I’ve come to the coast: to sea air and fish suppers and my third date with the older woman. She’s invited me to her holiday home, a flat with very high ceilings and a sliver of sea view. “It’s not quite finished,” she says self-consciously on arrival, “the bathrooms aren’t quite to my taste.” “It’s beautiful,” I reply. We have a quick drink before we head out, softening the evening in white wine. She’s wearing a low cut top and her cleavage winks at me from across the living room. “Come sit next to me,” she says, patting the sofa and I duly pad across the floor. Drinks finished, we head out for the evening. She’s made plans for us to watch a bonfire show: a mad, visceral thing where pissed villagers in frilly headdresses wave lit torches around and set off fireworks worryingly close to one another’s beards. The whole thing is hot and loud as hell and I get a brilliant flash of schadenfreude as, one by one, crying children have to be …
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.
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?
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?
After our night of passion, the genius and I part ways. No one’s hurt or angry. There are no bad feelings. But we both recognise that this isn’t and probably never will be love. There’s no point flogging a horse that, if not quite dead, is very unwell. She does leave me a parting gift though when she messages later to say: “I had fun last time so feel free to call me in an emergency 😉 x” I smile and slide the gift under the bed. Just in case. The truth is, there’s another reason this won’t work: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Thai. At the time, I was so hung up on the Friend I never gave us a proper chance. Every time we kissed or laughed or got close I’d feel guilty and back off. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see it was the Thai who made me feel good, who treated me kindly, who left me in no doubt that I was the one she wanted.
I’m getting political. I’ve decided to start a campaign to make people’s lives better. I’m sick of life being all me me me. I want to be civic minded. To fight for the issues that matter. To take a stand where it counts. I’m finally going to do my bit like a brave, fierce, towering suffragette. I’ll be sending out emails shortly and I hope you’ll join me in the struggle because, frankly, I’ve had enough.