July 2, 2011 § 24 Comments
As a divorced woman the wrong side of 45 with a brace of kids, I am a plankton on the food chain of sexuality and the prospect of a relationship.
Women die long before they actually die.
I used to live for my husband and children, my family, friends, and my work. Now, I live for my children, and my family, my friends and my work. I may live till I am ninety, but a sort of death has already come. I am already in a wilderness – maybe my time again, over forty fucking years, it’s possible, but with no one. And, before I pop my clogs officially, another sort of death to look forward to along the way, in a few years’ time, when the children leave home. A woman’s trajectory; a barrel of laughs.
Hanif Kureshi was uncharacteristically restrained in Intimacy when his callous narrator considers, briefly, the fate of the mother of his children whom he is leaving. “A lone middle-aged woman with kids doesn’t have much cachet.” He could have said her stock is so low that it might as well be the shit on a man’s shoe. He goes on: “She will, unfortunately, become the recipient of sympathy. At dinner parties divorced men will be placed next to her.”
Men have an odd notion of a woman’s life post-divorce, that soon enough it will be all dinner parties and divorced men. Would that. On the whole, people do not give dinner parties and ask divorced women of a certain age. What’s the point? They are life’s landfill, not recycling. As well as embarrassing and desperate. (Even if our whole existence is geared to disguising that desperation because, as we all know, gravity and desperation are the enemies of sexual promise). Neither is a good look on the prized Conran dining-chairs, especially as that disguise is necessarily beyond inadequate. The midriff and fat-arse pounds cannot be disguised even in Ghost, and the desperation has a stench about it of milk spilt in a car months ago.
A friend’s husband – who is clever and funny and nice, honestly – told me about a dinner party he and his wife had been asked to in Notting Hill. It was populated – well, obviously – by blondes in their twenties. They were, he said, both spectacularly thin and spectacularly dim. And was that attractive, I asked, hoping against hope that skeletal brain deadness had its limitations? Yes, he laughed, very. And I thought, I must go on a diet and do my pelvic floors, as if my life depended on it. But it would be entirely pointless. Lettuce leaves and cottage cheese are a form of death in themselves and my flesh is spent, regardless of any amount of urgent intervention. Quite apart from the fact that good food and not exercising are the rare pleasures, in the absence of interest from the opposite sex, which make me remember I am still alive.
I like to think that the pleasures for men of the mind, the experience, the wisdom and more sophisticated sense of humour of a woman my age might prompt in them the recognition that I am a woman worthy of consideration.
Foolish fantasist. Woman my age and who, even in my youth, was only ever borderline attractive verging on Not At All, I am in men’s eyes just a slack cunt on botched legs. Why mine, when they can have the neat, nude, twenty-three year old version: taut, sharp and gulping as the beak of a baby bird?