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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Is this what dating for the Thirtysomething woman has become now?

This week has been a very interesting one to say the least. It will most probably stay lodged in my memory bank for years to come and cause me to chuckle to myself on many occasions. It all began with the drama of getting an upgrade from my old mobile phone to a newer more flash model. The upgrade in question did not go smoothly and I had more drama in one day than they do in the whole Eastenders Christmas Special.
In the process of sorting everything out, I had to take time off work, make numerous phonecalls and drive to the back of beyond because the delivery company kept messing things up. As you can imagine there was lots of stress, endless bouts of swearing and my bloodpressure nearly hit lethal levels.
After the numerous expensive calls I found out that the delivery company had no intention of actually delivering my parcel at all, so I was left with no alternative but to drive to the back of beyond to collect it myself whilst listening to angry music and muttering insanely to fresh air.
I managed to eventually locate the place in question and I waited patiently in the queue for my package. Whilst in that reception I got talking to an older gentleman in his late fifties or early sixties who was also having a fair bit of trouble from the company. We both had been left with no choice but to take time off work, and we also had to wade through the maze that the delivery centre appeared to be in the middle of. We had a good grumble and also said a few pleasantries to pass the time, eg "Where are you from" etc etc.  Looking back it appeared to be just innocent queue chatter, but in reality it transpired that that wasn't the case at all.
I eventually became united with my new phone, and skipped happily back to my car to have a good look. Next thing I was aware of, the gent in the queue had driven on his moped round to my brum and asked me out for a drink! To say I was shocked to the core doesn't even cover it, in all honesty, that was the last thing I was expecting! Being asked out by much older men is not an experience I am familiar with, and dating them is not something I really want to try anytime soon.

Now please believe me when I say I am not a bitch. I do not go around thinking I am better than certain others at all, plus I don't get off on telling lies. But I obviously had to tell him I already had a boyfriend as the truth would not have been pleasant for him to hear. Responding with a "Please, you are old enough to be my Dad" does not a polite reply make. And "I don't go for older men, well almost drawing your pension older that is!" is a truth that the recipient would not want to hear. I feel a tad horrible writing about this, as in honesty the gesture was very sweet, but let's be fair, it would be the equivalent of me asking a babyfaced fourteen year old boy if he fancied grabbing a Macdonalds whilst listening to Tinie Tempah or something. I had to give this gent some credit though, he certainly had a lot of balls asking out an obviously younger woman for a date whilst having the thought that he stood a chance of her saying 'yes'.

It got me wondering, is this what dating for the Thirtysomething woman has become now? Is it commonplace to ask someone out whilst we queue for a parcel, do our weekly shop or pop to the bank? If that is the case then I best start making more of an effort when I buy my groceries. Pop my make up on to pay my credit card bill and don my little dress to get my petrol! Also is age no longer an issue when it comes to dating these days? I really hope that isn't the case, or I will have to watch where I walk in future, secondary school gates and /or old peoples homes may no longer be safe!

 It is while we are here that I feel I have to be honest and say that I have been out of the loop for quite some time. It appears the whole dating game has run far ahead of me. When I split with my ex-boyfriend two years ago I decided to bow out and avoid all potential dates for the forseeable future. Plus, when me and said ex-boyfriend first met we didn't actually 'date' much as we initially had a long distance relationship. So as you can see, my experience in this field is more than a little thin on the ground.
Before the aforementioned ex came along, I spent most of my time partying with friends and living it up. I still lived at home (finances and the like) and I worked full time, so having time to date was a complete rarity. And when I did participate I found that the men often fell into one of two catogories 'The Desperate To Settle' or 'The Commitment Phobe'. Although my experiences in this department were not plentiful, the handful I did take part in went either one way or the other, rarely falling inbetween.

Lets start with 'The Desperate To Settle'. A date with this man usually occurs in a family bar or restauant. It takes on the feel of a job interview and more often than not he fires questions at you about your previous relationships. He may ask you where you see things going and you contemplate pulling out your cv whilst offering references. He wants to know your life history in minute detail and starts threatening violence towards exboyfriends and/or male friends. He tells you that he hasn't met the right woman yet, and he finds it hard to trust, but he takes your hand on numerous occasions and practically stares you out. I actually dated many a man like this, and one even had the cheek to go through my phone using the pretence that he wanted a Nokia like the one I had at the time! He claimed he didn't quite understand how to use it, so wanted a quick look. I handed it over like a trusting fool and next thing I knew he was having a good browse at my drunken pics and phonebook contacts with a distinct air of disapproval. It's safe to say we didn't have a second date.

Then there is 'The Commitment Phobe'. This man will take you on fun dates to lively bars and clubs. This usually occurs on a Saturday night, often with a constant flow of alcohol. The life history doesn't even get looked at, and you get the impression his life is dominated by nights out with the lads. But as I said these dates are fun, and by drawing on my own experience here, it doesn't often end with you both parting ways at the venue or with him escorting you home whilst promising to call. It usually plays out with you doing the walk of shame from his to yours at 8am the following morning, after putting back on the clothes you discarded on his bedroom floor the night before and rubbing off the smudged mascara from under your eyes. Action replays of this night are usually probable but he never seems to want to define the relationship. He is keen and very attentive when you are with him, but he can vanish from the radar for days on end.
 A few years ago I dated a man for a couple of months who was a 'phobe', and I'll admit I did fall for him a bit. When looking back, I regret nothing that happened between us, as we had good times. But I do regret listening to others who managed to convince me that I was playing with fire and that all I was to him was a cheap disposable woman. Obviously I never did find out what his actual feelings were, and I am not likely to go banging on his door with the thumb-screws now to find out either. Time moves on, and everything happens for a reason.  I can openly say that what times we did have together were good, and although I wish I'd had more faith, you can never change the past. He only had a shortlived role in my life, but with all that happened, I strongly believe he played a part, be it small, in making me who I am today.

Anyway enough of the old vintage dating! We are not here to go all old school. With all that goes on in the modern world it seems that my experiences in this field are beyond retro. It's all about speed dating, matchmaking and on-line hook ups. I read articles, and listen to friends stories about trying these things and I almost quake with fear. What on earth happened to meeting a man you like at a bar or gig, swapping numbers, and meeting up for a good old drink. These days it is all about poking, tweeting, getting your friends to set you up, as well as joining dating websites.
I must admit I steer clear of all this, maybe because I am a coward, but I always worry that the persons profile you are browsing through on the dating sites is so far fetched from the person you go on to meet face to face that you wonder if you read it wrong, or were halucinating. You go speed dating and the men who have ticked your box have ticked almost all the other womens boxes there too. You meet a man a friend set you up with and it's hate at first sight, which causes confusion and alters the relationship you had with your chum. You go on a blind date and you want to climb out of the ladies loos window and run for the hills.
 With all this that goes on, it makes me seriously contemplate celibacy! But I know I cannot hide away forever plus I have had questions from well meaning folk about jumping back on the saddle. With all these things in mind, I decided that the best thing I could do was to embrace my single years and enjoy them. I don't think I'd have the guts to chat to a man online whom I had never laid eyes on. I don't really want to be set up with my friends 'sweet single mate who has a heart of gold' and looking at my previous experiences of blind-dating, it often made me wonder if the organisers thought I was desperate beyond words or something, so I won't be going back there anytime soon. If I do stumble across a decent single man whilst going about my day to day life (who is in my age range I must add!) well, who knows what will happen. But I am not going to go actively hunting for him, I haven't the energy! One things for sure I will not start waiting at the school-gates for a babyfaced fourteen year old lad, its illegal, and I will not be returning to the parcel delivery place to find my confident older gent. I will just carry on as I am and I will go through the routines of life as normal, but I may just start wearing my make up, doing my hair, and wearing my little dress before I take the rubbish out, you know, just incase a man my age wanders past.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

They know where they can stick their stereotypes!

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, in the name of  'Research' shall we say. I have trawled the internet, read magazine articles, watched a little bit of  TV, rented movies and even spent many an evening engrossed in Sex And The City whist drinking copious amounts of wine. And why? You ask. I have done this to learn more about my fellow single people and the stereotypes that are thrust upon us. It has also been a search on my behalf to ensure me that I am not part of a dying breed (I am not, I am happy to say)

In my findings, I am pleased to note, I have learned that there has been some real positive attitudes to women who are alone and live in a single household. Be they single parents or childless. Within some articles it has been celebrated as a life choice made by women, or, yes, as a circumstance which may have been forced upon them, but which they have coped with with an admirable amount of courage and dignity. In some cases, when these women were given opportunities to change, they decided that they were perfectly happy as they were, and didn't want to change a thing, and I think this can be commendable. If you are happy as you are, why change?
But I did find some other articles which held less favourable attitudes to the single person. One in particular that made me almost laugh with its 'views'.
This article claimed that people who lived alone never took out the trash. They were easy to spot in the supermarket with their beers and TV dinners in their baskets. They had piles of laundry, but rather than do the washing they just bought more clothes. They grew to like their singular status after awhile but their life revolved around work, they were lonely and rarely had visitors and they mainly used TV and Internet as their form of entertainment.
I personally would love to invite the writer of this article round to my flat for dinner. I would cook them some of my homemade veggie lasagne and then offer a glass of wine. I would invite them to have a good look around at my little pad, and they will find that, no, they do not have to step over the mountains of mess. That, nope there isn't an overflowing bin in the corner. That, what a surprise, they don't have to hold their nose to hide the smell of the laundry that is growing by the day. And lo and behold, there isnt a tv dinner (or ready meal as we call it in Blighty) in sight. They would notice a clean, tidy, relitively well decorated flat that has the things I love in it, which is colour co-ordinated and a reflection of myself. Yes they would have to eat their freshly cooked dinner on my futon or armchair, as I don't have a dining table. They will also notice that my bed is in this room. This is because I live in a studio flat, and that is due to the inflation of costs which makes me unable to afford anything bigger. It is not because I am a lazy sod who cannot be bothered to move from room to room. Yes I live alone, but not because I am an anti-sociable freak, my diary will prove that, but because I was damned lucky to find an affordable studio which meant I didn't have to enter into a houseshare with a bunch of strangers. My fridge and freezer are well stocked with a wide variety of things. That yes, ok, I own a TV, and a computer, but my life in no way revolves around them. They would no doubt note that I don't own a washing machine, as we are not allowed them in our flats. But this in no way hinders my ability to get the washing done. He or she may try to strike a conversation about what has been on TV, and I would  have to tell them that I never watch soaps so couldn't even begin to say what was going on in Eastenders, that I have no clue who is in X-Factor, that I have never watched The Only Way Is Essex, and that I don't throw a hissy fit if I miss Location, Location, Location. I will most probably also be forced to appologise as my phone goes off. I do recieve texts, and more than the odd phonecall. It is actually probable that I had to put off a family member, or a friend, from coming round to enable the writer of the article to visit in the first place.

 I would be honest with this person and tell them that I found their article amusing, but also a little offensive, and I would be curious to where they got their inspiration from anyway. In my personal experience, and by drawing on that what I have found from people around me, be it friends, colleagues, whatever, this publication is such an inaccurate image of the single person today.
Ok there may be a weekend where us singles don't see a soul, but often this is a rarity, and it is craved as it has been a busy week at work, there have been full-on weekends before this, with seeing family and friends, social events and/or company coming in and out throughout the duration. The phone may be constantly bleeping or ringing, emails need reading, the overdue catch up with someone close is playing heavily on your mind. It can cause the old head to spin! A bit of solitude from time to time can be refreshing.

In my searches I also found the misconception that we are looking for love and in frantic search of our soulmate, whoever that may be. I stumbled across a blog where a man had written about his search for love and the trials and errors on the way. He had gone on to find someone who made him happy and  whom he said completed him as an individual. It was so sweet, but I found this a little sad.
Wow, that is one heck of a responsibility to place on another's shoulders? "Make me happy and complete me."
Surely you should be happy initially, and you already are a complete person yes?
 No?! Oh silly me! I'm obviously having a blonde moment again. Whoops, please forgive me eh?
I have always believed that you need those tools in your arsenal before you even begin to think of sharing your life with another person. Surely you need to be happy within yourself before you can give someone else happiness? You have to accept yourself, warts and all, before you accept another individual with all their flaws and foibles.
In my own experience, and in that of those I have found in my research, single does not equate desperate. Whilst one is in their singular status, they are not sat at home wallowing in grief and seaching through the Lonely Hearts Column in the local paper. Us singletons are not confined to weekends of TV dinners for one whilst talking to our cat (I personally don't have a cat, or any pet FYI). We are able to meet our own needs successfully (well most of the time) and although, yes, it is darned difficult when you watch all your peers pair off, get married, have babies etc whilst you have no-one to call out "Honey I'm home" to when you get in from a stressful day at work (especially when you have come out of an unsuccessful and painful relationship yourself) you can take comfort that you are capable, self sufficient and independant.  Even if this article was a tongue in cheek joke from start to finish, it wasn't really that funny. And the mere suggestion that we are contemplating jumping off the window ledge like as suggested at the end of of said article that inspired this post in the first place? Oh please?! As If!! That was the only part of the 'joke' that was so laughable I honestly almost wet my knickers!