I like dating older people. Back when I dated men, my boyfriends were often older than me by 4, 5, 6, sometimes 7 years. It’s not that they were better, more that they knew themselves better. They had experience. They knew what they liked and what they didn’t and sometimes they could see things I couldn’t – a mental or intellectual spark hovering between us like a firefly. They also didn’t mess about. They were frank about their feelings: I like you, I love you, let’s live together. There was rarely any drama or bullshit or games with older men because mostly they had no time for it. Being with an older man was like stepping off a merry-go-round and feeling the world slowly right itself.
Two days after our third date I text the Francophile asking when she’s free. I’m planning to take her to the darkest, booziest, filthiest bar I know, where the seats are so tiny she’ll practically have to sit in my lap. It’s always rammed full of couples with hard liquor and hard ons. If we don’t kiss there we’re not kissing anywhere. Sadly, I never get the chance. After my text I wait an excruciating day and a half for her to reply that she doesn’t “know how [I] feel” but if we meet again it would only be “as friends.” “Again, I don’t know how you’re feeling but I thought I’d be upfront.” How am I feeling? Angry, frustrated, hurt, fed up, fucked off and furious. It’s not that she’s not interested. After all, there are lots of reasons why someone might change their mind. Maybe she’s dating someone else and it got serious. Maybe she’s not over her ex. Maybe she doesn’t know how I feel and so she’s mounting a pre-emptive strike. …
It’s funny how much scarier it feels to like someone when you’re older. When you’re young, liking someone is so easy. It’s a walk in the park or a sigh through the cherry blossoms. It’s not just keeping your heart open, ready and willing but actively thrusting it at people with glee – shoving it through letterboxes or chucking it at heads across a classroom. It’s scribbling someone’s name all over your textbook and dreams, not caring if you’ve accidentally grabbed the permanent marker. You’ve never been hurt, after all – what’s to say this isn’t permanent? But as you grow up you grow wary. You start scribbling names in washable ink, then pencil, then you stop writing them down all together. You weather so many cuts and bruises the chip on your shoulder gets bigger and bigger until your arm’s dangling from the socket on a couple of shaky tendons. You think twice about falling for someone in case you belly flop and make a fool of yourself.
I like someone. I met her a few weeks ago on a dating app but I didn’t get excited then because I know how fickle these apps can be: here today, gone tomorrow – or tonight or this afternoon or sometimes even by mid-morning before you’ve had a chance to open the hobnobs. That’s the worst. Please, let me eat my hobnob before you reject me. But she persevered and I persevered and a few days later I’m having a glass of wine with her in the bar of a five star hotel. It’s her choice and a good one. The room is beautiful, all done up in grandeur like an old royal, but sexy too, like she’s got her stockings on show. There’s also something seductive about being in a hotel, as if at any moment we could finish our drinks and slip into a four-poster upstairs.
When do you know it’s time to go? When do you decide that this job or this partner or this home or this country or this version of life isn’t for you anymore? When do you say – enough? I have a low threshold for misery. I will walk away from a job or a relationship or a friendship that’s making me unhappy. No. Scrap that. I will run away. I won’t just throw in the towel, I’ll throw in the kettle and the 3-piece bathroom suite and the keys to the Ford Escort and the pension and I’ll leg it screaming blue bloody murder. But I’m not like most people. Most people are patient. Most people are triers. Most people work at things. They don’t give up or give in. They give it time. They give a shit. They cut their life some slack. Is that better? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe sometimes.
Last week I had 2 dates. Two! I’m like the Hoff. I’m like the Heff. My pecs were positively quivering with anticipation. It feels good to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes when you’re busy, the search for love can get rudely shoved to the back of the queue. It’s time to shove it back up front again.
How do you know when you’ve hit your romantic rock bottom? Is it losing your date and then finding her tongue in someone else’s mouth? Or blushing in the doctor’s room as they confirm you’ve contracted your third STD? Maybe it’s taking someone home who looks and smells and tastes like vomit and not realising until you catch their soiled scent the following morning?