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
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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR