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Joe #90 looked a good cyber-catch. His photo showed him tall, slim, good looking; his profile revealed an articulate man. He was also amusing, unlike the many guys who say they are, but then later pan out not to be.

We arranged, by email, to have a drink after work in a local bar. I live near the water and the seafront was a tonic as I cycled along on a lovely day: there were yachts bobbing on the sapphire sea and jet-skis making frothy waves. I felt strangely optimistic…

After the sunshine, the bar was dark.  I could see he wasn’t here yet – no-one looked remotely like Joe #90’s picture. And yet, here was a man – bloated and balding in unfortunate patches – rising to meet me, a peevish look on his face:  “Well,” he said, “At least you look like your picture.” His voice was an aggrieved nasal whine.

“Joe?” There was nothing about this man I could square with his photo. It rattled me; as if all the normal rules had changed.

“Yes, of course!” he said testily. “I haven’t ordered yet , I thought I’d wait to see if you’d come after all.” He seemed put out I had.

I thought of the sunshine outside. “Don’t many women look like their pictures?” I asked.

“Nope, not at all…” He sighed, long suffering. “Lots of them,” he sniffed disapprovingly, productively, and swallowed, “also lie about their age.”

“Surely a woman’s prerogative…?”

“Now, how old did you say you were?” he asked me, pulling out as he did so – God help me – a print-out of my profile. In order, presumably, to check it.

I panicked. I did not want this kind of conversation in a public place – this was meant to be fun. “Actually,” I said, reaching for my phone. “I must sort out something urgent. My computer went down and I must ask my son to fix it before he goes out. I don’t want to disturb the others in the bar. I’ll be back in a jiff.”

“What shall I do?”  I asked my son from my cell. “He’s awful! Really judgemental. Shall I just take off now I’m out here?”

“That’s a bit harsh – at least have a drink. Just don’t arrange another,” he said.

“Do I really have to?” I sighed. “Yes, I suppose I should…”

But, as I walked from the freedom of the bright outdoors into the gloom of the hotel bar I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t have this odious man evaluate me as a prospect for the next hour. What’s the point? If getting older has taught me anything it’s that time is too valuable to waste.

There were two young women at the reception desk. “Can you do me a favour, please?” I started laughing, guiltily. “There’s a large man to the right of the bar – could you tell him Linda has suddenly taken ill and had to go home?”

They looked at each other then at me and we all giggled, conspiratorially. Some things never change. They agreed.  And I skipped out, laughing at my naughtiness: I hadn’t felt so recklessly irresponsible – and girly and free – for years.

This is an edited excerpt from the book. Experiences of an Internet Dater by Linda Franklin; © copyright Linda Franklin 2012. The book is available on Amazon Kindle and on Linda’s website www.lindafranklin.co.uk.

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