quick mind and is a hard worker. I really respected her.
At the end of the date, I helped her with her coat and felt a frisson. We shared a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
See her again? I asked her if she wanted to go on for a glass of wine and was disappointed when she said no. But she had other commitments so we exchanged numbers instead.
We’ve been in touch, so hopefully we’ll see each other again soon.
What do you think she thought of you?
Apart from the sewage and wet wipes chat? Well, I was able to make her laugh. Hopefully she thinks I’m an OK bloke and not boring.
Would your friends like her?
Amanda is more successful than most of my social circle but she’s very down to earth. She’s an Australian country girl and lots of my friends are grafters with working-class roots, too.
Amanda’s Verdict: 10/10
Liked? His charm.
Regrets: I had to get home to the roofers.
Coffee or cab? Cab – but another date ASAP
Andrew’s verdict: 9/10
Liked? Our deep conversations.
Regrets? No – although the restaurant was noisy.
Coffee or cab? Coffee.
- Interviews: Samantha Brick