Friday, September 12, 2008

Kate Mulvey: 'Yes, I'm a fake fiancee'

Tired of being branded a mid-life singleton, Kate Mulvey got herself a ring and pretended to be engaged to a banker. It changed her life

My engagement ring has a turquoise stone set in diamonds; its delicate band is made of white gold. There is only one problem with it, I am not really engaged. I am a fake fiancee.

Since April this year, I have been wearing a divorced friend's engagement ring, and pretending that I am promised to a wonderful banker called Seb. "He chose it, not me," I trill delightedly, as I flash my glam rock. "And, yes, the proposal was very romantic."

I admit it is a drastic measure. But consider the facts. I am one of those modern anomalies, a mid-life singleton (I am 42). Women see you as competition, and men assume that you'd like nothing more than a snog behind the drinks cabinet.

Really, I might as well wear a flashing neon sign that reads "Woman gathering dust. One egg left. Please fertilise in the next five minutes."

The moment that made me realise it was time to turn the dating tables was when my date (a much older man) lunged at me in the taxi after dinner. As I removed his podgy fingers from my upper thigh, he swivelled round. "Well," he said, eyes popping with macho man rage, "you are hardly a spring chicken, are you?"

This was the tenth time I had been pounced on by an overweight bore with about as much appeal as a slavering old dog. I was beginning to despair of ever finding an intelligent single man. Then a friend told me how, a few years ago when she was engaged, young attractive men flocked round her. Best man magnet on the planet, she said.

I decided to give it a try. And since I have been wearing my tasteful bling, my life has completely changed.

I was chatting to a divorced man at a dinner party a few weeks ago.

Pre-fake fiancéedom, I was the woman with her arms clamped to her side (fear of showing batwings) and head buried in the soup (fear of showing advancing age). Yet now I felt curiously calm. For the first time, I had the edge. After all, I thought, I am not here to impress you, I already have my man. And it showed.

It is what psychiatrists call a self-fulfilling prophecy. I felt sexy. Ergo, I projected a sexy image. By the third course, Mr Divorce was practically on bended knee. Pity, I wasn't attracted to him, but it was the turning point.

At last, I can flirt without being branded a husband- hunter. I can wear all those unbelievably revealing dresses that you knew made you look desperate as a single woman, but now with a fake man in the background are simply seen as sexy.

Which brings me to my next point. The idea that another man wants "to have and to hold" me has transformed me from easy pickings into forbidden fruit.

"It is basic human nature to want what other people have," says Sandi Mann, a social psychologist. "It is called social barometer theory, if somebody wants you, it automatically raises your desirability."

At a gallery opening a few weeks ago, a handsome older man invited me out to dinner. He had seen me at a party the week before surrounded by men. They were just friends, but the sight of them was enough to up my romantic worth.

What better way to say you are a prize worth fighting for than the public declaration of desirability - a jewelled token of love on the fourth finger of the left hand?

But before you rush off to buy a fake engagement ring, a word of advice.

Keep the proposal story simple. "He took me for dinner at the Gherkin, and there, after the chocolate soufflé, went down on one knee and told me there was no other woman for him," will suffice. I nearly tripped up a few times with an over-imaginative account. Believe me, romantic egg on your face is not a good look.

So now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, has it worked? Yes. I am now dating the wonderful man from the gallery. And, yes, he knows about the fake ring but doesn't seem to mind. The next step is a lot more difficult. Well, this bit is real life, isn't it?

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