Having had enough this single lark and looking for some inspiration, I started reading Maria Headley's The Year of Yes last year. Alas, I didn't finish it; I became bored with her year of saying yes to any dates. The basic message of the book is abandon all your preconceived ideas of what you're looking for. Then along came January 2009 and the publication of Shane Watson's How to Meet a Man After Forty and Other Midlife Dilemmas Solved (Penguin). Now, this one I have read from cover to cover.
The basic rule? Drop your prejudices because you can't see the gem of the man inside the brown shirt and shiny suit (which will be on your list of "no-nos"); you need to ditch your list of preconditions. Apparently this is not lowering your standards or a lead to hooking up with Mr Gigantic Compromise, it is pulling the wool from your eyes and will allow you to find Mr Right.
It's written in a chatty style that is easy to read. The text size is good for those of us over forty, who have to wear reading glasses. One hilarious chapter is on modern manners which points out the "newly rude"; "newly not rude" and "still bloody rude". On the subject of dress code, she concludes:
Newly rude: Wearing sunglasses and drinking bottled water in church.
Newly not rude: White trousers for every occasion. Meeting for lunch with cotton wool between your toes, post-pedicure, and wet post-gym hair.
Still bloody rude: Not bothering to wear fancy dress when your hostess has hand sewn herself into a tomato costume.
I had a laugh reading this; though on the subject of meeting the man, the book itself added little to what had already been published in an article in The Times. It was more an invitation for self-analysis, with Shane Watson admitting her blindingly honest version. I didn't agree with everything said on styling and grooming, but then, I'm not the one writing for The Sunday Times's Style magazine.
The book is jam-packed with the names of expensive establishments and products, designers and brands. I was lucky I was reading in the bath at one point – had I been sitting in a chair, I'd have fallen off – Watson said her engagement ring came from Argos. Argos?
For a final twist in the tale, there is only one one star review on Amazon and it's from a 41 year old single male called Harry. He claims that Watson is wrong on a number of matters and offers up some further advice:
"…For men over 40 you are intimidating because not because you are witty, it is because you are a potential lawsuit, by the time a man is 40 at least half his friends have been financially turned over, even the Russian Mafia won't take half your pension. Most blokes will have a collection females, old school friends, ex-girlfriends, friends wives and ex-wives, internet date contacts who they can call on for a wide range of activities, we just aren't that bothered about single sourcing. My advice – you need to get yourself into a target rich environment, early morning and late night petrol stations, train stations and motorway service stations, only single blokes will be eating at Burger King or buying M&S Moto sandwiches at 4 in the afternoon."
Petrol stations. Now there's a thought.
Lessons learned: I need to get out more.