I’m not going to lie to you; the prospect of dating again in my 40s is more than a bit terrifying. It occurs to me that I haven’t actually been on a date in this century.
The last time I was ‘out there’ Jarvis Cocker was imploring me to meet up in the year 2000 and I didn’t have to rely on undergarments that resemble scaffolding. The rules must have changed somewhat and I am no Carrie Bradshaw. For a start my wardrobe doesn’t contain a Roberto Cavalli evening dress and I don’t remember a single episode of Sex and the City where Mr Big had to share Carrie’s bed with Clive and Germaine Billabong and other orphaned members of the Sylvanian Families.
Though I am slightly cheered by Caitlin Moran’s observation; once you’ve made it to the bedroom and events are gathering apace, a man wouldn’t be put off if you leapt between the sheets wearing a snorkel and flippers. I’m sophisticated enough to know that I might need to put a little extra effort into my seduction routine but how much? 21st century grooming seems to entail a world of pain and having suffered two excruciating and quite frankly barbaric labours, undergoing a Brazilian is a deal breaker. Fact: enduring immense pain does not harden you to it. Your tolerance is significantly lowered and my threshold is now tested by eyebrow plucking. And pain isn’t just physical. Has the demise of my marriage left me with enough emotional resilience to withstand the inevitable exposure to the thundering ass clowns I’m likely to meet when I embark on my search for love and companionship? Clearly I’m going to have to approach the process with a slightly open mind and even be prepared to kiss a few frogs and/or ass clowns.
For another perspective, I download ‘a guide to dating over 40’ onto my Kindle. It seems sensible enough, written by two UK psychotherapists who’ve found love later in life. The first phrase that jars is that I’m apparently now in “mid-life”. This of course is just a kinder way of saying ‘middle aged’ and whilst I’m no longer on the guest lists of London’s hippest club nights, I’m not shuffling round Sainsbury’s eyeing up elasticated waists and slankets. But the book does reassure me that internet dating is a totally feasible way for a 41 year old woman to browse the market.
Before I sign up for this though, I have one other avenue to pursue. In the distant past I really did make a pact with an ex-lover that if we found ourselves single in our 40s, we should seek each other out. When I last met Adam he was off to live in Indonesia with his new bride. A search through Facebook reveals that he’s single once more and resides, for at least part of the year, in Essex. It’s encouragingly easy to get back in touch with him, and before too long we are exchanging daily emails and catching up on the last 17 years.
Rekindling a lost relationship proves hard going and despite a series of pleasant dinners, there don’t seem to be any obvious signs of romance. It feels a bit damp somehow and not in a remotely exciting way. Quite unintentionally I agree to go on a mini-break and before I can back pedal, I’m trundling my trolley suitcase through Stansted bound for a boutique hotel in the heart of Andalucia.
Flickers of doubt at the wisdom of this trip start to re-surface at the car rental desk. Adam pompously quizzes the attendant on the torque and fuel capacity of our pre-booked car and the keys to our Fiat Punto are handed over. Within moments of leaving Malaga airport, we are lost. We stay lost for hours, filling the missing years of our relationship with almost two decades worth of arguments, dead ends, frustration, road blocks, potholes and recrimination. It’s like a speeded up film of a marriage with the precious moments of joy and togetherness edited out. I don’t think we like each other very much. Four hours of being imprisoned in an airless tin has also revealed my date has problems of a bilious nature. It begins with a cheery “pardon me, better out than in” but as we travel blindly through the Andalucian countryside, my senses are assaulted by a volley of burps and guffs, ranging from mildly disgusting to the full on Barney Gumble belch. It appears I am stuck in Spain with a dyspeptic oaf.
The hotel however, is beautiful. I resolve to forget the preceding unpleasantness and try and enjoy the break. The next day we visit the Alhambra, a journey undertaken in furious silence, punctuated by deep sighs from Adam. The reason for this appears to be that I had the audacity to phone my children. “This trip was a mistake” he barks. I can’t deny it. I attempt chit chat but the sighs become snorts and I find it easier to just ignore him.
I lose Adam at the Nasrid Palaces and enjoy it my own, soaking up the serenity. I imagine the air thick with the scent of myrtle and the women of the Harem languishing by the ornamental pools. What I actually breathe in is a waft of farmyard and I realise Adam is beside me, crouching over an elaborate door knocker. He attempts a weak joke based on his find but the atmosphere is now poisoned, any glimmer of romance suffocated. I don’t even want to be his friend. I consider that had our namesakes been miserably lost in the Garden of Eden with the original Adam guffing up the orchard, the human race might have turned out rather differently.
Next blog: internet dating – a dazzling array of unsuitable suitors.
This blog first appeared in 7 local magazines from MPC Publications, where "Starting Over - a saga of 21st century dating" is featured as a monthly column. http://www.mpcpublications.blogspot.co.uk/2013_04_01_archive.html