A comforting note to single people. From me.

Posted on June 4th, 2014

This is a thing: if you’re single in your 30s or 40s you can feel like you’ve missed a steamin’ big ship. Dominant discourse, sadly, goes like this: The pickings are slim; it’s all second rounds and baggage and receding hairlines. And it can feel helpless. Hopeless. Because you just can’t find people who fit the bill, who inspire something in your loins. Where are all the good men and women? They’ve been taken, you reason. You’ve missed the ship.

Image via Favim

Image via Favim

Whether we honestly feel this way in our more grounded moments or not, this is how our plight is often represented. But, I have another take; it goes like this…

By the time you’re in your 30s or 40s, your life is pretty ace. Most of us aim, at least, to improve our lives year by year (otherwise, what’s the point?!). And by this settled age, life is often in a pretty good spot, or, at least, better and richer than it was in our 20s: great friends, a career with up to 20 years back-end development, enough money to be able to not have to live off lentils and all-you-can-eat-Tuesday buffets, and to head to the pictures once in a while. You’re not frantically proving yourself. Perhaps you no longer work weekends. Maybe you finally feel you’re quite good at what you do. You know what hobbies make you happy. You don’t stay at parties any longer than you want to. You get the picture…

In an ideal world your partner should improve your life, not detract from it. Right? If a partner is making your life more difficult, and not not adding to your experience, then you probably shouldn’t be with them. Yeah?

So, add these together and you get this…

In your 30s and 40s, your standards for finding a partner are super elevated. Your personal bar for allowing anything or anyone into your orbit has lifted with each passing year, just as a course of nature. In my 20s it was pretty easy for someone to add to my life, because it wasn’t fully formed. When I started dating a guy at 21 we were building from a pretty low base, together. But now, my life is rich and varied and independent and fun and full. I don’t mean to sound as arrogant as I do when I say that my life now is too good Read more

I’m an online dater and it changed me

Posted on May 9th, 2013

There are a few things you learn when you do online dating. You learn about the different faces of humanity’s heaving, aching loneliness. You learn just how lonely you are. You learn about the opposite sex. You learn about how much your ego can take (from the incessant rejections; on most sites you’re alerted to who is checking you out…followed by a loud silence when they don’t make contact; on one site one works their way up the “most popular listing” by responding to all contacts, which results in a lot of automated rejection emails). But mostly you learn about yourself.

Photo by Tierney Gearon

Photo by Tierney Gearon

I first gave the phenomenon a go a few years back. And I approached it as just that: a phenomenon. With my journalist’s hat on, I used my need for a column topic as my excuse for entering the fray. But, really, my excuse was that I was lonely and the tactic, frankly, was cowardly.  In the resulting column I wrote about how online dating is a great way to learn to be thoroughly yourself. That is, the forms you fill out to join the various services are a great way to remind yourself of what you like doing, what your values are, and so on. I stand by my theory, even if the pretense was a cop-out.

But I learned more this time.  This time I signed on to two sites. I’ve been on them for two months.

About men, I learned this: they like to hold fish up high in the air, go to a lot of events on boats toting bottles of boutique beer, “hit the gym”, watch Two and Half Men and Shawshank Redemption and read the Sunday papers. They’re “laid back” and “easy going” and “down to earth” (what Australian man isn’t!?), but “don’t do the club scene any more”,  don’t have time to read (except for aforementioned Sunday papers and Bob Marley’s biography),  get into a bit of the Foo (as in, presumably, Fighters) like it’s 1997, and take “selfies” in bathroom mirrors.

I also learned that young men with tribal tatts wearing muscle tees living in outer suburbs with Mum and Dad (a detail I gather by the bathroom accoutrements I can see in the reflections of their selfie portraits) are overly represented in the single scene. Actually I didn’t just learn this. I already knew it. It’s just that on online dating I’m connected with them (they’re overwhelmingly my main pursuers on the sites). I’ve written about how educated, career-orientated women in their late 30s and early 40s are overly represented in the Western world today, while for men it’s this younger, blue-collar demographic. It’s the result of “hypergamy“. And it leaves a huge disconnect in the dating market. Although, frankly, I find this kind of bloke more authentic and open with their intentions and overall spirit than a lot of the polished men working in finance, divorced and in their late 40s and 50s.

I learned I don’t like internet dating, but I stick to it to see if it can surprise me. I find attending to “criteria” is not how I want romance to strike. And the point being, I want to be struck. I want to be pursued, courted. Knocked over. It’s going to take that…a real blow to the kneecaps from a guy who’s brave enough to come that close. Which leads me to… Read more

it’s better to fall in love later

Posted on November 1st, 2012

I keep coming up with theories on love. It’s a theme in my life. I’m of that age where it strikes everyone around me as odd that I should be single and approaching 40. A real estate agent on Saturday proclaimed he thought it was profoundly weird I wasn’t married. “I mean, you keep yourself fit, so why don’t you have a husband.” It was a logic I refused to try and follow.

I’m also of that age where everyone around me are in relationships that strike me as, well, more than odd (toxic, perhaps? highly compromising?). And so I come up with, and collect, theories.

Photo by Andrew Zuckerman. PS This giraffe has nothing to do with this post. But it’s the third giraffe to pop up in my orbit in 12 hours.

I was thinking about this theory this morning. I met a woman in Provence called Francine who made me lemon balm tea late one night and in her soft voice told me she thought it was better to fall in love later in life. She was 50 or so and single and still believed it wasn’t her time yet.

Her theory has a wonderful French fatalism about it. With a dose of “eat your cabbage first and leave your succulent pork chop till last” thinking (you’re either a “eat the best thing on your plate first” or a “save the best till last” type, right? I’m the latter.).

“When you fall in love and find your match when you’re  young, ” she said, ” you haven’t been around enough to handle the hurt. So when it ends, the pain is so bad,” she said. (French fatalism dictates that love will, of course, end.) Read more