Quite a few readers of this blog seem to be anything from confused to bewildered that, at the age of 71, I continue to persevere with the search for The One with whom I can partner during what’s left of my twilight years. The general assumption is that I am a libidinous old goat who “can’t get enough of it”. They are well wide of the mark.
There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone is tedious, in that – while one can remark, “I talk to myself because I am by far the most interesting person I know” – this ceases to be funny when, month after month, there’s nobody else around with whom one can ponder, discuss, develop and explore. The sound of one’s own voice palls very quickly. Perhaps all politicians should be subjected to an obligatory six months of solitary confinement as an aid to grasping this Truth.
Being on your own is, however, chiefly about boredom. Speaking for myself, I can recall many times when I had a constant round of theatre, opera, football matches, parties, gigs, projects, dinners, pitches and meetings where I was hugely motivated and keen most of time…but still chronically lonely. At the time, the loneliness isn’t apparent. And then one day, the realisation dawns that the other person in your life no longer either notices (let alone listens) when an attempt is made to link up. Part of this on occasions was my fault, on others the partner’s fault…and most of the time, there was no fault involved: it was simply life, and merely a process by which the years change dreams from being shared objectives to antithetical objectives of little shared value.
I was pointing out to a valued friend earlier today that, if you add up both my marriages and two other longish term relationships, I have spent 47 of the last 54 years with a serious partner. In that time I strayed just once from the bed of preference. While this may read like frantic virtue-signalling, it isn’t: bed-hopping holds no appeal for me, because there is little or no chance of the risk investment leading to anything worthwhile. (The one stray moment led to twenty years of almost entirely happy marriage, and life-changing experiences I wouldn’t have missed for the world.)
Thus, the last seven years have represented an entirely new experience, but not one I have any wish to continue indefinitely. Social media flirting, dating sites and selfish, boring husbands together create rich pickings for any bloke motivated entirely by the desire to awaken interesting women sexually. But having gained the experience of where I went wrong before, I have learned to largely ignore what’s going on between my legs, and be rather more attentive to what’s happening between my ears: the emotions and considerations that make for what’s real as opposed to fantasy.
This much I have gleaned, albeit late in the day…..be wary of any and all signs of lacking the following: a sense of humour, self deprecation, an awareness of the ridiculous, an open mind, kindness, compassion, creativity, sensitivity, acceptance of faults, and sensuality.
Equally, be aware of every tell-tale sign that suggests dishonesty, power-plays, political ideology, demands for perfection, and assertions of same in themselves. “I am very comfortable in my own skin” is one such that I interpret as a flashing red light telling me to reverse gracefully away with all speed.
As for those who run dating sites, I can only describe them as a necessary evil. For the first generation ever to grow old and still be actively alive, they perform a vital social service. But as with so much content on the internet, the default position is mendacity: ‘Lots of women have viewed your profile!’, ‘Diplodocus016 has winked at you!’, ‘Daisy Bonghead says she will date you!’, ‘OverThe MoonZoom is a 100% match!’ and so on ad nauseam.
The best (and only honest) tactic under these circumstances is to create your own search criteria, ignore what the all-unknowing computer says, and write in a way that is You – as opposed to some naff Blind Date contestant mouthing banal double-entendres.
Ultimately, all this dehumanising bollocks is worth it for those rare occasions when you stumble upon a Twin Flame. Then you get to know the person, there is hope, and usually – even if it doesn’t work out – there is a fulfilling experience.
But as my friend asked earlier today, why go through all this?
This was my answer:
‘The hug of a partner (with or without sex), the conversation, the laughter, the memories, the tenderness, the insights – and above all the understanding of one’s fears and ambitions – is better than a million hookers. You give and receive, and it is the best barter system in the Universe.’
In a way, it’s a dishonest answer, because I’ve never used a prostititute in my life. But on the other hand, I do know why that is.