Kim Thompson clutches a piece of paper in her well-manicured hands. On it she has written the names of boyfriends she met while dating online.
She talks me through the list. First, there was complicated Chris, followed by Ben who was a disappointment in bed, and strange Tim who had a habit of talking non-stop about his collection of Hornby toy trains.
Then there was the property developer who took her out for dinner, slopped spaghetti down his front and told Kim on their first date how much he liked sex.
There are lots of others, too, whom she came across when she turned to internet matchmaking sites to find a long-term partner.
Unlucky in love: Kim’s internet dates never proved to be quite what they seemed at first. She wants other women to know that internet dating can be a fool’s game
‘But please don’t portray me as a man-hunter,’ she begs, perching on an immaculate white sofa at her home. ‘They seemed to be either liars, hopeless in bed, had a mean streak or had a former wife hovering in the background.’
In normal times, Kim has a good job running an architect’s office. At 58, the divorcee owns a three-bedroom house in a smart London suburb and looks ten years younger than her age. You would expect her to be pursued by a string of eligible men.
Yet earlier this year, Kim reluctantly made the decision to give up on love and romance, scarred by two years of trying to find a man online with whom she might actually want to form a long-term relationship.
She is speaking up now because she wants other women to know that internet dating can be a fool’s game.
After half a decade of having no significant other — and, she freely confesses, no sex — she turned to online dating. With all her friends long married, there was little other option to meet single men.
But like Candace Bushnell, author and creator of the blockbuster TV series Sex And The City, which charted the 1990s New York dating scene, Kim found the whole experience a bitter disappointment.
Candace, who sampled internet dating to research her new semi-fictional memoir Is There Still Sex In The City?, told the Mail in a recent interview: ‘It was just shockingly sad. There was such a lack of quality men.’
Candace cited the example of Arnold, a frisky, sexist septuagenarian who declared when giving her a tour of his home, including the bedroom: ‘I’ve had a lot of great sex on that bed. I hope to have a lot more in future.’
Candace blamed herself for failing to find love on the internet, saying that at 61 she is probably ‘too picky’ when it comes to men.
That is not an expression Kim recognises. ‘Why not be picky?’, she asks. ‘I found there were too few decent ones to pick from, that was the trouble.’
Earlier this year Kim, pictured above, reluctantly made the decision to give up on love and romance, scarred by two years of trying to find a man online
Kim’s internet dating adventures began in 2018. Divorced for 15 years and the mother of 28-year-old twins, she’d had two relationships since her marriage ended but by then had been single for five years.
She has a small circle of good friends, most of them married, but rarely sees a fresh face — particularly a male one.
Her office-based job and site visits to mainly family homes mean her chances of bumping into a new man are slim.
She explains: ‘I was pottering along, happily single, until two years ago when a girlfriend said, “You don’t want to be alone for the rest of your life” and suggested I try online dating.’
She admits: ‘I was quite naive. I thought the men were looking for what I was looking for: a committed relationship, possibly marriage. I couldn’t have got it more wrong.’
Financially self-sufficient, she says she was keen to find a go-getter, someone who had achieved something in his life, who was educated, had old-fashioned values and would join her on adventures exploring the world.
Instead, what she says she found — having tried a range of websites including Match.com, Bumble, Tinder and Zoosk — was a generation of men who were economical with the truth about their looks and lifestyles, relentlessly bitter about their ex-wives and looking for sex or to find a woman who would support them financially.
‘The men will have a series of pictures on their profiles and the initial ones will often be decades old, when they’ve got hair and no paunches,’ says Kim. ‘It’s only when you reach the last picture that you might get something of the truth — a balding, overweight man with bad teeth.’
She continues: ‘I met one for a coffee after seeing his photo with blond hair, then chatting to him on the phone. In reality he had grey hair and a pot belly.
Having tried a range of websites including Match.com, Bumble, Tinder and Zoosk, Kim said she found a generation of men who were economical with the truth about their looks (file photo)
‘He was 20 years older than he looked on the dating site. I just said goodbye to him on the spot.
‘They post pictures of themselves with their children to make themselves look like good family men when in reality they have no intention of settling down. Or they will pose by a Mercedes or a yacht — and knowing what I know now, I’d be very sceptical whether they actually owned them.
‘There is little sense of chivalry left, either. I am happy to pay my way, but in the old days men would have offered to pay for your dinner. Very few do now.
‘One man I met for coffee actually stood back when the waitress asked who was paying. He didn’t even go halves with me on a coffee.
‘Internet dating is like a sweet shop, so men will show interest in hundreds of women but I don’t think they really want to follow it up. They are always looking for something better.
‘There is something called “breadcrumbing” where a man will throw out crumbs of interest in you — a message every so often — just to keep you interested in him.
‘There must be some lovely men out there who are genuinely interested in having a committed relationship, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. I’ve no idea how you find them.
‘At times I sat at home crying. I asked myself what I’d done wrong. Am I too old? Am I unattractive?’
Of course, she is neither of these things. But listening to her litany of romantic disappointments, it is easy to understand her despondency — especially as it had all started so well with her first internet date.
‘He was called Chris, aged 57 and lived in the Home Counties. He had a sales job. We chatted online and then over the phone and there was definitely a connection. He was so easy to talk to. He’d been separated for five years and had three kids,’ she says.
‘When we met for coffee, we hit it off well. There was a lot of sexual chemistry between us. He used the love word quite quickly, within a couple of weeks. I thought I had found the right person for me.’
But as time went on, it emerged that Chris had some tricky emotional baggage. Despite splitting from his wife five years before, he had never got a divorce.
‘I thought that was a bit odd but I didn’t want to push it at first. After a while, though, I began to wonder why. He also talked about her a lot and how she had left him after having an affair at work.’
That was when the trouble began.
As both of them were working, they would meet on a Saturday evening and Chris would ask Kim to meet him at precisely 7.15pm. ‘He instructed me never to turn up before then so as not to bump into his daughter, who was in her early 20s. She visited him for a sandwich after her day’s work at a shop.
‘To begin with, I understood that he wanted to take things slowly. My son lives with me and I would want to be sure before introducing him to someone new. But this went on for months.
‘I think he was worried that if I met his daughter, she would tell his estranged wife I was on the scene. He wanted me to be a secret.
‘When I left my pink hairbrush at his place once, he panicked and said he’d had to tell his daughter it belonged to a work colleague who had visited him.’
After nearly six months of the strange Saturday-night meetings and a couple of outings to the pub, Kim threw in the towel.
‘We had an argument on the phone about me having to go to his flat all the time. I realised he was a wimp.
‘He was never going to break free from his wife. And he was tight. It was always me bringing expensive champagne and food to his flat.’
Kim has given up on her internet search for a man. Like Candace Bushnell, she reckons there just aren’t enough decent ones to go round (file photo)
Although she felt dejected, Kim was soon dating again. This time she hitched up with Ben, a 58-year-old hedge fund manager from a trendy part of London who had a two-bedroom flat. ‘He was, at least, divorced,’ she says wryly.
‘We were on a level playing field financially and he was a university graduate who had studied Classics. I am really interested in Ancient Rome, so when we met for the first time at a restaurant in Richmond during the afternoon, we chatted about it for ages. He was a good conversationalist.
‘Afterwards he walked me back to my car. He kissed me on the lips. When I got home, he texted me asking if we could meet again that same night. We walked along the river and stopped at a pub where we both had a mineral water. He was a strict vegan and I don’t drink wine, so again we were on the same page.’
She got her hopes up when Ben, whose hobby was going to jive dancing classes, asked her to stay overnight a few weeks later. ‘He appeared the perfect gentleman,’ says Kim. ‘We had a Thai meal, talked about the Romans, then went back to his flat.
‘But when we climbed into bed, he just turned his back on me. He showed no interest in being intimate. The next morning, he said he was sorry. He said it had happened with his last girlfriend and if we tried again a few times it might get better.’
She hoped their sex life would spark up. It never did. There was always the same dismal outcome. ‘It was embarrassing for him. He had some difficulty in that department,’ she says now. Not surprisingly, she let their relationship ‘fade away’.
Next was a banker called Nick, who was divorced and a couple of years younger than her, whom she started dating with high hopes again.
‘We would speak for hours at a time,’ she says. ‘We both loved cooking so we had that in common, and we were from the same part of the country.’
They arranged to ‘date’ by booking into London hotels because Nick lived far away and would visit expensive restaurants during their stays. ‘He would pick up a tab for £150 and say I should pay for the next one. But the next one would be £240. He was so mean,’ says Kim.
Most troubling was his heavy drinking. ‘I think he had a problem,’ she says. ‘It was always drink after drink after drink. He was extremely bitter about his ex-wife, too. While we did sleep together, it was less than satisfactory. I think there were some issues because of his drinking.’
So her list of failed romances goes on. Unshaven Tim from Hampshire drove her in a dilapidated car for a weekend to the New Forest before boring her about his collection of Hornby toy trains.
He took his sheepdog Molly along with them. The pet lay on the bottom of their bed all night.
Then there was a film director called Steve, who incessantly dropped names of the famous people he had met.
The last straw was a man who invited her as his date to his birthday party, then ignored her all night even though she had gone to the trouble of baking him a cake and buying him an expensive pen as a present.
‘I think many men who go on dating sites lie about wanting a committed relationship,’ she says. ‘They say that to get to meet a woman and because they think it is what she wants to hear.
‘I checked some of my men out. They were still looking for other partners on the internet when I was seeing them.
‘It was a huge let-down to find out they were cheating on me, but this just seems to be the way now.’
Kim has given up on her internet search for a man. Like Candace Bushnell, she reckons there just aren’t enough decent ones to go round.
She concludes, rather sadly, screwing up the list in her hand into a tiny ball: ‘I don’t think I will ever find love again.’
Some names have been changed.