It’s not love, actually

Diane Lane jumps into a lake and frantically swims across to John Cusack, who is sitting in a rowing boat, looking a little bewildered. But it’s John Cusack in all his crumpled, unconventionally handsome glory- who wouldn’t jump in a lake to plead for another chance?

‘Must Love Dogs’ – with the ending described above (apologies if you were thinking of watching it over the weekend) is just another predictable romantic comedy. But such things are a comfort to watch, in pyjamas, on one’s own. The characters have a hard time, feel lonely and doubt they will ever find love and happiness, but in the end it all works out and all loose ends are tied.

If only things were as simple in real life. Most of us only really want to find ‘the one’. Yes, some people are happy to fly solo or just get no-strings sex when they are feeling a little frisky and to those people, I say ‘good for you and good luck’. But while I have pretended to be like this over the years, I am actually a squishy mess on the inside.

I am a middle-aged single mum who just wants to find her soul mate, true love, if this is not a mythical beast. But, unlike Diane Lane in the movie, a divorced 40-year-old, who goes on a string of disastrous dates, yet has Cusack yearning for her affections, I have no gorgeous crumpled guy waiting in the wings.

But this is why many of us love to watch these films, no matter how predictable or unrealistic their plots are. Yes, the characters usually go through a period of misery or solitude – Jennifer Aniston in ‘The Switch’ goes away for seven years, before coming back to New York and realising Jason Bateman is ‘the one.’ But the fact that they all get their true love in the end gives us this warm, cosy feeling.

It’s nothing like real life, but still it gives us an artificial feeling of hope. Even though we know we won’t meet the man of our dreams by denting his car in Asda car park, or through initially arguing with that new guy at work, then suddenly realising you are in love, a part of our brain lets us think that we all find true love in the end.

Wouldn’t it be great to have someone you secretly fancy run after you at passport control at the airport, saying “don’t get on that plane” or to dash down/up the stairs while you take the lift to say “please don’t go – I love you”? Even Justin Timberlake (in ‘Friends with Benefits’) organising a ‘flash mob’ dance routine in Grand Central Station, to show his undying love for Mila Kunis, would suffice.

Yes, unfortunately, people like me who never figured out how to get the whole love thing right, are probably more addicted to these movies than most. We find them the audio-visual equivalent to a large mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. But we are also observing very closely in case they somehow hold the key, the secret code to where we are going wrong in our own lives.

Right, then – bottle of wine – check, large bag of crisps – check, box of tissues – check, phone on silent – check. I fancy ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ tonight.



When I’m 53 I want to be like Inge. She is my 50-something role model.

With her toned, tanned body and dazzling white smile, she is a picture of health and happiness. But after 20 years of teaching yoga, she has much to smile about. Not for her the stress and mundanity of an office job. Her lower back isn’t wrecked from slouching over a computer and phone – quite the opposite, through stretching perfecting her posture. She stands solid and proud with broad, strong shoulders, a solid frame, but toned tum decorated with a belly button ring and a tiny dove tattoo on her right shoulder blade. And it is all set off with her golden brown Danish skin and tousled blonde hair.

Inge is a great advert for yoga, with a physique to put many woman 20 years younger to shame. She has a few laughter lines and hasn’t had time-delaying surgery, but this natural beauty speaks much louder than a pumped and stretched face; it shows a woman who has had a full and interesting life and is still having fun now.

Inge is divorced with two grown up children who have moved out, so she is free to do as she wishes with her ‘toy boy’ of 39. I imagine them having wild and bendy sex, Inge commanding him to take her on the stairs or reverse cowgirl-ing him in the bedroom, her spherical breasts bouncing, sweat trickling down her smooth brown stomach and her hair damp around her forehead.

I also think about Carl getting his own back, dismounting his motor bike, dirty and sweaty and Inge hot and flustered after a yoga session. He calls her a naughty girl, playfully smacks her luscious backside and runs his fingers down her vest and yoga pants. It all becomes too urgent to wait. He throws off his leathers and rolls up her vest, peeling it off her, cupping one of her breasts in his palm and hungrily nibbling it. The yoga pants come off and soon they are both naked against the kitchen wall. It is quick, sweaty and noisy, but full of passion. She may be 14 years his senior, but she exudes sex, charisma and self-confidence.

So, where was I? Yes, I would love to be the kind of woman Inge is when I’m 53, accepting my age and looking after myself, but not denying myself fun and mischief. I just got a little distracted by the sex bit…

Mad about the boy

It was once a popular belief (maybe it still is) that men reach their sexual peak at 18 while women don’t reach that pinnacle until they are 35. This would suggest that to have a really explosive sex life, we ladies need a toy boy.

Having once been in a long-term relationship with someone six years younger than me, I have touched on this concept, but not gone far enough, I reckon. And I have been pondering the benefits of a young stallion. Recent nude pictures of Harry Styles (Google him, fogies) have further piqued my appetite.

The young male form is one of true beauty – long sinewy bodies, the hint of a little muscle (I am not seeking out a gym bunny covered in lots of firm lumpy bits), still-soft facial hair, pert little bottoms, a slight hint of androgyny. Germaine Greer is not everyone’s cup of tea, but in her 2003 book, The Boy, she celebrates this concept and was accused of acting inappropriately for fawning over teenage youths. But she was just enjoying their flawless, passing loveliness.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not seeking to corrupt the next dreamy sixth-former I spot at the bus stop (well, only if he willingly comes home with me!). But in a previous job, I used to have to visit a local secondary school and talk to its star rugby or football players about their achievements. Much of what they said was beyond my limited sports knowledge, but I was nearly always in awe of their flawless faces, broadening shoulders and their general ‘in bloom’ vibe. Each one was teetering on the brink of manhood. In some ways they were already beautiful young men, but in others, they were still boys. I would struggle to stop myself just gazing open mouthed at some of them – particularly the young rugby players – my inner conscience shouting at me to get a grip.

The trouble is that life is full of missed opportunities or moments we never enjoy until the present becomes the past. When I was at an age when young (say 18-25-year-old) men would even look at me, i.e. when I was 18-25 myself, it was never that great. But now, when I would be viewed by such men as a middle-aged sack of potatoes, I fantasise about these smooth-skinned, ripe little berries.

Aside from their jaw-dropping beauty, I also imagine a wide-eyed bouncy young pup would be eager to please in the bedroom, that he would not be too arrogant to be shown a thing or two. And, best of all, he would have marathon-runner stamina.

But, readers, I know my limits, that I am no Angelina Jolie, so these thoughts are merely floating fancies. A young stud is not coming anywhere near a middle-aged mum like myself, unless it was for a bet or to cross an item of his sexual ‘things to try before I die’ list (probably somewhere between water sports and doing it on a bus).

But if I look over my shoulder when a handsome youth walks past, smile at him, and he smiles back, it will be enough to give me a warm glow for the rest of the day.

Wasted on the young

There is an October chill in the air and most people on this Sunday morning will be tucked up under warm duvets, but not me. I am shivering, tired and light-headed sitting on the cold tiled floor of my parents’ porch. The skin-tight black jeans and leather jacket are not keeping the cold out.

Why am I sitting here and not in bed? My parents weren’t expecting me home. I had been to a friend’s party, stayed over, but left at 8am while everyone else was still asleep. Or rather, stomped off in a sulk, because I had failed to land the boy I fancied. My parents are at church and the key has not been left under the flower pot. So here I am, stuck, trying to avoid being seen by the neighbours.

This kind of ridiculous scenario only plays out when one is a teenager. Who else would be sitting out in the cold, locked out of their own house, because mum and dad don’t trust them to have a key, without losing it? My parents had sussed out my fecklessness a long time ago.

But my teenage stupidity stretched far beyond this. I was incredibly naïve and gullible from puberty until about 20, particularly with boys and sex.

My first boyfriend, who was 18 when I was 15, barely spoke to me. He just wanted to stick his tongue down my throat and his hand down my pants. But that’s as far as it got. When he stopped ringing me, I couldn’t work out why, when clearly he got bored of me not ‘putting out’.

Then I seemed to find myself in numerous ‘blowie’ situations – usually beginning with drinking copious amounts of cider in a particular night club, snogging someone who I thought wanted to be my boyfriend, being led outside and having my head pushed down on a throbbing, sweaty member. I just assumed this was normal and complying would make him love me, even if it (at that time) never culminated in penetrative sex. It was also very rare in these episodes that the youth of the moment would even attempt to pleasure me.

I was then surprised when none of them ever phoned me, asked me out on a date or wanted to see me again. I would sit in my bedroom staring at my posters, feeling very alone, only revealing my true thoughts to my diary.

Then when I did have a boyfriend, with whom none of the above happened, I put myself in a very odd position one night.

There were no proms when I was a teen, but there were ‘balls’ – an excuse to get dressed up and quaff alcohol in a posh venue. So my boyfriend, H and I had arranged to go to one of these shindigs with a few friends. One of H’s friends was T, who always had a glint in his eye for me.  He was going out with a posh girl, called something like ‘Saffy’.

H and I had a few drinks and dances, then went over to T and ‘Saffy’. We were all tipsy at this point, but T seemed particularly squiffy and had ‘Saffy’ perched on his lap as he leaned back in his chair. H chatted to him while I stood patiently. But then I felt something going up my dress. I was wearing a cocktail-type number, with a plain black bodice and a full net skirt, with layer of black and white net flowers on it, so access up there was rather easy.

I shuddered a little, then realised it was T’s hand which was travelling further and further towards my pants. So, I was standing next to my boyfriend who had his arm around me, while T sat with his girlfriend on his knee, shoving his index finger into my cunt. I was drunk and confused, but strangely aroused – H had never attempted this territory, let alone stuck his finger in.

Because we were all stood quite close together and my dress was a mass of black and white meringue net, no one noticed. T realised this and was smiling smugly, lecherously, while I was too shocked, bewildered and trembling with excitement to move or slap his hand away. It was in fact the first time anyone had stuck their finger (or anything else for that matter) inside me. But it did cast a black cloud over the rest of the night and my relationship with H eventually fizzled out, my virginity still intact. I sometimes wonder why I didn’t just give T a kick in the shins and expose him as a fingery cheat.

Then, less excitingly were the two or three boys I fancied like mad – the kind of teenage infatuations that leave you crying into your pillow, asking “why oh why doesn’t he like me?” Each one of them would happily snog me in the aforementioned nightclub, maybe even grope a boob and I would get to smell their cheap aftershave and the slightly more seductive leather of their jackets. And each one on different occasions said they were happy to “go with” me (which, where I come from in the late 80s/early 90s meant make out with), but couldn’t possibly go out with me. The usual reason was that they were in love with someone else (and I was just someone to practice on). In reality they were probably just terrified of the desperate or grateful look in my eyes.

So my teenage years were largely spent being ridiculous.  Even down to the clothes I wore – a friend finds great amusement in reminding me of the time I showed up in a tutu skirt and baseball boots. I would also spend a good deal of time copying song lyrics from Cure albumns on to large sheets of paper, and smoking out of my bedroom window, thinking my parents wouldn’t notice, even when the wind was blowing against me.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have had an absolute whale of a time, keeping those boys dangling, kicking T in the shins and enjoying being young and looking ten times better than I do now. Youth is truly wasted on the young.