Starting over again

Dating can be pretty brutal. So much so that it’s tempting to stay in a crappy relationship if it means you never have to engage with the singles scene ever again. (Seriously though, don’t stay in crappy relationships. Life is too short. Really.)

In my 20s, I ambled from one longish-term relationship to another, and then tumbled into a decade of marriage. When I found myself—somewhat bewildered and blinking—single again, the dating world had changed. And so had I.

When I was last single, I was working full-time in the media. I was young, reasonably well-off and I didn’t have any responsibilities. I went out every night. There was always somewhere new to go and someone new to meet. And now… I was a middle-aged mum of two young kids, struggling to find enough freelance work to get by, stuck home every night.

Clearly, I was quite the package. But, I was tired of being single and the only sensible route to finding a partner seemed to be internet dating.

It’s rather strange the first time you put yourself online. Trying to package yourself up to sell. Trying to summarise yourself in a few pithy sentences. Trying to find the photograph that flatters while not being actively misleading.

Once you’ve finished that soul-destroying process, you get the chance to shop for your new partner. Flicking through aisles of faces, yes, no, maybe, everyone reduced to a glossy profile shot and some general guff. Likes a glass of wine. Likes a laugh. Likes going out and staying in. Don’t we all?

Occasionally, I’d go on an actual date. I can put all of them into one of three categories:

1) Realising early in the date that not only would I never ever ever want to snog them in this lifetime or any lifetime, but also that I wasn’t particularly enjoying talking to them. This is by far, overwhelmingly, the largest category.

2) Enjoying their company enough to want a second date, regardless or not of romantic interest. A handful of dates fell into this category.

3) Sizzling, instant chemistry; a real personal connection and the knowledge that this person could be “the one”. OK, this shouldn’t be a category because I didn’t have a single date like that. (I mean, I know this has happened to various friends, but I didn’t have anything like that happen to me.)

Now, this doesn’t mean that I was doing anything wrong. While physical chemistry can come along later, if there’s not the friendship spark at first—the warm glow of enjoying someone’s company and wanting to talk more to them and just enjoying being with them—then that’s never going to appear. I say honour your gut instincts and move on.

But the endless moving on can get to be a grind; when it got too much, I’d take a break until I was ready to dive back in.

I didn’t met “the one” on the net, but I got something much more important from all that dating; the understanding of what I was looking for—and what I wasn’t looking for—in a partner and a relationship. So, when a mate and I surprised ourselves by having a snog, I knew pretty quickly that his kindness, silliness and handsome beardiness were exactly what I wanted.

We knew each other virtually from a music magazine’s message board, then a bunch of us met up occasionally in real life for drinks, and eventually that friendship evolved into something else. The thing is, neither of us were looking for a partner when we met, and our relationship was founded on a real friendship that came about through a shared love of music. And that’s made me think that it’s definitely worth looking further than dating sites if you’re looking for love.

You could try a club or take lessons in something you’re interested in. Connect with new people who like the same stuff you do and make new friendships. Re-visit old friendships, catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while.

Rather than thinking of every person you meet as a potential date, think of them as a potential friend first and see where that road takes you. Because, if someone isn’t worth your time and company and friendship, then they’re definitely not worth wasting your romantic energy on. Or, you never know, the people you meet might know an absolute diamond that they think you’d get on perfectly with…

Dating is full of adventures and disappointment. Embrace it. (And don’t waste your time embracing anyone who isn’t worth it.)

Don’t Look Back

Many years ago, I had a rather intense friendship with a male friend. There was never, ever anything sexual in it (he was gay, and I’m definitely not male) but it was such an intense friendship that it bordered on the weird.

One night, round at his, he asked me if I wanted to check out a chatroom (it was 1998, entertainment options were limited in Hartlepool).

I’ll try pretty much anything once*, so cheerfully agreed.

He created a new profile for me, said he’d found someone for me to chat to, and gave me the keyboard.

Turns out, it was a cybersex chatroom.

He sat behind me as I typed. At first, it was all giggly good fun, but then I started feeling rather guilty. The chap I was talking to was under the mistaken impression that he was talking to a horny bloke—thanks to the profile my friend had created for me—and it seemed quite unfair to keep leading the poor guy on. Plus, I felt rather awkward answering questions about my fictional penis. So I turned around to tell my mate I’d had enough…

…only to realise that he was happily… err… ahhh… how shall I put it?… entertaining himself.

Eeeeek.

He had his eyes closed in ecstasy, so I slipped out of the room as quietly as I could. Then I slipped out of the flat—and Hartlepool—as fast as I could.

Neither of us either mentioned it again.

 

*Having said that, I’ve never eaten KFC. Not for snob reasons, I’m just not that keen on chicken.