Out with the new

DSM is moving into a new phase in her life: ‘new man’ is going to have a name change.

I felt that after six months, ‘new man’ probably does not qualify as ‘new’ anymore. I was going to use his initials, as I have with previous male ‘characters’ but this also didn’t seem right. No, instead he has earned himself a pseudonym. Feeling playful, but forgetful and often uncertain of spellings, I am going to experiment with Asa. Don’t laugh. It’s very obviously not his real name.

So, Asa (apparently it means ‘doctor’ in Hebrew) and I are still together and can still stand the sight of each other which hopefully means he’s sticking around for longer than just a quick bonk and a cup of tea before he slings his hook.

We actually miss each other when we are apart for a few days – a concept I had forgotten, being more familiar with the being-glad-to-get-my-space-back kind of vibe. He even worries about me getting home safely at night (when predecessors wouldn’t even see me to the front door and would have only found out I’d fallen under a truck on my way home if they had tuned into regional TV news). And he’ll labour away down below for however long it takes to get my orgasm because it means so much to him that I get my rocks off as much as him.

So, after years of indifference or shouting and stress, this attentive love and compassion thing is a little alien to me.

And where do we go next? The logical thing would be to consider moving in together, but when you’re in your 20s with no kids or complications, this is much easier; find house/flat, discuss rent and bills, move in.

In middle age, divorced, in possession of two kids, a house filled with junk etc. – not so easy. There’s the practical problem of crap he has accumulated over the decades (books, CDs, furniture, bicycles, motorbike…) plus my crap (books, CDs, furniture, toys, kids…) Do we build a giant shed for all our stuff, toss a coin to decide what to throw out or bury it all in a hole in the garden?

Then there’s him having to get used to living with two kids after years of peace. He has a 23-year-old daughter who lives elsewhere with her boyfriend, while my two are primary school age, so we have around 13 years at least before we’re on our own again (if it doesn’t all drive him out before then). That means 13 years of shouting, fighting, spillages and generally trashing the joint.

There are also those things one doesn’t like one’s partner to know about – those private habits or self-prettifying secrets. The things that will shatter the illusion of loveliness before him. Some of you will understand what I mean. For example, that annoying single coarse hair that appears just under my chin every now and then which I pull out with tweezers late at night, the greyish white knickers I reserve for that time of month or comfy days when I’m alone with a good film and Kettle Chips, the days when I can’t be bothered washing my hair so I screw it up in a scrunchie (heaven forbid!). He may not approve, either, of all the rows of washing I hang in the dining room (we only ‘dine’ there at Christmas) or my addiction to eating peanut butter straight out of the jar…

How about long-term sex? I know everyone says you just have to have lots of variety to keep things alive, but how easy is it to build this into hectic lives? The way some of my days go, he’ll have to give me a quick hump from behind while I wash up, grope me as I fetch a shovel from the shed or ambush me upstairs as I change the sheets.

So, moving into the next phase will take a great deal of thought. I have a couple of female friends who swear that they will never live with a man again. They are both in long-term relationships, but happily living in separate places to their menfolk. And clearly, their menfolk are happy with this arrangement too – there has not had to be any compromise or argument over whose vacuum cleaner works the best or which toaster will be tossed.

But, on those cold winter nights their beds won’t warm up, there’s no one else to take out the trash and if they have an attack of the horn (or does this only happen to me?) and only a male member will satisfy, they are kind of high and dry.


Dear __

I write this letter, because in speech I am often inarticulate and clumsy, or the words fail to make the journey from my brain to my mouth.

Don’t worry – this is not to bare you bad news. This is not a ‘dear John’ letter – quite the opposite.

I just wanted to say that I don’t know what has happened to me since I met you. Before you appeared in my life I was cynical, jaded and had all but given up hope of ever finding someone to enjoy, to make me feel whole, with whom I could have fun, share passion or even just watch TV.

I had just about had enough of the ill-matched dates, the nice-but-not-quite rights, the downright unsuitable and those I liked who wanted better. You were my last ditch attempt and I was sure you were out of my league, so I entered the whole thing half-heartedly.

But whatever spell has been cast has been potent with lasting effects. We met as total strangers, without even the usual exchange of emails or phone calls. I was a bag of nerves as I got off the train, waiting to see that flash of disappointment in your face, as you caught sight of me. I could not even give eye contact, as I spotted you and walked towards you.

But your smile and your “don’t worry, I won’t bite” were enough to allow me to exhale. From then on, the climb became a level stroll and the two hours we planned to spend together became eight. And the only time I checked my watch was when you took me back to the station. For the whole day we had drifted into our own time bubble, we talked and talked and kissed, held hands and the stranger became the only person I even noticed.

It has been a few weeks now and still I think about you whenever I can. I don’t feel I deserve your affections when I am guilty of so many misdemeanours. Maybe you will find out more about me and change your mind. Maybe I should enjoy it while it lasts.

At least if it all ends tomorrow, I can thank you for showing me someone cared for and believed in me one more time, that someone kind, caring, sexy and beautiful gave me a chance, took me back to a place I haven’t visited in many years. You have made me feel like I matter, that I am not just someone who cooks, cleans, works, advances to middle age and solitude… And I know you have loved and lost, but if you hadn’t I wouldn’t have you now and your open, generous heart. I will give you mine and more, if you stick around and see beyond my flaws.

Here’s to hoping this does not end.


Me xxxx

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.


Now you tell me!

Now you tell me, after five years of waiting and hoping, five years which made me question everything. Five years of hurt, self-doubt, endless tears and heart ache.

I gave you my body, my heart, my soul. I sacrificed time with friends, time with my kids, time for me. I looked deep into your eyes for even a speck of the love I craved, but it never came.

For years I waited, hoped, wished, but it never came. “Forget him, move on, find someone who really cares,” inner and outer voices told me. But no, I carried on hoping; feeling that nothing, no one, could match up to you and the feelings you ignited in me.

You were my world and every decision I made – what I said, wrote, planned, dreamed – was for you or because of you. I was utterly, hopelessly under your spell.

Yet still, you were indifferent. You left it to me to contact you, you never even told me you liked me, or held my hand in the street, never called me your lover or girlfriend. Everything we did was down to me. Weeks, even months, could have passed before you contacted me.

And now the spell is broken. I am bled dry of love for you.

All these years of digging for the treasure of your heart have exhausted me, left the soil dry, empty, spent. I have finally accepted that the inner and outer voices were right. Only now I ask myself why I defied them for so long, for years of my life which I will never get back; years of my life when I could have been happy with someone else.

I am finally moving on, planning a brighter future, without the second-guessing, endless waiting and pain you caused. There is someone else who cares for me, who wants me, whose heart is open. It is early yet, so the buds are only just starting to form, but I can finally smile with true hope.

YET NOW YOU TELL ME YOU LOVE ME. After all this time, all this hurt, now you tell me. It is too late. You bled me dry, used all I had for you. You say love is an infinite resource. Not so when you rip out someone’s heart and stamp on it. You cannot fix it, but someone else may have a chance to help me grow a new one. I cannot and will not go back.

I wish you well, but please do not tell me you love me.


Barry and Sandra: The Christmas Special – Part 1

In the British Christmas tradition of dramatic plotlines in TV soap operas I have a treat for readers this year. Ever wondered what happened to Barry and Sandra? Here’s where we catch up with them…

Sandra stands sideways in front of the mirror and sucks in her stomach. She has a slight belly pouch, despite wearing her best ‘control’ pants. But still, her black sparkly dress with a floaty skirt looks pretty good.

She has just had her roots done and her hair looks soft and shiny. As she puts on her lipstick she is filled with excitement and nerves in equal measure – could something good happen tonight or will she remember how low she has been feeling the last few months?

It is the office Christmas party and she knows Barry will be there, and they will set eyes on each other, after weeks of hiding behind desks and ducking into doorways to avoid any awkward exchanges. Barry worked in a different office, so it hadn’t been that hard to avoid him, after he unexpectedly dumped her by text message.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud flush. “You look nice, hun. Who are you trying to impress?” Rasped Stacy, Sandra’s rather loud and large work mate. Stacy winked and didn’t wait for an answer before she breezed out of the office loo.

Sandra glanced at her watch – “Bugger!” It was nearly time to go. She grabbed her bag and dashed out. Her and four colleagues were walking together to the Queen Rose Hotel where her work had hired a function room for turkey dinner and disco.

‘Walking together’ was rather a euphemism, seeing as they were all, including Sandra, wearing spiky high heels which they were already teetering in, before a white wine and soda had even passed their lips. They were clearly hoping for someone to lean on by the end of the evening.

As they walked through the double doors a voice boomed out: “Blimey, girls did it take that long to trowel it on? There’s only half an hour to get the drinks in before the food comes out.” It was Martin the sales manager and Barry’s partner in crime. He was always rather red-faced and Sandra didn’t like the way he regularly looked her up and down and stood too close to her whenever they shared the lift or used the water cooler at the same time.

Barry was there, but sitting at the bar, pretending to read a beer mat, avoiding Sandra’s gaze. He felt bad about what had happened, but was scared to commit, even though he knew Sandra was totally smitten. Deep down he knew he loved her, but kept it buried at the bottom of his mind. His strategy for the night was to get quietly wasted, numb his feelings and slump into his bed when he’d had enough.

Sandra spotted him, but he continued to read the beer mat, despite it only having a handful of words printed on it. With his short dark hair, slightly ruffled and greying at the temples and his straight, handsome features and broad shoulders and blue shirt, he looked sexy. For a second she admired the view, and then remembered the hurt he had caused her. Stacy also tugged her arm to usher her along. “Forget him, love,” she whispered, “Time to move on. You could have anyone you wanted, looking like you do tonight.”

Barry slowly emerged from behind the beer mat, watching Sandra walk across the room. Her bottom looked peachy and round in her dress and her hips had just the right curve for him to encircle with his hands. He thought about holding her from behind and nuzzling his face against her neck.

“Another pint?” Shouted Martin and jolted Barry back to reality. He quickly turned his thoughts to beer and banter and the fact that he was happy on his own, no woman to tie him down, nag him and stop him having a life.

So, Sandra chatted with her friends about shoes, make up, kids and TV and Barry focussed on football, beer, politics and silly jokes with his. They were surviving the night without disturbing one another. Dinner came and went – the usual two thin slices of turkey, soggy veg, runny gravy and small block of stuffing followed by a stodgy lump of pudding.

Tables were hastily cleared and the lights were turned down before the familiar sounds of Boney M blared out, courtesy of Phil Pop, the local mobile DJ. Sandra and Stacy groaned at the cliché soundtrack, which probably hadn’t changed for over 20 years. Barry and his friends retreated to the bar. They, of course, were too cool to dance to this shite (as Barry put it). But he wasn’t too cool to keep glancing over at Sandra, now the beer had zapped away some of his self-control.



He presses his body against her, his chest against hers and she feels his heartbeat drumming hard. He has just climaxed inside her and is suspended in post-coital exhaustion. She holds him tightly and buries her face in his shoulder as the warm tear water starts to fill the rims of her eyes. She tries to think of something else but it’s no use; the tears are now fully formed. So she holds him for longer and he seems to want to stay there, oblivious to her silent crying. She controls the urge to sob and shudder, blinking hard and softly kissing his shoulder and chest.

She longs for the ability to transfer her emotion to him, convert him to her faith (her faith being him and his being her).“Please love me like I love you” she keeps saying again and again in her head. But to him she is nothing – just a hole to drill from time to time. “Please love me.”

By the time he rolls over she has swallowed back the tears and discreetly dabbed her eyes with the back of her hand. He hasn’t a clue that she felt anything other than carnal pleasure. He is relaxed, relieved to have shot his load, enjoying his post-orgasm lethargy. But it is the morning after and soon he will slowly start to move, get dressed and leave her here alone with his aroma still in the room. All that will remain will be the creases in the bed sheets, the dent in the pillow, an empty coffee cup and some faint teeth marks on her shoulder, which will have faded by the end of the day.

She is preparing for the emptiness, the longing. It always comes as soon as he leaves. She is just sex, convenient sex, a bit of a conversation, a few drinks then sex.

He starts talking about something completely unrelated and she feels the tears pushing their way up again, but he cannot see her. She cannot let him know she feels anything, so she swallows hard and turns away to take a sip of water. This buys her more time to compose herself, take a deep breath. She’s fine, relaxed, breezy. She could even attempt to say something witty and self-deprecating.

It works – he’s oblivious and she secretly congratulates herself for becoming such an expert at repressing her emotions.

He leaves, contented, untroubled, unaware.

A many splendored thing

I can count on one hand how many times it has happened to me – well, actually three fingers of one hand. But for some people, all their fingers and toes may not be enough, while for others a big fat fist of zero says it all.

A simple, probably unoriginal comment on one of those social networking sites – the one that sounds like a brand of bird food – got me thinking. It said: “Women use sex for love while men use love for sex.”

Of my three ‘occasions’ just one did not start with sex, but all three ended in failure or rejection – maybe I am just good at getting it wrong.

The one that did not start with sex, ended with sex, so what’s the difference? He was a good friend and I actually fell for his personality before his looks (let’s call him S). When we went out as a group on a Saturday night in our 20s, I somehow always ended up chatting to S, moaning about a clingy boyfriend I had at the time. S was always willing to listen, impart his wisdom and never looked bored. Maybe he was just a good actor, but I began to realise how unique this was for a man in his early 20s.

I then began to notice his face, the way he talked and everything about him gradually became wonderful, beautiful, perfect. I would gaze into his eyes as each Saturday he would make time to ask how I was in a way that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The flip side was that he was also a big drinker and would deteriorate into a shambling mess by the end of the evening. And he was still deeply troubled by the break-up of his last relationship. But the lost and troubled boy was all the more endearing. I thought I could heal him. As the months passed it became obvious to everyone else that I was smitten – especially since I have never done well at hiding my emotions, even when I think I am being discreet. He knew it too.

We managed a couple of drunken snogs, out of the sight of everyone else – I thought he was being romantic when in fact he probably didn’t want to be seen with me. We also fell into his bed drunk on one occasion, but it was strictly clothes on and no sex.

A year passed and my feelings didn’t change. I would sit in my flat listening to Radiohead and crying into my pillow at the injustice of him not wanting to be with me. S had said he did not want a relationship. This in the phrase book of the male language, which I will write one day, should end with the silent two words of ‘with you’. The other well known, overused dumping line is ‘I can’t do this anymore’, only slightly less common than ‘it’s not you, it’s me’!

S and I continued to have our drunken snogs, which lifted, then dashed my spirits repeatedly. Then, I thought we had a minor breakthrough on a visit to friend in another town. We all slept on his floor after a wild night out. We kissed and fumbled and he allowed me access to his lengthy member so I could quietly tuck in. But still, despite my success at popping his cork, he wouldn’t let me in emotionally and I returned to my pillow and Radiohead.

So, I surrendered, tried to move on, had other relationships. But for a year or so, I would always compare them to him and they never matched up.

Then I met the man I ended up marrying, which seemed to give him a sharp kick in the nads. As soon as he heard I was engaged, he sat up and took notice. I continued to have the odd night out with my friends without the fiancé. But S became the attentive person he was when we first met, asking if I was sure I wanted to be married. This turned to ‘do you have to get married’ then ‘don’t get married’. We then had a very drunken night – I can’t even remember where or when – and ended up at my flat. He pleaded with me to ‘do it just the once’ before I got married. What could I do? After all those years of love and lust, how could I resist, even though I was supposedly making a lifelong commitment to someone else?

We hurriedly threw our clothes off, as if the heating had suddenly been turned up, and dived into bed. But alcohol had the last laugh. He entered me once then rolled over after a few seconds when everything wilted. I am not even sure if what happened actually qualified as sexual intercourse.

We left it at that, remained friends, I got married, the marriage broke up after several years, he got together with a long-term female friend and they are still together. He got it right. I got it wrong.

And the other two occasions – one was a six-month relationship at university with another drunk – this time a very intelligent, musically talented and charismatic one who got bored of me. And the other? That would be telling.