Surrounded by men
filling each gap in my life
playing many roles
Those I once loved
Hoping for what?
A glimmer of the past?
A hint of the future?
Perhaps we can be friends,
with past loves.
I still try.
My father, my son, my ex-husband
all take up space, time, energy
So much maleness,
so close to home
And those I have not yet met
have merely toyed with
in the sterile environment
of the on-line community
What of them?
They are the security blanket
my still wobbly ego craves
A gauze screen through which
I can see myself, as
hazy, mysterious, unfinished
I will not lie
I want their desire
But not to use
I want to put it on the shelf
like a trophy
polish it occasionally
show it to visitors
hoping they will not notice
the one trophy that’s missing
The one thing you won’t find on a dating site is honesty. And I am not referring here to lies about age (which is mostly the men, oddly enough!), or marital status, or ownership of Ferraris. I am speaking of the dishonesty with which most of us embark on the whole enterprise. The dishonesty to ourselves.
Those of us in middle-age often don’t really know why we are on there or what we are hoping to find. We simply don’t know what we want. We THINK we do, but the process that has gone into producing this thought is usually not very detailed or lengthy. “It might be nice to meet someone”. “I want a loving committed relationship”. “I just want some no-strings fun”. None of it is really accurate. And often we go in wanting one thing, and end up craving another. We are convinced we want the pud thai and then we smell the green curry and can’t resist. Or we start chowing down on the pud thai only to remember that the last time we had it we were sick.
Perhaps my most piquant example of this occurred last year. I met a gentleman on-line. We chatted very engagingly for about an hour-swapped Python sketches, talked about French cinema-and decided that we just had too much in common not to meet for lunch. Lunch was duly organized and I arrived at the chosen place at the appointed time. And waited. And waited. And waited. .
And then left. Upon my return home I checked the relevant dating site, only to find that he had deleted his profile. Odd. There certainly wasn’t enough time between last night’s chat and today’s lunch for him to have found, met and hooked-up with, the love of his life. Luckily I didn’t take it personally. I sensed that something was askew.
And alas, dear reader, how right I was! Two days later I received a profusely apologetic email, explaining that he had “freaked out” because he had neglected to inform me that he was going through gender reassignment. NEGLECTED! Shaft me sideways…you’d think that would have come up in conversation prior to the deconstruction of contemporary French cinema. Or am I too demanding? And what the hell is someone going through that kind of massive life change, doing on a dating site to start with??
This otherwise charming Deneuve fan is, admittedly, an extreme example of confusion. But lesser examples abound.
The most common “WTF” moments for me happen with monotonous regularity. In fact I had two of these only recently. I meet a man on-line. We chat happily. We get on the phone. We chat more happily still. We arrange to meet for coffee. We have a delightful time. We possibly even kiss at coffee’s end. We keenly agree that coffee and/or more must happen again very soon. A couple of enthusiastic texts/emails are sent back and forth. And then silence. The kind of silence that tells a girl “he is just not that into you”. Now in the spirit of personal growth, I am prepared to accept that maybe somewhere along this continuum I have done or said something to scare the poor bugger off. But I sense that the issue may be more to do with men of a certain genre not knowing what they want.
Most of the middle-agers on dating sites have recently “escaped” (as they would see it), long-term relationships. Often stifling ones that have been the infrastructure for the raising of children and the paying of mortgages. Important stuff, but hardly the stuff of fun and games. They go on-line THINKING that what they want is a new, committed, relationship, that is just a bit more light and fluffy than the last one. But then they quickly realise that the dating scene is a warehouse full of single women.
So poor me (allow me, dear reader, your indulgence in my self-pity), often meets these guys when they have just started dating. I sit there looking reasonably attractive, being engaging and witty. Giving them my undivided attention. Doing everything that one would think would earn me a second date. And naturally charmed, they indicate that this is on the cards. But then they go back on-line later that night and meet another one. And another. If she was nice, imagine how much nicer the rest of them are??
They have walked into the sweet shop and managed to get their hands on the Belgian chocolate. But there is a whole shop to explore. So off they go, shoving their little hands into every lolly jar they can find. Maybe Belgian chocolate is not their favourite and a gob-stopper is more to their liking. But sometimes, false modesty aside, I think they end up feeling slightly queasy and wondering why they didn’t just buy the chocolate and go home to enjoy it. And I suppose there might also be the odd bar of Lindt down the back of the shop. Good luck and fair fucks to them as a friend of mine would say.
On-line dating sites are a wonderful way to meet people one would not otherwise meet. But because they have the air of a warehouse, or a free knocking-shop, there is not really much actual “dating” that goes on. Dating is not strong in our culture as it is, say, in the U.S. There are some things the Americans do much better than us, and dating and networking are two of them. And although the remit of this blog restricts me to the former, the two are strongly related.
In dating, there are certain rules, or at least protocols. When an American asks you on a date, it is understood that the purpose is to get-to-know you, with a view to a possible relationship. Sex might be on the cards, but sex alone is not regarded as a date. If a second date is talked about, the man rings to organize that within three days of the last one. And Wednesday is the latest he can ask for a Friday date.
The modern Aussie middle-aged bloke, in my experience, just bumbles along, meeting women willy-nilly, not bothering to ring if it seems a bit too hard, always knowing there is another one just waiting in the in-box. They constantly use expressions like “let’s just go with the flow”, “let’s see what happens”, and so forth. No real “work” goes into it. There is no chase. Apparently men enjoy the chase. But maybe that is just American men!
I find this sad. Not just because I am the lonely piece of Belgian chocolate left at the door half-nibbled. But I find it sad for the men. They are losing an opportunity for growth. For deeper knowledge of themselves. And maybe for some true friendship with women. Let alone the opportunity to possibly meet a woman who could be their partner.
I am not proposing a return to “Pleasantville”.But there is a huge growth in people of a certain age (ie MINE), suddenly being single. And when we were younger, we never dated. We just took lots of designer drugs, hung around the dance floor swaying to “Spandau Ballet”, got laid a lot, and then eventually ended up married. We don’t know how to take the time to acquaint ourselves with someone. We don’t know how to assess if someone is maybe right for us. And we think that we can just order up someone a bit chunkier, or quieter, or richer, or with ‘no baggage’.
And, quite frankly, we have developed really bad manners.
Gender reassignment or not, if you agree to meet, you meet, or you text an apology. Simple. You indicate you would like to see someone again, you arrange to do so, or text to say that you have changed your mind but thank-you anyway. Super simple. All these profiles that say the same old thing. “I know how to treat a lady”. Bollocks. Learn how to treat other human beings with decency and respect. That would be a better start. Then you can faff about opening the car door for me.
And clean the other sticky lollies off your hands.