R.I.P. Mark Darcy

I’m glad Mark Darcy is dead.

Given that yesterday was the long-awaited launch of Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” I felt compelled to exorcise some Darcy demons from my matchmaking days.

In order for you to fully understand how an otherwise caring and nonviolent woman might revel in the death of a well-loved and seemingly upstanding fictional character, I wanted to share with you a typical consultation with one of the thousands of Bridget Jones-a-likes I met during my six years as a matchmaker:

RIP

She unravelled her scarf and plonked down on the seat in front of me like a heavy bag of shopping. Then ruffled her dirty-blonde hair and stared at me expectantly.

I took a deep breath, leaned forward, pen poised and asked her what she was looking for.

‘I like tall men,’ she began. ‘Brown hair. Brown eyes.’

I nodded, gesturing to the waiter to bring us some Chardonnay.

‘He has to be intelligent,’ she continued. ‘And successful. I need a man with a good career. Something meaningful too.’ She looked to the ceiling then back down at me with a dreamy expression. ‘Like a Human Rights Barrister.’

I suppressed an eye-roll.

She went on. ‘He must be good-looking. Slim. But not skinny. I prefer an athletic build. I like eloquent men who can hold a conversation at a dinner party.’

I looked up at the ceiling and stared at a crack in the paint.

She continued, nonplussed. ‘He must be caring and sensitive but also assertive and masculine. Confident but not arrogant and calm and capable in a crisis.’ She paused for breath, the dreamy expression returning. ‘I like broad shoulders and muscular thighs. Are you writing this down?’

I looked back down at her, wondering if now were an appropriate time to suggest she date Steve, the 5ft7, twice divorced IT consultant from Southampton.

Two hours later after she’d concluded her future beloved’s list of attributes with an appreciation of fine wine and manly hands, I downed my wine and cursed Helen Fielding for ever introducing Mark Darcy to the female population.

It’s not that the average woman in her thirties doesn’t deserve love or happiness. We all do. What bothered me the most though, is since Bridget Jones’ Diary graced our bookshelves and our screens, the qualities of the perfect man have somehow morphed from the desired to the expected. If a ditzy, chain-smoking, borderline alcoholic can have Mark Darcy chasing her around London, professing to love her just the way she is, then that gives hope to the rest of us.

When in truth, the real-life Colin Firth chose to love his stunning size 6 Italian film-producer wife, Livia Giuggioli, just the way she is. Which let’s face it, can’t be that much of a struggle.

We all love Bridget, but if I’ve learned one thing from personally matching thousands of women like her, is that the only thing worse than no hope, is false hope.

Now what did I do with Steve’s profile?

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley HIll’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

The hunters or the hunted?

‘No, the girls chase the boys,’ said my twelve-year old niece as she explained the new rules of kiss-chase to me the other day.

I screwed up my nose and considered what to say. Just as I held back the words “stop” and “that” I felt a shudder go through me.

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During my time as a matchmaker I had become all too aware of the power shift between men and women when dating. Although in my experience, it happened much later, rather than the disturbing prepubescent scenario my niece had just presented to me.

When women are young, pert and perky, sexual attention is as omnipresent as alcopops.  All we have to do is don a micro-mini, slick on a glossy smile and prepare to ride a tsunami of proposals. We’re given a false sense of confidence, living life as though we have been cast as the leading lady in an Impulse ad.

Then, just as our self-esteem is flying as high as an Everest flag, suddenly, somewhere between our twenty-eighth and thirtieth birthday, it’s as though the clock strikes midnight and the spell wears off.

Fate slams on the brakes, spins the steering wheel and performs an unauthorised U-turn. Quicker than we can file for whiplash, the men we’ve been batting off with our (gifted) Loubutins, dismissing as unworthy, are now strutting around like Silvio Berlusconi, willowy nymphets draped over their arms.

While we’ve been umming and ahing over whether to settle for our 6ft3 personal trainer, or hold out for a human rights lawyer, skinny Steve from IT is now show-casing a hottie from HR.

As we lose traction quicker than a fading reality TV star, we start to panic. Our skirts get shorter, our necklines lower. We need to cash in our assets, before it’s too late.

Our Google history littered with fertility forums, we resolve to abandon any aspirations for a Mark Darcy clone and cosy up to the personal trainer.

Over a home-cooked meal, we suggest formalising his drunken declarations of love and propose a trip to the jewellers. He develops a twitch. A while later, probably some time between us forwarding a scanned ultrasound of a friend’s foetus, and the bonus bumper issue of Bridal magazine, he becomes impotent. By our third session with a Relate counsellor, he scrabbles for his Nikes and sprints into the arms of a girl five years younger.

We conclude that men are bastards.

How could they be so ruthless? Casting us aside with a facial expression generally reserved for out-of-date prawns. We should be treated as people not list of boxes to be ticked.

But did we offer them the same courtesy? Prior to their coiffed hair, Prada wardrobe, and bulging bank-balances weren’t they once the scrawny cretins we sneered at in school, while their older counterparts whisked us away in convertible Cortinas? Like the Stanford prison experiment, when the power shifts, it seems so too does the behaviour.

Eventually, after a prolonged pause, I looked my Niece in the eye.

‘Never chase a boy.’ I said. ‘They can run faster.’

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’