All change

I’m still trying to fathom how everything can change so quickly in the world of singledom (and single-mum-dom).

I have dipped my toe into the (very) shallow waters of match.com in the last week or so. I know I was feeling like my self confidence had been knocked after the complete lack of interest from the Scot so even though I was being philosophical and positive about single life I had this little niggle, kind of like an itch that could only be scratched by some positive attention from the opposite sex.

I had no intention (still don’t) of paying any money so a lot of the functionality of the site is out of bounds but I’ve discovered that I can have a full profile and full searchability and if someone has opted for this “connect” package I am able to message them for free on my part.

To be honest there’s not a huge amount of them but I’ve had a couple of chats. The first guy looked good in his pic but he was just so wooden to talk to. It was dullsville. I had a message from a 21 year old saying “age is just a number, right?”. Wow. I was tempted to get back to him saying “if you were 38 then, yes, I would most definitely be agreeing, age is just a number, but I am literally old enough to be your mother!”, however I opted not to reply as I didn’t want to enter into any kind of dialogue.

Then over the weekend I finally got talking to someone who seemed intelligent and normal who is actually relatively nearby but after an hour or so of chatting when it got to the bit where he might have suggested a date he just disappeared which I thought was a bit rude but only to be expected with internet dating.

He messaged the next day to say he’d fallen asleep but we had literally exchanged messages a minute apart. Meh!

Since the Meetup night out I went to a couple of weeks ago I’ve exchanged a couple of messages with one of the guys who books and organises the events. I only very briefly met him on the night but he got in touch with me a while back to ask if I wanted to book up for a comedy night coming up. At the time I did wonder whether he asked because he liked me or just because he was trying to bump the numbers up.

He then sent me a friend request on Facebook and started following me on Instagram. Plot thickens. We exchanged another couple of messages on FB – just general chit chat. He posted a status update over the weekend saying that he was watching the movie “12 Years a Slave” which has been on my to-watch list for a while so I commented asking if it was good and he DM’d me.

He asked about my taste in movies and whether or not I liked the Alien movies. I mentioned Alien Covenant which is just out here in the UK and he then asked me if I’d fancy going to see it and so I thought, why not?

We then proceeded to have a pretty long conversation actually finding out some stuff about each other. He’s the same age as me and he doesn’t have any kids of his own. He tentatively asked about my relationship status and I mentioned the divorce without going into too much detail. I mentioned the kids (he already knew I had kids) and a little bit about needing a combination of babysitters, parents and the ex in order to have a social life.

At that point I was wondering if he was thinking ‘heck, what am I getting myself into here?!’ but he persevered. He told me he had wanted to talk to me at the meetup night out but didn’t in the end as I was the newbie. I guess he meant he didn’t want to come across like someone who would be all over any new girl who happened to turn up!

To be honest it went completely under my radar. He’s not really what I would call my type at all but I like him, he’s easy to talk to and interesting and outgoing and I’m flattered that he likes me – it definitely is an ego-boost. It also makes a lovely change from just about every single guy I have come across through my admittedly limited experience of internet dating.

So we’ve got a date. Alien Covenant. Friday night. I don’t know what it is I want from this. Right now I think I just need someone who likes me to date with no expectations. I don’t want to introduce anyone to my children again – not the way I did with my ex – so soon and with so many expectations which were trashed for all of us after a few short months.

 

Overcoming loneliness

I’ve really been doing some self examination lately (well, I am reading Eat Pray Love which has got to be the bible of self examination, albeit personal to the situation of the author herself at that moment in time).

I’ve admitted before that I have a tendency to bounce between relationships – 2 years consecutive is the longest I have been single for over the course of the past 23 years. Once again I find myself seeking out a partner, however it’s not quite so easy this time around. I am older, I have young children, I’m in the middle of a divorce, I have less money to throw at dating sites, I have a lot less time, the stakes are so much higher – it’s not really happening.

I guess it’s time to figure out why I feel the need to continue with this relentless pursuit.

Some things about me:

  • I have lived on my own with my children now for over 8 months (after a 5 month stint with my parents).
  • I pay all the bills including privately rented accommodation;
  • I do 90 per cent of the parenting and the kids are pretty happy, well fed, clean, on top of their homework and want for nothing;
  • besides the wobble with my eldest a couple of months ago, their behaviour is pretty good – standard for their ages at any rate;
  • my family have been super supportive and we have a summer holiday abroad to look forward to with my mum (and possibly some good friends), plus I am lucky enough to be able to fall back on my parents for babysitting and consequently have a fair few social events lined up this summer;
  • I have proved to myself that I can tackle practical tasks that in the past I might have assumed were ‘men’s work’ – I put together a double bed which came completely flat packed without so much as someone to pass me the screwdriver, I can fit a bike rack on my car and I now mow the lawn and unblock the drains and put the bins out;
  • I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company whether I be cooking, writing, reading a good book, watching an unmissable box-set or movie, shopping or treating myself to a Costa latte;
  • I have never been able to sleep well sharing a bed – I am super conscious of another person in my space and I love having a room of my own, decorated to my taste – somewhere I see as my sanctuary;
  • I have a can-do attitude when it comes to meeting new people and joining groups so even if I am child-free and have a whole day to myself I know I have options even if my old friends and family are busy.
  • I have lots of friends, near far and online.

All of these things add up to me being self-sufficient – i.e. I don’t need a partner and in some ways a partner would complicate my life – I might get less sleep and have to learn to compromise again when it comes to all the little decisions that I have found I am quite capable of making on my own.

I find for the most part that I am happy, I’m certainly busy with the children a lot of my time and I don’t often find myself at a loss for something to do.

The times when I feel down tend to be days alone with the children or evenings at home alone after the children have gone to bed. A great sense of loneliness settles upon me and I feel hopeless then and depressed. I’m a practical person though and I know from experience that all it takes to overcome these negative feelings is what they call a ‘meaningful connection’ with another person. That person might be a good friend or family member – someone who I know has got my back emotionally, rather than someone who doesn’t really know me who is only available for small talk.

I’ve got a list of about ten people who know me inside out and hopefully at least one of them will always be there at the end of the phone or online for a chat.

Its also a matter of being super-organised when it comes to planning play dates and get-togethers in advance in order to reduce the amount of time I have to be alone with the kids. It sounds awful but some Saturdays I just dread.

I know that there is obviously more to this desire for a partner than just overcoming loneliness though. Sex of course. Lately though I wonder whether it’s that big a deal. It can be fun, it can be really enjoyable. On a chemical level it’s amazing – Oxytocin highs – what’s not to like? But does my life suffer without it? Not so sure.

One of the biggest things that you can only really get through a romantic relationship though is that feeling of being really special. When you are someone else’s ‘significant other and they only have eyes for you and they treat you to romantic gestures – that kind of love makes you feel so secure and confident in yourself and having experienced that and then having had it taken away again leaves you feeling, well, the opposite of special I guess.

I’m not sure if there is any way of substituting something else for the feeling of self-worth you get from being loved in that particular way but finding that love is starting to feel like one of the labours of Hercules.

I read this morning that Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love got divorced from her husband of 12 years last summer (2016). This was the Brazilian guy she met in Indonesia at the end of the memoir, the love affair with whom kind of signifies something like a happy ever after for all us emotional gap-pluggers out here in the real world.

She’s now a lesbian and who could have predicted that? Which just goes to show, we cannot steam-roller a path for ourselves – what will be will be.

It’s a no from me

So, yet more navel gazing from the frontlines of the confusing, frustrating, disappointing world of internet dating.

If you read my last post then you know that I was vaguely excited by what I’d considered a ‘good’ date yesterday. I was in the dark about how The Scot felt about me or what would happen next given hectic schedules on both sides. I needn’t have worried.

After about 8 hours I sent a brief message saying I’d enjoyed meeting him and suggesting that if he could get a night off soon then I would attempt to do the same, I got nothing back. At least not until 15 hours later when I receive the fairly lame “It was nice to meet you too, Layla. I’ll try and get a night off soon Xx”.

The first thing that irritated me about this was that, well, Layla isn’t my real name but I’ve got the kind of name that is shortened to the first three letters – always. I don’t feel comfortable if someone uses my full name – it’s not Elizabeth but if it was, and I was used to being called Liz then you can see how formal and arms length it would seem to use the long version. That’s the first thing he did.

I had said “I really enjoyed meeting you today [Scot]” and he responded “It was nice to meet you”. Not the same I’m afraid, in fact generically polite and dispassionate.

Despite these little niggles though the one thing that spoke volumes was the time scale. It quickly became clear to me that this was more than just someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ messaging. And once I had come to that realisation, I began to unpick everything – total deconstruction of the dating process, my expectations, what I want, what I need, everything.

Before I had even decided what the time lag was all about I already knew that whatever, it meant something to me – it meant that, to coin a phrase, he just wasn’t that into me. And that’s OK – disappointing initially, but OK. And actually, on reflection, I begin to see that there was something fundamentally lacking in our interaction, something which is really quite important to me: humour. There was no banter, no flirting, no naughty twinkle in anyone’s eye.

To be fair I’ve got myself in trouble before by my attraction to men who have a bit of the joker about them, and I realised that when I was scrolling through one dating website the first time I was even narrowing my search down to men who described themselves as ‘a big kid’. Then I happened to stumble across the profile of the Husband and noticed that he describes himself as ‘a big kid’. Oh dear.

Heaven knows I don’t want another child in my life but a sense of humour, the signs that the other person doesn’t take themselves too seriously, the impression that they enjoy the fun stuff whilst still being able to man up to the challenges we all face in our day to day lives and switch on a bit of depth for a real emotional connection – that’s a pretty big deal to me. Unless someone is naturally that way inclined then I find it difficult to feel truly at ease in their company.

I am a self-deprecating kind of person, I LOVE to laugh – live comedy is one of my absolute favourite things to watch. It’s part of my history, growing up as a regular audience member on the London Comedy Circuit. I would rather discuss my favourite funny films and shows than discuss politics.*

I would rather go to bed with someone who makes me laugh (not like that!) because it puts you at your ease and it’s the beginning of ‘playful’ and I like playful. All that intense Fifty Shades bullshit just makes me cringe.

So, yeah, all that to say, this whole experience has started with me feeling rejected and ended with me feeling grateful – grateful to be given the opportunity to re-assess what it is I need. Grateful that I have the ability to keep it all in perspective and not to take it personally, because I know that I would have dated this guy and I know now that it wouldn’t have taken.

  • I do talk about politics and political issues do matter to me but if I just put this out there: Ben Elton, circa 1986 and ‘a little bit of politics’… that’s the way I like it…

 

Post date analysis

Today I had my first ever day time/ coffee shop date. It was as much to do with convenience as anything based on two hectic parenting and work schedules but in reality it worked really well – no chance of letting alcohol do any talking (Latte doesn’t have quite the same voice in my head 🙂 ), and a chance to see the other person in broad daylight which is never a bad thing.

I went in expecting – hmm, not sure really. As I said in my previous post I had my reservations based on pre-conceived ideas I got from looking at his dating profile – pictures in particular – which give off the impression of being perhaps a bit of a player?

We’d had so little communication between us as well – I basically just took his lead and his texts were perfunctory so we agreed to meet, we imparted our availability, agreed on a date last Monday, then didn’t communicate at all until last night (Thursday) when I texted to ask if he still wanted to meet (half expecting him to say ‘thanks but no thanks’). He said he did, we agreed on a time and a place and that was it.

We met at 12pm in a little coffee shop about ten minutes drive from both of us and when I arrived a couple of minutes late he was already there and immediately got up, kissed me ‘continental style’ (he used to live in Spain & Italy) and went off to buy me a drink.

I was so relieved that he actually looked like his pictures after the last guy! We got talking, there were no awkward silences, he didn’t dominate the conversation although he probably did do more of the talking than me but that’s OK because I was super nervous.

He is interesting, we are completely on the same page politically, he also has an acrimonious relationship with his ex which, whilst not a good thing per se, was kind of re-assuring – I hate talking to people who have super-amicable relationships with their ex-partners – it makes me feel like even more of a failure!

He works nights, four on, four off as an aircraft engineer and he has his kids (7 and 11) living with him for the whole of his four off. He seems to genuinely enjoy the time he spends with his kids and described how happy he feels when he sees them again after four days apart.

He has a creative side and it sounds like he enjoys cooking as much as I do and to about the same level!

I found him attractive although there was no real flirting as such but maybe that was because we were in a coffee shop and actually, if he does like me as much as I like him then that is a really refreshing and respectful way of behaving on a first date.

I could also tell that he is a gentleman because he jumped up to open the door for a lady coming in with a toddler and a baby in a pram at one point and I got the feeling that that was his style, not that he was just doing it to create a good impression.

So now we’re in that weird ‘after-date’ place where presumably he probably has about as much idea of whether I like him as I have in reverse. All I have to go on is that he suggested we meet up again and I agreed and said next time we should have an evening date. We haven’t made an actual date as such.

If he does like me then we are going to have our work cut out for us trying to find mutually suitable times but I’m guessing that we would figure it out somehow. He would have the same problem with anyone and so would I and at least we understand exactly what challenges the other is going through.

I’m still kind of buzzing from the experience – whilst it’s not the same kind of buzzing you get from being with someone for the first time who you know feels the same way, or having properly kissed, held hands or anything, it’s a tempered kind of cautious little happy feeling.

I’ve got a lot going on at the moment socially (weirdly!), having enjoyed the Meetup social I attended last weekend and put my name down for two more events in May – an Ed Sheeran tribute in a pub and a stand up comedy and pizza night, plus I have a curry & practice run night hike next Friday with my team for the Light the Lakes experience in June.

My parents have agreed to have the kids for all three of those nights in anticipation of the husband actually playing a role in the kids’ lives at some point (obviously not with any kind of pre warning).

Is there enough time left over to start some kind of relationship with this guy (let’s call him The Scot for now – he’s Scottish)?

I’m dying to know whether he likes me or not. I’ll probably text him later on tonight and see what I get back. In the meantime, I’ve got a Teddy Bear’s Picnic to attend…

Step away from the Comfort Zone

It’s been Mayday bank holiday weekend for the past three days. It’s Monday evening now and it’s been five days since the ex dropped out again all bar his brief little attempt to talk me back into a commit-free relationship on his terms (which I declined this time).

I knew that I needed to fill my weekend up with action and social interaction and activities. Crucially knowing that I had childfree time I wanted to make the most of it and where I would have been doing nothing more interesting than another hanging out with the ex “for old time’s sake”, I wanted to prove to myself that being single and making choices which open up new experiences for me is actually really valuable and it’s the part of my life that’s been missing for the longest time.

Last week I discovered a local tennis club and made some enquiries which led to me heading down there on Saturday afternoon to check it out. I very nearly ended up walking away without even speaking to anyone but fortunately two lovely guys approached me and said it was no problem for me to stay and join in. I ended up being there for over two hours and playing in three short matches. I came away feeling that it would probably be worth joining but that, whilst the people were relatively friendly, it might take a while to make any real friendships. However, as a way of burning energy, practising my game and getting the kids some lessons it really makes sense. I don’t know if they have “socials” outside of the game but if they do then that would be an added plus.

I returned home to do some cooking, listen to some music and watch an episode of my latest unmissable TV thriller before having a bite to eat and getting myself ready for an evening out with another group of strangers.

During this time I had to really fight my feelings of loneliness. Under other circumstances I would have revelled in these solitary activities but this weekend the final break up with the ex was a little too raw and feeling like I simply didn’t yet belong to the groups I aspire to be a part of made me feel like I was hovering on my own in limbo for a while.

I really felt super nervous about heading off to the Meetup.com social that I’d signed up for. Would it be awkward? How would I know who to approach when I arrived? What if everyone knew each other so well that they were cliquey and exclusive? Nevertheless I was pretty determined to see it through – I do believe that there’s no time like the present and you have to be a bit brave and get out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve anything in this life.

As it was I arrived bang on time and didn’t know who to approach. For a second I floundered but then the one other member of the group who was there caught sight of me and came to my rescue. It was all a little weird to begin with but as more and more people arrived I found myself chatting to one person after another and feeling more and more accepted. Admittedly at one point I did get stuck talking to a bit of a bore but eventually I managed to break away and join in with some of the other girls having a dance to the live music at the venue which was great fun.

By the end of the evening I felt pretty good about the whole thing and one of the more gregarious guys came over and told me that he was impressed that I’d had the courage to just come along not knowing anyone and really get stuck in. I felt proud of myself, and he was right, that first time is the killer – once you’ve conquered that you’re no longer a stranger and next time I will head out feeling excited to meet my new friends rather than nervous.

Weirdly the activity on the dating website I’m signed up to suddenly picked up after about a month of tumbleweed blowing through. A guy I messaged ages ago finally replied after re-subscribing to full membership (without which you are unable to write or open messages). He didn’t seem very chatty so I decided to cut to the chase and suggest meeting up in person for a coffee rather than entering into one of those excruciating ping pong message matches where delayed responses become a source of soul searching agony or it all fizzles out before it’s even begun.

Now I have a pencilled in date for the end of the week which is kind of awesome and terrifying in equal measure.

If I’m honest I have a few reservations about this guy. He is a single dad with kids just a little older than mine which is great but I’m having a hard time figuring out how the hell we would manage to see each other if he’s either working or solo parenting. Also, he has a kind of “come to bed” vibe going on in a few of his photos and I suspect he may be one of those guys who isn’t really looking for a relationship, just a string of dates to round out a bachelor lifestyle. That is also borne out by the fact that under “type of relationship sought” he’s picked “let’s see what happens” from the drop down box.

Either way, it’s just another stepping stone – it’s an ego boost just to have a relatively attractive man even want to meet up with me (there are probably a load of other girls on his list but we live one town over from each other so it’s a nothing to lose scenario I guess). Plus I’m slowly beginning to see the merits in meeting a variety of people and not desperately clinging on to the idea of true love with the first person I happen to run into. I’ve lived my entire romantic life like that and I can only look back and wonder whether I somehow shut the door on a potential soulmate by settling for the path of least resistance.

So, I think I can safely say that it’s been a full on couple of days (including two days over at my parents with the boys and a roast with my sister, brother in law and niece).
Whatever the future holds i think I’ve proved to myself that life can be full and whatever you make if it if you just have the determination to put yourself out there.