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Take your time; look at other options, she advised, while emailing me teaser profiles: In any other realm finding a home, hiring a key staff member I would never entertain paying all of the fees up front, with no part contingent on the basic delivery of the service let alone a successful outcome.

However, matchmaking is different.

Matchmaking for life

It deals in affairs of the heart. A contrarian, non-commercial streak in me embraced the romanticism of it all. Certainly I was persuaded that it would be odd, and probably indeed impossible, to pay a financial bounty upon meeting a romantic partner. Moving in together, marriage? None of this adequately explains why per cent of the fees needed to be paid up front.

This was never convincingly answered, perhaps because my agency never needed to. It would be unfair to call introduction services confidence tricks, but my role in the arrangement increasingly came to feel like that of the mark. There would be no close matches — not even a short-term relationship, let alone anything serious or marriage.

Matchmaking is both a skill and an art

One of the very first matches was the most promising: But a month later, her calendar miraculously opened up. Within six months, my matchmaker had gone on maternity leave and was replaced by two other staff members. Before long, I asked for a partial refund and you can guess how that went. One curiosity throughout these match-made dates was that I, the man, invariably felt an obligation to foot all bar and restaurant bills. This was, apparently, the norm in these higher-end dating arrangements: Why should this be, in an era of greater gender equality?


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Just how unbalanced could things get on this expensive dating journey? I was about to find out. Here, a deeper truth about the way this exclusive dating world works was revealed: There are different theories as to why this is, one being that women are more willing to invest substantially in finding the right life partner, another being the perception of a depleted pool of eligible men in other walks of life. Unwittingly I asked whether this was pounds or dollars. It was pounds, of course; we were sitting in a Chelsea pub, not in the West Village.

Her own eyes narrowed. Finally I offered alcohol. Champagne, that ever reliable pick-me-up. Miraculously, given that I was the editor of a woman's fashion magazine, before meeting my husband in my early 40s then a BBC journalist, he came to interview me; as soon as we got married, he gave up his job and started having sex with other women , I had only ever had three boyfriends, two of whom hadn't even liked me that much. I think the reason I never met men was that I was either working, or sat at home, wishing they'd come to me, which, of course, they didn't.

With such a terrible track record, I started to realise that, if I couldn't meet someone when I was in my prime, how on earth was I going to meet someone now I'm 50? My friend Kerry, tired of my moaning, had told me about an upmarket dating agency that takes on only high-achieving rich people. And so, just before Christmas, I meet Mairead Molloy. Irish by birth, and having made a fortune in hotels, she now divides her time between Cannes and London.

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Matchmaking for Life

Five years ago, with an address book positively bulging with successful but often lonely men and women, she decided to set up a dating agency. Surely, I ask her, rich men have no trouble attracting women? These men - actors, plastic surgeons, bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs - not only don't have time to meet women, they've had enough of dating model types who are just after their money. That's what I like to hear, but I'm still dubious. Men say they want intelligent, independent women who are their equal in every way, but do they, really?

Mairead, who is 38, blonde and delightfully blunt, asks me to fill her in on my background, and tell her what I look for in a man.

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I tell her I was married to someone much younger who never paid for anything. I'm a romantic in that I expect the man I'm with not to even look at other women - to be like my dad, in other words - but then I come over all feminist if he attempts to pay for dinner. I'd never allow a man to take me on holiday.


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  8. I'd feel like a prostitute. Mairead says I am, compared to her other female clients, all of whom want to be looked after by a man, very unusual. Otherwise, the qualities I am looking for are pretty standard: I tell her I'd prefer someone around my own age she tells me I don't look 50, and am in fact 'slim, fashionable and gorgeous', which makes me want to date her , but they must be boyish rather than Steptoe-like I tell her Imran Khan could be her template, although I wouldn't date him as I don't think my cats would want to live in Pakistan.

    I'm not interested in the boring banker types that make up the bulk of her clients. She tells me I seem to have narrowed my options to Paul McCartney but, rather valiantly, accepts the challenge to help me find Mr Right. This is how it works. Once a client has been interviewed and then vetted - Mairead visits them at home, checking out passports and, if necessary, decree absolutes - she will then introduce them to prospective partners all over the world rich people, it seems, have no truck with annoying things like distance and time zones.

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    She never sends clients photos, but instead supplies a brief resume of their qualities. She has, she says, an instinct for knowing who will hit it off. I feel as though I'm about to sit my A-levels all over again. My first date takes place in London. Mairead phones to tell me about M, who is 46, in wealth management, whatever that is, and a divorced father of two grown-up boys.

    He lives between London and Oxford. I ask whether he is handsome. The next night, he calls me.

    Best of Money: single, dating and paying a very high price for it | Financial Times

    He sounds young, and is surprisingly open. He says he likes good hotels and restaurants, long walks and log fires. I tell him I live in the middle of Exmoor, have horses, dogs, cats and rescued farm animals, and am recently divorced. We agree to meet the following night in the bar at Claridges. I tell him I have dark hair, and will be wearing purple Burberry platforms. I go to a lot of trouble to prepare for this date.

    I buy a black lace skirt and silver platforms from Prada, and get my hair done. I invest in a Hollywood wax, and an all-over light sheen of fake tan. When I get to the bar I'm so nervous I down a glass of champagne in one go, then text to tell him I've had a 'slight change of shoe: When he arrives I am disappointed: He has nice brown eyes, but is not quite tall enough for me.

    God, I think, this is awkward. He orders me another glass of champagne, and tells me about his ex-wife. I find it annoying that, when I tell him I work for a newspaper, he doesn't even ask which one. After precisely one hour he asks for the bill, which immediately tells me he doesn't fancy me. I hobble off into the night on my shoes and text Mairead: He couldn't wait to get shot of me. I think I looked pretty good. Who are these men expecting, Elle Macpherson? Contrary to popular opinion there are, according to Mairead, a glut of rich, single men in New York.

    I find this hard to believe, having watched a great many episodes of Sex And The City, but I valiantly call skirt and shoes into service yet again wearing the same outfit acts, I as a sort of scientific control , meet Christie, from Mairead's sister agency, Premier Matchmaking, who is hand to arrange everything. Our chat reveals straight away how different the dating scene is in the U. She tells me where my prospective date went to school and college, lists his many degrees, tells me he is 6ft 2in, divrced with no children, and is the CEO of a bank.

    She hopes very much I 'enjoy him'. I agree to meet P at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. The vast majority of new clients contact us because they know couples who have met each other through us. It could be the start of something amazing. With our help you can meet other people who, just like you, are looking for love and friendship.

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