Sometimes, people just don’t get a happy ever after.
It appears I am one of those people. I am a 40-year-old woman who has never had a boyfriend. How did that happen, you may wonder? Well, I really don’t know. It just did.
I did all the normal stuff other women do throughout their lives; I went to discos, I hung out with my friends, I hit the bars, I worked with, and interacted with, lots of guys on a day-to-day basis in my various jobs. And whereas this normal approach to meeting others seemed to work for everybody else I have ever known, it just didn’t work for me.
Years ago, I came to peace with the fact that I am not a "head-turner." I was never going to be That Girl -- the girl who caught your eye and took your breath away when you walked into a room. Having said that, neither am I a bridge-dwelling troll: I am just your average woman, average-to-pretty-ish looks, average everything, maybe a little curvy around the edges, but so are lots of other women. Women who have partners.
No, I am more the girl-next-door; a nice, normal girl, the girl you don’t really notice at first, the girl who lives or works next to you, but the more you interact with her, the nicer she seems. So maybe you then ask her out…
Except that never worked for me either. I remained invisible. I remained the "wingwoman," "the funny one" among my more traditionally good-looking friends. Night out after night out, my friends would get chatted up and approached by guys. I got ignored. Sometimes blatantly so. Sometimes rudely so. Sometimes downright cruelly so.
All my own efforts to flirt or interact with guys rebuffed. It was like I just wasn’t there. Like I didn’t exist as a sexual being. Guys would look over at us, checking out our group, and would only approach to chat the others up when I was at the bar or in the ladies room. That wasn’t a one-off -- it happened regularly.
I remained a virgin until I was 27. I lost it on a drunken one-night stand. I didn’t go on my first, actual "date" until later that year, either. It was clear from the time he met me on our date that I wasn’t quite what he remembered from the nightclub the previous week. In fact I suspect that he got me mixed up with my friend, the girl he met me out with the week before, and was expecting HER on the night of our date.
Maybe politeness or embarrassment stopped him from ending the night there and then. I was so helplessly inexperienced in dating at the time that I sat there, smiling and looking around me, with the drink that MY DATE(!) bought for me, while he texted a "friend" during some of the evening (who, it transpired later in conversation, was "sort of" an ex) and ignored me. He dropped me home after a couple of hours and I never heard from him again.
There is so much of life that seems to be wrapped up with being part of (or at least, having BEEN part of) a couple. Sadly, I find it increasingly difficult to relate to my peers in this respect. I work with many women of a similar age to myself; I am the only single one there. Most of them already have children, some are pregnant at the moment.
I never mention my personal life at work –- it’s a subject that’s just too uncomfortable for me. It’s hard to admit to others that you have never managed to attract a mate, at an age when most have managed it, several times, even if they are not currently married or partnered. I know I can appear as a "closed book" to others, as the normal office small talk amongst women of kids and partners etc. just does not apply to me, and so I never join in with stories of my own.
I don’t have any stories of current or past relationships, no anecdotes that are just so everyday to others; that restaurant you went to last weekend, places you went to on holiday together, silly habits your partner has, their little foibles, the mess they made of dinner last night. Those little things that seem so ordinary (or maybe even annoying) to casual observers are totally alien to me.
I know that people who are long-term single often cringe when people ask them if they are seeing anybody, forcing them to re-affirm their single status, time and time again. But there is something worse than that: when they STOP asking. When acquaintances, workmates, or those relatives you only see once a year ask you all about your work, or hobbies, or your holiday, and avoid asking you about boyfriends.
And now I'm 40. Up until probably my mid/late-thirties, I still held out some hope. Hope that I would find "him," fall in love, and we would have a life together. And possibly even children. But the chances of that happening now are very, very slim. For me to have a child in my early 40s, I would have to meet someone special NOW and get pregnant within say, the next two years. And that’s in an ideal situation. I won’t even get into the whole reduced fertility/increased risks argument.
I have never formed a romantic bond with a man; I have never met someone whom I knew loved me, and who I loved back and who I felt secure with. Nobody I could really envision as the father of my children. I have never even eaten breakfast (or any other meal) with someone. Those few men who have slept with me don’t tend to stick around long enough to learn my last name.
I know some readers will roll their eyes and say "Just get out there, join a club, online dating, be yourself, be happy, it will happen," etc. Believe me, I have done all that. To death. And yet here I am, 20-odd years looking and still nothing, apart from a few one night stands, few and far between.
I have gone on several online dates, with first contact mostly initiated by me -- only one wanted to see me again. And that was just for sex.
The fact is, NOT everybody finds someone, no matter what good qualities they may have. There ARE people who don’t ever find someone to share their life with, despite their best efforts -– the same sort of efforts that lead to our friends and peers meeting several partners and having healthy (and maybe some not so healthy!) adult relationships.
I know there are upsides to being single; I truly do. Nobody to answer to, weekends to do whatever you want, and you never have to share the remote control or deal with difficult in-laws.
But I’ve had 20-odd years of adulthood to experience complete independence, all the time. Just for once, I want to know what it’s like to NOT be single. To not be lonely a lot of the time. To matter in someone’s life in a romantic way. To just once, be able to visit my parents (or friends) and say "I’m seeing someone…"
To have someone to share those yearly milestones with: birthdays, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day. I want to know what it’s like to go away for a weekend with someone, or for a holiday. To meet someone’s parents, or friends. To feel someone’s arm around me on the couch, or to make me some tea when I’m ill. To share the remote. To cook dinner for someone. To have loving, fulfilling, meaningful sex. To just be able to say, in passing conversations with others, those two little words: "my boyfriend."
But I don’t believe it’s going to happen now. And it’s starting to be OK. It doesn’t happen for everyone. I’m not the only person in the world who is perpetually single, even if it feels like it sometimes.
It appears I’m going to have to make my own happy ever after. And what better time to start than now, on the cusp of a New Year. Coming to terms with never finding love has gotten easier over the past couple of years. I’ve had to deal with it, because -- well, what’s the alternative? A lifetime of bitterness?
Let’s see where the Good Ship "Solo Flier" takes me over the next year as I take a deep breath and step forward into 2015 with a feeling of acceptance. Sometimes, the things which pass us by may lead us down paths we might not have traveled down otherwise.