I am a disaster when it comes to men. I didn’t get my first boyfriend until I was in my 30s, lost my virginity at 32 and was famously disastrously married for five years to a man 15 years my junior.

Throughout it all I harboured a crush on a man I’d met at a party in 1983 — something I wouldn’t get over for 40 largely unrequited years.

To make matters worse, I went on to date The Crush on and off for a decade — he’d got in touch in 2013, by then divorced and broken, after seeing me in the newspaper — and I proposed to him on this year’s Leap Day… only to retract my offer of marriage weeks later when I got cold feet, picturing him smoking, wriggling in bed and making crumbs.

For me, a relationship has always been a fantasy that never lived up to the nuts and bolts of living with a man. I’d have to wear make-up each day, get dressed, be waxed, be cheerful. It was all so exhausting.

But could Femail turn the tide and find me a blind date to change all that? I have reached a point where I feel I need support from someone who will share the load. A grown up, who won’t want anything from me.

Liz, 65 

VITAL STATISTICS

Divorced, recently single. 

CURRENT ROLE

Journalist and author. 

WOULD LIKE TO MEET 

A man who is solvent, handsome and helpful.

For me, a relationship has always been a fantasy that never lived up to the nuts and bolts of living with a man

 I have always gone for men who are inferior, not just in earnings but in status, personality, drive, ambition, looks. I have manipulated men with gifts so they like me, and I retain the power.

I think Femail might have more chance of success choosing me a man, as I readily admit the relationships I’ve chosen have always exhausted me and never, ever worked.

Unfortunately, arriving at the Ivy restaurant in West London, I realise the key problem when going on a date: we take ourselves along. I have deliberately kept on the borrowed pink Zara dress worn for the photoshoot, a desperate attempt to be less me by not wearing my own clothes.

As someone who has been anorexic from the age of 11, continued to starve myself into my 30s, was even sectioned, close to death, I still feel too hideous to look in a mirror, or to be naked, ever, in front of a man.

I feel sorry for my blind date, Jeremy, because even before he has opened his mouth the odds are stacked against him.

Jeremy is certainly great on paper. I had read, many times, his crib sheet emailed to me the day before: 6ft 1in, solvent, lives in North London (my spiritual home), grown-up children, well travelled, went to public school, used to play rugby, owns a dog, and is a widower.

As he greets me, I notice he isn’t unattractive, with a full head of salt and pepper hair, nice build, open face. A catch for the 99 per cent of women who don’t have Steve McQueen as a benchmark.

Jeremy stands as I arrive, which is a good sign. Even his posture tells me he likes to wear the trousers. I have so many insecurities, am so damaged, I find the prospect of a burly piece of manhood frightening.

I know within milliseconds he would not tolerate me keeping my top on during sex in order to hide my cosmetic surgery scars. He wouldn’t accept my insane work ethic (he’s about to retire), or my devotion to my dogs and horses, who always, always come first.

Within moments, he is telling me that a relationship without sex is not what he wants. ‘If you don’t feel that way about a guy it’s never going to work… I want to be cuddled. I miss love. I’m lonely.’

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Oh God, the pressure to perform, to be attractive, to have sex again…

I tell him everyone in my life has taken advantage of my largesse: siblings, friends, partners, employees. He says he doesn’t want or need this at all. And despite a successful career as a marketing director, he isn’t into material things. ‘All I want is a home with a woman in it, no arguments, and someone to go travelling with.’ (I’m thinking, ‘I can’t leave Mini Puppy! She’s 15!’)

He talks movingly about his second wife, who was a nurse. She died of ovarian cancer in 2017 when their twins were just 15, and he hasn’t been in a relationship since.

He is close to his four children, and on good terms with his first wife, whom he married aged 23. They divorced when he was 30. You see? Empathetic! He’s a proper grown-up.

But my nose is a little out of joint because he has no idea who I am, or what I do, which is spill my guts for money. Though he had been warned that he was going on a date with a Daily Mail journalist, I had apparently not featured on his radar.

Now, most people would think this a good thing. A clean slate. But me turning up for a date without the man knowing I was a glossy magazine editor, award-winning columnist and former war correspondent is like showing up without make-up, or designer clothes. I am naked, ordinary, judged only on what happens now.

It’s a conundrum, though, as when a man has done his homework, I accuse them of being a stalker. They can’t win. I don’t want them to have seen my before and after facelift photos. Then there are all the confessions — the articles about being declared bankrupt, for example. Back in 2011, I admitted stealing my ex-boyfriend’s sperm in a desperate attempt to conceive in my early 40s.

If a man has read my articles and books, he always assumes any reviews he himself gets in print will be glowing. This is rarely the case. He will also assure me he has a sense of humour, which is only until I criticise his car, height, conversation. Another thing I have found is that these men all believe they can ‘tame’ me, not understanding my job as a writer comes first.

As for Jeremy, he doesn’t stop talking, and when I do manage to interrupt, he doesn’t listen (the noisy restaurant doesn’t help). I have told him that I’m deaf, but no questions are forthcoming, and he doesn’t slow down. He has a slight lisp, too, which makes it hard for me to understand him.

I tell him I’m completing on a house purchase in the Yorkshire Dales in a few days and show him a photo — but again zero interest.

He doesn’t seem to get my jokes either. Or maybe I’m not that funny. I begin to get depressed, to drift off and picture my pyjamas. A couple more teeny red flags. We go to order, and I mention I’m vegan. ‘That’s OK,’ he says, as if I need permission. He only eats fish and vegetables due to a health issue. I meanly ask if he has seen My Octopus Teacher, a poignant documentary in which an octopus forges a friendship with a filmmaker; he hasn’t.

We head back, after two hours, to the Mail studios to shoot our video. He is asked if he wants to see me again, and replies: ¿Distance could be a problem'

We head back, after two hours, to the Mail studios to shoot our video. He is asked if he wants to see me again, and replies: ‘Distance could be a problem’

W hen I tell him I used to be anorexic, he looks me up and down and says, ‘Your body looks OK.’ Does he think I’m fat? And when I talk about losing my pony, Benji, just before Christmas, he says that I really shouldn’t get another horse, as ‘What will happen when you’re 80?’ No woman wants to be reminded how old she is.

All my hopes and imaginings and tummy flutters are snuffed out. I’m gutted. Why on earth had I Hollywood waxed?

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There is lots that’s great, though. He has just been to Edinburgh for a wedding, and is about to head to Barcelona with his daughter where he will ‘walk everywhere’. The world holds no fears for him; unlike my last boyfriend, The Crush.

I made Jeremy completely aware that this previous relationship was a disaster. I instantly regretted proposing on Leap Day; I’m too bruised by marriage to ever want to be financially entangled again.

But the thing is, while The Crush often told me I am beautiful, Jeremy doesn’t pay me a single compliment, not even noticing my lovely hands (even my ghastly ex-husband agreed my feet and hands are perfect).

When I ask for his type, though, he says foxily, ‘tall brunettes’. He touches my arm, once. Touch is a sign. He doesn’t ask what my type is.

We head back, after two hours, to the Mail studios to shoot our video. He is asked if he wants to see me again, and replies: ‘Distance could be a problem.’ Come on, if A-Ha’s Morten Harket asked me out, I wouldn’t say, ‘Hmm. Norway’s a bit cold, and far.’

Asked if he sees a future, he replies, ‘It is more Yes than No’, at which I snap, ‘That’s a bit negative!’ Even though I am unsure about him, about myself, I know, deep down, I am a catch… if only a man would snuffle hard enough. I have so many anecdotes, have led such an interesting life, am so passionate about so many things: animals, film, music.

Perhaps, as they say so often on Married At First Sight Australia, there’s just no ‘spaaark’.

As we leave, I moan to the video team that he hadn’t even asked for my number, but apparently he did — I just hadn’t heard him! I realise my deafness, as well as my body dysmorphia, has been a huge factor in my singleton status over the years. I miss what has been said, am nervous I’ve said the wrong thing. Even the one man who really loves me (The Crush) will roll his eyes if I ask for something to be repeated. I wager Jeremy wouldn’t tolerate my peccadillos for long.

But on the train home, Jeremy has already texted twice, sending photos of his little dog. He later sends a WhatsApp picture of his bedside reading: The Story Of Jews (he’s Jewish), The Intelligent Investor and We Danced On Our Desks, by Philip Norman.

Now, that last one is a puzzle, as it’s a funny memoir about working at The Sunday Times Magazine in its heyday.

During our date, I had told Jeremy that’s where I worked for many years — but he didn’t allow me to regale him with anecdotes. He could have had the real-life book, right there!

And then he sends this text: ‘When are you back in London so we can date?’ Bingo! I have to admit a smile creases my face, thinking perhaps I’m not too old, it’s not too late. That a normal, solvent, interesting man might like me. This small win comforts me hugely.

I am tempted to see Jeremy again; perhaps I really should date an adult I can’t boss. After all, no man can ever live up to what we build in our heads, seduced as we are by Sex And The City, billboards, wedding websites. Not The Crush, not Jeremy, not anyone.

I’ve just asked Jeremy to Google me before he submits his verdict. I imagine he has already run a country mile…

LIZ’S VERDICT: 7/10 

Jeremy, 65 

VITAL STATISTICS

Widower, married twice. Two children from first marriage, 39 and 35, and twins aged 21.

CURRENT ROLE

Marketing Director. 

WOULD LIKE TO MEET 

I prefer slim brunettes.

I am shallow looks-wise; I prefer beautiful women first and then their wisdom. Liz is a tall, slim woman who does not look her age.

But I can’t say there was that ‘wow I want to have sex with her!’ feeling. Even so, I’m a gentleman, so of course I stood up to greet her and gave her a hug, telling her how lovely she looked.

Her first words were ‘I need a drink’ and she ordered a glass of champagne. I rarely drink — I ordered a sparkling water — but I don’t worry about what other people like to indulge in.

Liz immediately struck me as an intelligent and well-read woman. We talked about the situation in Gaza; my son is serving in the Israeli army, so we had a thoughtful conversation about it.

She told me about her life as a journalist and the famous people she has met. Even though I live in London that sort of lifestyle isn’t really of interest to me.

While she isn’t particularly funny, she’s a very good conversationalist. I can talk forever, and Liz is the same. It wasn’t awkward at all.

I told her about my late wife. I was madly in love with her — maybe she was too perfect for me. Everyone said I would be ready to date after two to three years, but I wasn’t.

It took me another year to contemplate having another relationship. I’ve been using a matchmaking service, but the women I’m attracted to aren’t interested in me and vice versa.

I’ve been so disappointed using websites, apps or being set up by friends. So far, those helping me have always got it wrong. There is an insistence on matching me with women my age, when age is just one factor to consider. Men see compatibility differently from women.

So I was happy to let Femail have a go — and was open to dating a Daily Mail columnist. I like to keep my news intake broad, reading the Daily Mail and The Guardian online. I didn’t think too much about who I would be matched with. When Liz explained she is newly single after having proposed earlier this year, I gently said that it was an error for her to have done that.

I’m a bit old-fashioned; it’s not something for women to do. She didn’t say so outright, but it sounds like it was a judgment error on her part.

Liz is a fascinating woman to spend time with, however she is set in her ways. She lives in the north of England and has dogs and horses. While there is nothing wrong with that, it means she will find it difficult to be spontaneous and travel.

I would be open to visiting her and she did stress she does spend three days a week in London.

Could we be more than friends? I don’t think Liz flirted with me, unless I missed the signals — sometimes I haven’t got a clue when women come on to me. Younger women do and they make it very obvious they’re interested (and that’s probably because they assume I’m rich and will look after them).

L iz asked me to Google her. While I only read one or two articles about her house purchase and proposal, I did come to the conclusion she’s not ready to enter into another relationship so fresh out of her recent long-term one.

When we parted, I definitely thought she would make a brilliant friend. But I’m afraid Liz isn’t my cup of tea.

I did ask for her number at the end of the date, and we texted a few times while she was on her way home to Yorkshire. Since then, though, I have messaged her twice but not heard back from her.

JEREMY’S VERDICT: 9/10 

Interviews: SAMANTHA BRICK

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