28 Dates Later by Willard Foxton: Part Two, The Married Woman

In which Willard considers having an affair.

So, my second date. I'd convinced myself that to keep the blog interesting, I should split 50/50 between "dating sites no-one in their right mind would go on" and "dating sites that are in theory normal, but are probably full of weirdos anyway". I've currently got dating profiles on 10 "sensible sites" and 8 on "weirdo sites".  

Sadly, my first date (with the Biter) was from OK Cupid, a fairly normal site. So... date 2 has to be from my list of scary sites. Now, I'm not quite ready to go on WomenBehindBars.com (Dating ladies in prison) or SurvivalistSingles.com (Dating for people preparing for the Apocalypse - tagline "Don't face the future alone"). I thought I'd go for weird, but not *too* weird; that's how I ended up on AshleyMadison.com - the dating site where married people go to look for affairs (tagline - "Life is short: Have an Affair").  

As you can imagine, it's a pretty seedy place. It's not cheap either - for men, anyway. Women join for free, and message for free, but men have to pay about £40 for the privilege of being able to send 100 messages; when you run out of messages you have to buy more. You can also spend more money for being moved on to the front of the search results, being advertised in emails - you really can sink quite a bit of money into it, if you want to. Fortunately, I spotted a cheap deal (thanks, google adwords) and got a free day as a "Priority Man". I might add that to my business cards :)  

Filling out the profile was challenging - as well as the normal essay entitled "Women should date Willard: Discuss" there's a fairly exhaustive list of sexual checkboxes (illustrated below). I wasn't even aware "Erotic tickling" was a thing.  

As this is partly journalism, I was tempted to turn all the dials to "extraordinarily opened minded pervert" and see what rolled in, but instead, bearing in mind I do actually want to go on nice dates, I checked "Cuddling & Hugging", "Kissing", "Conventional Sex" and "Open to Experimentation", or as I like to think of it, "Vanilla is the most popular flavour FOR A REASON".  

Anyway, I saved it all, pressed send, and unlike most dating sites, I started getting messages right away - within 2 minutes of my profile being approved. It seemed being a "Priority man" was working. I replied, and was repeatedly complimented for my ability to spell, and also the fact I was interested in actually talking to women, knowing their names, you know, that sort of basic human interaction. It turns out, in the world of Ashley Madison, if you don't instantly segue to asking to see a woman's breasts in text speak, you are quite the player.  

So after about an hour of chatting, I arranged a date. She was a "professional, 39, attached but seeking men". The only thing she liked that I hadn't listed was "Bubble Baths for 2", so I figured I was likely to come out of this date unscathed, at the very least (it's only writing this I've realised she could have been "the drowner", but hey, she wasn't). We had similar interests, and to be honest, if she hadn't been you know, married, I would have probably have been really excited.  

Instead, on the day of the date, I left work with a leaden weight in my stomach. Was I really going to do this? Go on a date with a married woman? But I girded my loins, and turned up to the bar. She turned up, obviously having come straight from work, in a very sharp, very expensive suit, and we immediately got down to a good chat. She was lovely, very entertaining, extremely smart - the very definition of the successful career woman. We shared life stories over a couple of gin and tonics.   

Inevitably, the subject of her family life came up. She had three kids with her "apelike" husband, and after the birth of her first child, he'd largely lost interest in her. They now slept in separate rooms, and hadn't had sex in three years, but both were relatively traditional, staying together "for the sake of the kids". That said, she wanted a bit more in her life. We got talking, stayed in the pub for dinner. She told me about other people she's met on Ashley Madison - apparently, being a woman on a dating site largely populated by men is not at all pleasant.  

She gets plenty of attention; as many as 250 messages a week (meaning, by my calculation, she generates about eighty quid a week for the owners of Ashley Madison), but the vast bulk of them are, as she put it, "total creepers". She was very good looking, so got a huge amount of messages that were explicitly sexual. She said she'd been sent hundreds of keys to men's private online photo galleries, but had learned not to look, as almost all of them would be walls of pictures of cocks and torsos. She showed me a few (I explained, for the blog), and some men will literally write messages on their penises in marker pen, then take photos of them, and send them. It's very odd, this online dating lark.  

It was all in all, a pleasant evening - right up to the point where her phone rang - I could see from the display it was her husband calling. She made a clearly well-practiced excuse, and it wasn't like he turned up brandishing a fire axe (a shame, for blogging purposes), but it left an odd taste in my mouth. We both agreed that while it had been fun, and we'd probably stay in touch as friends, I wasn't the man to have an affair with.  

I imagine a lot of online dates end like this - the person is nice enough, but there's no real spark. At least it was a nice evening, and hey, no wounds or infections. So, a win.   

But still, the search continues!

This post originally appeared at 28 Dates Later. Stay tuned as we catch you up with all Willard's disastrous dates so far over the next week.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.