Teeth

One last thing before the tales of revenge. Last year, when I was going through it, what I hated most was getting flaked on last minute. In one particular instance, on a spring bank holiday, it happened so late I was at the bar already. He explained he was in bed suffering from a hangover. A whole tube stop away. At 7pm in the evening. And would not move. I’d forgotten to bring a book, there was a deluge of thunderstorm outside and I had no umbrella so I sat and finished my drink and recalled that – when I was writing the Style column, women I met randomly would tell me stories of what happened to them, thinking it would help – and this was the winner:

This girl matched with a man on Tinder in Virginia – how I don’t know, it’s possible her location preferences were set to 3,796 miles – and things were going so well she bought them a room in a fancy hotel for when he was next visiting London, and she was in fact in the £300-and-something suite, sex-poised in stockings and suspenders, had just uncorked the champagne, when he cried off. He wasn’t coming. Maybe he said sorry. Maybe he did not. But this girl was the kind of girl I like. She would not admit defeat. So she messages another man she was also talking to and asks him to come instead. After an initial show of reluctance vis a vis that she was waiting for another man entirely, he came and saw and she conquered, and six months on she’d met his mother and they owned a dog together and even now, as far as I know, they’re very happy still.

So, I thought – OK – let’s give this a go – messaged another man I was speaking to, who said if I gave him half an hour he’d change his shirt and come meet me if I found a place within easy reach of the northern line, and when he arrived he proved to be a wholesale upgrade on the man I had been waiting for – being handsomer, fitter, and having actually turned up – and I might now be writing to you with a Norfolk terrier yapping on my knee, as he roasts potatoes in the kitchen, only when he kissed me it was like – pick your metaphor – a labrador licking my face or as if he were trying to floss my teeth with his tongue. There was nothing to do but soak up the saliva with the sleeve of my cardigan, and go home alone.

Dates, in theory, are supposed to excite you, but after a while – as I tell the Millennial – you end up approaching them like trips to the dentist. You have to go along no matter how little you like it – everyone says so – it’s for your own good. But you’re filled with trepidation, knowing full well the horrors a man might perpetrate on your mouth.

For more tales of Bad Romance come back next Sunday night or buy the book here.

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Donald Trump & the end of love in London

In her 1983 novel Heartburn, Nora Ephron explained her compulsion to turn aspects of her life into a repertoire of jokes.

She made everything into a story, she wrote:

‘Because if I tell the story, I control the version.

Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.

Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.’

And so it is with me and this blog in which I am describing certain dates in such detail now because soon I shall tell you tales of other women braver than me and I want to secure your sympathies – so you are lusty for the retribution they take.

I know matters have gone irretrievably wrong when the line I’m going to tell the Millennial enters my head – the one that will make him laugh, with that adorable snort that’s addictive to provoke.  

‘People say #MeToo ruined dating for men,’ I told him, of my second (and final) date with a man so full on in the first week I was already calling him The Mad Macedonian:

‘#MeToo hasn’t ruined dating for men – they’re using accounts of what sexual maniacs got away with as a tip sheet… We went to dinner at this place he picked that I thought was fancy since it was in Westbourne Grove, only to end up sat in too-fancy shoes on a table next to stacked chairs and a mop and bucket.’

‘For whatever reason he announced he had to wash his hands and that his penis was very small, and then, after we’d eaten, calculated my exact share of the bill and walked me to a bus stop where he grabbed me by the pussy. Donald Trump-inspired. Right in the middle of the street.’

That one was laughable at the time. Not tragic. Just deranged.

But the next man who caused a Millennial-ready line to pop into my head, well – I’d got my hopes up…

He was a divorcee which I thought exciting, since divorcees – it strikes me – believe love exists, and know they lost it. They were honest with themselves and brave too. So they’re back, hunting for what I’m hunting for, which no man I’ve met yet seems to be.

This man departed one October morning saying he owed me an orgasm. (Actually four but he wasn’t counting.) Cancelled all the dates we planned subsequently, without suggesting rearranging and – when I enquired – explained he was looking into a trip abroad since he had time off and nothing else to do.

‘This is the tale,’ I knew then and there, ‘of the man who’d prefer to spend seven days in Auschwitz than see me again.’

Of course I’m writing this later, much much later,’ Ephron admitted…

At the time, I did not laugh. I howled.

For more tales of Bad Romance come back next Sunday night or buy the book here.

Twelfth Night

In 2018, my New Year’s resolution was to fall in love with a man who had his own parents so I didn’t have to spend Christmas with mine. You might think criteria that consists of ‘no orphans’ would do the trick but twelve months on I’m still as solitary as the fairy on top of the Christmas tree.

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This week I read a ponderous article in The Atlantic (is there any other kind?) that restated the cliche that the Millennial and I hate above all others: ‘dating is a numbers game.’ According to this theory, you’re single because you’ve not met enough men, when our problem is we’ve met far more men than we can stand already. The Millennial, for instance, dated relentlessly throughout the whole of his twenties and is rewarding himself on his 30th birthday (happy birthday heavenly Millennial) by giving up like all the rest of us. By rights, there ought to be a thousand think pieces about how the singles have all gone on strike against the apps that oppress us. Instead, there are just endless articles about how Millennials aren’t having any sex anymore, which only causes me to wonder who the hell they’re surveying since Tinder has unleashed, to my certain knowledge, a chaos of sex unrivalled since the dying days of Ancient Rome.

Yes, here I am, as stuck as the scratched Blondie record my mother gave me for Christmas, going on and on and on about how we’ve Bumbled and Happnd and Pofd for so many years it no longer makes sense. Dating is only a game if that’s how you define roulette, played out in the grottiest, least fun casino on earth. Sure, when we first approached the table, it was all very exciting. We had hope – that’s the chips. And we swiped so fast – that’s the spinning of the wheel. And any match might be our lucky number…

Only they weren’t. We staked our bets and lost. Our stock of chips runs down. Which only inspires desperation. You like the look of a number and pile everything on it, thinking to win back everything you’ve lost. We see other players screeching with happiness and making a great fuss. With this number – that looked so promising in the half-light – our hopes are up. But no, it goes the same way as all the others. We feel so embarrassed… Start to blame ourselves. Conscious that we need to keep a portion of our hope to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives. That’s why we’re retiring, in ever increasing numbers, and if this were anything but metaphorical, and we’d lost all our money, casual observers would congratulate us for kicking a habit so manifestly depleting our existence.

And so we do, we serial daters, want to stop, we’ve had enough. In no other realm of human endeavour would we be congratulated for doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. ‘Albert Einstein said that was lunacy,’ says the sleepy Millennial, yawning and falling asleep on my sofa.

‘Perhaps,’ I reply, packing up my fairy in a box. ‘That is why they call me batshit crazy.’ 

For more tales of Bad Romance come back next Sunday night or click here

 

 

What Would Bridget Do?

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When I was young, I thought Bridget Jones was a joke. Ha, ha, I thought, what a load of bollocks, as she chain-smoked her way into Colin Firth’s boxers. But ever since I turned 30, to my horror I realise it is all true – with added déjà vu – because it is all happening, right now, to me.

Every man you meet is an emotional fuckwit. (If they were ever in the mood for love, they’re taken already.) Your boss will try to sleep with you. (And you lose your job afterwards.) Old friends, post the Pinterest perfect wedding, at which you got unacceptably drunk, are now smug marrieds and treat you as if you have a disease you might transmit to their husbands. You spend the whole Christmas period having to explain to everyone back home why you are still single – as if it is your fault and you have done it on purpose to spite them. And in reply, you never have come up with a line better than there are so many single girls nowadays ‘because beneath our clothes, our bodies are completely covered with scales.’

The only difference between Bridget and I, really, is that Bridget had hope whereas I can’t recognise the meaning of the word. If you’re single, aged 35, everyone seems to think you haven’t tried hard enough. Whereas what you’ve done is tried so hard for so very long you’d rather curl up and die than face a date with yet another Tits-Pervert.

Sometimes, when I’ve cracked open the prosecco at 3pm on a Tuesday, I get to thinking I might cheer myself up by buying that card they used to have in Scribbler which reads: ‘It is better to have loved and lost than to have spent your life with a psychopath.’ That could be my motto. Why does no one recognise this as a signature achievement? Akin to being crowned runner-up in the Great British Bake Off. Or winning bronze in a bout of synchronised swimming.

It seems as if, every week, I lose another comrade to pregnancy. You’ve always shared everything so now she’s holding forth on the state of her discharge, intent on becoming a baby-making machine for 2019, and limbering up to breastfeed in public with great gusto. She gained a ‘hubby’ and lost all sense of proportion. Soon, she’ll stop speaking to you. Because you stop calling her. You’re so grossed out by the updates on the ‘quality’ of her cervical mucus. 

Yes, you like babies too. But have no means of begetting them. And seized by that strange lust, feel a desperate urge to smoke. When you’re so asthmatic that’d be suicide. You keep wanting to write to Helen Fielding and demand: What Would Bridget Do? For it is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr. Darcy is nowhere to be found on dating apps – so what on earth…?

I need such advice because the worst thing about being the reincarnation of Bridget Jones is feeling so alone. Socially – and culturally too. We have no single icons – save Fleabag – who is the married person’s wet dream of what single girls really are, underneath (so desperate and demented they’d do anything up to and including fucking their BFF’s man.) And Lena Dunham – who, I maintain, despite many howls to the contrary, just isn’t funny. And I read the whole of ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ so I know what I am talking about. It was no doubt Lena, and all her indepth accounts of the inner frothings of her vagina, that created the fashion for such grotesque confessions.

Yuck, I grimace, with a savage shudder. In 2019, we still single bastards need a new Bridget for the Tinder age. And so perhaps it is time to imitate her real achievement: consoling herself by writing it all down. Sod it, since I am her, I may as well take control of my life. And start a diary.   

For more tales of Bad Romance come back on Sunday night or click here

BETTER TO START YOUR OWN MODERN FAMILY THAN WAIT FOR ‘THE ONE’

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When I was a girl, my mother stuffed my head full of fairy-tales and the most fantastic of them all sounded quite banal at the time. It was about how families are made. One day (she was quite adamant) I would meet a man and love him so fiercely I’d want to make a tiny version of him in the form of a baby. We would all live happily ever after. The End.

For the past 20 years, I expected that to happen. Never questioned that it would. But now I find myself on the precipice of 35, when (according to NHS Choices) my fertility begins its dramatic fall. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that the very concept of a ‘soulmate’ is a hysterical joke played on the over-romantic and hopeful. It’s probably time to admit to the realities of the 21st century — where dating apps breed only casual sex, not screaming bundles in a crib. Like ever-increasing numbers of frustrated singles worldwide, I must get creative, joining the ranks of those creating new modern families.

Today, babies can’t always be made in the traditional way — for all sorts of reasons — but we are not admitting defeat. Some have enjoyed the full fairytale effect (falling in love, getting married) but with someone of the same sex, so a third party’s sperm or eggs are required to complete the domestic picture. For women, this can be relatively straightforward. Intrauterine insemination costs around £800 to £1,300 at a fertility clinic. It is successful only 22 per cent of the time, but lesbian couples have been making babies this way for decades.

For men, it’s much more complicated, because a surrogate is needed. The non-profit agency Brilliant Beginnings, which has helped create 800 families since it was founded in 2013, claims that £12,000 to £15,000 is ‘the going rate for UK surrogacy arrangements’. IVF is successful only 40 per cent of the time — and that’s among under-35s — so costs can escalate very rapidly.

As a result, many modern families try to incorporate the biological parent into the set-up — which is a lot less expensive, at least in a financial sense. Agencies such as Modamily facilitate co-parenting relationships with strangers, or some people reach more informal agreements with friends and family. In 2015, for instance, the TV presenter Mary Portas revealed that the child she was raising with her lesbian partner (the baby’s genetic mother) was fathered by her brother — meaning there was a genetic link on both sides.

One 31-year-old single, straight man, who wishes to remain anonymous, has told me that he is setting out to become a ‘known donor’ for two old friends — one of whom he met at high school, and her lesbian partner of eight years. After joking about the subject for several years, they are quite set on the idea. The baby will very much have two mothers as parents — he does not intend to co-parent and compares the process he is now engaged in as akin to donating blood.

‘They’re going to be much better parents than I can imagine myself being,’ he explains. ‘The idea is that I’ll be a godparent/semi-uncle — involved in the way I would be in any of my close friends’ kids’ lives growing up.’ But if it is a boy, he adds, ‘maybe there’s going to come a time when he’d have questions from a male point of view’. To save money, the trio are adopting a DIY approach. ‘I’m synced with ovulation cycles so I’m going over there to the bathroom with a mooncup to make the donation. It’s not quite a turkey baster, but it’s not far off.’

It’s not just gay people who desperately want children and are casting around for such inventive strategies. It’s singles — particularly single women — in their thirties and forties too. In our twenties, we’d meet up and drink too much wine, discussing our troubles with lovers. Now we obsess about babies. How we want them. How we’re afraid we won’t be able to have them.

We spend a lot of time reassuring each other that we are not mad or selfish. That it is very natural to want children. That it is OK to feel overwhelmed by the sudden fierceness of the need, because it is built into us to ensure our survival, like feeling intense hunger if we’re in danger of starving. That since the UK birth rate has plummeted from 2.4 children to 1.8 in recent years, it is even quite important that we do.

One friend is working so hard thanks to her recent promotion that she has no time to date and is looking into freezing her eggs. This strategy is so popular among high-powered career women that companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google offer this service as one of the perks of working for them. Another friend — a highly successful journalist — has given up on dating because she never meets eligible men and is talking through making baby plans with her very supportive mother. Two more friends — both in their mid- to late thirties — are going through the agony of failed cycles of IVF.

You might think that we are not romantic but we’re probably far more romantic than most. Despite the odds, we’re still holding out for the right man. We all tell tales of those who compromised their ideals in order to get married. Women who ‘want it all’ are frequently lambasted in the right-wing press.

But those who settled for half or a bit aren’t necessarily any happier. Two parents may well be better than one — but the ONS currently estimates that 42 per cent of marriages fail, and the emotional turmoil of separation and divorce isn’t an ideal atmosphere in which to raise children either.

In this context, co-parenting presents a possible solution. The Stork is a new agency that matches people who want to be parents for a fee that costs less than ‘a new car or a mortgage’ — or a divorce. It was founded by businesswoman Fiona Thomas to bring together those no longer prepared to keep gambling that if they only hold out long enough they will eventually find ‘The One’.

If you’re a woman in your late thirties, Thomas explains, ‘there are four outcomes. You can meet someone perfectly naturally and it’s all fantastic and wonderful. You can try to meet someone through an [agency] like mine and end up co-parenting. You can meet someone and it’s the wrong person — and you’d be amazed how many people do that; the large proportion of people on their wedding day who think, “I know this isn’t exactly what I want, it’s probably not quite right, but I’m doing it anyway.” And the fourth option, of course, is to do nothing. You get to 50 and you’re playing with your nephews and nieces.’

There are more single women alive today than at any point in history. And though we might have given up on men, we’re not all prepared to surrender our hope of a baby. The women who use her services, Thomas says, are bright, attractive and successful. ‘Just because it hasn’t happened for you doesn’t mean you’re some kind of freak or reject,’ she insists. ‘It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Everybody’s got a story about why it hasn’t happened to them, and it doesn’t in any way indicate failure.’

The conclusion is that we can’t all have the fairytale endings. But that’s OK, because those creating new modern families know there’s an opportunity to change the narrative. Our stories aren’t over yet.

BAD ROMANCE IN THE INDEPENDENT

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Read on: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/dating-jane-austen-single-mr-darcy/

The Hookup #10

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I had been WhatsApping the hot American for a month when he finally suggested we meet for a modest cup of tea on Sunday (time and location TBC). He gave me seven days’ notice. As I’d let my work slip, I put my phone in a pot so I wouldn’t watch it. He didn’t message me. I didn’t message him. And I thought, sod this — I’m not bullying him into it. So we never met at all.

I should just move on and find some new and unsuspecting chap. But I’m fascinated by the fact that this hunk of a man expended so much time messaging me without any ulterior motive.

Carrie-style, I sit at my laptop, hair maddened with bewilderment, fingers flying across the keyboard, typing: “I couldn’t help but wonder, has the joy of sex been replaced by the thrill of text ..?”