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’

Deluded

‘It’s your fault. You distracted me!’ I raged, throwing my club to the ground.

It was my honeymoon. My newlywed husband stood across from me gripping the handle of his club, his expression falling somewhere between fear and bemusement.

We were in the Drakensberg mountains, South Africa. We’d had an amazing day trekking though the forest and lazing by waterfalls. Now we were enjoying a light-hearted game of Crazy Golf before a romantic dinner under the stars. Yet I was about to tarnish our memories with an almighty outburst.

The fact was he’d won. The man, who only days before had professed to love me more than life itself, had defeated me. Not in a gentlemanly mild-mannered fashion either. I’d been thrashed. At a game I was certain I owned.

I’d grown up with the sport. It was in my blood. Every school holiday, rain or shine, from a caravan park, I would hone my skill. My parent’s photo albums were rammed with snaps of me, victorious on the course. Well I’d assumed I’d been victorious. Perhaps that was the error in my thinking.

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In my mind, I was a champion. I knew the exact angle to putt through the windmill to make the curve ahead. With a simple glance, I could assess the precise velocity required to scale any ramp. I could even fill out a score sheet while eating a double coned Mr Whippy. So how dare he, of alien nationality, someone who misguidedly termed it ‘mini-golf’, a man who had never so much as stepped onto an AstroTurfed green, suddenly become the expert?

‘It’s all about geometry,’ he’d said, retrieving his ball from the hole.

I’d eyed my club and then his head, envisaging a Drakensberg Post headline, involving the words groom and pummelled.

It was only after a couple of post-tantrum cocktails that I began to question whether it was my self-awareness rather than my husband’s chivalry, which was lacking. I’d spent years as a matchmaker trying to help people see themselves as they were, rather than as they would like to be, yet it seemed I hadn’t quite mastered the practice myself.

There had been plenty of clients who’d sat in front of me, lacking the evidence to verify their claims.

‘I have a great sense of humour.’

‘I’m really sporty.’

‘I’m very cultured. Love the theatre.’ Ahem, I’m not sure Chitty Chitty Bang Bang counts. 

By the third cocktail, when I finally conceded that I might not be as proficient at my childhood sport as I had first thought, I began to wonder what other mistruths I had been clinging to.

Aged eleven, I’d been awarded distinction for Grade three flute, and since then had readily identified with anyone musically gifted. I once drew a picture of my uncle’s dog. My mum had it framed. I think it was at that point that I decided I was creative. A one-time A-grade student of chemistry, at pub quizzes or during a game Trivial Pursuit, when the science category was selected, I’d find myself perched on the edge of my seat, expecting the answers to fly from my mouth like a Doogie Howser script.

The next day, on the cusp of an unforeseen identity crisis, I decided to write a list of qualities. Qualities that I was confident I possessed. Then, upon his suggestion, I read them out to my husband, using his reaction as a gauge of the statement’s accuracy.

‘I’m highly organised.’

Snigger.

‘I’m adventurous.’

Smirk.

‘I’m funny.’

Eyebrow raise.

‘I’m caring’

Twitch of the nose and nod of the head.

(Encouraged by seemingly positive response to the above:) ‘I’m altruistic’

Doubled-over belly laugh, followed by apparent breathing cessation. 

After abandoning my experiment in order to assess the need for any urgent medical intervention, I began to wonder if, in some way, we were all deluded. Legends in our own minds. Waiting for our perceived talents to be discovered, or at least acknowledged.

No one wants to think of themselves as mediocre and, naturally, some of us will be lucky enough to fall at the preferred end of the bell curve. Yet, a fact often overlooked by our inner (and undiscovered) genius is that the majority of us are destined to be nothing more than average.

Did I mention my aptitude for statistics?

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

Tempted by the fruit of another

If a man loves us, then we should be able throw him into a pit pulsing with naked supermodels and he would remain true.

And by true, I mean no impure thought would enter his head.

To any woman of sane mind, this is obviously a ridiculous notion yet for most of us, it would be the ideal scenario.

When I was a matchmaker, one of the biggest causes of heartache for my clients was infidelity or at least a perceived threat of it. I don’t like to think of my husband lusting after another woman, but the very fact that he lusts after me, or at least did at one time, makes it inevitable.

So where do we draw the line? Some couples think sex outside the relationship is okay but for most of us, that is a definite taboo. And virtual sex? Well, some psychologists believe that the human brain cannot determine the difference between real and imagined encounters, so technically using porn is adultery.

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And how about strip clubs, usually pitched as a crucial work commitment or stag party obligation? Is a naked woman writhing around on his groin acceptable? Is he allowed a hard-on? Is it okay for him to nip to the loo for a gentleman’s moment?

It’s just a natural urge after all.

In fact, as a modern-day woman, I am acutely aware the correct response to my husband requesting such an outing is: ‘Whoo hoo, have a great time. Or: ‘Sounds fun. Can I come too? We could have a couple’s dance.’ During which I am supposed to be turned-on by the idea of an eighteen-year-old Latvian with DDs, arousing my husband.

The traditional fairytales didn’t conclude with a Prince declaring undying love for Snow White then having the odd wank over Cinderella, the wicked step-mother, or if so inclined, the dwarf with the tightest trousers.

We aren’t the keepers of our man’s thoughts, or even the moderators of his actions but if sex and love are (greased) poles apart, then why not just opt for an open relationship?

If the line between harmless fun and cheating is as flimsy as a lap dancer’s thong, then maybe we should just rip it off and be done with it.

Or have I misunderstood the term Happy Ending?

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