2011 – the year I turned 40. At the start of the year I was all too aware that I was approaching a landmark and determined that before I got to my 40th I would have been out on some dates and made serious my intention to be in a relationship.
Most people conquer this during their teenage years and early twenties, and I watched as my peers did this and began to settle down with partners and have children. I was an overweight teenager with low self-esteem, in my eyes no one would ever want to be with me, unless they wanted to abuse me and this is not what I was looking for. I did have teenage encounters with my peers but they all felt secretive and unsatisfying, putting me further off getting into the dating game! In my early 20’s I had a short relationship with a guy I met at work who pursued me relentlessly until I eventually agreed to go out with him. I never really fancied him but I enjoyed the attention and feeling like I was ‘being normal’, he also had his own place which was very appealing given I was back living at home and desperate for some independence. The relationship ended when I moved away and unfortunately all it did was reinforce in me that I was not the ‘relationship type’.
I got caught in a vicious cycle; I felt fat and ugly and didn’t think anyone would ever be able to love me, this made me miserable and eat my pain away, causing me to remain overweight and trapping me in one of the most difficult cycles to break. I desperately wanted to connect intimately with someone but couldn’t imagine who would want me. I told myself that it didn’t matter, that I didn’t want a relationship, I didn’t need anyone and I set about becoming self sufficient. Over the years I had a couple of connections with people but nothing significant and all somehow reinforcing my negative feelings about myself.
By the time I found myself in therapy I was certain that I didn’t want to be with anyone, that I could manage on my own. I was confused about my sexuality, unsure if I was attracted to men or women, feeling that I was wasn’t attracted to either but open-minded enough to wonder. I still felt deep inside that I wanted to be in a relationship, but it seemed such an unreachable goal I wouldn’t allow myself to think about it.
Years in therapy looking at my patterns of behaviour, understanding how I was managing my emotions and finally processing some of the traumatic experiences I had, meant that approaching my 40th year I was in a very different place to where I was approaching 30 and I was determined to start living my life.
It’s difficult dating at 40 when most of your friends have found their life partner, but I have been fortunate enough to still have some single friends who were also looking to be in a relationship and of course there are those who have been there done that and are back on scene again. Initially I had no idea where to start. As a young person everything you do seems to involve meeting people and forming alliances. At 40 it’s not quite as straightforward. I have a good social life but it doesn’t really involve meeting new people let alone any potential partners.
The first start was internet dating. “Everyone’s doing it, it’s the modern way” was all I kept hearing and sure enough a number of my peers had settled down with people they met this way. The first hurdle to overcome was writing my profile. How the hell do you sum yourself up in short witty paragraph that is going to attract someone’s attention! I dutifully completed the registration process and stated that I was looking to meet new people and have a good time. I thought I made it clear with my dialogue that I wasn’t a player, wasn’t interested in casual sex and whilst I wasn’t looking for marriage and children, I did want a level of commitment. It was quite a shock, therefore, when my first message was from a guy outside of the age bracket I had stated I was interested in, stating that if I fancied some anal sex I should call the attached number! What had I got myself into!
One of my more astute friends pointed out that the “good time” I was looking for could be misconstrued as casual sex and perhaps this was why I was being inundated with emails from totally unsuitable men all looking for a quick shag! I soon amended the profile and at last I started to receive some emails from men who seemed more appropriate for me and I had fixed my first date!
Initially I was petrified; worried about my lack of experience, concerned I’d having nothing to talk about and still holding on to feelings of not being good enough. Standing in Liverpool street station looking out for a guy whose picture I’ve seen, wondering if I’m going to recognise him, my heart starts beating fast and my hands start to sweat, great way to meet a potential new suitor! Thankfully my date turned up on time, looked like his picture and promptly fell down the steps of the station to almost literally land in my arms. It was the perfect ice breaker! We went for a coffee and although it was pretty evident early on that we weren’t going to be a match, we had a good date. Soon the pre-dating nerves disappeared as I started to feel like an old hat at the dating game. In fact, it became quite disheartening, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you’ll find your prince” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot and I have to say, it’s true and bloody hard work! Sometimes dating feels like a chore; after a hard day at work the last thing I feel like doing is spending another evening trying to make conversation with someone I don’t want to see again and I meet far more people I don’t want to meet again than the other way round!
A friend suggested we go out on an organised singles night to meet like-minded people. It seemed like a grand idea; we could meet lots of people at once, we’d be together and the activity planned would give the evening some purpose. We chose a boat trip up the Thames and dressed up in our best togs excited at the prospect of meeting new people. Initially everyone sat around the edges, tentatively talking to the person next to them. As the evening went on and the drinks flowed, people started talking more. It appeared to me that there was an awful lot of drinking going on and by 9pm I found myself surrounded by a lot of drunk people and none of them were people I wanted to spend time with! We went out and stood on the deck of the boat to get some fresh air and take in the sights. The most interesting person we spoke to was a female teacher, not what either of us was looking for! I told my friend I could take no more and that if the boat didn’t stop half way along its journey I was going to throw myself into the Thames and swim to the bank! Luckily we were able to make our escape and vowed never to do that again!
I have since been out on more internet dates and luckily there have been a few where I have been interested in meeting up again. I have learnt that alongside dating comes heartache. Initially this has been about not meeting anyone I want to see again, worrying that I can’t make a connection with people or that there is no one out there of interest! Then came the heartache of meeting someone I really liked and waiting for them to contact me again, to no avail. This was followed by finding someone I really liked who appeared to like me to, it was great. We went out, got on really well, enjoyed spending with each other and for a short while I got a taste of what it was like to be in a relationship. However, as quickly as it started it was over and I was again in pain, trying to get over the heartache.
So here I am again, back on the dating scene trying to find someone to connect with. It’s hard work and can feel quite disheartening at times. However, I have hope that I will meet someone who connects with me and that eventually I will find what I’m looking for.