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Health Warning: Dating damages your health

12 Feb

Well online dating anyway.
I know a couple who met eight years ago through online dating. They were both looking for love, both wanting a family and found each other… cue fairytale ending of marriage, kids etc.
It’s a true story, the couple are still together, the online dating thing worked and for a while it was a great resource for those wanting to find love. But I have not heard a story like that for a long time.

Now I hear nothing short of horror stories. It seems to me that men have cottoned on to the fact that they can use the internet as an online sex bank – it’s the middle aged equivalent of the student meat market. They’ve realised that women, especially those my age want to meet someone to have a relationship with and their male counterparts are milking the proverbial cow. One bloke equates glasses of wine drunk with a ‘putting out’ ratio – where three big glasses is usually followed by the full monty. And of course, because there are plenty more fish in the sea, there’s no need for any kind of relationship proper or any comeback.

I don’t have a problem with the concept of online dating scene per se – it is unbelievably hard to meet people in the rush of modern life. But there should be some ground rules. It’s not that I want to see everyone paired off and married with 2.4 kids. But what I do KNOW for sure is that my girl friends who are doing this are now 40 and are fragile. And, although some might think they are in control, I would argue that they are being taken advantage of.
All of them are powerful, confident women in the outside world. They hold down fantastic jobs in a variety of fields, but emotionally the dating game has taken it’s toll and they are raw.

They want to believe but know they shouldn’t. Every time there’s a glimmer of hope, that long held dream of a family or partner to share life’s ups and downs with is fired up, the long subdued embers of a fire given oxygen to be able to wish and hope again.

Recently no less than two girlfriends have had their online dates come up with the line “my mother’s dying” after a couple of dates, only to find them back online the next day (yes you can tell). A few months later both men recontacted my friends, up for a second go. Could it be their mothers had both made miraculous recoveries or rather that they had had multiple dates on the go and the mother line is essentially a way of putting girls in a holding pattern whilst they give one a test run. When that doesn’t work out, they return to the rest of the pack and pick another one.

So the women go out with them again, open up again, allow themselves to be vulnerable again and then, inevitably it seems, the bloke’s mother starts dying again or they just bugger off without a word. The women’s hopes, having being raised are dashed, once again.

The latest cruel blow is a chap who, as he left my friend, having been basically living in her apartment for 2 months, used the excuse of – “we’re not physically compatible. I don’t feel physically attracted to you” (Clearly he’d hidden that very well considering they’d been having nightly fun n’ games).

So despite warnings to keep her guard up, not let him in emotionally, his comments hit the jugular. She’s been on a diet since September, has lost 3 stone, and was just feeling good about herself for the first time in years. He knew all this, yet he emotionally sucked her in, gave her a taste of couple-dom and then spat her out in the cruellest manner possible, by criticising her physical attractivenss – ie by blaming her for the failure.

Many 40-ish single women question why it is her that is single and not, well me for instance. They question their looks, their character, their nature. Everything. Self-doubt is everywhere, except for the workplace.

This man not just stuck the knife in but he twisted it too. He has emotionally battered my friend. She is shattered by it, her exaltation at her weight loss replaced by “what’s the point. I liked having someone to cook for and come home to and make porridge with. I hate my life” etc. I would like to batter him in the same way – or physically – either would do.

I fear that the ease of online dating has made many men forget that we are all fragile humans and no matter how much it says on one’s biog that we’re easy going and carefree, very few of us are and we are not there to be chewed up and spat out. Being rejected hurts whether you’re 16 or 60.. I wonder how long online dating will continue to be used – by women anyway – when the men they meet on it treat them with such flagrant disregard. I do know a few who have stopped already because of all of the above.

In the immortal words of Bonnie Tyler I would like to know “where have all the good men have gone?”

It’s not that I don’t have the answer

12 Feb

Dear God!
Sometimes I feel like a moron. I’ve always been bad at quizzes, but tonight I watched University Challenge for the first time in a decade or so.
It’s not that I didn’t know the answers to the questions.. hell I can hardly pull an answer out of my mental bag for a local pub quiz, let alone compete with Trinity Cambridge.
My disappointment in myself lay in the fact that I could barely concentrate on or even understand the question. “In 1800 when the sum of xxx was y squared what in fact was the sum of the article… and so on and on.

Totally incomprehensible. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop myself from halfway through the question, thinking “Jeremy your hair’s really grey now” or “oh this green and blacks dark chocolate is really quite orangey.”

Clearly the fact that I can’t even focus on the question means I will never make the dizzy heights of UC or anything remotely intellectual.

Having said that it equally – hopefully – means I won’t ever have to don the Neil-from-The-Young-Ones 70s style hair cut that one boy was sporting on the show.

Cheap shot I know, but it’s one of the few strings left to my bow when the only quiz questions I have confidently answered in the last few years have been …

1. Who lives on the island of Sodor?
2. What fictional mouse dreams up a monster who turns out to exist?

Confirmation of Stereotypes

13 Oct

So we’re selling the flat. Or trying to. “It’s a buyers market”, so I’m told – with a patronising description of what that actually means. “It means there are more buyers than sellers!” No S*** Sherlock.

This means that I have rather unwillingly been thrust into the dirty world of estate agents. Suffice to say that after nearly three weeks of dealing with 12 year olds acting like they do the most important job in the world whilst wearing a) the most ill-fitting shiny suits in the world – boys b) the shortest Primark skirts whilst pretending they’re Prada in the world – girls, I’m sick to the back teeth with the whole thing.

I’m not saying they’re not very bright, but no one ever became an estate agent because they got too many A levels. So far I’ve caught them out lying, cheating, double-crossing and screwing each other over. And it’s only week 3. I don’t know why I’m surprised when they have such a bad reputation, but I really have been astounded at how they have, without exception, confirmed all the negative stereotypes that make them one of the most hated professions out there.

Here’s my list of my favourite blatant estate agent speak so far where, whilst seething, I’ve had to conceal a wry laugh at how ridiculous they sound:

“We have a phrase in this office, ‘buyers are liars'” SO you don’t respect anyone you’re selling to?

“Let me just say, from a father to a mother, I understand” ARGH – please patronise me some more. Hurl

“It’s so cosy” – AKA – TINY, can’t swing a cat.

“I’ve got a really lovely property” AKA I’ve been trying to flog this dead horse for months

“It’s a bit of a doer upper” AKA someone died here after living in this pit for the last 40 years

“It’s a lovely property on Gunnersbury Avenue” AKA – It’s on the north circular

“It’s not under offer” AKA it is under offer, but we’re trying to screw them over and get another one so we get a higher commission

“You could get £500K on Chiswick W4 yourself, that’s why you need an estate agent to get you more.” AKA I’m gonna say anything to get your property on our books.

Incidentally for any agents reading this, I’m not trying to be picky but I do not want any properties:

on the A4, M4 or north circular or any other major arterial roads

backing onto sewage works, train lines, electricity stations

overshadowed by a brick wall

next to a derelict decaying property with or without dodgy tenants living in slum-like conditions

riddled with damp in every room and/or crumbling before ones eyes

in a war zone

Charity Shop pricing is out of touch

1 May

How much?

So I was in a charity shop in Chiswick this morning – which perhaps means they saw me coming – but an M&S cashmere jumper with a pretty significant hole and a stain on the front was on sale for £25. They’re only £60 brand new. I only wanted it as a replacement blanket for Ellie’s ‘blankie’ but for that money I could buy a brand new top in the phase eight sale next door.

I understand that the more money they make the better for the charities they represent and I genuinely don’t begrudge that most of the time, but  they seem to’ve lost all sense of proportion. It used to all be 50p/£1/£2.50 type pricing, which is clearly never going to make anyone any money fast but surely there’s a sensible middle ground somewhere?

They seem to be totally out of touch with the current reality of retail pricing where Primark is selling t-shirts for £2 or £3 while other high street names seem to be having permanent sales, bringing their prices down, in many cases, to below those in the charity shops.

Maybe someone will just do the naughty trick the shop assistant told me about – take the item to the changing room, rip off the tag and swap it with another cheaper item’s tag – clearly bad form.

Needless to say I didn’t swap tags, but nor did I buy it (or the Phase Eight top) and so the charity loses out and so does Ellie, whose current blankie is on it’s last legs, having been reduced to mere threads after 5 1/2 years of loyal loving.

Death becomes her but doesn’t become him

16 Apr

So Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is tomorrow. For all the iron lady stuff, political divisions and high emotions, an elderly woman has died. It is sad, but not tragic as she lived a full life (too full for some) and got to a ripe old age – as they say.

Today I learnt of my husband’s colleague who, aged 58, was killed this morning in a car accident. In a moment – his life was just gone in a flash, and the happiness of his wife and children destroyed and will never be the same.

In fact, his family’s lives will be defined by today. To be taken so suddenly, so young is the harshest blow. This first night without him, knowing he will never return but not comprehending how this will actually feel further down the line, because his clothes still smell of him, his things are still all around, is the cruellest blow.

I will never forget that disbelief and the tears of the first night without my father. As a friend once said – who had also lost their parents in sudden tragedies – welcome to the club no one wants to belong to. Although you learn to get on with life, a little bit of you dies and your heart will forever hold tears.

While others mourn for or riot over Thatcher tomorrow, my heart goes out to that family for his needless death will never make sense, while the untimeliness of it will forever rob them of not only the husband and father they loved, but the feeling of unbridled contentment and happiness.

Pull yourselves together girls. We need to stop pressing ‘self-destruct’

20 Mar

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As children of the 80s we were promised it all. The perfect body, the gorgeous & rich husband, the 2.4 kids, dog, big house, luxury holidays and glamorous career. It was Loads-a-money all over. But reality is a hard mistress.

And guess what – most of our lives have fallen short in one or more areas because, like it or not ‘having it all’ is just not possible for most of us. So when we hit our mid-life (I won’t say crisis – but the point where you look back and reflect on where you thought you might be, where you actually are, and what lies ahead) many of us feel disappointed with our lot.

And the result is to press the self destruct button. But women are sneaky creatures. We don’t just fall apart, we pick one area of our life to let go, lose control or blow out the water, while managing to carry on our daily lives as if nothing is wrong, so no one else can tell.

Take friend A. Super-successful international career girl in mid forties but single who would give it all up in a heartbeat to have a husband and kids – her self-destruct weapon – unprotected sex with random men during her travels and at home, genuinely putting her health (life) at risk.

Take friend B. Again high powered career woman but with family and husband who never gets a moment to stop or breathe. Her self-destruct weapon – she barely eats at all during the day, then binges at night on packets of biscuits and chocolate. Her weight peaks and troughs taking her regularly from a size 10 (on diet shakes) to size 20 when reverting to normal food.

And finally friend C. The stay at home mum who also works, but not to a high level because she is also doing all the family organisation and kids routine. Her self-destruct weapon – alcohol. She can’t wait till 6pm for that glass of wine that inevitably leads to half a bottle or more. She’s not an ‘alcoholic ‘ as such,  she doesn’t get wildly drunk or have raging hangovers that force her to stay in bed, but similarly she can’t not have one, she is the oft-written about middle aged, middle class alcohol dependent – worrying constantly about how much damage the wine is doing to her body, yet unable to stay dry for more than a couple of days.

There are more examples out there no doubt, but it just dawned on me that for those of us affected by this self-destruct tendency, instead of focussing on these negative influences – and they do become a focus of our daily thoughts, be it the “I am/am not having sex with anyone” or the “I can’t wait for my first drink/biscuit” – we need more positives to focus on in our lives.

I for one have done very little to take care of my body since I was single, pre-kids. But since the start of the year, a couple of friends and I have shared a personal trainer – Ron – once a week and it has become the highlight of my week. It has become the ONLY thing I do for myself that I really look forward to in my life which combines both total personal enjoyment, benefits to my body and fitness and has no bad side. It is in fact the opposite of self-destruct – it is rebuilding me.

Women are rubbish at sport

15 Mar

Really?

Well if you talk to the mums and women I know, that’s what you’d believe. Recently I set up a weekly training session with ‘Ron’ – a fabulous trainer who I’d met while working on a feature.

But as a sex, I must confess we are rubbish. Not one of the women I spoke to said: “yeah but watch out as I get really competitive, so be prepared to eat my dust.”

It was all: “Well… I’m really bad at sports/I’m really unfit/I haven’t done any exercise since the birth of Tiddles/ I can’t run….” you get the picture. And I’m not judging them because I include myself in this. I regularly use the lines: “I make a ‘grapevine’ look like Spaghetti hoops” and “I gave up aerobics as I knew my super-bad co-ordination would never improve so I’d be able to actually go in the right direction as the rest of the class.” to belittle my abilities – which as it turns out are not quite as awful as I remember.

It’s just insane and I’m coming across it ALL the time – Many of the women I now know are the women all those articles were written about over International Women’s Day – we are the lost mummies – the professional women who had good careers up till about 35, then had kids and are now floundering in the ridiculous ‘you-can-have-it-all’ mantra we were promised as children of the 80s but clearly doesn’t exist.

But it’s not just these women who have this self doubt – and it’s not just in sports – this was just the latest example.

Over the years I’ve interviewed many successful women (often not mothers) and I would guestimate that at least 80-90% of them have self doubt and are constantly scared that they are going to be found out as frauds and will be ‘discovered’ as inept or incapable of doing their job.

What is it in the female psyche that makes us put ourselves down so much… and so often? I just can’t imagine men saying those things. We limit ourselves by our own put-downs. Surely there are enough external influences out there in the big wide world to put us down and challenge our success, we shouldn’t need to sabotage ourselves and our own potential as well.

I don’t know what the answer is, it seems no one does – but it sure isn’t belittling ourselves and our abilities. Every one of the women I’ve come across is not only super-capable, intelligent, charming but they are also adeptly juggling more than most circus performers. That’s not to be sniffed at, or belittled. Ever. Especially by ourselves.

A smile costs nothing

15 Mar

Children are so perspicacious.

Walking along the street this morning, my five year old and I passed four policemen. As we walked by she smiled and said ‘hello’. The response. Blank looks and lowered heads to avoid her eye line.

So my daughter asks: “Mummy why is it that firemen always smile and wave at us, but policemen never say hello or smile and are so grumpy?”

Good question.

My children love the fire station, they always get waves and smiles and are even occasionally invited in to sit in the fire engine, try on a helmet or watch a fireman slide down the pole. They think firemen are great and always pass the entrance hoping there will be someone there they can make contact with by wave or whatever. Conversely they are already disappointed with the police.. the smiles are rarer than hen’s teeth and they only get personal contact at open days and fetes etc, where they are mobbed.

It’s common knowledge the police have a generic image problem. So smiling, being friendly and showing willing that you are a part of a community would surely be a good thing. Community policing is hard enough but a smile to a five year old not only costs nothing, has no dangerous side effects, but also puts police in the “friendly, there to help” category of a child’s mind – rather than some aloof untouchable.

I fail to see how this could be a bad thing and think it could go some way to improve the police image for the future. There are already plenty of ‘kids’ who see them as ‘the enemy’. It may seem simplistic and clearly it’s not the only solution, but smiling more will never build barriers, however, it just may help break some down.

Build-er relationships

12 Feb

Preparing to do a spot of ‘refurb’ in the flat recently, I got a couple of builders and decorators in to do some quotes. All well and good.

On arriving to quote, they are as nice as pie, “yes Mrs G”, “no Mrs G” and “of course we can do that too Mrs G”.

It’s like a first date, where both parties are trying to make a good impression and woo each other:

‘I’m not a control freak, actually I’m a nice lady that you want to work for’ is my fake persona – aka I’m not a bunny boiler, whilst theirs is that they give two hoots what you want and are not going to bodge anything but will do your work with love, care and attention – aka I’ll still love you in the morning darlin’.

But of course the moment of truth comes and I pick one – they are puppy-dog enthusiastic – aka second/third base and on their way to a ‘shag’, while the others I have to let down. I do it nicely with a “thanks but no thanks” – aka it’s not you it’s me, while their response is “yeah, whatever” – aka I never fancied you much anyway..

And don’t get me started on the delivery men. No subtle or amusant message there, just “screw you lady – I hate you and my life so take your own flooring in, *itch.”

A cheeky little plucker

1 Nov

No, the title’s not a pun about chickens or a random tie into the game season, it is me, ‘coming out’ about my unfortunate addiction: plucking.

Like any addiction, it started innocuously enough, the odd rogue eyebrow hair – hardly Denis Healey but rogue none-the-less. A quick pluck with a pair of tweezers and boom! eyebrow control once more.

Now the mention of control obviously rings alarm bells. I’m no psychiatrist but aren’t all proper addictive behaviours: bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, drugs, self harming etc –  either fundamentally or in part about control or loss of it.

I realised tonight, as I undergo my now daily plucking session before bed in the quiet of my own bathroom – the only time in fact I ever really get in the bathroom alone these days – that this five minutes of plucking has become my sanctity – my refuge – and my ‘me’ time. I need it, I crave it, I’d panic if I couldn’t find my tweezers, yikes –  It’s true, I am addicted to plucking.

I love nothing more than getting a sneaky hair by the tweezer tips and plucking it out, full follicle and all. The excitement and rush – it’s a mood changer, enhancer, whatever you like to dubb it. But woe betide the breaker – that horrible moment when, despite a good grip with the tweezers the hair snaps at the root, leaving a tiny stubb, too small to grab again, too long to create a smoothe finish.

Maybe I should try going cold turkey to get over my obsession – or perhaps, with Christmas coming up, I could just pluck the turkey instead. (boom boom)