Dating: I'm the Invisible woman
Single, female and over 45. In today's sexual market...
There are two facts, it seems to me, that are indisputable. First, a single woman of a certain age -- whether a divorcée, a spinster, or a widow -- is a mere plankton in the food chain of sexuality and the marketplace for relationships. She is flimflam, a nuisance, an embarrassment of landfill.
An available man of any sort, of any age -- middle-aged and even old -- is a prized object, a trophy, a thing of speculation and wonder.
I talk about the trophies, but they are in reality in such short supply that they remain under the radar. Oh, you may say, there are plenty of single men. Well, I confess there may be a few but not so you would notice.
What I am talking about are available men that are not Married Men Hunting or Single For A Reason, ie, insane, commitment-phobic, ugly, sexually diseased, hellishly promiscuous, arrogant, humourless, boring or teenagers.
I am talking about available men that are in the realms of possibility. Of them there is none. N-O-N-E. And I should know. I am plankton -- The Plankton -- and it's freezing down here and no one can tell me otherwise.
A man can pick from a wider pool of women -- his age and under. I have a friend who is in her late thirties and lives with and has children by a man in his mid-sixties. He is paunchy and is not especially rich. He is married but has been separated from his wife for years. He is neurotic, critical and fussy.
My friend loves him, after a fashion. They argue a lot and she is not particularly happy yet counts herself lucky. He plucked her out of a richesse of willing women. She is seen as "lucky" for being with him, whereas I think he should thank his lucky stars that he is with someone as wonderful as she is. She's a decade younger than me. What hope have I?
I, The Plankton, am on the wrong side of 45 and have been divorced for a while. My figure is not textbook. I am slim, if not in that tall, chopstick sort of way. Friends say I am gorgeous and willowy. Maybe I can be, on good days. I have a small waist, arms that, if not sinewy, are slender. I have hair and it is not grey. My tits are my own and my nipples don't rub my tummy button. I have children and I don't hate my ex-husband. I loved him and perhaps still do. I am not expensive and I can make folk laugh.
People tell me every day that "Of course you will meet someone". It is a mere platitude. I say: No I won't, where? They say I am "not ready" for a relationship and when I am, "it will happen out of nowhere, when you are least expecting it".
Whether I am "ready" or not is immaterial. I could be readier than all the women in the world and still there would be no men.
A divorced friend says that since she moved into a new town the only people she has met are couples and women and kids. She has had coffee with one woman friend 73 times, but has barely had cause to speak to a man in all this time, except her happily married, obese builder.
An attractive 46, she visited me the other day and said she wondered if she had a lack of self-awareness issue and, in fact, resembled the Elephant Woman? "I would just like a man to go to the cinema with once every three weeks, or once a month. Is that so much to ask?"
I have loftier hopes but I am obviously thinking way too far out of the box: I want to be with someone. I loved my husband and loved being married. I might have another 40 years or so left in me and I don't want to do them alone.
I have said it a second time: the unsayable. I am a woman heading into my late forties and I want a loving relationship with a man. This is unsayable because no one wants to know about the hopes and yearnings of landfill.
There's a whiff of desperation about it. A plankton's very existence is awkward for everyone, even threatening in some indefinable way. Plus the appalling possibility that a middle-aged withered female may be missing sex along with the committed relationship that dare not speak its name.
So it is that married men pity us; married women have wifely, weddingly faces that smile at us and the smiles say: "I am trying very hard here to look sympathetic and kind and generous and say all the right things, but THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I."
There will be some women who will strike me down in protest, but it is my belief that any woman on her own would rather not be on her own. Is that such an outlandish statement? I suppose there may be a few who genuinely do not want a relationship. But this is only because they have been abused in some way, or have given up hope entirely and have had to plumb solitude for its solace, or have a sophisticated notion of the empowerment of solitude.
No, for the majority of lone women, while we can all see that being alone has its advantages, we would infinitely prefer the love of a man. She might say she doesn't but that is because she has to. To admit you want a man, especially if you are plankton, is to scare this already scarce commodity into the ether.
There is no greater humiliation than being plankton who are known to be searching. By very definition, plankton are searching for men, but to come out with it, to be up front and admit it, well, you might as well be dead. You may think -- what planet is this Plankton living on? This is the modern world! Anything goes! Internet dating is mainstream! All stigma obliterated!
But I disagree.
Men and women can talk in graphic detail about their finances, bodily functions and their sexual idiosyncrasies. Masturbation is now ripe for discussion on daytime . And yet a woman over 45 cannot admit that she is on the hunt for a companion. To do so is sexual, social and romantic suicide.
So I want to speak out for all planktons -- in denial or otherwise -- who have never had a voice for fear of the shame. I am starting a blog to give voice to the thoughts, feelings, humiliations, frustrations, miseries, observations, anger, fears and hopes of those of us who feel completely alone and freakish.
I am trying not to be shy and want, in principle, to use my real name, but in practice have plumped for anonymity. I find my plankton status too embarrassing and painful and, of course, humiliating to share openly with the world.
If I ever find a husband, then maybe I will come out. But don't hold your breath. There are other people's husbands aplenty -- the world is brimming with them -- but I am not about to steal someone else's. I want a husband I can call my own.
It's not going to happen any time soon. Right now I have two golden tickets to see one of my favourite comedians on tour. And not one available man on my books, let alone one I can ask to accompany me.
I have a long road, and so, alas, I am not planning to reveal my real name any time soon.
The Plankton is a member of the new Mumsnet Blogging Network, which has just launched this week. mumsnet.com/bloggers. Read her at planktonlife.wordpress.com