SONIA Poleon, 53, lives in south-west London and owns a nursery. She has four grown-up children.
"I think the reason so many men have proposed is because I’m an open book – I’m the one friends tell their deepest secrets to. I don’t think it’s to do with looks. I’d say I’m attractive, but not exceptionally so.
Before the endless proposals began, I was happily married for 21 years. I met my husband at just 15, and was heartbroken when we split in 1999. Meeting a new partner was the last thing on my mind, and I spent the next couple of years focusing on my children Nioka, now 34, Chevali, 31, and twins Cavell and Adam, 22.
Within two years, however, I got my first proposal. I was at a friend’s house in 2001 when he suddenly got down on one knee. I was gobsmacked – and mortified. I’d known him for three years and, although he’d told me he liked me, I had no idea his feelings were so strong.
Flustered, I said there was no way I’d marry again so soon. He was upset, but thankfully his moment of madness didn’t end our friendship. Over the next 15 years I was bombarded by 14 more offers, mostly from friends. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted by a few.
On three occasions, I said yes before backing out. In 2003, I’d been friends with the guy for 18 months. When he proposed it was a surprise, but made me realise I was in love with him, so I accepted.
We didn’t move in together at first, which was lucky as two months later, he grew very controlling. He tried to restrict where I could go, so I wrote him a letter telling him I’d changed my mind. He tried to change it back, but I never spoke to him again.
It didn’t put me off marriage, though, so in 2008, I accepted a proposal from a man I’d been dating for six months. We met on my doorstep – as clichéd as it sounds, he was a salesman – and when he proposed, I was delighted.
But after a couple of months, I realised we didn’t have enough in common. It was hard, as he was devastated. None of the men bought rings, but that didn’t make rejecting them any less awkward.
The worst was in 2010.
A friend of seven years wouldn’t stop asking me to marry him and one day, instead of taking me to lunch as he’d said, he took me to a bridal shop and tried to get me to try on dresses. I walked out and said I didn’t want him in my life at all.
It was cruel, but I didn’t know how else to make him see we’d never have a romantic future. We stopped talking for a while, but are friends now. A self-help book I read in 2011 advised writing down the qualities you want in a relationship if you were trying to find Mr Right. It was a ‘eureka’ moment, and helped clarify why none of the men who’d proposed had felt perfect for me.
Now I won’t consider settling down unless a man meets most of my criteria – which include loyalty, being 6ft tall and enjoying travel. I’ve rejected five proposals since. I’m not dating now, but would like to marry. I get lonely, but am happy to wait for the right man. My kids aren’t fazed by all the proposals – they want me to be happy.
I don’t regret turning any of my suitors down. Thanks to my list, I now know exactly what I want, and I’ll keep turning down proposals until I find it."