Leaping into love

Ladies – splendid singletons – today is your day! Tradition dictates that February 29th – otherwise known as Leap Day – is your chance to propose to your man.

According to legend, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick, way back when, to allow women to propose to men every four years. (Quite why St Patrick had the authority to legislate on these matters is unclear to me, but legislate he did.)

Anyway, it turns out that Leap Day is bit of a win-win date for us single ladies: if you ask a man to marry you and he refuses, tradition says that he must buy you a gown … or twelve pairs of gloves, to hide your poor, ringless fingers for a whole year. Result!

Whether or not you can convince your intended to adhere to this part of the deal is, I suppose, a moot point, although I imagine you’re not about to spring a marriage proposal on any Tom, Dick or Harry that you’ve just met on the street. (That would be one way of striking up a conversation, mind you…)

Anyway, in an attempt to meet candidates for my own marriage proposal, I’ve finally done it: I’ve joined a dating site.

Despite my qualms about internet match-making, I’m pig-sick of my romantic success being limited to the under 25s and over 55s; I’ve begun to despair of EVER meeting an attractive single male in his 30s or 40s. So, with a heavy heart, I answer any number of ridiculous questions, trying to encapsulate my vibrance, energy and generally winsome personality within the confines of the categories and tick boxes before me.

It’s not easy. I fret about the subtext of every like and dislike on my list. And as for trying to pick a photo … I’d prefer to have my eyeballs scooped out with a teaspoon and fed to the ducks.

This is mainly because I’m wildly unphotogenic: if anyone has their eyes closed in a photo, it’ll be me. I’m always the one looking the wrong way, the one with their mouth open, the one with the weird facial expression that I could surely never replicate, even if you paid me.

I don’t look that bad in real life. I hope.

Finding a photo that makes me look vaguely normal – never mind attractive – is no mean feat, but finally I find a couple that I can tolerate and with trepidation, I publish my profile.

Within moments, I get a five-star rating … from John in London, aged 56. Shortly afterwards, I get a chirpy message from Mozza … aged 23. 56 and 23. I kid you not.

Now, I can quite clearly see what a 56-year-old might see in a 35-year-old … but at 23, my dear young friend, you should be out prowling the streets and howling at the moon, not approaching aging spinsters on the internet.

At first, I find I’m too polite: it seems wrong to ignore someone’s approach, just because I don’t fancy them and we’ve got nothing in common. They’ve made all that effort, after all.

I soon change my ways after I respond to a portly football fan who lists the number one thing he couldn’t live without as beer. I send him what I think is a reasonably kind ‘thanks, but no thanks’ sort of message, and he responds by saying, “Oh, sorry. I meant to contact the one below you.” Lame!

Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained: I decide to make the most of the occasion, and propose to the semi-suitable man. He responds, saying, “Sure, but only if we can do it in Las Vegas”.

Despite the apparently positive tone of the reply, I have a feeling he’s just trying to get out of buying me gloves. Bah! Looks like I’ll have to wait another four years to bag my man.

No, really … am I a minger?

Let’s face it, I’ve been single for so long, that I have no idea of my currency in the dating world: am I the sort of girl that a man would be proud to snag? (Hmmm. Well, they’re not exactly forming an orderly queue…)

Or am I just a short step away from the category tragically known as ‘Minger’? (Surely not…? But then again, they’re not exactly forming an orderly queue…)

Of course, I’m not languishing at home alone: my social life is pretty hectic, but – for the right man – I’d be willing to sacrifice some of my commitments. (Provided he understood that Thursday nights and Sunday mornings are non-negotiable, belonging incontestably, as they do, to the realm of Body Combat.)

But first, of course, I need to find the Right Man. And here’s where it all goes wrong: I just don’t seem to meet any appropriate men. And lord knows I’ve been looking.

But where does one go to meet ‘appropriate men’? If you’ve exhausted your friends and their friends, that means you need to make new acquaintances; but once you’ve been to countless clubs, courses, pubs and bars… what’s left?

Girly nights out tend to be fruitless hunting grounds. And to be honest, I find dressing for a night out to be a form of torture: once you hit 35, the fine line that separates youthful and attractive from ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ becomes more and more difficult to negotiate. Clothes that once said, “funky and alternative” come dangerously close to screaming, “aging rock chick” – a look that no-one in their right mind would want to adopt.

So petrified am I of falling victim to these fashion faux pas that more often than not I opt for jeans and a t-shirt: the perfect recipe for slinking around unnoticed, blending with the wallpaper.

Sartorial awkwardness aside, though, on a good day I think I’d manage a solid seven out of ten. And if anyone’s inclined to disagree, I’d be grateful if you’d mention it only if you’re planning on moving the figure upwards. Because if I lose faith in my seven out of ten, I’ll really come unstuck.

While I’m a seven, I can console myself that all those men who aren’t flocking to my door just don’t know what they’re missing. If I start thinking I’m a minger, it’s all over. I might as well rent the granny flat and start visiting the cat sanctuary right now.

So what is it that’s holding all the fellas back? Am I just hanging out in the wrong places? (Like, my life, for example?) Do I look unfriendly? Inclined to rebuff all unsolicited advances? What??? What is it that all my loved-up friends have that I’m sadly lacking?

Friends posit the theory that I’m too confident; that I give the impression of being too happy in my singledom. But, really, short of wearing a t-shirt reading, “Single and searching”, what can I do about that? Surely walking round with a long face and widow’s weeds isn’t the way to snare the man of your dreams?

Anyhow, if I keep this up for a few more years, the only thing I’m going to be lacking is a zimmer frame and a set of support stockings.

Gentle reader, YOU can stop this happening. Parcel up your unwanted menfolk and send them my way.

There’s got to be one of them who’ll find a minger with a zimmer an irresistible proposition…

Internet dating, GSOHs and bad apples

Reading an email from yet another friend who appears to have found her Prince Charming, I’m feeling a bit defeated on the dating front.

Sitting having a coffee with a sympathetic girlfriend, we once again bemoan the lack of decent fellas in our life, our city, our hemisphere. We spend a few minutes analysing the unaccompanied male clients of the coffee shop, of whom there are, it has to be said, rather few.

In fact, there are just three: an elderly gentleman with a zimmer frame; an eccentric-looking middle-aged man with vivacious tufts of hair coming from his ears; and the workman who’s fixing the electrics, and is wearing a wedding ring.

This pretty much sums up the state of available men round here.

“You’ve not done any internet dating,” says my mate.

I wrinkle my nose. It’s not that I’m against internet dating per se, it’s just that I’m not sure it’s right for me.

There are so many potential Romeos online that you just can’t read every profile. So, inevitably, you start judging by appearances. A flawed strategy if ever there was one. By the tenth profile, I’m rejecting people on the basis of their dodgy jumper or the fact that they chose to be photographed with a horse.

In the real world, I’d never dream of choosing my mate by their appearance. Yes, they have to have something that appeals to you, but that isn’t necessarily their looks. In fact, I quite like the surprising oddballs – the ones whose appeal sneaks up on you until you realise you’ve developed a massive crush and would do anything to snog them, despite the fact that they possess a succession of dodgy jumpers and insist on bringing a horse to the pub.

I once met a guy who was so offbeat, and to be honest, so creepy, I just couldn’t imagine who on earth would ever find him attractive. Turns out that person was me, and I ended up dating him for more than two years.

That’s the kind of magnetism you just can’t identify through an online profile, where everyone’s so keen to put themselves in a good light that they eradicate all their foibles, and you’re left with a cookie-cutter collection of guys who invariably ‘easy-going’, with a ‘GSOH’ and who enjoy ‘cuddling up on the sofa with a movie and glass of wine’. Bleugh! Give me a quirky weirdo any day.

Another reason for my reluctance with internet dating is my inability to identify the Bad Apples. Being an open and chatty sort, I can get on with almost anyone for an evening. So it seems entirely reasonable to spend another evening together, then another… and then when I finally realise that I’m wasting my time and the guy’s a control freak/psycho/all-round weirdo, my mates express incredulity that I ever gave him more than five minutes of my time.

I guess it just gets to the point where you’re so grateful that someone – anyone! – might find you attractive enough to date, that you’re willing to give them the benefit of your many doubts … just in case they turn out to be The One. Never mind that they still live with their mother and consider the careful logging of train numbers to be a perfectly valid pastime.

But since my biggest problem is actually meeting single guys of an appropriate age range, maybe I should brush aside my worries and get myself online. I guess the worst that can happen is that I end up dating a trainspotting mummy’s boy with a pet horse and a selection of dodgy jumpers.

And really, in these straightened times, what single lady wouldn’t jump at the chance?

The (gasp!) semi-suitable man

In the midst of my unparalleled success with pensioners and men too young to shave, you could be forgiven for thinking that I never meet anyone that remotely floats my boat.

Not so.

I recently met a young (but not too young) man who both floated my boat AND set my heart a-flutter.

In fact, he’s an old friend (perfect: no nasty skeletons in the closet), who’s quite tall, quite dark and reasonably handsome. So far, so good.

He’s also intelligent, great company and has all his own teeth. Excellent. What’s more, he’s within FIVE years of my own age (younger, but that’s fine). He’s even got himself a fitness regime since we last got together and is looking buffer than ever.

And what’s more, I think maybe – just maybe – he likes me, too.

So, you might be wondering, what on earth’s stopping me?

Well, if I’m being picky (but let’s be clear, I’m not) I’d say he’s a workaholic who’s not especially chivalrous, but I can live with that. And since we’re both a bit backwards in coming forwards, I’m not 100% sure that he’s as keen as I am. Although you don’t spend two hours on the phone to someone you feel only ‘meh’ about … do you?

No, the real stumbling block of this relationship is a small, but not insignificant, factor that effectively puts the kibosh on any potential romance: he lives in Australia.

Now, I know that the world has never been smaller, etc., etc., but Oz is still an incredibly loooong way away. And the irony of the situation is that we got together a few times while he was still in Europe, but the sparks only flew on my Christmas hols Down Under, where he moved just a short time ago.

Ever get the feeling Cupid’s laughing up his sleeve?

In an ideal world, we’d be able to hang out a bit, enjoy each other’s company, see how things go. But these simple things become a little more challenging when your potential beau isn’t even in the same hemisphere.

Even assuming that he IS as keen as I am, he can’t come here (he’s contracted for another year or two) and I can’t go there (trying to prise anything but a holiday visa from the Australian authorities is like trying to steal a joey from a mummy roo’s pouch), so it’s hard to see where this will end.

Is it worth having a crush on someone who’s 10,000 miles away?

For now, Skype is our friend, and we chat for hours at inconvenient times of the day and night.
All I can do is enjoy his company while it’s there … and give Cupid a black eye when I see him.

Stupid Cupid goes AWOL … again

Ah, Valentine’s Day. As predicted, I can still cruise through the barren hallway, unencumbered by deliveries of flowers, chocolates, or fluffy, heart-shaped geegaws.

But no matter. Like any sane and rational human being, I turn to my horoscope to provide some pertinent and insightful commentary on the events of the day.

Scorpio.
For that is me – the most passionate of all signs – currently reduced by circumstances from a vibrant, lascivious flame to a damp squib, sputtering in the grass.

You may set yourself up for disappointment by idealising love and romance.
Well, I’m a girl, so I suppose that’s pretty much par for the course. If we didn’t idealise love and romance, there’s a whole heap of dudes out there who’d still be languishing in singledom. It’s just a shame that the fellas aren’t equipped with the same rose-tinted spectacles…

It’s all too easy to be blinded by the bright light of possibilities and lose touch with what’s actually occurring.
That is, just because it’s Valentine’s Day, you might start thinking that there really could be a secret admirer out there, who’s been saving himself for this special day, and is about to shower you with treats and affection. Get over it.

However, if you’re willing to face the truth…
Girl, Brad Pitt ain’t gonna come knocking. Or at least not today.

…your special gift is your natural ability to see beauty where someone else would get distracted by the imperfections.
Forget the prince, settle for the frog. It’s all you’re getting.

Just acknowledging the potential now could be sufficient to make something magical happen.
Squint a bit. The frog might not look so bad after all. There really might be light at the end of that tunnel – don’t give up hope!

Hmmmff. Dumb-ass Cupid’s aimed wide again and my stars tell me to console myself with a frog.

To be honest, this is no great surprise.

But today I have out-smarted Cupid. My plans for the lovers’ day are full of people I love, but there’s not a potential suitor among them: I’ll be spending the evening in the company of friends – a various bunch of assorted singletons – sharing good food, good conversation and maybe even a good old moan.

And I reckon that’s as much as anybody can really expect from Valentine’s Day.

Love is … Body Combat

Today, as I was leaving the house, a casual comment thrown over my shoulder to my housemate made me realise that I’ve been single for Far Too Long.

“Will you be around for dinner?” was the innocent question.

“Probably not,” I replied. “It’s Body Combat tonight – the highlight of my week!”

For the uninitiated, Body Combat is a high-intensity aerobic work-out, based on martial arts moves. That is, it exhausts you, and makes you sweat. A lot.

Now, I don’t want to draw any uncouth parallels, but surely, if I were not single this wouldn’t be the highlight of my week? A highlight, possibly. But THE highlight? Dear Lord!

It’s not as if my social life isn’t active: five or six nights a week, I can be found meeting friends for dinner, for coffee, for cinema trips and countless other stimulating and cultural activities. There are plenty of day trips, city breaks and weekends in the countryside, quite apart from the hectic gym schedule. In short, I’m bloody busy.

And maybe now we’re getting to the crux of the problem; maybe I’m just too busy to find a man.

Because the cold truth of it is this: if I had to choose between a blind date and hurling myself sweatily around the gym, I’d almost certainly choose the latter. Sad, but true. Now, whether this is some kind of self-sabotage, or merely a silent comment on the calibre of male I’ve encountered lately, I can’t be sure.

One of the Great Platitudes of Singledom is the old chestnut that you should get out more, take an evening class, join a gym. Believe me, I have done all of the above and more. The only way I could spend more time out of the house is if I went to live under the bridge with the Three Billy Goats Gruff.*

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve met some great people at the gym. But the only ones that fall into the category of Likely Singles are weedy-looking chaps that I could probably break with one swipe of my fist, or the serial grunters in the corner whose boobs, muscle or no, are twice the size of mine. There MUST be some normal guys out there, but they obviously don’t keep the schedule that I do.

To be honest, it’s probably for the best. Imagine if he was a devoted Zumba-goer, just as reluctant to cede his fix as I am. We’d never see each other.

One of my exes was, in fact, a dedicated salsero. Co-ordinating our schedules was quite a task, made all the more difficult by my irrational and pathological hatred of salsa. There were sighs of relief all round when he finally found a class that coincided with mine; our diaries were suddenly vast, snowy fields of potential, just waiting to be filled with theatre trips and cosy dinners for two.

But now, my schedule is already bursting at the seams, and I’m not sure I have time to accommodate anyone else. Or at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

In the meantime, if you happy to know a bright and buff bloke with a serious Body Combat habit, be sure to pass him my way…

*Upon reflection, I think the Billy Goats Gruff crossed the bridge, while the troll lived under it. But no matter. You get the idea.

Valentine, schmalentine. Bah, humbug!

And so, the annual humiliation ritual that is Valentine’s Day is almost upon us again…

For the loved-up, this is a matchless opportunity to express your devotion to your other half by presenting them with the trite triumvirate of a sickily sentimental/whimisically cute/just plain nauseating card, “premium” chocolates and slightly sad-looking red roses, retailing at nine times the market value.

Piling into a restaurant with an overpriced special menu and harassed waiting staff is optional, but if you’re going for home catering, you’d better be sure to put on a spread worthy of a Michelin star, presented with a finesse that’s usually reserved for visiting dignitaries. No pressure, now.

Cynical? But of course. Shame on you if you expected anything less.

For the rest of us, the ‘joy’ of Valentine’s Day is inescapable. No matter how certain you are of your singleton status, there’s still a small part of you that hopes that this year, things will be different: this year, there’ll be a secret admirer that will tire of the unbearable burden of keeping their devotion a secret and will unleash a cascade of love that starts with a shinily-wrapped something, delivered to your door on the morning of the 14th.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I still bound down the stairs with a hopeful glint in my eye.

I’m not sure whether this is down to living in Italy where, as the only natural blonde for miles around, I was routinely lavished with treats and sweetmeats, or my mum’s persistence in mailing me a Valentine’s card every year up to, and including, the year that I turned 24.

Either way, the last few years have brought little but disappointment, and I’m starting to get a bit churlish about it all. There’s only so many all-female ‘alternative Valentine’ get-togethers you can throw before you want to deliver a well-aimed swipe at Cupid and his ineffectual bow-slinging.

I look around and I wonder to myself, am I really any less loveable than all the happily coupled-up folk I see around me? I mean, I know I’m not the sort of fluffy little being that men rush to protect, but neither was Cruella de Vil and even she bagged herself a man. (Oh yes, she did. He was a furrier, who kept her in the manner to which she had become accustomed.)

However – bar any last-minute declarations of undying love – while the rest of you spoon and swoon, I’ll be attending an alternative soirée for the tragically single once again.

Valentine, schmalentine, that’s what I say. Love hearts and flowers? Bah, humbug!