Contrary to Appearances, I Do Have Hope

August 10, 2011 § 36 Comments

You know what, in my heart of hearts I don’t think I will ever find anyone ever again.

But the weird thing is, in my heart of hearts, I also kind of think I will.

There’s this funny conflict going on inside me.  It goes like this:

What the fuck?  YOU?  Find someone again?  Are you out of your fucking mind?  You are a middle-aged divorcee with kids who has lines just about coming and no longer lives in the most hip part of town and who may have been an honourary, founder member of a club in 1985 when it was the trendiest spot in all Europe, but are now a has-been living in suburbia who goes to fucking coffee mornings which just a few years ago you would have slit your wrists rather than contemplate and now you think are a riot.  Although you are not fat, you have flesh that might be described as “womanly” around the stomach, hips, thighs and arse, and which puts you on about a par, as far as fashion is concerned, with an elasticated slipper.  FOR THE WIDER FOOT.  You almost never listen to music any more, you just overhear it.  Usually coming from your children’s bedrooms and then you beg them to turn it down.  You used to hang out with artists and writers and painters and sleep with comedians and novelists and bands.  You are now a plankton.  You never got to grips with opera or sport or dogs.  You could give a toss about the Olympics.  You didn’t go to university, only the University of Life though that is a phrase up there in the vomit quota with yesterday’s So Much Love To Give.  You love your children till you could burst.  You know nothing of designer clothes and couldn’t give a shit about handbags.  You don’t dye your hair with de rigueur streaks or take class A drugs.  You have the singing voice of a whore’s mattress springs.  You talk about property prices and education and all the subjects people emigrate from this country to avoid talking/hearing about ever again.  You cannot these days name the ten coolest restaurants/bars/clubs in London whereas you used to live in those which were the equivalent in your day.  You didn’t go to the Port Eliot Festival this year and only could have considered it if you had been invited to stay in the house itself as you are to camping what Domestos is to loo-bowls.  You love home.  And get enormous pleasure out of the small stuff – a funny line in a novel, a good salad, a smile from a stranger. Parties are not your be all and end all.  You don’t want to be rich.  You don’t go to the gym.  Ever. You have a hair or two on your chin for a week or more before you notice and manage to pluck it to fuck.  You and your friends are kind and good and comforting and movingly thoughtful, no longer edgy.  You like clean surfaces and are OCD enough in the kitchen and bathroom to prompt the odd tease by your family. You prefer sitting on a sofa with a good book and a mug of Horlicks to any outdoor activity you can imagine.  You hate going on fucking walks.  You have the technical know-how of a midge (can’t even get to grips with Twitter but I am working on it, I promise).  Your politics have inched a teeny weeny bit from the left to the right, barely perceptively so, though unsettling enough for you.  When you go away, you miss your own bed and yearn for your own pillows.  Your feet are tantamount to deformed (a slight exaggeration) so whenever you go into a shoe shop, which you never do, you fear the sales person may let out a howl and call you Ugly Sister.

What the fuck? YOU?  Of course you will find someone again!  Are you out of your fucking mind?  You aren’t yet fifty and have so much going for you.  You are gorgeous and pouting and funny and look ten years younger than you are etc etc.  OF COURSE any man in his right mind would SNAP YOU UP. (Here’s me trying to – dread notion – Love Myself):  You make everyone laugh.  You can turn a half-decent sentence.  You care passionately about your family and friends and never could the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind” apply to your attitude to those close to you.  You have five or more times the Gladwell optimum number of (150) proper friends; and for a reason.  You are the past master at friendship for the simple reason that you love your friends.  When you make an effort you can look pretty good and light up a room with your vivacity and humour.  You are never shy but nor are you over-bearing.  Your thighs are not exactly sinewy but you don’t have cankles.  You do shave under your arms.  People enjoy your work which you have done consistently over the past twenty-five years.  You have an original take on life and express it openly and in a way that people want to hear.  You have a certain, original sartorial style, even if it is not directly and sheepily lifted out of the pages of Vogue and you wear too much black.  You have good manners and empathy but also speak your mind.  Say it as it is.  But you are not angry or vengeful or unkind.  Your favourite things are people and that shines off you.  To your mind, no one is boring.  Everyone is extraordinary and has a fabulous story which you – genuinely – want to hear.  Conversation is the stuff of life.  You love to talk about all manner of things, not just property prices and education, not by a long shot.  Everything!  No holds barred!  You have a quirky way of looking at life. You are not a tremendous outdoors type, but boy do you do indoors well.  Your house is the cosiest in all England but not remotely twee.  There is not a frilly or ruched anything within a ten mile radius of it.  You don’t have stuffed animals on your bed or anything pink in your bedroom (or anywhere else for that matter).  You are not remotely prissy or priggish or prim.  You don’t give a fuck about swearing.  You love art house movies and conversation.  I already mentioned conversation, but that looms big in your life and no one gets down to it better.  You are sassy.  You give a shit about other people.  You are tender but not sentimental.  You know some stuff, you keep your ear to the ground.  You aren’t bigoted or narrow-minded.  You love dancing and have an infectious laugh and welcome everybody to your house with open arms.  You’re not a great cook but (according to your loyal children) boy can you do a great lasagne and roast chicken and tiramisu.  You have good taste, simple, plain, unostentatious.  Feminine but not girly.  Bookish but not up your own arse.  You don’t want to be rich but just enough not to have to worry about the basics.  You are not envious nor do you feel hard done by.  You’re careful but not mean. Your figure isn’t exactly Kate Moss but it weirdly hasn’t changed since you were 18, skin just the same; you don’t understand it but hey you’re not complaining.  You have not abused yourself with substances or ever gone in the sun, maybe that’s got something to do with it.  You don’t bullshit and are loyal and honest and true.  You don’t smell, except occasionally of a lovely scent by Diptique.  Sometimes laugh till you literally bend double and tears roll down your cheeks.  Quite often in fact.  And it seems to make anyone you’re with follow suit.  Strange but true.

On and on I can go, either way.

Scratched record this tussle inside me.  Between the rational and the irrational.  Just not sure which is which.  On the 50/50 chance that the optimistic side is the rational one, I continue to write this gloomy but merry blog, but in the spirit of a smidgen of hope rather than complete hopelessness (or much hope left re the Smidgen, of which there is, dare I admit it, despite everything, still a smidge).

I am sitting it out in order to furnish you with the happy ending.  There must be one.  Surely.

Plankton a complete fucking Nutter?

Who’s to say?

§ 36 Responses to Contrary to Appearances, I Do Have Hope


    The second version of you is attractive, the first version of you in menacing. Hope the second version is really you!

    • joules says:

      The thing is, RFD, that both of these versions are her – and loving someone means accepting both (or more) of any versions of the loved one – which I am sure you will agree with. And being a Plankton myself I think it highly unlikely that this will happen easily – it is the sort of thing that happens as you grow old together, understanding where all this stuff has come from. Hard to pick it up “mid-flow” so to speak.

  • Elle says:

    It’s this sort of hope that stops us Planktons from hurling ourselves off the edge of the earth. However the earth is not flat so I can’t hurl myself off the edge but I guess I can do a bungee jump, and there’s a good chance it will be better than any sex I remember having in recent years!

    Scotty might say “ye cannae change the laws of physics”, or demographics relating to the ratio of single men:single women of a certain age compounded by the fact that the older men get, the younger the women they go for.

    Despite this hope always pops up to defy rational thought and no matter how many times it gets knocked on the head with disappointments or gets shaven off by the logical cut of Occam’s razor, it refuses to go away.

    Next to the sex drive, hope is nature’s sickest device to ensure that the human race keeps propagating itself. In the case of Planktons, who can no longer propagate, hope is a vain mystery. Why doesn’t it disappear in direct proportion to declining fertility? Or maybe the state of Being A Plankton is a symptom of declining hope.

  • Tea leaf says:

    Plankton, that is pure excellence!!

    Surely that has summed up all single women out there, who late at night ponder their past and their future… black and white, good and bad, Jekyll and Hyde. Still hopeful..

  • EmGee says:

    I know the Plankton is trying to make a point, but -You are the only you you’ve got. I recommend to anyone the blog Liberation from the Lie.

  • Lydia says:

    Well being from a family of psychatrists I do think the issues will virtually always be internal. Fat people, strange looking people, all sorts find partners every day. I would start with are you happy internally frst. Get that straight. Are there things which cause your moods to shift? Lots of people rely on alcohol and that makes them sad and happy alternately and they need to sort that out before they go looking for a man/woman. Others are mainlining sugar in effect. Others cocaine. Once internally content it’s not hard to find men.

    Also follow the golden rule – if you want to find a partner then go out and meet potential ones. I have made a lot of good friends along the way by “dating” men. Go out with an open mind. Someone asked me out after we met at a work thing I was presenting and I think that was because I had mentioned divorce so he then knew I was single.

    May be think less and do more. It is 7.30am. I’ve already replied to the person I am sort of seeing whom I saw last night. I have texted another old boyfriend. I’ve rejected (nicely) someone in Germany on a dating site who is quite nice (but he’s too young for me – I don’t do the cougar thing and I want someone in London), and emailed a couple of others. That’s in 30 minutes before 7.30am. It’s fun and men are lovely. Enjoy it all. If I never remarry that’s fine too as life is good. Most women end up alone anyway so it’s not massively important that you are married as he’ll be likely to be dead for the last 10 – 20 even years of your life.

  • Sarah says:

    One day you’re alone and pessimistic, the next, you’ve met someone, there are no red flags and you’re all optimistic. Life’s like that, and the chances are, frankly, that you will meet someone. It might take a while, but I’m sure you’ll get there in the end.

    When I was looking for a man, I had to resort to online dating as I never went out alone, and so never met new people. All my friends are married and didn’t know any eligible men. Having small kids and not much money I wasn’t going to start paying a babysitter to wander round the centre of town in the hope of bumping into Mr Right.

    You’ve got to take some sort of action to put yourself in the line of fire of meeting people. You choose the action. A friend of mine goes to a circuit to drive cars very fast. Recently he’s met a woman his age who does the same. They got talking and hit it off. Bingo!

  • Redbookish says:

    Let’s stop beating ourselves up. Let’s look at demographics.

    Looking population-wide (note that please), men like to partner down: down in age, wealth, weight, and intelligence. (Possibly not in looks). There is actually also a very slight imbalance in population 51/49 women/men.

    And then there are broad cultural issues: qualities which are valued in both men and in the workplace, are not valued in women, except as they are permitted to fit themselves into a largely masculine-gendered workplace.

    So all those qualities that make us smart, efficient, good earners and supporters of our families — all those things — are actually discounted in women by a basically misogynist culture.

  • MissM says:

    Well said Redbookish. I tend to think because I am intelligent, own my own home and am financially independent I should be a good catch, and I would be if I were male. Being female the criteria required has shrunk down to how similar my appearance is to that of a lingerie model. But that is not actually entirely true. Intelligent men do prefer intelligent women, as long as they are not about to lose out on looks too.

    My main issue is that the men with any intelligence seem to have moved somewhere other than where I live. I am sorry if it offends anyone, but I confess that I simply cannot tolerate anyone with an IQ that is only in double digits. While on dating sites I have received messages that have absolutely no punctuation what so ever. None. My mind boggles. Don’t even get me started on spelling and grammar. I do make allowances, everyone’s brain vacates their head space occasionally, but it is beyond being funny anymore.

    I only have three criteria for a potential partner, that they are reasonably intelligent (I don’t mean they have to discuss Sartre, but at least be able to write a coherent sentence please), are able to make me laugh, and are attractive enough to me for me to want to be physical with. As far as I can tell the dating site serves to make me feel better by showing me that what is out there falls so far short of what I want that I prefer to be alone.

    Trouble is I want all the joys that go with coupledom. (sigh)

  • I’m so glad I found your blog. I love you more every day!! I’d marry you – if I wasn’t a woman and strictly a cock girl!

  • Nina says:

    Redbookish – v interesting point – are you talking UK demographics? or general?

  • Chris says:

    For once I am going to be serious….ouch, how boring !! In life I never look back, only forwards. I get the impression from this piece that you look wistfully back to the past and do not altogether like what you have become. I don’t know, maybe I am wrong. Also, you seem quite self obsessed and you have fallen into the Gordon Ramsey trap with the good old ‘F’ word….so unimaginative. I would say never look back in life, the past will always drag you back. We all have mistakes and regrets from the past. More importantly we cannot recreate the past. Life is ever changing fluid and dynamic and that is what I love about it. Why stop being edgy because life has knocked us about a bit ? The trick is to rise above it and live. One thing I will say.As far as I can see from my experience there is a real dearth of vivacious quick witted charming sparky planktons out there. I think anyone who has those qualities cannot lose because they stand out so much from the whiney majority. I always remember that no one is payed to like me or find me attractive. So many people want to be loved for themselves but expect others to make an effort and adapt to them. No, for a relationship both partners have to be prepared to adapt and change. Hope this makes sense, had to precis a bit to get these points across without going on for ever……soooo boring !!

  • My offer still stands- After next week, I really will have the time to travel to England- I might be able to assist you here…

    If you write back to me, I’ll send you my cell phone number…

  • Well, you’re quite obviously not who I first thought you were when I first read your article in The Times last month, the former wife of Prince Andrew- She’d NEVER come up with anything nearly this clever…

    • T. Lover. says:

      No, Scott, no, how could you do this? Abandon me, your Sarah, for this aquatic one cell. Can’t you work it out – T Lover – Toe Lover – don’t get it? Oh me oh my.

      It was hard enough when I thought you were flirting with that Lydia. She is so you – from a family of psychatrists (darling, what is a psychatrist?) and, a thinking girl’s nightmare, a large chest at a party.

      But this. What has she promised? To throw herself, wailing, on your pyre?

      Rat rat rat rat rat.

  • In the period between 1997 and 2000 before spam filters got to the point where they began to become as advanced as they are today, I used to receive approximately half dozen porn emails per day- The ones in which the subject heading read “XXX!! CUM F#@k MY HOT WET P#**Y, XXX!!” were pretty easy to spot, and I’d always erase them without opening them. The ones which the subject heading cleverly disguised them as updates for the Windows 98 operating system or information about updates for my email provider service were impossible to recognize, and I did open them, thinking that they were going to be software updates-

    They usually fit into the pattern three or four seconds of webcam footage of, “watch me insert an iridescent dayglo vibrator into various orifices,” and then if you want to see more video footage, send us your credit card number…

    THOSE women (and the occasional man) define the phrase “sexual plankton…”

    You, on the other hand have the IQ of five or six of those women (plus the occasional man) combined- You are not sexual plankon, at least by my definition; you’re very clearly many multiples of the intelligence of sexual plankton…

    (And no, I never emailed in my credit card number out of curiousity to see the rest of the shows)

    • Bambi says:

      Multiples of zero are still zero, Scott….though I do think you are trying to compliment/boost the Plankton; just the sums are wrong.

      • Miss J says:

        or as I prefer to say Bambi, half of fuck all’s still fuck all! But then, I am a northern lass!

  • toyman says:

    Sexual Plankton ?

    Sea Plankton !

    Our beloved Plankton………

    A woman who shares her inner soul while searching for the cure!

    She has my respect…………………………

  • Emac0 says:

    Plankton, it’s not the depair that gets you, it’s the hope. I would say give up the hope, but I haven’t – quite – yet myself. Not on some days anyway. Other days I just accept the facts. It ain’t gonna happen.

  • Penny Hunt says:

    Oh dear. Just when I was thinking you were my mirror image on the other side of the world you write ” could give a toss ” when I’m sure you mean “couldn’t ” . Please tell me that you don’t use that awful American phrase ” could care less ” which states the opposite of the meaning intended . Here in Oz we say what we really mean ” I couldn’t care less ” ie I do not care at all.Reassurance please ! Planktons have to cling to what we can !
    Wonderful post anyway ,as usual.

  • N G says:

    Interesting blog. You’re not an uber feminist or looking for someone to keep you in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed. My Ex was a feminist pioneer – first priest in the diocese to have maternity leave – so I’ve had an interesting life which I’ve been sharing on my blog that I started four months ago. Things will work out. I like your writing style.

  • stormwind says:

    I wonder, Plankton, whether you’re not more upset about the change in your lifestyle than you are about your divorce? You see your past as glamorous and edgy, and the present as mundane – but the factors that you seem to think were so exciting about your past are really very superficial. Any serious prospective partner isn’t going to give a shit whether you know all the coolest places in London how how many musicians or artists you know on first name terms or have slept with in the past – they will be interested in YOU – as you are NOW.

    Your still the same person you were back then, all that’s happened is the circumstances around you have changed, and you have adapted your lifestyle accordingly. Even your “positive” side it focussing on the superficial – what you look like, what you cook, how you decorate you home – yes, all well and good – but at the end of the day, we all know inside that when a relationship clicks, all those things are irrelevant anyway.

    I think Lydia is right – just get out and start meeting people and going places, and stop fussing about whether your ticking other people’s boxes or they are ticking yours. Go with an open mind and see what happens – if you end up falling in love with a vegetarian outdoor sportsman with a wheat allergy who hates art house movies and swearing, we look forward to the new twist in the blog!

    Get out there and shine for what you are, and forget trying to analyse the unanalysable and measure the unmeasurable.

  • Lydia says:

    I never had a cool phase as I was virtually born middled aged and got on with my career and babies soon after university. I don’t think most men want cool Don’t worry about that. However if you do want to do something interesting do it. I wrote a lot of books. I bought an island. The main thing that stops people doing things is just themselves.

    Chris is right about adaptation. I think we might all have started as plankton and human life developed from that. it’s our ability to adapt which has made humans prevail (so far ) on this planet.

    It’s like my marketing and business ideas. Most fail but for some reason I was born a happy little optimist so I always assume the next one will work and 10% probably do work.

    R4 had a programme about luck last year. They said you make luck in a sense. If you expect good things to happen then they happen because you keep trying. One of my children won a major competition because she kept picking up leaflets from the floor when she was 10. She knew she would get top prize. It was amazing when she picked up the winning entry but I suppose because of her optimism she prevailed as most people only entered once and the real pessimists would say “no point in entering this I never win anything”.

    It’s the same with finding a spouse. Just keep trying. If you stay at home and don’t try nothing will happen. If you go on 100 internet dates then the chances are it might.

    • Sarah says:

      Ooh, Lydia, an island, how lovely. I’m trying to write my way to one too, but I fear it might take a long time (at the present rate of progress, as I’ve only just started…).

  • toyman says:

    I also bought an island…………

    Well a really small island………..

    Like really small……..real small…..

    Listen, it cost 10p for a taxi from one end to the next…………

    Really small………..


    So small, recently we had the entire thing carpeted…………

    Really really small………..

    RIP Dudley S J Moore

  • Susan Kim says:

    Just found this blog. Love it. I have a lot of friends/readers who tell me they feel invisible — aka like Plankton. I was complete plankton growing up in school. Things changed and I became less plankton as I grew older. People asked me for practical advice on why that was so I wrote this post: 12 ways not to be invisible after 40.

  • Sex, and thinking about engaging in intercourse makes people do strange things- I live in New York- So far this year, no fewer than two (2) of our state’s elected Representatives to Congress have been forced to resign from office because they could not resist the temptation to stick a digital camera down the front of their undergarments, take a close- up photo of their penis and their pubic hair and then email the photos as attachment files to female members of their staff- One (1) Democrat and one (1) Republican, so far this year, and it’s only August-

    This, I suppose is mild by comparison, when we recall the incident from 4 years ago in which our state’s governor was forced to resign after he made telephone calls to a practitioner of the of the world’s oldest profession from the landline telephone in the governor’s office- It turns out that he was requesting that he wanted to try unprotected vaginal sex with this woman; brilliant considering her profession, this could be potentially fatal these days- The fact that the FBI had been recording the conversations from this line as part of an entirely unrelated investigation should probably be the absolute least of his worries, they may have ended up saving his life, though ending his career in public office with this one- We now know that she was charging her clients $6,000 per hour for this, but she offered him the discount rate of $30,000 for the entire evening…

    And yes, I’d actually voted for two of these three people… : (

  • Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and
    I’m inspired! Very useful information particularly the final part 🙂 I take care of such info a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a very long time. Thanks and best of luck.

    • Susan Kim says:

      I can’t believe I responded to this post TWO years ago. Because someone else just responded yesterday, I got an email alerting me so thought I would ping back. Here’s the deal. This post is just as useful/wonderful/witty as it was back then. I am even older than the author (by a few years). I lived in San Francisco for 10 years where all the good men are supposedly married or gay. I was married (unhappily) and told I would never find anyone else so I should stay married.

      I told everyone I did not care. I never wanted to be married again. I filed for divorce and I felt like Martin Luther King’s tombstone quote: free at last, free at last– thank god almighty I am free at last! (and I am an atheist) I truly meant it. (Key) And then. in the city where every man is supposedly gay/unavailable- (San Francisco)- I ended up having lots of single straight men hit on me. Including a 21 year old liquor store cashier who told me he could get me a discount, wink, wink.

      Long, long story quasi short–I am now married to a wonderful man (not the 21 year old liquor store guy). I tell this story that I told the New York Times Wedding section editor– which is, you don’t tell enough good stories about the 40-somethings who marry great guys. It’s always the 20 somethings or 60 somethings (rare, but more often than 40’s or 50’s). Unless they are millionaires. I’m neither but got in.

      I wish someone had written in a blog earlier (although there weren’t blogs when I was younger), that said don’t stay in a terrible marriage. The earlier you get out the better. Being single is better than being stuck with a terrible spouse. And, when you are soooo happy to be out of your marriage and truly don’t care about getting married, men notice.

      Hey, there are blogs now. So I am telling you –I know the Plankton (London? I’m in the US) says it’s awful to be out there. But unless you have young kids , GET OUT. Ack, A terrible marriage is worse than being single. I only wish I had read something like this earlier. Oh, last bits of advice. Make sure you have a good network of friends and can make a living. I am assuming all these readers have both.

  • It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s time
    to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or advice. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read more things about it!

  • I’m really inspired with your writing abilities and also with the format on your weblog. Is that this a paid theme or did you modify it your self? Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to see a nice weblog like this one nowadays..

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