Hands trembling, Joanna Whiteley nervously took a sip of wine from her glass. She hoped it would calm her nerves as she waited in a bar for her first date with Steve, a thirtysomething IT consultant.
What if he was anti-social, self-obsessed or – perish the thought – unattractive in the flesh, she thought. Worse still, what if there was a mutual dislike between them?
Fortunately for her, Joanna needn’t have worried. Within minutes of Steve arriving for their date, she found him to be charming, articulate and handsome. But then he should be, given that Joanna was paying £350 for his company.
The 36-year-old interior designer from Winchester, had chosen to “hire” Steve, a male escort, to accompany her to an important business ball that evening.
“I wanted to go the ball, but certainly not alone,” recalls Joanna, whose marriage to a chartered accountant – with whom she has two children – ended six years ago.
“As a successful single woman, I’ve found social occasions difficult.”
It was a conversation with a group of girlfriends that prompted Joanna to choose this controversial solution to her social quandary.