On Saturday I was thrilled to be invited onto a radio station to answer some questions about blind dates; this was as the result of a piece I had published on The Huffington Post. At the age of 50 I feel plenty qualified to talk about dating and relationships. I don't have any qualifications, just experience. Mostly because I am 50 and live alone. I have come close a few times to getting a cat, but I wouldn't be able to live with the stereotype. I don't ever want to be the cat lady spinster who smells of piss, to be honest I never really want to smell of piss.
There are some men to avoid, actually probably a lot of men to avoid. Let's start with the ones that 'still' live at home. Clearly I'm emphasising the word, 'still', as there are men who have to move back home after a relationship break up, or may be carers, or have basically had some life event that has forced them into that position. I'm talking about men over 25 who have never left home. Dates with these guys start off OK until you go for dinner with his folks. It goes something like this:
Mum answers the door in her pinny, flour in her hair and smells of roses. Where is that lovely man of yours that you are getting so serious about you agreed to this dinner? Turns out he's lying on the sofa watching telly. "Another beer dear?" his mum asks as you follow her into the front room. If this happens to you it is the precise moment that you suddenly remember your dog is dying and you only popped in to let them know you will have to take a rain check. If you don't you will spend the rest of the evening being asked if you cook, sew, iron, bake....while mummy waits on him hand and foot.
The next one to avoid is the man who lives on his own with a cat or cats. The father of my child was this one. I had just been diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of skin cancer (it still hasn't finished me off yet) and he was kind and attentive. If I hadn't been so vulnerable I wouldn't have overlooked the cat, his red velour sweater (which I kept hiding at the bottom of his ironing basket) and his single minded determination to let his body odour flow freely rather than use deodorant. And yet he used to leave the room to fart? I haven't even got round to the cat yet.
The Cat. The cat called Sarah. I thought it was an odd name for a cat, guessed it might be an ex girlfriend's name or something, never asked. This cat didn't seem to like my company very much, I was an interloper. She was a very sneaky cat, she only scratched me when he wasn't looking. And she gave me a look, you know, the 'I'll get rid of you in the end' kind of look. Trust me, that was a joint effort and not solely down to the cat. He let her lick the dinner plates clean. When he came in from work he walked past me, straight out to the back door, and sat on the step stroking her. One morning I packed up my things, left him a note and headed off into the sunset. Actually, I phoned him at work, told him I'd left him a note, but didn't want him to get home and think he'd been burgled.
A week later I discovered I was pregnant. The best thing he gave me in life was my son. I'm glad I left when I did, if I hadn't I would never have had the courage to leave and do it on my own; and he was not the man to bring up my child with. A story never to be shared out of respect for my son and his father. He won't mind the other stuff I've written. I almost forgot to include the bit about what happened on our first date.
On our first date cat man called for me at home. He walked past me, straight through my flat, and out into the garden. Maybe he thought I had a cat out there. I got into his car which was so old it didn't have seatbelts, but was by no means classic or vintage (I insisted he upgraded when the time came for him to be transporting my most precious cargo around). We went for a drink in a lovely bar that had plastic garden type furniture. I wasn't even halfway through my first drink when those lovely plastic chair legs gave way and I ended up on my back with my legs in the air struggling like an upside down tortoise. I was wearing a fairly short skirt as well at the time. And cat man? Cat man looked away, he was embarrassed! So he just remained catatonic while others looked on clearly thinking I was drunk as I managed to roll onto my side, get myself out of the chair and up on my feet.
All these things ladies, are warning lights. I'm not sure why we insist on forging ahead through those red lights when we are young. It was something I stopped doing later in life, because when I learned love and respect for myself, nothing but the same in return would do.