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In the first of our four-part series, Tanya Sweeney finds it's not so simple for our twentysomethings

FROM the outside at least, single twentysomethings have the life of Riley (whoever he is). Not only are they at their physical peak and sporting the fresh bloom of youth; they are also largely unencumbered by emotional baggage and the dreaded knell of a biological clock.

And with no shortage of available men out there, the dating carousel is just one long and unending jamboree, right?

Well, not quite. In fact, today's Irish twentysomethings face a curious and unique set of problems. Most of their peers have decamped to greener pastures, for a start. Those left behind have yet to hit the full peak of their earning power. Add into the mix the idea that today's post-Celtic Tiger cubs are routinely painted as a spoiled and entitled generation, and all is not quite what it seems. Still, it's not all doom and gloom, as these two feisty twentysomethings are only too happy to attest ...

Emma Hannigan, late 20s, a consultant from South Dublin

In Ireland, I don't think we do the dating thing so well. Guys my age don't have much respect or manners; just simple things like pulling out a chair if you're going for dinner, or even letting you walk through a door. There's very little charm there.

It's not that they don't have a clue about dating. If a guy meets a girl, and his friends are like, 'she's a nutter, don't call her', he'll listen to his friends. Chances are she'll be a perfectly normal girl, but she won't hear from him again because his friends have told him he's had a lucky escape.

Are twentysomething men picky? I don't think so. Have you ever been in Copperface Jacks on a Saturday night? As to the idea that men have an eye out for something better, I don't think that stops at any age.

I'm not sure Irish guys see themselves with just one girl anymore, the way they might have in our parents' generation, and it's sad to lose that. I don't think it's realistic to expect to be with just one person any more. I don't think those old-fashioned values exist now. The problem is, I don't think women my age have left that romantic idea of a great love behind them. That's why girls get hurt. I watch my friends go through hell because they think they've met the big love of their lives, and he doesn't seem to be treating them the way he should.

The thing is, when you're in that situation yourself -- where you just want to be with that person -- you are often completely blindsided by your own feelings. My social circle is a pretty extreme mix. One friend is separating from her husband of one year, while another is convinced she will never find someone to settle down with. She'll tell you that when we go out, no one even looks at her, but she is drop-dead gorgeous.

I think guys have this idea that they will be shot down, and it's really sad because it means that so many lovely girls are single. Me, I'm somewhere in the middle.

Of course everyone wants to settle down, but I'm not in a hurry to do it, not until I'm in my late 30s.

If I got swept off my feet next week I wouldn't complain, but what will be will be. Kids are not even remotely on my radar.

I've heard no shortage of horror stories; one friend met a guy in Krystle and had a great time. In the morning, he got dressed really quickly and was like, 'ok, bye!'

I went to her house and she warned me that her toilet was out of action ... because the guy she met has just clogged it up.

Emma Quinlan (28), A model from Dublin

I spent most of my early 20s in long-term relationships and have only been single for a year. When I go out I tend not to look for guys. I'd rather hang out with my mates. It's really hard to meet people anyway when everyone gets hammered and doesn't remember a thing afterwards.

The big problem is that everyone my age is pretty much gone. If I wanted a 23-year-old doing a Masters degree, fine, but the 26-35 years olds that haven't already settled down are away. It's pretty depressing.

Some of my friends are seeking boyfriends, and when they do meet someone it's full steam ahead. The funny thing is that I know a lot of guys my age who'd like a girlfriend and can't get one. I think girls in their 20s want what they can't have; a guy who's a bit of a brat with a twinkle in his eye. I was always attracted to these types; successful, attractive types who knew what they wanted.

I think men get worse the older they get when it comes to fidelity. Plus, they're not as smart about it [as women]. But my feeling is, if someone is gonna run off, they're going to do it regardless. A lot of guys in their 20s seem to lie to get what they want. This is what I've found, anyway.

Most of my friends, and pretty much all the models that work in the same magazines as me, are single. One of my friends has been playing the field for years and has just met her first proper boyfriend. It played in her favour.

Personally, I think a lot of us are single because of Facebook and Twitter. Someone will mail you off the bat, without knowing who you really are. But on these sites you put forward a caricature of yourself. Also, no one has the balls to approach you in a pub anymore."

I don't tend to think much about the future. I'd love to have kids and if I was in a position to do that now, amazing. I don't want to be 35 and having kids, in fact that's my worst nightmare. But I wouldn't want to be with someone for the sake of it, either.