WE set single mum Gilly and daughter Grace a dating challenge – Gilly was let loose on apps for the first time, while Grace had to try traditional methods.
But who was more successful? Here, the pair reveal the positives and negatives that come with taking a different dating approach.
‘I forgot that men are out there in real life’
Grace Udeh, 30, is an estates surveyor from Halesowen, West Midlands. She lives with her mum Gilly and has been single for two years.
OPENING my front door, I peered out before slamming it shut. David*, a local guy who I’d been on a date with the week before, was walking past the house. I didn’t want a second date with him, so I was determined to avoid him.
I met my last boyfriend in June 2010 and we were together for seven years. Since we split, I’ve been on apps like Tinder and Bumble but I haven’t had much luck.
After being single for two years, I’d like to meet someone, so I’m prepared to shake things up by doing some ‘old-fashioned’ dating. That means getting set up on blind dates by friends, approaching men in real life and even trying to chat up guys at work – gulp.
I asked Mum for help on how to meet men in the real world rather than online, and she suggested asking out David, 30, a cute-looking businessman I often bumped into. She advised chatting to him the next time I saw him in our local shop.
‘DETERMINED TO AVOID HIM’
Smiling as I bought a pint of milk later that week, I asked him how his day was going. I was surprised when he suggested we go for a drink, and we swapped numbers. Our date a few days later was fun, but I realised I didn’t find him attractive.
It got awkward however, when he kept texting me afterwards. If I’d met him on an app it would have been easier to phase things out, but I didn’t want to be rude so I continued to message him for another week before finally stopping.
A week later, one of my friends set me up on a blind date with Lewis, 32, a rail worker. We went out for dinner, and I knew instantly that there was no chemistry – and I think he felt the same as he didn’t text me afterwards.
The next avenue was my job, but as I mostly work from home, that wasn’t really something I could pursue – nor did I want to try chatting up any of my colleagues on email in case I ended up with a disciplinary.
Feeling frustrated, I started looking for potential dates everywhere I went – in the supermarket, the park, at the pub – but it was slim pickings. I concluded that men don’t tend to approach women any more as they’re too busy focusing on their phones.
Just as I was giving up, a friend told me about another potential date. Cliff, 38, was a building manager, who looked my type – muscular and well-groomed. We hit it off on WhatsApp and messaged every day for two weeks.
I had high hopes but when I met him I was gutted that he didn’t look like his photo – he was much shorter than me. Then he told me he had a 15-year-old daughter. Though I don’t mind dating men with children, it just felt strange that neither he nor my friend had told me.
We had a laugh, but there was no spark. While I didn’t have much luck with traditional dating methods, the experiment has been fun. I’d like to say it’s opened my eyes to men being out there in every day life but it hasn’t really – it’s been hard work.
I’ve been quite jealous watching Mum on dating apps most evenings, and I’m looking forward to logging back into Tinder once I’ve had a few weeks to catch my breath.”
‘I got trolled by a man I met on a dating app’
Gilly Chittenden, 54, is a speech and language therapist and lives with children Grace, Charlie, 16, and Olivia, 13. She has been single for five years.
AS I stared down at the hurtful words on my phone commenting on my weight, I was shocked – I’d never met this guy before. Was this what online dating was about?
My last relationship with the father of my two youngest children lasted 12 years after we met on a night out. I’ve been single since it ended five years ago and although I’ve been on a few dates set up by friends, I haven’t been ready for a new man – until now.
I was willing to try dating apps for the first time if it meant meeting a nice guy. I started with Bumble, which Grace helped me set up. It felt strange to me as the woman to have to make the first move, which is the app’s unique selling point.
But once I saw that more than 50 men had liked my profile, I felt a lot more confident. I struck up a conversation with a good-looking guy who was about 10 years my junior, but was disappointed when he suddenly went quiet.
‘LIED ABOUT HIS AGE’
Wondering if it was the age difference, I decided to try Lumen, an app for over-50s. At first, everyone seemed much older than me but I did find two attractive men on there.
A friend who also uses apps told me it was fine to date more than one man at once, which was novel to me, so I followed her advice and set up dates with both.
First I met Simon, 45, a teacher, who had actually lied about his age to get on the app to find a more mature woman. I felt vulnerable meeting up with a complete stranger, so I suggested a busy local pub. Because I was nervous, I drove and didn’t drink.
There was no spark from the off and I left after an hour and a half. I stayed in touch with him for a few days to be polite, but his messages became sexually explicit, which made me uncomfortable, so I blocked him. Determined not to be put off, I went for my date with Paul, 51, a marketeer.
When we met in a bar, he was dressed casually, and we ended up chatting for hours. The following week, we went on a second date to the cinema. He’d come straight from the office and looked different in his smart work clothes.
I didn’t feel like snuggling during the film, and afterwards over a pizza he seemed bored and kept checking his phone, which put me off. I messaged him the next day to say I wasn’t interested.
By then, I was getting into the swing of the apps, and was chatting to a third guy on Lumen. Winston said he was 58, but looked closer to 40. He asked me to send a selfie but as soon as I sent a photo, he told me I didn’t look anything like my profile picture and started mocking my size and looks.
‘FELT LIKE CRYING’
I felt like crying. For the first time I understood how hard dating is for the younger generation – they are open to abuse on apps, and it hurts to think someone could say something like this to Grace. I blocked him, before reporting him to Lumen.
After that, I thought I was done with online dating, and took a break for a few weeks. But a friend convinced me to give it one last go, so I signed up to Eharmony and got chatting to Jonathan, 55, a cameraman.
Before the date I felt nervous, but when I got to the coffee shop to meet Jonathan, I needn’t have worried. We had a lovely chat about our kids and pets. When it was time to leave, he gave me a kiss on the cheek and asked for a second date.
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I’m excited about where it could lead, although I have a date with another guy on Eharmony lined up to keep my options open.
Even though I had a bad experience, I’m glad I tried dating apps as it’s made me realise just how many single men there are out there.”
- Credits: *Name has been changed, Photography: Lancton Hair & make-up: Sara Bowden using Lipstick Queen, Styling: Salome Munuo
- Clothes: Grace wears: dress, Missguided; earrings, Primark; bracelets, Marks & Spencer; shoes, New Look Gilly wears: top, Primark; jeans, earrings, both New Look; shoes, River Island