I want to get married one day. Not right now, because I would be a terrible wife, never mind the fact that I don’t have anything even nearly close to a partner, but in the next few years, assuming I meet the right person. Or a right person.
Based on this fact, I made an arbitrary deadline for joining an online dating site and it came around after Christmas. Perhaps I thought I would meet someone before then, I don’t know. Anyway, Christmas came and went. New year came and went and, in an effort to entertain an ill friend, I signed up for match.com.
And then the universe laughed in my face.
I’ll write about the online experience later, but for now, I want to write about how, having decided that I would pro-actively look for someone, I had a huge freak-out and spent a good few weeks feeling wretched.
While my friend trawled through my phone looking at profiles of nice, normal looking men (she had her heart set on “Neil”, who never messaged me back, and is very disappointed in him. She’d expected better!), I stood in her kitchen washing dishes and trying not to panic.
This is not how I thought I would find someone. I thought I would find someone organically out in the world, we would fall in love and it would all be dandy. I genuinely didn’t think I would “have to resort to” online dating. Such arrogance astounds me.
Quite how I thought I would meet anyone in the real world, I don’t know, because I do not like leaving my house, I’m much rather to be talking to myself than strangers and I don’t go to any activity which involves strangers! I don’t like parties (as a guest, what is my AIM for the evening? What am I supposed to be DOING?), I disapprove of talking in libraries, I read books in coffee shops wearing silent earphones, I can’t date a colleague (they’re all married or interns) and if someone spoke to me on the tube I would probably have them arrested for harassment.
I go out a lot. But it’s dinner with individual female friends, or to cultural things on my own. That’s how I like it. I like to focus my attention solely on one person or one thing. I’m not sure what that says about me, but there we are.
Anyway, back to the universe and its hilarious sense of humour.
With a rudimentary photo-less profile (“woman, London, seeks man” – which still received winks and racist messages! That should have given me all the information I needed to go back to the research…) out in the world, I went to bed mildly restless and woke up to a wholly unexpected message from a boy I had met during the summer suggesting we have a casual relationship. The next day, I had a message from a guy I’d been out for drinks with before Christmas and assumed he’d fallen on off the face of the earth. Two days later, a guy I’d had very strong feelings for a long time ago called out of the blue to say hello.
This went on.
It felt like every guy I’d been interested in, or had been interested in me, had popped up from the woodwork. And then, just as quietly as they’d reappeared, they all vanished into the ether. My messages got no response, my phone calls weren’t returned. Ultimately, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t actually taken with any of them, but it was bizarre and unsettling.
When I was at nursery school I used to wait for Michael (no idea of his surname!) and then hang up his coat and follow him around. At primary school, I “got married” to Arty-Joe (again, no memory of a surname), fell in love with Christopher, had a crush on Vincent and seriously thought David and I would be together forever. These boys had no notion of my existence. Which is all to the good, because PRIMARY SCHOOL.
I went to an all girls grammar school and, to this day, think it was the best thing for me. I didn’t get a bus home and my parish church was outside the school parish, so the only boys I encountered were in boys’ school magazines passed around with fervour at lunchtimes. They were catalogues to those of us who didn’t have grammar-school-age brothers with friends to stare at. Just like the Index and Argos catalogues at Christmas, we would circle what we wanted, knowing we wouldn’t get it, but being entertained just by the selection.
Inevitably, I met some brothers of friends and talked to boys eventually. My first boyfriend is now a gay doctor. Make of that what you will. My second was a boy who lived up the road. The third was a friend of a friend – this FOF was in love with my friend and I picked up the pieces.
Looking back, I’m aware that the “strategy” I developed early on was to relentlessly pursue these poor boys until their will was broken. They were the unlucky ones, the ones that I wouldn’t LET get away. This is not necessarily the best start to a relationship. To be fair, I have had a few quite successful relationships since and I’m not a caricature of a woman living alone with a hundred cats going after men with a net. Not yet, anyway. My landlord won’t allow pets, so I’d have to be even sadder and steal affection from neighbourhood cats.
Flashforward to this month, when I have been wailing “what’s WRONG with me?” at my long suffering girl friends. I’ve got all these messages from guys who sound interested, but then they disappear. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t they like me enough to get involved properly? I’m not even that interested in *them*!
The responses have mainly been sympathetic and falling into the “it’s not you! It’s them! You’re lovely! They’re stupid!” category, which is nice, but doesn’t help me solve the “problem.” Was I too forward, did I talk too much, was I too nervous, not needy enough, too confident, too loud??? I’m too much of something, that’s for sure, but no one could or would tell me.
The more helpful responses came from Scottie and Rex, who both said that guys today, guys my age, are lazy. It’s too easy to not bother. To not reply to a text, or a phone call or let a girl slip away. If you go after them, you’ll get them, but you’re putting in all the effort and eventually it will fail. That I have a strong personality and a notion of what I want and it’s a lot harder to be vague with that, and guys can’t be bothered.
Then Scottie pointed out that, as old fashioned and unfair as it is, men like a chase. When they’re really interested, they’ll go after what they want. They’ll make the effort. They’ll organise a proper date, rather than suggesting drinks and letting you work it out. They text proper messages, rather than a generic enquiry as to your wellbeing.
Damn, Scottie. That screws up my strategy of relentless pursuit. And explains why my relationships didn’t last!
So. My strategy going forward is to just be enough as I am. To wait and see. To wait for someone to chase me and make an effort.
I have no idea how to do this. I am a Doer. I DO things. I organise things and chasten people into activities (I know! How I am single, I don’t know. Doesn’t every man want a slightly aggressive PA type in their life?). I can’t change my personality. I’m too old. It’s taken me this long to get here and not hate myself. This is it. I just have to wait now.
Ironically, the drinks guy from before Christmas and I seem to have developed some sort of epistolary relationship over FB messenger. It’s quite Edwardian. I crowd sourced a draft reply to him where I explained that I really only wanted to spend time with people who actively want to spend time with me. It took weeks and I was *furious* at myself knowing that there was no way he was putting nearly the same effort into messages to me. And then I didn’t send it. I just sent a generically friendly message saying that yes, it would be nice to meet up again.
I have to learn that I can’t chasten people into liking me better. Into liking me enough. And there will only be bad air if I try.
I fully expect this chap to disappear (again) and I am going to use this as an exercise in acceptance.
I already hate doing nothing.