Smart, sexy single desperately seeking similar…

Who am I?

I’ve been pondering my single status again lately – just for a change – and it occurs to me that I’m a completely different person to the one I was when I last had a relationship.

I mean, I’ve had a child since then. And it’s amazing how radically that changes things.

In the pre-infant years, I would have listed my main interests as travelling, going to the gym and socialising. Nowadays, the latter two activities are almost off my radar and the former – although still something I do whenever possible – has taken on a completely different form.

Now, my holiday destinations are not so much chosen for their cultural richness as for the number of parks and infant entertainment options I’m likely to find in the vicinity.

But it’s not just the practical things that have changed: my character has changed too. I have, in some ways, become more patient – not that you’d know it if you saw me chivvying the little man on the nursery run.

Perhaps patient isn’t exactly what I mean, but … tiny tantrums definitely teach you the value of a poker face, and no one knows the meaning of the phrase, ‘pick your battles’ like the mother of a toddler.

As a matter of fact, patience isn’t exactly a family virtue and I admit that I may not have always been the most mellow of partners in the past. So … would I be an easier person to be with, now that I’m a mum? Or would the poker face that I so ably display with the little guy be completely redundant in interaction with grown-ups?

Not that I’m likely to find out anytime soon. The Forester and I have exchanged one measly text, which doesn’t suggest super-high levels of engagement from either side. And, of course, I discovered that the Phantom Texter is married.

It almost went without saying, didn’t it?

He finally declared his intent, and I told him how flattered I was (and I was; he’s a highly attractive gentleman) … but didn’t he have a wife? To give him his due, he didn’t deny it or answer obliquely – just expressed regret that he was now no longer a contender for my attentions.

On the one hand, I’m truly disappointed; on the other … do I look like the kind of woman who’d be happy as a mistress??!

It never ceases to amaze me just how many men – men who are otherwise kind, intelligent and reasonable – think it’s OK to play around behind their partner’s back. I honestly don’t get it. If you love her, why would you cheat on her? And if you don’t love her, why would you stay with her?

I suppose the phrase, “having your cake and eating it” applies, and the answer to the question is simply because you can. Unless I have a peculiar ability to attract that sort of ‘gentleman’, I’d keep a very close eye on any man I got involved with.

Or maybe women are just as bad. I wouldn’t know.

Anyway, it’s just my luck that the first gentleman in months (if not years) to pay me any kind of attention turns out to be ineligible. It was fun to look forward to his messages and, if I’m honest, have someone care about how my day was, how I’m feeling and whether I’m alive or dead.

(Apart from my mum. My mum cares. Obviously.)

Because let’s not beat about the bush here: it gets awfully lonely being a single mum in a world of coupled-up parents. I’m sick and tired of being the ‘strong woman’; I just want someone to give me a cuddle, make me dinner (toast is OK) … or even just talk to me.

I mean, I love the little guy to bits but there’s only so much you can say about Peppa-bloody-Pig before you want to climb the walls. Weekends of undiluted toddler talk are pretty tough.

But I don’t want to be ‘the other woman’ and I never will. Alone is the last place I want to be, but alone with someone else’s man? No thanks.


Here I go again, on my own

Ah, speed dating. What a quirky evening it was. And, perhaps surprisingly, a lot of fun.

Let loose on the unsuspecting world on a rare night out I was, perhaps, a tad … ebullient. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was like an over-enthusiastic puppy dog straining at the leash, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve been out beyond 7pm, let alone had the pleasure of meeting so many new people all at once.

And what an eclectic bunch it was…

There was number seven, the Ukrainian physicist, who spoke with an accent as thick as treacle but unfortunately left no impression on me beyond that. I met rough diamond number five, who bought a garden furniture business almost by accident and had a surprising penchant for writing and literature.

Number nine was a keen bean who came to mingle before the event started, and wasted no time in telling me how he spent all his spare time and cash on formula car racing. (He seemed almost proud that his company had registered just £4K profit last year, since he’d frittered the rest on his one true passion.) He also talked about mortgages far more than I’d consider standard at a speed dating event.

I discovered that number 12 had five – yes, five – children: he was a single parent to two girls and saw one of his sons regularly, but the other two were not in his life. In fact, one of them was as a result of a one-night stand and he only found out the child existed when the mother popped round to show it off.

It’s surprising what you can find out in four minutes.

Thank goodness for number eight – a friendly American squaddy who, at the ripe old age of 38, was due to retire in two years’ time – and number 10, who’d caught my eye the minute he walked in: he worked in forest management and apparently regularly had a freezer full of deer – just one of the perks of the job.

I wasn’t sure that either of them were boyfriend material but they both seemed like nice, interesting guys, so I skipped the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ columns on my crib sheet, and put a decisive tick for each of them under ‘friend’.

After them, there were a couple of friendly gentlemen who fell straight into the ‘no’ category, then all too soon, the night was over. Everyone was unusually swift to skedaddle thereafter, so I was back on the bike and on my way home by 10pm.

Of course, it wasn’t long before I had a message from the Phantom Texter, asking how the evening had gone – and I couldn’t help asking myself what his interest in that might be.

Although many texts have been exchanged in the last week or so, I’m no closer to understanding his intentions … or his marital status … and it seems a bit blunt to just up and ask him, apropos of nothing. However, I’ve been in this situation before and sooner or later, truth will out. I’d just prefer it to be sooner, rather than later.

Anyway, while I’m waiting for things to make themselves clear, there seems no harm in going for a friendly coffee with The Forester. He’s an attractive gentleman, after all – if a little quieter than I’d like.

(So many people have been at pains to point out my … umm … irrepressible nature lately, that I’m scared I’m going to smother anyone who doesn’t bound into the room in an eye-screeching outfit, waving their arms about and rah-rah-rah-ing.)

Anyhow, the coffee was a very low-key affair, very pleasant … but as always in these cases, I can’t say I noticed much of a spark. I mean, I had a very pleasant time and it would be nice to meet up again but … I can’t say I’d be gutted if we didn’t. Still, most of the significant relationships in my life have not begun with an immediate attraction, so I’m happy to play it cool and see what develops. Maybe he’s a grower.

But recently I’ve been wondering if I even want to find a man at all. When I think of the impact an interloper would have on our lives (and when I say ‘our’ lives, I mean me and the little guy), I get to thinking that maybe the game’s not worth the candle.

So many of our rhythms and routines would have to change – in fact, the whole dynamic of my relationship with the little guy would have to change – that I wonder if it’s even worth trying to embark on such an ambitious scheme.

Maybe I’m just being defeatist. Or maybe I’m already halfway to an old age surrounded by cats. Or maybe, just maybe, single isn’t such a bad state after all.

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And the seasons, they go round and round…

And so the interminable rain of summer has given way to crisp, bright, quasi-autumnal days.

(I know. This is England. It does weird things like that.)

It’s been a busy summer: the little guy and I holidayed with a dear friend in Riga (Latvia has now become his default destination whenever I query where he’s beetling off to), visited the abuelos in Spain – a trip that went much better than I could have predicted – and had countless jaunts to the seaside, the countryside and a host of assorted festivals.

In fact, just last week we were at a Scarecrow Festival – the highlights of which included the little fella ringing a church bell and posing next to a scarecrow version of Freddie Mercury … a sight that had to be seen to be believed.

The piglet is, of course, growing like a weed. He’s pretty much out of nappies, in the daytime at least, and prone to startling me with sentences like, “Mummy, it’s quite hot in here. Could you open the window so I can have a bit of cool air?”

He’s two. I mean, not even two-and-a-half. Can you imagine what he’s going to be like as a teenager?

Anyway, for the moment he’s delicious and delightful and funny and surprising, and getting more so every day.

And what of romance? Well, very little. Surprise, surprise.

My mingling with the opposite sex is sorely limited by my inability to leave the house. Or, to put it another way, unless I happen to meet Prince Charming at the supermarket checkout, I’m scuppered.

Since I’m officially done with dating sites, I’ve signed up for a speed dating soirée, to try and force my hand: I’m hoping that seeing the whites of their eyes will induce me to look more favourably on the catalogue of candidates up for selection.

I’m steadfastly refusing to look at any of the participants’ profiles ahead of the event, though. I know myself too well: I’ll have talked myself out of every single one of them before I even get through the door.

Yep, things have been quiet on the western front, to say the least. The only hint of romance – the merest twinge – has come from a most unexpected quarter. In fact, it’s such an unexpected quarter that I’m keeping it verrrrry close to my chest.

But … you know when someone seeks you out and repeatedly texts you and there’s nothing particularly untoward in the content of those texts … except that the person had no real reason to be texting you in the first place? Well that’s how it is.

In fact, when someone asks you if you consider it “inappropriate” that they’re texting you, well … that almost suggests that they do … doesn’t it?

Maybe I’m reading far too much into it, and maybe he just wants to be friends – do men ever do that? I’ve got no idea anymore – and discuss life, the universe and everything, but … my famously ineffectual instinct suspects a more amorous intention.

Anyway, the Phantom Texter is an attractive gentleman, and eligible in many ways but, unless I’m very much mistaken, as married as married can be. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not in the business of stealing other ladies’ men.

Eligible gentlemen may be in extremely short supply, but when I find one, I want him all to myself. Surely that’s not too much for a girl to ask … is it?

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Kiss me honey, honey

It’s happened. After what seems like an eternity, it’s finally happened: I kissed a man. A man kissed me. We kissed.

Now, given that my dry period has been longer than summer in the Sahara, you might expect there to have been an explosion of heart-shaped confetti while fireworks traced out the words, “AT LAST” in the sky but, in fact, it was all pretty low-key.

It was also pretty rapid, since I’d had a call to say that the little guy was sitting downstairs with the babysitter and refused to go up to bed until mummy came home, despite it being 11pm. (Woo! Look at me, out at 11pm. Rock’n’roll.)

So the best I could do was a quick lip lock, followed by a swift cycle ride home, where the piglet was ensconced on the sofa, draining the battery of the babysitter’s mobile by watching Peppa Pig on repeat.

And that was that.

I haven’t seen him since; we haven’t even been in touch that much, so it’s fair to assume that there’s unlikely to be a repeat performance.

Actually, he’s a nice guy and good fun but I don’t think he’s ready to hang out with a mummy – even assuming that I’m the mummy he’d go for if he were. Hey ho.

So it’s back to the old drawing board.

In fact, in an odd twist, the old drawing board came back to me this week: not one but two gentlemen from the dating site got in touch out of the blue. We’d chatted – but never met – months and months ago and then, all of a sudden, they both got in touch within ten minutes of each other.

One of them was very keen but lived on the wrong side of London … which was convenient as, judging from his photos, he’s a chain-smoking wide boy with a flashy car and carefully sculpted facial hair. I know, I know … judge not, lest ye be judged, but we look as though we belong to two different universes.

The other guy worked in the building next to mine, but made such a hoo-ha about how on earth we’d manage to spend time together if we did like each other, what with me having an infant-shaped ball and chain tied to my ankle, that I eventually told him that he was right, we’d better not meet for fear of finding ourselves in the depths of such an insurmountable predicament: bound by passion but thwarted by a scheming toddler.

(He also blotted his copybook by asking what was wrong with my teeth. There’s nothing wrong with my teeth, it was just an odd shadow in the photo, but I imagine that if there were something wrong with my teeth, I wouldn’t have taken kindly to his tone.)

Apparently he’d clocked me on my bike one fine day, had liked what he’d seen, and decided to get in touch again. Thanks, I think.

Anyway I felt compelled to remind him that my general situation hasn’t changed one iota since we last chatted. His response? “It was winter then, I was in a bad place.”


Whilst I understand that winter’s eternal cold and greyness can be a downer, I’m not sure that the arrival of spring will automatically turn someone who sees kids as a carbuncle on their love life into a doting, rosy-cheeked child-lover.

And, to be frank, if he’s not ready to dote, then I’m not ready to date. It goes without saying that the little man is, and always will be, my number one priority.

But I must admit I’m fed up with being single.

As if reading my thoughts, a friend sent me an article this morning, entitled, “Six things that happen when you feel eternally single”. Here’s what it had to say:

1. Your family asks if you have a boyfriend at every gathering
No. No, they don’t even bother asking any more.

2. You become more oblivious to guys who notice you
Possibly. I haven’t noticed anyone checking me out for … ooh, years. But then again, maybe there really was no one checking me out.

3. You start to groom less often
Well, I was never one to be at the beauty salon every weekend, but I like to think that a certain minimum has been maintained…

4. You eat whatever your heart and stomach desire
Well, yes – but why wouldn’t you? I don’t mean to say I’m gorging on creamy double-choc-chip doodahs (not my thing) but if you’re a single mum who barely gets out of the house after 7pm, there is a limited number of ways in which you can spoil yourself.

5. You think about your exes
No, not really. I’m not daft enough to think that any of them was actually “The One” and I was just too blind to see it. Exes are ex for a reason.

6. Everyone has a friend they think they can set you up with
How I wish they would! Not one friend has attempted to set me up with anyone. Ever.

Actually, I have – several times – asked my friends if they know any single men who might consider going on a date with me and the answer has always been a resounding no.

And if your friends can’t imagine you in any state besides single, what the hell hope is there?

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Two plus one equals…

If I’ve been a bit quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been in a period of extended rumination; a long, slow cycle of contemplation and consideration that still has reached no satisfactory conclusion.

Quite aside from the usual mental clutter of, “Where are my keys?”, “Why is there porridge in my shoe?” and, “No! No! NO! Stop doing that, little man!”, I’ve been cogitating on an altogether more serious issue: I’d like another baby.

Now, anyone who saw me in my sleep-deprived state after the birth of the little guy (up to and including … ooh, about two months ago) could be forgiven for thinking I’ve taken leave of my senses. Surely to go through all that again – this time with a toddler to care for, too – well, hello, insanity.

And yet. And yet …

Although it cannot be denied that there are moments when the little guy makes me as crazy as a kookaburra, there are so many moments of joy and excitement and pride that far outweigh the tears and frustration. (As Little Chick’s ma says, “Sometimes you make me mad, sometimes you make me sad, but I will always love you, because I’m your mummy.” If you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry; your time will come.)

So, what’s stopping me? Well, of course I’d need to obtain the necessary ingredients to make a child. But this is the 21st century and those sort of obstacles are relatively easy – if a tad costly – to overcome.

There’s also the censure of my mum, who despite being on the other side of the country is still Chief Babysitter #1 and whose views are not lightly discarded, despite the fact that I’m a fully grown woman.

Now I don’t want to misrepresent her: she would never permit herself to prohibit further procreation. But you know that when your mother disapproves of something, there’s usually a good reason. And it’s hard to ride roughshod over the displeasure of the woman who bore you.

Alas, financial issues also play their part. Since the cost of sending a child to daycare is almost equivalent to a month’s rent on a three-bedroom house, it stands to reason that sending TWO children to daycare means you’ll need to dig deep into your savings if you still want to have your little luxuries … like food, heat and light. At least until one of them starts school, pennies would have to be pinched like they have never been pinched before.

Last, but by no means least, there’s the question of how it feels to know that your dad was a pipette. Even if the little guy’s dad is an infrequent visitor, at least he knows who daddy is. How would it feel if you had no one to come and take you to the park, even if it was just once a month?

Truly, this is not how I imagined family life would be.

But still, it’s undeniable that the urge is there, particularly when I see how tender the little guy is with other friends’ newborns. Just last week, he was bestowing kisses and clumsy cuddles on his friend’s baby brother, drawing aahs from all present.

And maybe it’s irrelevant, but I can’t help thinking that a family of three is more resilient than a family of two. As things stand, when I’m gone, my precious little guy will be all alone. My family is tiny … and who could rely on his relations with dad?

The little guy is all in favour and has already stated his preference for a sister, but it’s true that the first two years would almost certainly be hellish: when I’m tired, I’m grumpy and maybe it’s unfair to inflict that grumpiness on the happily growing little man.

(Although as the mother of the aforementioned newborn quite rightly said, who would be unlucky enough to get two infants with a propensity for waking at 5am? And surely if you do, they can keep each other company, right?)

I’m also not sure about the logistics of getting two nippers onto a bike.

I suppose the question I really need to answer is, “Can I do it?”. I asked myself the same question before the little guy was born, but I didn’t know the answer then and I still don’t now: some days I think I’m a great mum and other times I fall far short.

But time waits for no man and I’ll have to make the definitive decision soon, before Mother Nature makes it for me.

It looks as though the contemplation isn’t over yet…

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Spring is in the air

Finally – finally! – the lighter nights are coming and spring is on its way. I’m beginning to feel it might be time to crawl from under my stone and shake off the dark shackles of winter. And about time, too.

The little guy is also on a roll: the big boy bed is well and truly bedded in, there are no more after-dark escape attempts and all that’s required of me is to sit outside his door, fending requests for water, furry companions and a complex spectrum of lighting arrangements until he falls asleep five minutes later.

He’s talking lots, and understanding more, so communication has become simpler and, correspondingly, toddler riots fewer. If only things were so harmonious in my love life.

I’m still in touch with Smiley Man, but we’ve turned into message buddies: neither of us have suggested meeting up lately, and neither of us seems particularly bothered if we do or we don’t. So friends it is, and that’s that.

I’ve got a date scheduled this week with a guy who runs his own coffee bar, but whether I’m jaded by experience or just fed up of the whole thing, I can’t muster up much enthusiasm. I know it’s wrong to be put off by excessive punctuation, but when someone tells you that they’ve, “just made a coffee!!!” or that they’re, “at work!!!!!” it’s hard not to feel that your enthusiasm levels could never match theirs.

Still, you never know what fate has in mind, and many a match that seemed perfect on paper has been thoroughly disappointing in real life, so there’s no reason to doubt that an unpromising pairing can turn out to be something absolutely fabulous. So bring on the date.

But honestly, it feels like I’ve met, messaged or discounted pretty much every guy in the local dating pond.

(And before you pick me up on that ‘discounted’, know that, as previously noted, my criteria have been relaxed somewhat. And anyway, let’s be clear, I’ve been rebuffed by just as many candidates as I’ve rejected, if not more.)

So I scroll through the list, seeing the same old faces – gentlemen who presumably are having about as much luck as I am in finding their soul mate – and I can’t help thinking that there must be a better way. I just don’t know what it is yet.

To make things worse, social media is currently full of articles telling me how much better I’ll sleep if I sleep with a companion, how my health will improve if I sleep naked and how much better my sex life will be if I sleep naked with a companion. (Thanks, Einstein; I’d worked that one out for myself.)

It seems that all I need is a naked, snoozling partner and all will be well with the world … which pretty much tallies with my own opinion, but short of clubbing an unsuspecting victim and dragging him back to the cave, what’s a girl to do?

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How nice is nice enough?

So I suppose you’re wondering how the date with Smiley Man turned out?

Well, the answer is that it went very nicely, thank you. So nicely, in fact, that we both quickly agreed that we’d like to meet up again.

Both times we talked extensively about our respective offspring without anyone getting bored or rolling their eyes: he’s a part-time single parent to his daughter, which means he gets where I’m coming from in terms of free time, or lack of, and understands when my messaging comes to an abrupt halt because I’ve just caught the little guy waving the loo brush round the bathroom and suddenly need to remove all his clothing and scrub him from head to toe.

He shares my modest approach to alcohol – important in a dating scenario – and is used to early nights and early mornings, which are pretty unavoidable round here. He’s also good friends with his ex-wife and they’re doing a great job of co-parenting their seemingly delightful daughter.

In short, he seems like a thoroughly decent chap and meeting up was all very easy and pleasant and there wasn’t a trace of awkwardness. Which is good … isn’t it?

Now, see, here comes the difficult part, because there are actually no black marks against Smiley Man: he really seems like a very nice guy and – unlike the vast majority of guys I’ve met through dating sites – he falls well within the parameters of ‘normal’, without for a moment being boring.

And yet, and yet …

The crux of the matter is that I just don’t think there’s a spark. There, I’ve said it. I genuinely enjoy his company but I’m not vaguely interested in kissing him. The thought hasn’t even crossed my mind.

And even as I say the words, I can hear the voice of my mother saying, “Ah, but physical attraction soon fades!” and I know that – up to a point – she’s right. I also know that most of the guys I’ve dated long-term were not instantly physically appealing to me. (Although it should also be noted that I’m no longer dating any of them, either.)

So what’s a girl to do? Should I keep on meeting up with him in the hope that something or other may, sooner or later, blossom? Or is that just stringing him along?

Like the perfect gentleman that he is, he hasn’t attempted to kiss me either. And I have caught him on the dating site at least once when he wasn’t talking to me, which suggests that he’s very happily and very reasonably keeping his options open. Or else that his interest in me tends towards the platonic, too.

So, do we just bobble along meeting for friendly coffees, or should I take the bull by the horns and at least articulate my ambivalence?

For once, I’m at a complete loss. My internal etiquette has no template for situations such as these. Under normal circumstances it would, of course, be no problem to keep meeting up until we either got it together or found someone else to make eyes at, and neither of us would be obliged to comment on it at all. But the simple fact that you’ve introduced yourself to someone with the express intention of bagging yourself a significant other somehow puts a different tint on it.

To confuse my already befuddled brain that little bit further, on a rare night out with friends recently, I met up with an old acquaintance who actually did make my pulse quicken just a little. Now, is that just physical attraction raising its fickle head or … what?

Whatever, it was a welcome frisson that at least served to remind me what attraction feels like, because in among nappy changes, night wakenings and early morning tantrums, it’s pretty easy to forget. The fact that the friend doesn’t live in the same country, let alone the same town pretty much negates any possibility of anything happening but … hey, isn’t that the story of my life?

Anyway, I’m all set to meet Smiley Man again this week. At least I’m supposed to meet him … if I can ever leave the house.

The little guy has come screaming into the Terrible Twos in fifth gear and bedtime is now an hour-long battle. (Such are the freedoms of the big boy bed and his ability to get out of it, again and again and AGAIN.) I have visions of Smiley Man waiting patiently at our rendezvous while I’m wrestling a recalcitrant toddler back under the covers for the fourteenth time.

It’s at times like these that the whole thing just seems so flipping difficult that I start to wonder whether there’s space in my life for two men after all. But whilst cuddles from a certain snuffly little guy melt my heart and fill me with joy, I also want someone to share cuddles with after 8pm.

So I suppose all I can do is wrestle that toddler into bed one more time and make a dash for the door … and hope that sooner or later it will become apparent whether I’ve made yet another friend or something a bit more special.

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Happy New Year

Well, here we are in January; another year over and a new one just begun.

Yes, the last mince pie has been digested, the Christmas tree has been packed away, and – much to the little guy’s chagrin – the jingle bells are nestling neatly in their box once more.

The festive period is always pretty low key round our way, mostly because my family is tiny: I’m the only child of an only child, and my other parent is one of two. Even if the whole family were to herd into one room, we’d still barely be into double figures … which is a shame, because I love to be amongst hordes of people at this time of year.

To be honest, I love nothing better than being amongst hordes of people at any time of year, but once there’s a chill in the air my thoughts turn to mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and convivial evenings with rosy-cheeked friends. Once a year, I manage to gather my friends together and make good on the mulled wine and mince pies but … one solitary evening does not a toothsome Christmas make.

Living in Italy, I got used to huge family Christmases: my ex’s dad was one of nine and his mum was one of eleven. Even when half the members were absent, family get-togethers were still monumental; I rarely knew the names of everyone present but that didn’t matter because everyone was family and that was that. Compared with such epic gatherings, anything else can’t help but feel a smidgen underwhelming.

So, in an effort to swell the ranks of our little family, I’m back on the dating site again – and this time I’m being extremely lenient in my appraisal of the profiles before me. After all, I’m not really getting anywhere by being stringent. And since good banter and online compatibility seem to say precisely nothing about the likelihood of getting along once the likely candidate is before me, I’m limiting my judgement to a very meagre number of criteria:

  1. Does it look like we have anything – anything?! – in common?
    Obviously, we don’t need to have the same interests, but there are plenty of things I find interesting or intriguing, without necessarily wanting to participate. Equally, there are many things that are never going to float my boat. If the potential candidate’s three joys in life are beer, football and computer games, it’s probably best to nip it in the bud
  2. Are they literate?
    I’m willing to overlook the misspelling of complex words, but, “Your sexy LOL” isn’t going to cut it. I’m a writer and it would bother me. End of story. Better to be harsh now to avoid problems later on
  3. Do they smoke?
    I don’t and I hate it. Enough said

And that’s it.

Of course, looks come into it a little bit, but I’m trying to give that as little weight as possible. In real life, looks aren’t the be all and end all, and almost no one I’ve met has looked exactly like their photos anyway.

So, with this new outlook in mind, I’m set to meet Smiley Man this weekend.

Of course he’s a software developer – of course; I mean, who isn’t? – but I got a good vibe from his profile and he seems very easy-going when we chat.

I’m taking a bit of a punt because although he seems to have a very nice smile, there’s only one pic of him online, and in my experience this doesn’t usually bode well. But … new year, new start – and heaven knows I must be due a bit of luck by now.

So keep your fingers crossed for me. In fact, cross your fingers and your toes and maybe even your eyes. Experience suggests I’m going to need all the help that I can get.


The big bland

So here we are again. AGAIN. Yet another promising conversation with a seemingly appealing gentleman.

Actually, I say it as if it were something that happens every day, but the truth is that the majority of conversations I’ve had with ‘gentlemen’ from the dating site either fizzle out in a mutual wave of apathy or never get started in the first place. (And that’s without counting the guys that introduce themselves with a LOL. We all know how I feel about that.)

Anyway, after extensive correspondence over the course of a few days, The Chef professes to be very excited to have met me … and I must admit that I feel a cautious enthusiasm as the conversation continues and we build up an easy rapport.

I know all too well, however, not to get carried away: it’s frighteningly easy to get on swimmingly via text or email or whatever and then find out that you have nothing in common once you meet in the flesh. And so it is that I end up suggesting a quick coffee one lunchtime – quite a sneaky proposal, since it requires a mere cycle into town rather than any complicated babysitting arrangements.

I’m almost surprised when he agrees; too many of these guys seem to be looking for a penfriend and recoil in horror when you suggest meeting them face to face. But in fact, he’s so keen on the idea that he decides he’d rather do away with a swift caffeine fix: he’d rather take me to dinner, all the better to enjoy my company over the course of an evening. Wow.

And so it is that Friday night sees me pop the little guy into bed then skedaddle into town at top speed to meet The Chef at a cosily intimate restaurant for a sophisticated dinner à deux.

As I park my bike across the road, I see him waiting outside. He’s a little older and more tired-looking than his photos suggest but … hey, I probably look tired too; I’m not going to quibble about that.

We start chatting immediately and there’s not a minute of awkwardness. In fact, the waiter has to return three times before we’re anywhere near ready to order.

As the night wears on, the conversation flows along with the wine. The food is good and it’s pleasant to be out and about like a grown up again. Overall, the evening is … fine.

Yes, only ‘fine’. It sounds strange to damn it with such faint praise; we’re having a nice time. Or at least I am. And yet, and yet … he occasionally shows a slightly chippy side to his character. And he keeps talking about the grand side project he’s working on but can’t tell me about. Nothing to mark him as an out-and-out weirdo but, still…

I feel slightly on my guard, but willing to reserve judgement. After all, almost all of my previous boyfriends were ‘growers’ and to be honest I’ve had so many failed dates that I’ve lost perspective on the level of attraction that’s required before you agree to meet someone again. He hasn’t exactly bowled me over and I can’t actually imagine wanting to kiss him yet, but neither does he repulse me. I’d be happy enough to meet up for another coffee or something, without any expectations. Is that enough?

In any case, the evening ends rather abruptly when I realise that it’s 10.35pm. Although I’d warned him at the beginning that my babysitter had to leave at 10.45 on the dot, neither of us had kept an eye on the time, so suddenly I’m scrambling to get the bill and get my coat on and get out of the door, and our goodbyes are rather perfunctory.

I arrive at home panicked and breathless, but I’ve made the deadline and the babysitter takes his leave, leaving me to mull over the evening’s events. Principally, I feel … nothing really, not bothered one way or the other. Which is a bit of a strange way to feel.

Anyway, it soon becomes apparent that he felt more or less the same way, since our frequent correspondence stops almost immediately. I feel oddly indifferent. And since ‘meh’ is unlikely to be the basis for a solid relationship, I have to conclude that it’s not a bad thing.

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Greasy carbs and birthday blues

Another year, another birthday … and this one is notable mainly for its lack of festivity and my lack of progress with respect to the previous one. Hey ho.

This time last year, the little guy and I were in Spain. I spent my birthday alone with him and, despite his excellent company, I think it was one of the saddest birthdays of my life.

In previous years, I’d celebrated with a big party and one or more gatherings with friends over morning coffee, afternoon tea, a huge pile of pizza or all three. The contrast between this social saturation and the solitary glass of vino I “enjoyed” while the piglet snoozled in the pram was almost too much to bear.

To be fair to the little guy, he was only seven months old so the concept of ‘birthday’ didn’t really exist for him, otherwise I’m sure he’d have cracked open the party poppers. But as it was, I sniffled into my wine glass then went home to bed.

Fast forward a year and here we are: there’s still no one to shower me with affection or surprise me with cake and that special gift chosen just for me. Yes, I know I’m a fully-grown adult and I do try to pretend it doesn’t matter, but the big kid in me still thinks that birthdays should be special days and that’s that. I just can’t help it.

Anyway, this year I was up for a soothing wander round the arboretum and a slice of cake in the tearoom … but instead a motley group of grandparents and great-grandparents took the little guy to the farm park to throw himself round the soft play area and visit the animals.

We toured the barns and saw fluffy little chicks (“Scary”); huge fat porkers (“Outside now!”); big, greasy sheep (“Baa, baa!”) and a selection of rabbits and guinea pigs (“—”), but the greatest joy was reserved for a bank of brightly-coloured, plastic ride-on tractors, strikingly similar to the push-along cars he plays with at nursery.

The birthday element of the day was saved by evening cocktails in the company of one of my oldest mates. (By which I cast no aspersions about her age; I just mean I’ve known her for yonks. She’s fussy about these things so I have to specify.)

It was nice to leave the house after dark – something that rarely happens these days – and even nicer to sit in the ambience of groovy bar, listening to hipster beats and sipping a Dark and Stormy. I even got chatted up by a man in a tank top.

After pretending to hold a microphone in front of my face (OoooooK?!), his opening gambit was, “I like your top.”

Honestly! That’s what he said.

“Ummm. Yeah,” I replied. “Like yours too.”

My lack of enthusiasm didn’t seem to inspire great conversation, but neither did it deter him.

“Are you from round here?”

Now, I thought my, “NO!” was sufficiently vehement to deter further discussion, but he gamely asked me another question or two before I managed to make my excuses and wend my way back to my mate, cocktails for two clutched tightly in my paws … and, despite the unwanted intrusion, my mate and I had a good old gossip and ended the night by sharing a portion of chips.

And it might not be the same as having handpicked gifts from that special someone, but sometimes gossip and greasy carbs can really warm the cockles of your heart.

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