Half-Term Blues

November 1, 2011 § 33 Comments

Such were my jitters that I forgot when writing yesterday’s post that today’s post is traditionally yesterday’s column in the Times.  Here goes:-

I look in the mirror and think, how long is the whole edifice going to hold up so that I remain in with a chance?  When you are a single woman and young, the thing that worries you is time running out to have children.  When you are a plankton, it is time running out full stop.

Half-term, everyone away, is when time runs on but everything else stops.  Worst of both worlds.  The notion of an exciting text or email or call: forget it.  I am a plankton luxuriously, gloriously, unexpectedly, astonishingly in possession of a few potential if piffling possibilities, but they are all away so any possibility is on hold and, for all I know, pursuing other possibilities of their own elsewhere.  There is communication and date shut-down, and too many hours to naval-gaze and opine the fact that one is a plankton and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

I go to a lot of films as filler, and a friend came to stay last night.  He said it is entirely down to me; there is no relying on anyone else to help, because people don’t.  He needs some help getting work but not one of his influential friends has had the wit to put in a word for him.  They haven’t thought beyond their own noses.  So it is with married folk in relation to their plankton friends.  So often people have said, breezily, they will introduce me to a particular man but, with one or two notable exceptions, they never do.  How many times can one say, “When are you going to get me round with X?”  Maybe twice, then you give up.  They don’t understand the poignancy of the in-between times such as half-terms or holidays, let alone have any sense of urgency.  Some even say to me, “Stop thinking about finding someone and then you will,” and I want to slaughter them for their lack of imagination.  Just as I am a woman, British, of a certain height and weight, class and profession, I am single.  It is part of my ID, and I want to change it.  Of course I think about it a fair whack of the time.

As I look in the mirror too often during the in-between times, because I have the time, I have a complete sense of urgency but there is bugger all I can do about it. I have made a decision, though, that when Smidgen returns, I shall do everything in my (very limited) power to move things on, for one of the commodities no longer on my side – lots of those! – is time.

§ 33 Responses to Half-Term Blues

  • Jane says:


    To “naval-gaze” means to look at ships.

  • Lindy says:

    Just about to say the same!!! DIdn’t know you had an interest in the Navy! Very unlike you to make such a mistake, but it made me smile….and hope The Times picked it up! 🙂

  • june says:

    So precise and to the point plankton, again your words ring so true.

    As a retired person, i have much time on my hands, and personally am getting rather p……off up with people telling me to volunteer. Now i have a small pension, enough to live on with a few luxuries so am quite fortunate compared with many, but i am still paying a mortgage and an extra income would be nice, but with employment situation way it is, i cant see there being many openings for me, a retiree from a quite junior position in a communications company i get “it would make you feel better about yourself volunteering ” no thank you i feel perfectly ok about myself, and o yes would it stop me wishing i wasnt a bloody plankton,that i very much doubt.

    I have rejoined one of dating websites i left sometime ago, not for payment, just looking i have had several winks, never understand that, and one or two messages. I do sometimes wonder if these men ever read your profile as the winks and messages are from men older than me or men who like “the rural life” when i clearly state i would prefer someone younger and i am very much a city person. Sometimes like you i contemplate and think it is just a total waste time. As you say people dont bother, a friend of mine promised an introduction to someone,older than me, but she said young for his age,heard no more. That was only one. People really do think if you are that bothered, have anything,it really is how they feel. and i have had” the someone will come along when you least expect it,” where is he bloody coming from, outer space,the same old banal platitudes,which drive us planktons mad.

    • Erin says:

      June, good for you for trying the internet dating again. If you have a little bit of extra money, might I suggest you do a 3 month trial on one of the paid sites. You will be exposed to a new group of men, and also maybe people more serious about meeting a mate. With the free sites, seems like there are a fair number of people looking to “hook up” and not really looking for a relationship. Also, I am hoping you will expand your age range on these men and give some of the older ones a try, What have you got to lose? It’s just a date, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how well you are treated and how youthful thinking someone might be under the surface.

      • june says:

        Thank you Erin for advice but i have tried the paid sites and frankly was not inmpressed. I tried Match.com, there were very few local men, most were from miles away and i have no desire for a long distance relationship, or to relocate,i like the city i .live in in, id never leave it for a man. Ive tried others, but it seems to me its just good money after bad, waste of time. i dont think its just younger men who dont want women of my age, i think its often men ,my age want younger women, in this area they seem too. I have a divorced friend who has been searching for 5 years, shes has dates, as i have, but thats it nothing more, she feels same as me. I am very young for my age i feel bout 50 most of my females friends are 30s 40s 50s,and to be honest i just feel men in 60s and older too old for me, i know im being agesist but i do, i would have little in common with them, most look and act so old and you have to be prepared after all to have an intimate relationship with these men,and its superficial i know, b ut i am still stim, ive ;looked after myself, i dress trendily, have all my own teeth! am told could pass for 50 ish i cant face having a man who is fat and looks and acts old, i basically just do not fancy men of my age, Those that are attractive tend to want younger women and can get them..

      • Jo says:

        Hear hear Erin!

    • Jo says:

      Once again June, it’s all negative negative and grim.
      Why moan and then be so inflexible? Either you cannot meet anyone/he must be younger than me/the internet is all crap and a waste of time etc etc as you constantly write. Or those who do show an interest are “older than me or like a ‘rural life’ when I would prefer someone younger and I am very much a city girl”. How bloody rigid and inflexible. What are these men actually like? Could some of them turn out to be -god forbid- quite nice? More than that even? No mention of that possibility. No chance given. Just ruled out with such inflexibility and rigidity. Maybe they might give the city a chance too? Maybe they may be splendid although ‘older than you’. You’ll never know because they fall at the first post of your ludicrously rigid criteria, which doesn’t embrace them as a person nor a possibility. Just vetoed for a set of conditions. Give them a chance. Loosen up towards their possibility. Or quit moaning.

      • june says:

        You sound like my bloody friends jo, go on june accept anything, they dont actually say it though. I dont know why it is that men however grotty and old looking are allowed to have women years younger and very attractive and be choosey and women even in good shape for their age have got to accept anything and must not dare to want a slightly younger man. Why, double bloody standards thats why.

        I have been on dates, with some of these men, one was so fat,he made me feel sick, and kept asking me why i wanted to l.live in the city, one polished off most of the bottle red wine he ordered, although he had quite a long drive back home, think he thought he might get lucky and get a free bed,he kept asking was i on my own as i was too fussy, i resisted the urge to say no ive only met creeps like you, another had no job,no pension and very little that i could see to offer any women, i dont want anyone rich but solvent would be n ice, and o yes there was one ticked all b oxes i thought, younger than me, not bad shape, we chatted online for ages,he paid me compliments, said age didnt matter as i looked so young , , , seemed very nice guy, we met, chatted ok thought we got on,heard nothing, texted him, get text back saying we chat ok but “i want a lover” i wasnt sure whether he had expected me to shag him over the wine bar table or whether he thought me so unattractive he wouldnt have had sex with me ever, sorry but for me sex is part of an ongoing relationship, not instant.

        So please dont tell me i havent tried or been on dates i have, but the experiences have been so dire,can anyone blame me for being a bit discriminating, so i can at least get somebody who suits me slightly , if you are to have an intimate relationship you do need to at least fancy the man if only vaguely, not find him repulsive, as i am sure plankton will agree..

      • fi says:

        June – you’re ‘allowed’ to set whatever criteria you want. My criteria is someone who looks exactly like, sounds exactly like, and has the same level of smartness as Tommy Lee Jones. What? He doesn’t want me? That’s so bloody unfair. Why doesn’t he want me? All my friends (fewer by the day) keep telling me I shouldn’t be fixated on him, but why not? If bernie ecclestone can get a younger attractive wife, why can’t I have TLJ? That’s so bloody unfair. Why should I settle for someone who isn’t tommy lee jones etc etc etc

  • fi says:

    The impression I get is that you think if you come into contact with as many men as possible, one of them will meet your criteria. And you better do it quick as your body is deteriorating more each day and with it your appeal, and leave it too long and you’ll be out of the running. That’s not how it works though. You can’t track down a man the way you would say a car – listing must haves and nice to haves,flicking through auto trader to see what matches your price bracket. Firstly unless you let yourself go then you retain the same level of attractiveness to the opposite sex, most of which are looking for women in their age group. I’ve got older but still am flirted with although the men who do it are older. And men aren’t like cars – the whole process is one of developing a relationship and seeing where it goes. You wouldn’t make a list to find a female friend- you’d just meet women and see if you clicked with any of them. I think you should just relax and see where your life takes you. And maybe friends aren’t introducing you because they know it won’t work – mine stopped doing it for me when it got awkward for them and embarrassing for me as they didn’t work out. Its really awkward for folk and can upset the balance of their relationships with you and their friends.

    • Erin says:

      Usually I agree with you Fi, but this time I beg to differ. The method of meeting people you described above is exactly what internet dating sites do and there is much success in it. If you know someone’s likes, dislikes, interests and they don’t jive with yours, then that is a person you can cross off the list and not waste time with. Also, it’s just common sense that the more people you meet, the better your chances of finding the right one. So it kind of is like cars, at least to begin with. If you like a Jeep that is rugged and chunky, you are going to be interested in the Jeeps, and not a sleek high maintenance Jaguar. Once the initial attraction is met, then you go on to see if a relationship develops and on to the next steps. This is why internet dating is so successful. It weeds out who is not compatible with you so you waste no time having to find that out yourself.

      • fi says:

        I believe you but can’t face it myself. I knew a woman who told me she approached it like a job – 3 hours a day, scrolling through profiles, aiming for 100 winks a week, out of which she’d maybe email 50, get into an email correspondence with 10, meet 3 for coffee, date 1. There were successes as a couple ended up longer term relationships, but even listening to what she had done to achieve that end was exhausting. In the end though she (again its been slagged off on here but it seems to work) got a dog that she takes out for walks and meets people while doing it. I like to think one of the blokes I know will invite me to an event where my bloke will be, or when I’m at my film club I’ll make a new friend who say will invite me to the pub where my bloke will be. I guess I’ve weighed up the effort v reward relationship and have decided to go for the easiest option because I’m lazy.

      • fi says:

        P.s erin. Yes I agree the more people you meet the more successful. I just think using your friends a) isn’t a big enough pool and b) is awkward for them

  • Aidan says:

    Or maybe in this instance it means to look at sailors.

  • Erin says:

    Yay P! Am so glad you have come to this realization! This is exactly where I was as a plankton when I got fed up and started to take matters into my own hands and forget about introductions from married friends that never happened. They have absolutely no clue the void one feels when they want to have a partner and that kind of lifestyle, and no prospects on the horizon. They have no idea of how empty it feels going to bed alone night after night with no loved one to snuggle up to, talk about your day, etc. Hell, you can’t even cook if you enjoy it because there is no cookbook for one. I think you being as witty as you are, should come up with a standard reply for the oafs that say stop looking and it will happen. What an absurd thing to say. Who is going to make it happen, Santa Claus or the tooth fairy? Utter nonsense!

    So, am proud of you. You are taking control of your own destiny. And happy to hear about your decision regarding Smidge. How about suggesting dinner this time so no tag-alongs?

    • The Plankton says:

      Thanks, Erin. I do have a wee pretext or two, not insignificant, to contact Smidgen, so just might. I don’t know how many of my posts you have read but you may enjoy an early one called When You Least Expect It… Might appeal to you… Thanks for your support, incidentally. Very best wishes,

  • MissBates says:

    Aaaarrrgghhh! “Stop thinking about it and then you will.” Here’s the thing: most of the time I’m NOT thinking about it. I’m busy. Really, really busy. A busy “stressful-to-the-point of chest pains” career; a busy family life (yes, single women have family responsibilities, even those of us without children); a busy social life as I am out at least two nights a week at concerts and an additional couple of nights out for dinner/drinks with friends. (And no, before you ask, at none of these events is there ever an available, age-appropriate heterosexual man.)

    Frankly, I don’t really TALK about it much, either (except here, which has become a safe haven for the expression of all-things-plankton). So for anyone who thinks I’m torturing friends by moaning about not having a man, I am most emphatically NOT that woman in my everyday life other than on this blog, and I’m guessing Plankton herself isn’t, either.

    SO: on the few occasions when friends hint at inviting me to an event at which an available, age-appropriate, heterosexual man might be there, I expect them to effing follow through. NOT, I might note, to “set me up” on a blind date with said man, just to invite me to a freaking party and I’ll take if from there. I mean, I have “followed through” on many occasions in THEIR lives, ranging from organizing their engagement parties/bridal showers, helping them move, making sure they had meals delivered when they had that cancer scare and were so beside themselves they couldn’t function, helping them find jobs, giving their KIDS summer jobs, writing reference letters for said kids’ university applications, trekking three states away for their parents’ funerals, giving free legal advice to their sister-in-law with the deadbeat ex-husband, etc. etc.

    I imagine many of you have similar experiences. I’m not keeping score (really I’m not — there’s no balance sheet), but how about some of these complacent tw*ts we call our friends “following through” for us for a change? Is it that too much to ask? Or should we just stop following through for them?

    • The Plankton says:

      YO! to all of the above, Miss Bates. Thank you. Px

    • june says:

      Miss Bates so true, i often feel like dear deidrie, i advice, patch up friendships, listen to woes, problems etc but when it comes to me, i get very little sympathy, im too choosey, too fussy, have to live with it stuff. One friend , happily coupled up told me ive lots to be happy about,im ageing well ! well yes i know i bloody am, thats why i want someone, im young for my age, im not ready for ancient spinsterhood quite yet. Another told me i shouldnt put on facebook as i did after a pleasant night out, with friends with their partners, i shouldnt say i felt down when coming home to an empty flat, as it puts people off. Why its bloody true, they wouldnt like it. These happily coupled and even not so happily, have no idea have they what its like to be on your own so much, and what its like to return when you have had pleasant night out to am empty flat. Thank god for planktons blog and those who do.

      • MissBates says:

        Hi June: It seems to be taboo to allude, even in passing, to being lonely and wanting someone in your life. People are freaked out by it. As was said before on this blog (I can’t recall if by Plankton herself or another commenter), people would be more sympathetic if you talked about contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. So I just DON’T talk about this emptiness in my life and thus feel ever more isolated . . . and round it goes. I join you in being thankful for this blog.

  • Lydia says:

    What is interesting is how much much more just about every woman on here seems to do socially than I do. Children, work, domestic stuff most nights for me. I suppose we all just live different lives.

  • EmGee says:

    Yesterday I emailed to a friend that when I look in the mirror lately, that the reflection is looking a little worn and haggard lately.

    Her reply:
    “You & foolhardy might be old friends, no? Well, if you go, just be sure to
    make friends with the woman in the mirror again so you’ll feel your magnetic
    self in the presence of men you like. Since I have a different point of view,
    you are lovelier than ever – I mean it.”

    Between hosting a house concert friday night and having the guest of honor spend the night (yes he is handsome, yes he is single, and yes you Brits may have heard of him, as he is better known in Europe, and he says I am pretty, but I hardly know him), and hanging new work at the gallery Sunday noon, I have also made plans to see another male friend play a gig in Los Angeles at 11 pm saturday night – hence the reference to my being foolhardy, trying to squash the LA engagement in there.

    If you are going to spin, spin big, eh?

    And ignore the lies the reflection in the mirror is telling you!

    Beautiful post P!

  • Anya. says:

    Glad to read about Smidgen. Hopeful here in that light for you! You may well be surprised. Funny counts for so much!

  • plumgrape says:

    It’s a lovely text. Thank you. I particularly like: “entirely down to me; there is no relying on anyone else” and “move things on”, but why is your “power limited”? I fancy you and I don’t even know, your name, what you look like or even if you are truely a man or woman! It’s just the damn way you write.

  • rosie says:

    But isn’t it always those who are freaked out by the L word who bleat the loudest if and when they find themselves on their own. cf the ex friend who turned into a Rottweiler on crack on the odd occasion she was single while I was seeing someone, and my very own sister (5-bed house, husband, daughter, son, dog, cat) who would sob down the phone to me about her single state – in her EARLY TWENTIES – and who not long ago told me to go ‘read a book’ when I dared mention I was a bit (ok, very) hacked off with it.

    • MissBates says:

      Hello Rosie: Yes — exactly! Your sister, if you don’t mind me saying so, deserves a good shaking. Sometimes I look at my coupled-up friends and wonder how THEY would cope with: (i) solo vacations;* (ii) un-coupled Christmases spent sleeping on the couch at one’s younger sister’s house because only the married warrant the comfort and privacy of a guestroom;** (iii) work events at which one is the only single person.*** Etc. etc. While I have mastered the foregoing situations with, I think, some aplomb after years of experience (see below), I’m not so sure how some of the complacently married among my acquaintance would fare.

      *Avoid Paris/Venice and you’ll be fine.
      **Stay at local hotel, thus becoming the envy of (rather than the object of condescending pity of) the other guests by being able to retire away from the noise/family tension/exhausting holiday cheer while they have to stay and put up with it all.
      ***Arrive late, make the rounds so everyone sees you, compliment dress/hairstyle/handbag of the senior partners’ wives, leave early.

  • june says:

    Fi,miss bates, i think we will all agree here, i really do think people, and i mostly refer to coupled up people here, think that if lonely you should be prepared to accept someone who resembles quasimodo, with a body the size of a house, who doesent use a deodorant, and is isolvent, they bloody wouldnt so why hell should you. A friend of mine and a dear close friend at that,told me to join a chuch, im a athiest ! Another when i start to discuss it on the phone says i will have to go now, and will never see me alone,in case i do, and yet i have spent numerous hours listening to her relationship problems ,. Dont know if you read esther ranzens article in the paper the other week, she said its almost a crime to admit you are lonely and she had some very unpleasant correspondence from people about it, one women i saw, told esther she was reaping what she sowed when all those years ago she stole patzie wilcoxs husband! You cant actually steal someones partner, if they are happy they wouldnt leave would they.

    I think we are all grateful to plankton for her blog with some honesty about women on their own,possibly men,but i think it a bit different for men, they can want younger women etc,and get them,noone thinks it odd. None of us female planktons get much sympathy im afraid, but of course as planktons we are expected to be sympathetic to others when they have relationship problems, child problems, etc as of course we have the time as we dont have a partner and we are so understanding, you are so good to people i get told,sometimes it would be nice if someone tried to understand that we bleed to.

  • rosie says:

    @MissBates re the shaking you don’t know how spot on you are! As for the sleeping on the sofa at Christmas bollocks there are no words.

  • Lydia says:

    You set the criteria that are right for you and if you set them too narrowly people find no one. It’s not rocket science.

    I feel like a top employer getting loads of good CVs so I might discount men with beardss or low IQs or who aren’t compatible sexually or who don’t have legs or the one who was about to have an operation to get some kind of electric penis (I kid you not). If there were few takers I’d accept those whose “cvs” weren’t quite meeting all the requirements.

    Also it depends if you’re happy alone. Huge numbers of women and men don’t leave unhappy marriage number 1 until they have firmly bedded, lined up and are ready to remarry wife or husband number two and they move seamless from bed to bed. I don’t do that. I think for me it’s necessary to adjust to being single and be happy first and when my mother was dying she said don’t rush to remarry (I’d had a long marriage) and I think she’s right but then I’m from a line of strong women who probably are pretty self sufficient and content in themselves (although I certainly like men and sex and emotional intimacy).

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