I spoke to an agency recently. OK, I’ll own up: an introduction agency. Yes, I really have been reduced to shopping for a partner.
Now, I may be shopping but I am a discerning customer. I am not in any way desperate. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am borderline ambivalent. My life is very good indeed. I go to lovely restaurants and cocktail bars and theatres; I have fabulous friends - male and female - who have wit, sparkle and intellectual charm; I am never bored and frequently pushed to do everything I want to do.
And yet … there is no denying that it’s nice to have someone special in your life. I would rather like to miss someone and have someone miss me. And so I thought that before I get too old, set in my ways and even more demanding, I ought to nudge things along a bit.
And, even though I would counsel anyone else not to have a shopping list of qualities I am looking for, I went with my list. Which I think is not so much a demanding list as the perfectly reasonable and bare essentials I seek in a partner.
Good looks – at least in my eyes; own hair and teeth (not a given in later years, you know); still engaged with work and interests; financially independent; generous and outgoing; sense of humour and wit; intelligent; and in good nick physically. Basically me, but a bloke.
Having eschewed online dating - which is in itself at least another column, if not a book, nay a trilogy – I spent some time telephoning the various Introduction agencies based in London. Ah yes, one last condition – the candidates for my affections must be in London, as least part of the time. I work and live here, am very busy and frankly the country and I don’t suit each other unless it’s for weekends away.
And I’m with Dr Johnson on this. I simply cannot conceive of being tired of London.
Now, and this may surprise you for it certainly surprised me, the first agency I spoke to said I couldn’t be placed through them. I was, and I quote ‘far too demanding for a woman of my years and certainly too independent’. It seems that the chaps on their books want a little lady who will follow them around the golf courses of Portugal and make nice dinners. Or someone half their age plus seven years and pneumatic to boot.
But eventually one said we should meet and talk. So we did. And she showed me the chaps on her books and said that actually I really would need to have their bespoke service. Which cost an awful lot of money. I would need this bespoke service because they would have to go and headhunt my new soul mate. Curious. I thought that what I was doing but with no success. The woman from the agency went on to explain the rigour of the process, the time and effort it would take on their part, the lofty social heights to which they would soar on my behalf and the justification for the enormous investment of their time and my money.
Anyway, I pondered the cost – approximately the cost of one major long haul business class flight, a week in a luxury spa and 30 pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes – and declined. There was no promise of anything other than a minimum of 8 introduction on the course of 12 months. I reckoned I could give myself more pleasure with an alternative use of funds.
At which point – instantly – she asked how much I could and would pay.
So here is the lesson for today. If I win the lottery tomorrow I shall still not return to that agency. Because I pay for value. Value is priceless and not a commodity.
By instantly dropping her price, she lost my belief that she had any ability to do the job at all. And more importantly, she clearly didn’t believe in the value herself or she would never have budged. A proven, valuable service costs what it costs.
And in my next column I will explain why asking for someone’s budget is possibly the stupidest thing you can ever do.
In the meantime, should a successful, intelligent, happy, generous hearted George Clooney lookalike waft past you looking for a fabulous partner, give him my telephone number. It’s on the website.