I recently set myself a challenge to do seven dates in seven days. I’d just joined www.okcupid.com and had so many messages from interesting guys it seemed an efficient way to find out if anyone of them were for me without getting too excited about any one guy. It was exhausting and I wouldn’t recommend it, but I learnt a lot and it was very good for the ego!

Venues and activities ranged from afternoon tea, to live music, to a walk along the river, to a meetup event called “TED talks meets comedy”. (This last was the most surreal. Eight talks, all form and no content, mainly about how to succeed and overcome your difficulties – imagine all the most bland and obvious things you should do from all the self-help books, described by people just trained in public speaking. These were talks as far removed from TED talks as you can imagine, and there was absolutely nothing funny about them.)

Most had matched with me at 90 – 98%. I tried to get a range of ethnic groups and ages. (I had a lot of messages from guys in their 20s and 30s – including some that claimed to prefer older women and not just be after a one-nighter.) I only picked guys that initiated interesting conversations by asking questions that related to something in my profile that made me want to reply; and that I thought I was attracted to. Of course when you meet people, you realise you had built up a picture of what they would sound like and how it would feel to be with them that was totally wrong and just you projecting! To avoid this, the advice is not to exchange lots of messages first, but I found it still happened. Lots of messaging often causes people to start to develop feelings for an imaginary person and not messaging will at least avoid this happening, even if it doesn’t stop you creating a fantasy person. The way to avoid this is to talk on the phone and Skype them before the date.

Dating younger guys definitely didn’t work for me. I ended up being their dating coach (which was of course fun) or educating them about the eighties. I think older guys are more for me, although only ones that have been in long-term relationships and are emotionally responsive – a phrase I learnt later from Susan Quilliam’s book How to choose a partner . This apparently is the best predictor of successful relationships. I’ll do another blog post later on this. (I’m not saying that younger guys can’t be emotionally responsive, just to clarify.)

So the main deal-breaker was smell. Some smelt musty, some unwashed, one of fennel, some had bad breath. So guys, please please make an effort! Shower, wash your clothes regularly and use washing powder/ liquid that smells nice, use some after-shave or scent, brush your teeth, floss, use mouth wash, drink lots of water, don’t drink coffee* or eat garlic before the date, eat healthily …..

The way to get out of kissing someone with bad breath is to have a little discussion beforehand about the hypothetical scenario “If you had bad breath/ body odour/ spinach in or lipstick on your teeth, would you want someone to tell you?” Of course they’ll say yes. So then there’s no need to feel bad about gently telling them later. And if you’re not going to see them again, it doesn’t matter if they hate you! At least they’ll know for next time. You could tell them later in a text if you’re too embarrassed to tell them face-to-face …. Many guys did ask “What put you off?” when they asked for a second date and I turned them down.

Good dates asked searching questions about my research and could follow up my answers with more questions. One made me rate all my dates and sum them up in three words, which was an excellent use of time, collecting and analysing data in one evening. They enjoyed discussing moral dilemmas like “Would you rather sneeze or lose all the hair on your body?” or “Would you rather lose your sight or your hearing?” When asked why they liked a book they said they’d enjoyed, they could answer the question. The best dates went straight home and ordered a book I’d recommended…. And started to read it before the next date. Yes, believe it or not, some lucky guys got through to the next round! (And yes, they all knew about the challenge before the date ….)

To be continued ….

*You’ll get “coffee breath” as my cousin called it at school …. Lots of teachers have it. It’s not nice.