One of the things I did in the first couple of years after my marriage broke up was date men my age, looking to see if there was a potential new partner out there for me. One would assume that there might be, no?
I sallied forth and met some really great fortysomethings, either online dating, through friends or via social media.
But what I didn't know when I started dating them was that each and every one of them would run away screaming after the sixth date.
I met 'Simon' through two mutual friends in a pub. Quiet, dryly funny, smart and a bit of a silver fox. I thought I'd take the initiative (I usually have to) and ask him if he'd like to go out. I gave him a business card and I think he texted me at some point and we started dating.
We did the usual fortysomething thing of nice bars, good wine, lovely restaurants. We chatted about travel, our jobs, previous relationships and I really enjoyed his company. He seemed 'sorted' - a good guy.
One weekend, after the sixth great date, I was in my kitchen making coffee, while he was sitting in another room. I thought I'd suggest we go for a walk 'sometime' on Hampstead Heath.
I heard an audible groan.
I stuck my head round the door and shouted, "Hey - don't sound TOO excited!" expecting him to say, "Sorry, I just stubbed my toe on your coffee table", but what I got was complete silence.
Then later that week, when I texted him to ask what was going on, I got two huge 'text essays' explaining (mansplaining) that I was clearly 'looking for something serious' and he wasn't.
"Unbelievable." I texted back.
It was like an episode out of Sex and the City, but minus the Post-It Notes.
I met 'Daniel' through social media. A louder version of Simon and an uber 'foodie'. We had six really great dates featuring great restaurants, cocktail bars and movies. On the sixth date, I decided to tell him I liked him. Just that. "I like you," with a winning smile.
Not, "I'd like to marry you", or "I'd like to have your babies" or "I'd like to share your financial gains".
Just "I like you."
I didn't hear from him for two weeks, after which point I started getting 'nighttime' texts from him, trying to recalibrate the dating back to a more 'casual' setting. He'd told me before that he enjoyed dating because it meant he got to try new bars and restaurants. I think I was just the 'caddy' to the foodie.
Nah. Think I'll leave it there, thanks.
So when I met 'Paul' I thought I'd test my theory again. Three strikes and I'm out.
Paul had recently split from his wife, which was bound to be tricky, but we got on incredibly well, especially intellectually. Funny, smart, worked in media - lots to talk and laugh about. Until I told him I liked him on the sixth date.
I've never seen anyone row away so fast. And again, the ensuing text essay 'mansplaining' how he couldn't commit to anything.
I wasn't asking him to.
Fortysomething men are not a demographic that are particularly interested in me and I've blogged before about them wanting younger women so that they can a) fuel their midlife ego and b) possibly have children.
Well, having encounted Sixth Date Syndrome I'm not particularly keen on them either, and really, I'm too busy fuelling my own midlife ego crisis. I mainly date younger men because it's so much easier and fun.
What really irks me about FSM is the assumption that I want something out of them, that I'm trying to lay a commitment trap of some kind. That just by saying I like them, they translate it as "...and I want to marry you and have your babies."
Way to think too much of yourselves, guys.
I've done the commitment thing and come out the other side. I'm very clear about not wanting children, and really, way past that childbearing age.
What if I actually do like hanging out with you and want to do it on a regular basis without raiding your bank account? Ooh, SCARY.
Am I really that intimidating, with my good job, own flat, ability to hold a conversation, tell a joke and initiate sex?
Anyway, fortysomething men, see you when we're all in our sixties and still out there.
At least we will be able to share our stories of how much fun it was to date younger men and women, eh? Looking forward to it.