The reason for this excitement – sorry about the row of exclamation marks, I don’t know of any other key that expresses written excitement, and I’m not going down the smiley-face route – is that in your late 40’s, getting a date is an occurrence rarer than a frown on a celebrity forehead.
In my 20’s everyone, so it seemed, was single and we were all out most nights, bar-hopping, girls meeting boys meeting girls, so getting a date seemed a natural by-product of all that. A date back then was something to look forward to, but not the be-all-and-end-all. “You know what? I’m really not convinced about those puff-ball skirts. Did you see the queue for the telex machine today? Oh, did I tell you I’m meeting up with some bloke on Friday night?”
In my 30’s the emphasis shifted, the excitement was building and there was slightly more urgency to the whole thing. “Guess what? I’ve been promoted at work! AND I have a date on Friday night. So I’ve treated myself to a little number from Whistles. Fancy another Spritzer?”
In my 40’s the rarity of that announcement automatically becomes the headline news of any conversation “You need to sit down for this. You’ll never believe it, but I’ve got a DATE! I know! Yes, with a man. The car? Oh well, that was a write-off, and the neck brace comes off next week. But a MAN has asked me OUT!”
So, how did this phenomenon of mine come about? Did we catch sight of each other across the Travel section in a local independent bookstore, cast furtive glances across Cookery, then loiter with intent around Crime, like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan trying to avoid each other, but desperately trying to collide at the same time? Did one of us (him, obviously) tire of this dance, to surreptitiously leave a card with a hastily-scribbled “I’m not married/gay/weird, fancy a coffee?” in the next book I casually picked up? Did we then head off to the nearby café – the one with the steamy windows (just in case they make a film and need suggestive imagery) – and laugh together in that one-day-we’ll-tell-this-to-our-grandchildren way?
Did we, heck. That’s how it works in films. In real life I had to fork out £25 to an international corporate company to organise the bringing together of a bunch of disparate, equally demoralized over-40’s to hopefully drum up a bit of steamy window magic. And so I entered the world of Speed Dating.
And that’s why I found myself one evening, a glass of warm, over-priced wine clutched in my hand, standing on carpet of a dubious sticky texture,g making polite conversation with a group of very switched-on, stylish women – the type you’d look at and presume were already in a relationship. The only thing missing was the equal-numbered group of intelligent, presentable men we’d been promised. They did eventually arrive, late and fewer than expected, by which time the women had bonded over the drinks, swapped stories of nightmare dates and ex-husbands, and were possibly more interested in a girls night out at that stage. However, once we were all organised and the women allocated individual tables to sit at, we got round to the ‘dates’. The bell rang, the introductions and the chatting commenced – the bell rang eight minutes later, we said our thank-yous and our nice-to-meet-yous – the man left, to be replaced by another and the whole thing started over again. Initial nerves aside, it was actually quite a pleasant way to spend an evening.
The eight minutes was about right – enough time to find out about someone but not too long to become tedious, if there was no common ground or a mutual repulsion. The following day I was informed that the one man who I’d marked as ‘would like to see again’ had done the same with me, emails ensued and we’ve arranged to meet up again.
I’ll keep you posted.