There is something about finding oneself newly single after many years of marriage that induces gut wrenching fear. Here are the seven deadly fears I have found myself working through…
One – sheer terror. Oh my goodness. You look in the mirror (never a good thing first thing in the morning) and think, ‘ I have to attract someone?’
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no car crash, but I’m in my 40’s – things aren’t the same as the last time I was single, for instance, I have grey hair now (sssh don’t tell anyone, only my hairdresser knows), and let’s face it, I’ve had three children since then. So I realise I have to now make an effort. Again, I haven’t let myself go completely, I wear make-up every day, I have some standards, but the difference is I have to make someone notice me and not just blend into the background like all the other middle aged mums. That brings its own stress and pressure, and I’m not sure I’ll get it right all of the time. Take, for instance, my conversations with my teenage daughters (very useful having teenagers daughters when one needs style advice) – I get the ‘mum you shouldn’t wear flared leg jeans, they’re so 80’s. Skinny jeans are the way to go…’ So off I trot to Asda, pick up a pair of skinnies for £14, and hey presto! Modern Mum, or ‘mutton-dressed as lamb’ – still not sure which. Trouble is, I got so used to being ‘comfy’, I can’t quite get the hang of going out in something that stops my circulation below the knees. Not sure I can bring myself to tell my girls about the wet-look jeggings I picked up in the sales…
So I know I should work on my inner confidence but whenever I talk to friends about meeting someone new they all say, ‘you’ll have no problems – you look great!!’ And I find myself thinking that it’s great that ‘I look great’ – but don’t I have a brain, and a personality too? Could someone not find those attractive also? Even a colleague at work described me as ‘highly marketable’. I didn’t realise I was for sale.
Two – suddenly noticing every single potential ‘man’ out there. There is something about the panic at being single in your 40’s and the sense that ‘time is running out’ to find someone that makes you notice every man that you see. People that you would normally have walked past in the street without a second glance, now you ‘clock’ them – and ask yourself the question, ‘is he my type?’ ‘is he single?’. I’ve gone from a normal, ‘minding my own business whilst out shopping’ state, to noticing everyone, even those completely not appropriate (eg way too old) to some dodgy looking geezers. Part of that is due to the fact that I’m painfully aware that men in their 40’s (or early 50’s) don’t always look great either….most have a middle aged-paunch, receding hair, if any, and dress sense that doesn’t go beyond their favourite football team’s nylon shirt. Now I’m aware that if you’ve been happily married for many years to Mr Football shirt with paunch, then one would overlook these facts, but initial attraction has to start somewhere, right? I’ve also started clocking suitable places to see ‘nice’ men. Waitrose is definitely on the list. It’s a haven of well-dressed, slightly trendy men wandering the aisles. Too bad an also trendy, yummy mummy usually appears alongside before too long. My recent foray into the world of running is another possibility. Lots of fit men pounding the pavements. So far I’ve not found it particularly useful for striking up a conversation though, just a casual nod as we pass. Then when I get home and look in the mirror at my beetroot face and hair plastered on my forehead I realise why this as a method of meeting someone is never going to work. Another place is my little boy’s swimming lessons, but so far I have not seen anyone that a) looks single b) is over 5 ft 8 and c) doesn’t have a middle aged-paunch.
Three – The rules of the game have changed. Dating is different when you are older. It’s not about, ‘boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy & girl get together’ (or vice versa) – it’s something a whole lot more complicated. It’s ‘why is he single?’, ‘does he have children?’, ‘does he want children?’, ‘where does he live?’ and even for some, ‘what does he do for a living?’ That’s where the dating sites help out. You can check out all of this extra information before even striking up a virtual conversation. Eg beware the suspicious man in his 40’s who has never married or had a long lasting relationship and never had offspring. Or both. There is no way someone who had not lived with children in the house could cope with the chaos that is a feature of my daily life. Teenage sulks, loud music, general mayhem. And mess.
Four – The speed of relationships has increased dramatically… the internet generation has changed everything. What used to be a drawn out courtship, waiting patiently until the weekend until you could see your special one, and talk, face to face, holding hands, has changed into 24/7 contact via mobile phone, text, email and FB.
Messages can ping in at any-time during the day asking, ‘what are you up to?’, or ‘how are you?’ Your options are to: a) spend your time coming up with witty one liners to show how clever you are and how much fun banter is with you or b) to be honest about the mundane reality of your life e.g. ‘ I’m taking the kids to school’ and ‘I’m taking out the rubbish’. The upshot of all this minutiae is you get to know everything about each other quickly, sometimes too quickly. Especially if you have not yet met, or even decided if you like said sender of text.
The last time I dated the only telephone in the house was in the hallway – you wouldn’t talk to someone for too long as you soon got fed up of standing in the hallway with all the passing traffic e.g. family members teasing ‘ooh Rachel’s on the phone to her BOY-friend’. Now with a mobile in your hand its cosy chats at bedtime that no-one else knows about. Now I realised why I need to monitor those late night chats my teenagers have.
And don’t even get me started on the FB phenomenon. Such a strange thing to share ourselves with everyone and make everything PUBLIC (well, at least amongst our FB friends, who, let’s face it, aren’t our real friends). So at what point in a new relationship do you let someone into your FB world? Lots of room for this one backfiring, especially if you have not yet told your real friends and family about ‘love’ interest. Also ‘unfriending’ someone that has fallen out of favour feels rather childish – but there you go.
Five – Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone over an email or text? It’s more than possible. Remove all the non-verbal clues you get with good old fashioned FACE to FACE conversation, and suddenly you are reduced to conveying meaning via a short text message which has about as much variety as binary code. What will it be today – a winky face 😉 or a smiley face J. When is each appropriate? There was no rule book provided by the inventors of the text message. If I send too many winky faces will he read it the wrong way and think I’m a bit weird? Also – the dreaded x – when to use in a text to a member of the opposite sex? Us ladies use x’s all the time – it’s a sign of affection. I even get x’s from my childminder. However, put one in a text to a guy and it has a WHOLE different meaning.
Six – Even worse than the always available mobile is the ‘message only’ relationship – where nearly all of the communication is via text or computer message. This can happen via the dreaded internet dating site – you strike up a messaging relationship, share your innermost thoughts, come across as witty, charismatic, are bold enough to flirt and tease….and then when you finally meet in person, find their picture was 10 years old and taken on a good day. People forget the basics of the laws of attraction are…attraction. You can’t do that through a computer image, even one that has been graphically enhanced.
Seven – Now I’m saving the best till last. The whole Internet dating thing. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a useful phenomenon. But it should come with its own set of rules and warnings. There are protocols to be followed, and things that should be avoided. I’m still trying to figure out what men want when they say they want a woman who is warm and sensual. I never feel sensual when I’m doing the school run, or making dinner, or cleaning the bathroom. And it seems that every man on there is into the outdoors, running, walking, hill climbing. They never say, I like watching tv and going to the pub, when I know for a fact that’s what most men do. The funniest kind of guy on the internet dating sites is the Alpha male. The ‘I’m a successful business man/entrepreneur looking for a beautiful woman to hang on my arm and fit into MY life’. And then there’s the weirdo’s. I’ve had to resist teasing some clearly delusional individuals on the grounds of safety (Mr Grey of Windsor…now there’s a subject for another whole blog). I don’t want a stalker, even a virtual one.
All this – and I haven’t even started to date yet….