Tuesday, 23 October 2018

NAVIGATING DATING AFTER THIRTY


"I can't believe I'm still doing this at my age".

 Was what I defeatedly exclaimed as I threw myself down on the sofa to wait on my taxi before a date a couple of weeks back, putting a high heel on with one hand whilst juggling a gin & tonic with the other. The response I got was levelled and diplomatic. The kind of response one could only expect from a mother.

"There are a lot of unhappily married women out there Dawn who would currently kill to be in your shoes".

I knew she was right. But as my 35th birthday rushed towards me in the manner of a speeding train, I was seriously beginning to wonder if I could be bothered with it at all anymore. Having entered into my first serious relationship at 19 years old, I recently worked out that I have spent 10 of the last 16 years in relationships. And 6 single. I've never been bad at being single. In fact I've always been pretty good at it. Which I fear may be part of my problem. But what I have found and am finding with more and more clarity as each day passes is how bloody exhausting dating in your thirties can actually be. And I don't go on a lot of dates. In fact this year I have been on only a handful. 

Why? 

Because I don't like dates. 

And boy does it feel good to finally admit it.  

That's not to be confused with time spent with boyfriends. There's nothing better to me than Sunday afternoons spent walking through parks, pool playing in pubs and Sunday roast eating in front of a movie. I get positively ecstatic at the thought of a Saturday night in some posh restaurant in town, getting absolutely lashed with someone I love while telling them all the things I intend to do to them when we get back home. But new guys? The beginning bit? That very first date? I've just never really been able to get on board with it. 

Before I've even met them I've convinced myself the whole process will be demotivating and a waste of my time. Twenty four hours before I go, I start to piece together an escape plan. I get knots in my stomach like you wouldn't believe, I catastrophise they will end up being a serial killer (or worse, arrogant), and I start to long for what I would really rather be doing that evening anyway, which is watch The Handmaid's Tale on the sofa with some takeaway noodles. 

So much so that I often cancel. And if I don't cancel then I give them the opportunity to. Casually testing the water to make sure they still want to go. Breezily throwing it in there that I'm happy to reschedule to another date should they see fit. Secretly hoping they will take the bait so that I can go home and get into my trackies. But sometimes I go. And sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it does not. And I guess that's the risk you take with dating at any age. It's just that in your thirties the stakes always seem so much higher. 

I often think it would be bloody lovely to settle down again. Even if a marginal part of that admission is because I'm getting sick of taking the bins out. But dating in your thirties seems like such an exhaustive strategy, that the prospect of it often feels a little too daunting. The main thing I've noticed with dating past the big three-o is baggage. And there will inevitably be a lot of it. While I may not carry around enough to sustain me for a three week holiday somewhere with a colder climate, I am definitely carrying around enough to see me on a short haul domestic flight somewhere. Hand baggage, I like to call it. But once you get to a certain age, it's almost impossible to find someone who isn't. 

The point is that dating in your thirties is a completely different ball game to dating in your twenties. And the only thing you can really take from it is an education.  So what have I learned so far from dating at this ripe old age? Loads thankfully. Have I put any of these lessons into action and learned from them? Of course not. But in the words of my ever optimistic mother...

'There's still plenty of time darling'.

I've learned that even if I really wanted to I could never just settle because for a very brief period of time I tried it and truthfully I would rather just be alone. I've learned through a couple of dates with some very rich men that I would never marry for money (although the guy who offered me a large sum of cash when I broke up with him just to keep me remains a highlight and if you're reading this then I still have your number - just in case). I've learned that everyone in their thirties is carrying around some kind of fear and some level of issues sprung from lovers who spurned them, but that when you meet the right person you will be able to work on those fears together for the sake of something everlasting. So try not to worry.

I've learned that age doesn't really matter and that despite always dating men who were at least ten years older than me, I am a lot more adept at dating men my own age than I originally thought. I've learned (rather recently) to let go of the past or it will inevitably end up dictating your future. I've learned that men who are older and still dating often come with baggage of their own. Usually in the guise of some offspring, two mortgage payments or a nagging ex-wife. But try and just go with the flow. I've learned that it's ok to know what you want. And not to waste time on anyone who doesn't want the same things as you. 

Don't become disillusioned or beat yourself up too much over past mistakes. Understand your worth and that if you're not good enough for one guy you like, you'll probably be more than right for the next one you fall for. Let them pay for the first couple of dinners but always go round for round on the drinks. Don't over-analyse the beginning bit, even if you're scared. And become more tolerant. Even if every single bone in your body is screaming at you to do the opposite. 

Don't settle. 

Trust your gut. 

Don't seek perfection.

Don't cancel on them before you've even met.

And learn to read a map. 

Just in case Prince Charming never actually does show up.

2 comments:

wholelottarosie said...

Lovely, as always. Will we hear how said date panned out? x

last year's girl said...

My mum, who's currently navigating the over-50s side of this (really over 60, but that's not how they market the apps), says the first dates are the worst, because you effectively have to run through your entire life story. A few of those in a row must be exhausting, something that's never occurred to me as I've sat there telling her she should reply to everybody. She doesn't like to be messaging more than one person at once.

Thinking of you lots lately, I hope you're doing well.

x