‘You’re never to old to learn’, so the saying goes. Or maybe that should say ‘you’re never too old to learn and get your life in order’. I had failed miserably in my 20s and 30s to do relationships right, spending most of time regretting my decisions because of my inappropriate partner choices and above all not learning from the mistakes because I have a terrible habit of falling in love (or more likely lust) at first sight.
My life path was always going to be a bit different from most women. I never wanted kids, never wanted the traditional ‘settling down’ model, never wanted the routine or the easy life. I wanted to run my own business, my dream was to be independent, if not financially then mentally, but I never quite managed to grasp it. Even as I hit 40 I knew I hadn’t quite worked out what it was I wanted or how I was going to achieve the balance. I had some of it in place, but certain aspects of my life, like how to manage my relationships, just eluded me.
My last serious relationship was the catalyst. It had been a taste of an open relationship but I hadn’t liked it because we had started as a proper relationship and it had regressed. It was also on his terms and my poor communications skills at that time meant he was always taking the piss out of me. My confidence, my sexuality, everything I thought I was, was undermined for 3 years and I was broken down bit by bit. When I finally escaped I completely withdrew from the relationship market. From May 2016 until September 2017, men were the last thing on my mind. Sex wasn’t, so thank god for Lovehoney. It was all I needed at that time. But my appetite built up to snapping point in late summer, when it became clear I was missing human contact. But I knew I was going to have to change my approach or I was going to end up with all the same problems as before. And that terrified me.
I’d never considered myself very confident in the bedroom and I had no agenda when I idly joined Badoo one uneventful Sunday evening. I had no idea what I was unleashing. In fact, what escaped as it turned out, was a 43 woman who could attract men (men had always told me how sexy I was but I didn’t believe it), a woman who had the ability to communicate both in text and in person what I wanted and had as many skills between the sheets as I had in the office. My confidence grew fast once I started on that journey. I started to care about myself more and what I had to offer. The reactions from the men I met both on line and in reality made me realise what I really was. Confident, sociable, a conversationist, bold, a risk taker, desirable, intelligent, independent. All these things really turn guys on.
I lost weight in the first month, partly through the stress of my early online dating experiences, but then as I began to take pride in my body once again and realised this was my tool, my weapon, this was the thing that got me what I wanted. It was a strange power that I started to like, and then couldn’t stop utilising. And men loved what I could do.
I refined my wants, found my place, and realised what I did and didn’t need. I didn’t need relationships in the same way I’d thought I’d needed them before. I didn’t want that complication, the politics, the potential for mistrust, the stress of who was going where for whoever’s birthday each year or what to get him for Christmas. I didn’t want to be bored by the routine, and I still wanted space to myself. I wanted situations, sex, I wanted to connect and you really don’t have to be in a monogamous relationship for that. You can have passion and connection and understanding without having a ring on your finger. Really you can.
Most of all, I found plenty of honest, decent men who wanted the same thing. I’ve met some of the nicest people through my online dating experiences. I can’t really fault any of them in their own way. We are all human beings after all and human beings are not perfect. That’s what makes us interesting and unique.
On my second ‘date’ with Tinder Jon, my first overnight, we stood together in his bathroom brushing our teeth. And I realised how strange it felt to already feel that familiar with someone. I said so. We mused on it, and that it came with no strings attached certainly made it weirder. It’s incredible how fast you can slip into someones life. This was just two people brushing their teeth before they went to bed. We weren’t in a relationship. We had known each other for about two weeks. The barriers had already been broken down before we met. We didn’t have to tiptoe through the minefield of what we liked in bed, or where the relationship was going because we’d had those conversations before we met. Get it out the way and get down to enjoying great sex without all the hangups.
And that’s really how comfortable I am with new people. I can go from never having met you to best buddies in a matter of hours. It’s that simple. That is the way I am. But I find it incredibly easy. That in turn makes it easier for the other person and of course that makes you more attractive to them. And it disarms them and they can’t help but stick with you. You make them feel good and confident and that’s how I manage to end up holding on to so many of them. And I like that. Because they are good people who I want to share a part of my life with.
Even so, TJ and I laid there together that night and both admitted that sleeping a whole night with someone else was weird. Space is important. We were both in our 40s. We should have settled down. Instead we had been there, come out the other side, and were both thinking how nice the new set up was, albeit probably with less sleepovers. I am also a terrible fidget at night.
I’d cast around looking for blogs, podcasts, anything that reflected my experiences, my take on it, my situation but I didn’t find anything until early December last year when I came across Glynnis MacNicol on New York Magazine’s Sex Lives podcast. Sex and the Single 42-Year Old Woman was her story. I recognised a lot of it. I knew I couldn’t be the only one. I wasn’t the stereotype of a 40-something single woman. But I wasn’t finding it anywhere as I understood it. Glynnis raised some particularly interesting points that resonated with me.
- Dating does not require permanence if you are comfortable being single.
- Flipping the roles and developing the same mentality towards dating as men. Other things can come first. You don’t have to put all into it. A more relaxed attitude towards dating is useful, to be able to reject dates and not get a complex about it. it also makes you more fun to date. No guy wants a stalker or a nag. Turning the tables actually makes you more attractive to the man. They aren’t used to it. ‘Play hard to get’ without actually trying to do it. This is easier when you get used to it and stop being so eager – ie once the novelty has worn off. Six weeks was my turning point when I stopped being the first to send messages. I let them do the chasing. Finally I understand what Gianluca had been telling me.
- I am more attractive to more men now that I’m in my 40s – the attitude is part of it. It’s weird how I never get stopped in the street or asked out, but online that veil of anominity, I presume, gives confident. Maybe I’m scary. Maybe guys just assume I will reject them and face to face it’s too scary. Who knows.
- The sex changes, you know what you want. You don’t mess around. Potentially you might never see someone again. You might only have that one day, that one evening, that one night to give the impression you want.
- The attitude is different for both you and the men if you are dating your own age (as I now am). Porn isn’t hardwired. I think we have a more ‘traditional’ view of sex, although elements are there but I think that’s the guys tastes more than anything. There is a huge difference between men in their 20s and men in their 40s when it comes to sex. You can feel the influence of porn. There is no self consciousness, no insecurity in sex with people who don’t have that stereotyped view of what it is.
- Dating divorced or separated guys in their 40s is far more satisfying. I always dated younger men because I thought all the best guys in my age group was married with kids. Turns out all the best guys are all divorced with kids and they are far more satisfying sexually and in their attitude.
- Like me Glynnis looks a lot younger than her 42 years (as she was when she did this podcast) and that has big pulling power. With that comes a younger attitude, not because I look younger but because I don’t have the lifestyle that makes me feel older. Does having kids and doing ‘the kid thing’ make you older in looks and attitude? Glynnis thinks not but I look at friends who are the same age and younger than me and I think they have definitely changed. They are certainly less fun. And I’d certainly say my ‘divorced Dads’ are fun.
- There is alone and alone. You can be ‘single’ but you don’t have to be ‘alone’.