Nobody With Whom to Shelter in a Storm

August 21, 2012 § 137 Comments

 

From yesterday’s Times:-

Two prime plankton humiliations in the past few days.  First, one happily married friend asked me, in front of other marrieds, “for the latest updates” on my love life, and when I was forced to admit there were none, which was bad enough, she pressed on.

“But what about that man you were having some dates with?”
“They came to nothing.”
“But, you must at least have a good story for us, no?”
“Well, no, not really,” I replied, rather flustered and boot-faced.
I suppose it’s my own fault for having made good stories out of my dating disasters in the past.  The difference is, I like to choose how and where and to whom I tell them, rather than to be asked to relate them by way of a sport to be enjoyed by the There But For the Grace of God brigade.
The second humiliation – or, perhaps, more, moment of poignancy – was whilst sitting with friends under a beautiful awning watching a warm continental storm.  The rain was swishing down and lightening rent the sky.  My Indian friend began to quote in Hindi from Tulsi’s epic poem of Ramayana.  The lines described the arrogant thunder furiously roaring in the sky.  The narrator referred to the fear he was experiencing in the face of it, without his beloved.  My friend recited it in a beautiful sing-song voice before translating it into English.  He then hugged his wife, and said he had no such fear as he had her.  He told the mutual friend that we were with that she, too, had no need of such fear because she had her husband.  He then turned to me.  This friend, who has a reputation for oratory, was uncharacteristically reduced to a stumped silence.  He faltered for a moment but quickly came up with, “You are all right because you have all of us!”  They laughed.  I appreciated his hasty diplomacy, and laughed too, but it is moments like that which dig deeper than I would wish.  Of course they are not meant unkindly.  Indeed, my friend was trying to be quite the opposite.  But somehow these blows are dealt when one is least expecting them, and manage to punch one full in the face.  There are those who say I shouldn’t be so sensitive.  But they are invariably those who have a beloved, with whom to shelter from the storm.
Later, my friend spoke of a proverb in Sanskrit which maintains that one is the optimum number of people for meditation; two for travel; and three for singing.  So that’s travel out for me then.  My children are going away soon for several days.  People urge me to go on a trip of my own.  But with no companion?  Not impossible, of course, but certainly less appealing.  If the proverb is anything to go by, it’s a life of meditation for me.
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§ 137 Responses to Nobody With Whom to Shelter in a Storm

  • Jane says:

    Uuuurggh! you should have told the first one to mind her own effing business and that you are not there to lay your life out as entertainement, for her, when her own life is tedious.
    I’m sure your lovely friend is probably lovely, but he ain’t gonna win any prizes for tact and diplomacy and do you not think that he is just a teensy bit SMUG!!
    You really need to start hanging out with some new people and stop being everyones ‘well our lives may not be great, but at least we aren’t ……., lets’ take pity on her invite her out for the evening/on holiday.
    You can only be a victim if you let it happen!

  • Lydia says:

    He’s a sexist pig. Real strong women don’t need patronising men to “protect them. How utterly pathetic. I hope you gave him a lecture about the sexism of Indian culture and the number of baby girls they murder each year.

    Only wimps are frightened of thunder. Real proper English women aren’t. We founded an empire on our strength and long may it continue.

  • fi says:

    I can get this. Whenever I need to do something ‘big’ – which means anything from climbing on my roof to getting builders in (which I need to do but have been ignoring for several years now) I wish I had a husband to do it for me. Or with me. My married friends say their husbands don’t and a husband is no guarantee of help, but I think it’s the idea of not having to do something entirely unsupported that I like. So there are times that even a happy spinster like me wishes she had someone to share the harder things with. 😦

    • “Whenever I need to do something ‘big’ – which means anything from climbing on my roof to getting builders in… I wish I had a husband to do it for me. Or with me….”

      So the truth finally comes out- That’s why women like to have us around ….

    • Scott Benowitz says:

      Fi, there are plenty of men who will gladly fix your roof for you, or if the project is large enough, they’ll get their friends to help them with the project. In exchange, all they’ll expect is you’ll have to provide them with one of the rooms in your house where they can live for the next 10 years, watch sports with their shirts off, drink cold beer directly from the bottles, belch loudly and scratch themselves- and you’ll have to clean up the empty beer bottles…. you’ll find that a lot of us are pretty low maintenance that way…

      • fi says:

        Aaaaargh. I’m afraid my fantasy of being married doesn’t include them actually living in my house.

      • Scott Benowitz says:

        ghghuuuuuuuuuuurrrp…. what’s that? oh sorry, ‘scuse me, hun- I just saw the score of the game on tv here- say, be a doll, can ya grab another cold one for me?

    • kathy says:

      I totally agree. I am undertaking renovations of my house and have a myriad of male tradespeople to deal with and its not liek i can’t handle it, but god i wish i had a man just to be there and guide me through it a bit. Its a big burden making all these decisions.

      • fi says:

        Yep. Somebody to occasionally make those phone calls, or pay the bills, or sort stuff out instead of it always being me. That would be great. Its not that i can’t, it just would sometimes be nice not to have to.

      • EmGee says:

        While I wouldn’t prohibit anyone from indulging in a little wishful thinking, my late husband was a general contractor, and I spent over a decade helping him run his business, as well as literally building our house together before that, when he was working for someone else.

        Bottom, line, most men are clueless when it comes to knowing anything about building, although they think they are well informed because they watch those “This Old House” types of shows on tv. Same goes for car repair.

        The only advantage is that men will respect other men’s opinions and/or requests more readily than a woman’s, whether they know what the hell they are talking about or not.

      • Dawn says:

        I had renovations done on my house last year (new siding, windows and doors, then had the bathroom torn down to the studs and rebuilt) and I cannot tell you the number of times I was thankful that I didn’t have to negotiate with someone else regarding what colour, style, etc., things would be. I had no problem making decisions. But then, I’ve been on my own since 1995, so I suppose I’ve had lots of practice.

      • fi says:

        Maybe what I’m looking for is a Fantasy Fixer. Someone who can come round and do all the bits of my life that I don’t want to do.

      • Scott Benowitz says:

        Okay- I’ll say it. Beginning in the latter decades of the19th century, books and magazines created the concept that men are somehow inherently more capable of simple home diy jobs than women are, and then in the 20th century, radio shows, movies and television shows further perpetuated this myth. In reality, that concept is only true of you buy into it- If you think about it, and I mean really concentrate until we start to hear the wood sawing between your ears and smoke and steam starts to pour out from your ears, you’ll realize that there is absolutely zero (0) reason whatsoever that women are any less capable of successfully completing simple diy home fix- it repair jobs in a reasonable amount of time than we are. Today’s biologists have yet to discover the “basin wrench gene” or the “soldering iron gene”- because they don’t really exist at all.

        And men actually know this- A lot of times, they’re only pretending to know how to fix appliances, machines, windows, etc. in order to impress women…

        Ooops, I’ve just revealed one of our most sacred secrets. I hope that I’m not now going to be excluded from hearing about the latest research about how to drink a cold bottle of beer, operate a remote control AND concurrently scratch yourself, while possessing only two arms and two hands …. …..

      • fi says:

        We know that women do these things. Either we already do our own DIY (there’s lots of examples on these pages of work we’ve done ourselves) or we pay someone to do it for us.

      • Scott Benowitz says:

        uuuuuuuuuuurrkh … what’s that? sorry- be a doll won’t ya, can ya grab another round of cold ones for me and the guys? You’re the best, sweetie… uuuuuuuuuuuurkh !!

  • Elle says:

    What a horrible experience! Your Hindu friend was incredibly tactless. The least he could have done was not translated the poem into English or taken artistic licence and translated it diplomatically “we have no need of fear because we are among friends”. I’m afraid I’d never speak to him again after that and I’d definitely leave him off my Christmas card list!

    • fi says:

      I think though if you expected people to always keep your singledom at the forefront of their mind, and tailor their speech in case they inadvertently said something that you could take offence to, then you would be seen as pretty hard work and end up friendless. And if you took offence there’s every possibility you wouldn’t keep them either.

      • fi says:

        I meant ‘one’ not ‘you’ there.

      • Elle says:

        True, but we tailor our speech for those with cancer, Hewish people, Muslims, people of colour, the disabled or those who are bereaved. Being single after a certain age (ESPECIALLY for a woman) has become such a stigma that it’s on a par with some of the above. That’s why people should be tactful and why I think Plankton’s Hindu “friend” was out of order.

        If being single for a woman of 40 or over weren’t such a stigma then no big deal but unfortunately that’s not the case. The media makes such a big deal out of women over 40 being single that it is almost a human rights/political issue. I don’t think we should get Amnesty International on our case or anything like that, but we are definitely stigmatised and marginalised by society for something that’s often beyond our control.

      • Elle says:

        I don’t mean that being a certain religion (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim etc.) should be stigmatised or indeed being an atheist. However, people do tailor their speech because of this, ie you wouldn’t go on about being able to satisfy your hunger with a pork chop in front of a Jewish person or a Muslim. Just as you wouldn’t go on about the comfort of your partner in front of a single person. At least you wouldn’t if you were in any way tactful.

      • fi says:

        !!!!

        I don’t think we’re stigmatised or marginalised although I recognise that you think we are.

      • fi says:

        Sorry Elle – I’ve been thinking about the stigmatisation you refer to. Maybe it happens and I’m just too thick to notice (beyond being aware when I’m chased away from other women’s husbands 🙂 ). In what way would you say we’re stigmatised?

      • Elle says:

        We’re stigmatised in many ways. The most obvious one is being chased away from women’s husbands (it hasn’t happened to me of late, maybe I’m not seen as a threat anymore). The trend for men in their 40s, 50s and even 60s to date women no older than 39 stigmatises us. This always happened but I’ve noticed that it is happening more in recent years. Every few weeks there is an article in a leading newspaper castigating older single women – think Lori Gottlieb or Kate Bolick. Basically they tell us we’re washed up losers who have no chance of being loved and who don’t DESERVE love because we turned down a psychopath/rapist/serial killer in our 20s.

      • maria says:

        Elle, don’t you think you’re exaggerating the whole “being single after 40” thing just a tiny little bit? I don’t feel stigmatised or marginalised at all.

      • MissBates says:

        I can speak only of my experience, but I know I am stigmatized in social situations — I am this very evening having dinner with a married woman friend I’ve known since we were children. We are quite fond of each other, I was the maid of honour at her wedding, godmother to her children, executor of her and her husband’s wills. BUT she would no more ask me to a dinner party or barbecue at her home than she would ask Hitler. She is not the only example of this. I also know that I am stigmatized by my coworkers, and somehow that I am “less of a person” — less “grown up” (despite being 51 years old) than my younger, married co-workers. There is an assumption that I will always be available to work weekends, etc., because, after all, what could I possibly have in my life? My personal favorite anecdote, however, occurred some years ago when I had a few work colleagues over for drinks after we won a big case. I welcomed them to my apartment, and they looked around as if they were dumbstruck. Finally, one of them blurted out, “but…but…..you’ve DECORATED it! And what beautiful glasses!” (By this time I had poured the wine.) Another one, admiring the river view from the living room window, said, “Wow. This is ….um….NICE.” Because, of course, despite being a successful lawyer in my early 40s (at the time), I was STILL SINGLE (shhhhhh! — whisper it like you’re saying “cancer”), so why would I have bothered to decorate my home, or acquire nice things, or want an apartment with a view? I think they were stunned that I wasn’t still living in a dorm room with posters taped to the walls and sleeping on a futon. I can only imagine what they must have thought when I brought out the cloth cocktail napkins. LOLOL!

      • fi says:

        You know if people I knew wouldn’t invite me to their house to a dinner party or barbeque then I wouldn’t call them frends. I’d ditch them.

      • EmGee says:

        “… I wouldn’t call them frends. I’d ditch them.”

        I certainly wouldn’t even consider them friends in the first place.

      • fi says:

        Afraid I agree. I wouldn’t be friends with someone who treated me with such disrespect and disregard for my feelings. The reason why they feel entitled to do so is irrelevant.

      • MissBates says:

        The woman in question is very much at the periphery of my circle of friends for that very reason. I have “grandfathered” her in because she is the only surviving member of a group of friends from my childhood. I have many OTHER friends (about 99% of whom are fellow plankton or gay men, the two groups of people who DON’T treat me like a social pariah because of my single status), and we have lots of fun out and about in NYC, at the theater, opera, concerts, restaurants, etc., as well as traveling pretty extensively abroad. It’s not a bad life, but I was merely remarking that YES, I absolutely feel the “spinster stigma” quite keenly from the coupled-up around me, both at work and in the wider social world. I’ve made the best of it, but there it is.

      • fi says:

        I didn’t mean this to sound bad or a criticism of you in any way, but that’s disgraceful behaviour on the part of other people. I would say either you feel bad about being single and view other people’s actions and statements through that filter (ie they aren’t inviting you for other reasons like they think you’d be bored say but you assume it’s because you’re single), or else they really are that bad. If the latter, then I’d ditch them and certainly wouldn’t be available to give them legal advice or appear when required. What is really bad is that you don’t find it dreadful behaviour too, just upsetting, and I wonder whether that’s because you also feel bad about being single and so aren’t so appalled and angry when some individuals who happen to be married behave badly to you because of it? Sorry its not a criticism of you, I just think ‘How dare they!’. Don’t assume though that all married people behave like that – in my opinion they’re just ill mannered and superior people who just happen to be married.

    • The Plankton says:

      Well, no, as I say, he didn’t mean it unkindly. Pxx

  • Ms haversham to be says:

    I think we have discussed before the belief that the love life of a single woman is part of the public domain. Everyone always assumes that it’s acceptable to enquire (usually in front of an audience) as to how your love life is and whether you’re seeing anyone. I can’t recall male friends getting this nonsense.

    It all seems to come back to society’s belief that a single woman is unnatural; we must all need/want men to protect us or feel complete.

    I appreciate that as desirable as it is to retort ‘fine, are you two still having sex or have you given it up?” one really can’t say this as you won’t get invited again. Perhaps a quiet word with your friend? If s/he isn’t someone you wish to see again then maybe “well a woman likes to be discrete. Now tell me about your love life? How do you and your partner keep it going in the bedroom?” it won’t get answered and everyone will change the subject, but s/he will never be so impertinent again.

    • SteveH says:

      A simple “Ladies never kiss and tell” accompanied by a smile ,surely effectively deflects the invasive question while also hinting that there’s lots to tell 😉

      As for the Indian chap, I agree with Jane -he does indeed sound smug.
      Or as a classic line from Fawlty Towers had it..
      ” pretentious ? Moi ?”

  • PY says:

    Sorry, MS H TB. but enquiries into a male’s love life are the norm as well – not because it is particularly interesting but because they are either genuinely concerned about my well-being or are trying to live a singleton’s life vicariously – grass always greener, etc . And that is from men and women alike.

    Addressing the topic , I have found travelling with your offspring , particularly as they get older and more independent, to be fine and that other parties or single parents have been generally welcoming when they realise you are travelling alone. One lady declaring this summer that “There must be something wrong with a man over 50 who is still alone.” was a tad harsh even if said in jest but, I do not expect people to mince around on broken glass for fear of offence. I do, however, bitterly regret that my sons did not usually have the family holiday experience which I benefited from – except for a couple of post divorce Xmas’s and even skiing trips.

    Picking up on Ms P’s point , it is missing out on the shared experience which I find tricky – and not just in the ‘hard’ situations highlighted by Fi. It can be as equally miserable for a single guy as it is for a single gal when confronted by some unexpected vista and the only person to say ” Would you look at that !” to is a truculent spotty teenager who replies ” Yeh, wotever .”

    • fi says:

      🙂 agree with the holidays thing. There are some things it’s more fun to do with someone else (as long as they like the same things of course).

  • PY says:

    A recently separated pal of mine, not knowing what to do this summer with his 5 yr old son, has signed up for a holiday targeted at single parents. He has just found out that he is the only man out of a dozen guests .

    Whilst there are clearly enough for a football team, he is approaching this holiday with some trepidation.

  • Ross says:

    Your story of the Indian storm reminded me of one of John Clare’s poems that we studied at school. It similarly evokes the fear of the narrator as a looming storm breaks over (in this case) the English countryside. However, I confess that I’m no longer able to recite it from memory – it was nearly 40 years ago, after all!

    The clouds more dismal darken on the eye,
    
More huge, more fearful, and of deeper dye;

    And, as unable to light up the gloom,

    The sun drops sinking in its bulging tomb.
    
Now as one glances sky-ward with affright,

    Short vivid lightnings catch upon the sight;

    While like to rumbling armies, as it were,

    Th’ approaching thunder mutters on the ear,

    And still keeps creeping on more loud and loud,

    And stronger lightnings splinter through the cloud.
    
An awe-struck monument of hope and fear,

    Mute expectation waits the terror near,

    That dreadful clap, that terminates suspense,

    When ruin meets us or is banish’d hence.

    The signal’s given in that explosive flash,
    –
One moment’s pause–and then the horrid crash:–

    -Almighty, what a shock!–the jostled wrack
    
Of nature seems in mingled ruins done;

    Astounded echo rives the terrors back,

    And tingles on the ear a dying swoon.
    
Flash, peal, and flash still rend the melting cloud;

    All nature seems to sigh her race is o’er,
    
And as she shrinks ‘neath chaos’ dismal shroud,
    
Gives meek consent that suns shall shine no more.


    Perhaps I should practice my recitation, just in case I ever find myself caught in a summer storm with an unattached woman…

    • Elle says:

      Very good, and these last few lines of your poem sum up the plight of a plankton very well:

      “One moment’s pause–and then the horrid crash:–

      -Almighty, what a shock!–the jostled wrack
      
Of nature seems in mingled ruins done;

      Astounded echo rives the terrors back,

      And tingles on the ear a dying swoon.
      
Flash, peal, and flash still rend the melting cloud;

      All nature seems to sigh her race is o’er,
      
And as she shrinks ‘neath chaos’ dismal shroud,
      
Gives meek consent that suns shall shine no mor”e.

    • The Plankton says:

      Thanks for this, Ross. Pxx

  • MissBates says:

    Yikes, Plankton. In the first situation, I probably would have forced myself to assume an air of mystery and reply lightly with some version of “I don’t kiss and tell” as suggested by Steve in his comment above, while restraining myself from punching the b*tch in the face. (I do love your phrase “There But For the Grace of God Brigade” — more evocative than “Smug Marrieds.”)

    In the second situation, I would have mustered a laugh so as to deflect the tension of the moment caused by your friend’s innocently tactless comment, and then hoped that everyone would turn away so as not to see my tears welling up. Although I likely would have wanted to punch him, too, when he popped up later with that additional bit of Sanskrit wisdom about “one for meditation, two for travel, etc.” Sounds a bit of a bore, frankly.

    I do hope you manage to wring SOME fun out of this holiday.

    • The Plankton says:

      Thanks for this. In fact I had a lovely holiday and he isn’t a bore. He’s a lovely man and didn’t mean it badly. I’m glad you like my TBFTGoGB phrase. I was rather – smugly -pleased with it myself. Pxx

      • Jill says:

        Yes, P, and so apt. The friend who invited me to a “dumped wives” lunch is the very same whose husband made a huge pass at me (and I mean HUGE, and dangerous too, as his wife was only one room away – N.B. I pushed him away and haven’t spoken to him since. If I did, I would tell him in no uncertain terms that I feel greatly insulted that he thinks I would betray a friend, especailly after what happened to me, and in view of the fact that his wife is my friend and my son’s Godmother.)

  • Steve says:

    Dear Miss HTB,

    I can assure you, we are asked the same questions. I often avoid family functions because I know just how many times I am going to be asked if I am seeing anybody and I have to explain (again) with a patient smile that I am not.
    Believe me, it is just as difficult for us.

    • Elle says:

      Steve, don’t they throw women at you from all directions if the women aren’t throwing themselves at you already? That’s what normally happens to single men of a certain age unless they live somewhere terribly remote.

      • Dawn says:

        It is what happens. When I was first single again, I was under the dread age of 40, so theoretically not utterly hopeless. My boss at the time was single as well and people practically tripped over themselves fixing him up, while I was left to swing in the breeze. I wanted to shout, “What the hell am I… CHOPPED LIVER???”

      • fi says:

        What does that mean? What IS chopped liver? And presumably it means ‘stop overlooking me’ but what does that have to do with liver?

      • Steve says:

        Dear Elle,

        No. Not even a little bit.

        Maybe SE London is quite remote?

      • Ross says:

        Elle, I’m afraid there isn’t much woman-throwing going on (at least not in my general direction) in deepest, darkest NW London, either.

      • Dawn says:

        I dunno how the expression, “What am I? Chopped liver?” came into being, but it means something really awful. Which, to my mind, chopped liver certainly is!

    • Ms haversham to be says:

      Ah but do you get the pitying glances too? With or without the oft quoted platitudes we all know (you’ll find someone and so forth). Society really doesn’t seem to judge single men as much as single women (George Clooney vs Jennifer Anniston?).

      • Steve says:

        Yep – all of that.

        There’s plenty more fish in the sea – you’ve just been unluckyu – there’s someone out there for you – if you stop looking, that’s when you find someone – etc etc etc.

        Heard ’em all.

  • Jo-Jo says:

    I have holidayed twice now on my own. The first holiday last year was a great success, and I met many lovely people. The hotel was small, family run and friendly, and everyone got to know each other…..it didn’t seem to matter that I was on my own.

    The second holiday which was earlier this year was not so successful. When I arrived I found my ex-husband and new wife were having the second part of their honeymoon there. Not only same resort, same hotel, and worse still their room was very close to mine, and so was there plot on the beach. Fortunately we only clashed by two days, but even so, the hotel seemed to be full of lovey-dovey couples and young families who had no wish to communicate with a sad lonely traveller all on her owne-some!!!!

    I am going back to the lovely friendly hotel I went to last year in September, but won’t be returning to the other one!! If you choose your destination, resort and hotel wisely P, you can still have a lovely time!
    xx

    • fi says:

      “When I arrived I found my ex-husband and new wife were having the second part of their honeymoon there. Not only same resort, same hotel, and worse still their room was very close to mine, and so was there plot on the beach.”
      This sounds like the script from a sit-com. Nightmare for you but it must also have been the honeymoon from hell for them. 🙂

    • The Plankton says:

      Thanks, Jo-Jo, I am not going anywhere but if ever I do, I will be sure to choose where wisely. Pxx

  • Yogagurl says:

    Oh, that is a sting. But please don’t feel so bad. I am betting you have much more security than you think. You have friends. Perhaps family. And just because they have more security does not mean they are necessarily more happy. Yes, security during hard times is nice…but it’s not the end all be all. You can have more security in a long term relationship but still be miserable.

    Read Osho on relationships. He said instead of calling it “insecurity” call it “freedom”.

    This could be a time for you when you recognize all the beautiful help you have…whether from spirit or friends or whatever. We are not as alone as we think. Truly.

  • Emgee says:

    Well, I suppose in the first instance, your married friend could be laboring under the myth that unmarried/unattached singles are all out there having adventures, going to parties, getting feted, etc. And kudos for taking some of the blame by disclosing that you’ve embellished in the past.

    My guess is also that your Indian friend was mortified at his gaffe, and he did his best to make up for it.

  • Emgee says:

    I find the judgements about the Indian friend a bit harsh. For one, we all let our guard down among friends and say things we wouldn’t among people we are unfamiliar with. Secondly, we don’t know this man, besides the fact that he cherishes his wife, and to tarnish him by applying to him some of the worse aspects of Indian culture, is very wrong. Just as wrong as some of the sweeping generalizations made about men and women, singles and marrieds.

    • PY says:

      Nail on the head Emgee . For all anybody knows this may be one of Ms P’s nearest and dearest , most supportive of friends who , at the height of the storm , spectacularly put his foot in it but tried his best to diplomatically handle it .
      But when in the hole he should have stopped digging .

    • The Plankton says:

      Thank you, EmGee. He is in fact a good man, and it wasn’t meant. Pxx

  • Sinead says:

    Hey plankton,

    I’ll go on a trip with you. I’m serious.

    I’m a straight female so no potential for romance but I have a great sense of humour and am in the process of divorcing so get where you’re coming from.

    What about a train trip through Italy in October?

    • Scott Benowitz says:

      I’ll go on a vacation in this upcoming autumn with you- anywhere in the entire world that you want to travel to, except for active war zones- I’ll pay for the whole trip too…

      Oh, that’s right women don’t want me anymore…. I”M 40 NOW !!! : (

      • Sinead says:

        I’m 36 and age isn’t relevant to travel.

        I want to go to Italy.

        Who the hell is Scott Benowitz when he’s at home?

      • Scott Benowitz says:

        Oh, I’m pretty disgusting- I’ve got a gigantic oversized gut, poor personal hygiene habits (if any at all) and I’m rude to most people….

      • Sinead says:

        Jees louise, what a catch.

        And here was me only dreaming of a man with matching accessories (gigantic oversized gut and poor personal hygiene are the new black!).

        The less than absolute rudeness though is a deal breaker alas.

        Ho hum, better luck next time.

      • Elle says:

        Sinead, I’d seriously consider Scott’s offer. He’d keep the Italian men away from you. Italian men are charming, tanned, handsome, have matching accessories including matching girlfriends. I dated an Italian and he said that he has at least 3 women on the go at any one time. Easy if you live in Dublin. They guy came here from a small Italain villae and couldn’t believe his luck. Anyway, Italians break your heart and Scott will gallantly protect you from this!

      • fi says:

        Take a stranger on holiday in case you meet any men you are attracted to?

      • Elle says:

        Fi, I was joking just like Scott! 🙂

      • fi says:

        Duh!! Have re-read and I’m thick. 😀

    • The Plankton says:

      Thank you, Sinead. That is a very thoughtful offer and I love Italy, but it is hard to get away at that time – very busy in the school calendar, alas. Best of luck in the process of your divorce. Not too protractedly hellish, I hope. pxx

      • Sinead says:

        Hey P,

        Divorce not too hellish. Getting through it day by day. Very much looking forward to finally being free, even though I know that status comes with moments of loneliness. Can’t be worse than the loneliness I felt within the marriage though. That was hell … on a slow burn.

        I’ll let you know how Italy goes.

        xSinead

      • The Plankton says:

        Good for you, Sinead, and have a great time in Italy. Sorry I can’t accompany you. Pxx

  • KT says:

    I traveled around the world by myself for a year and a half in my 30’s, and I met people from all countries, ages, walks of life.. It was far and away the best and most rewarding experience I have ever had. (It is actually now hard for me to travel with other people.) Even if you can only go for a week, I say go for it. Stay in a hostel, meet other travelers, get out of your rut and comfort zone.

  • rosie says:

    It never ceases to amaze me just how how tactless Coupled Ups can be. If the tables had been turned and you’d done the same to your friend, P, which I don’t suspect you would, he’d have been sobbing into his Ramayana in a heartbeat.

    • Jill says:

      Yes, I agree, rosie – even one’s kindest and most hospitable friends can put their feet in it at times, but I think that it is usually possible to laugh off any unguarded remarks except on those occasions when one is already feeling a trifle over-sensitive. For example, recently the lovely husband of alifelong friend said that it was lucky that they had a big dining room table as an “extra” guest (i.e. me) could go “completely unnoticed” (!) I just rocked with mirth at this immediate discomfiture when he realised what he had just said. On the other hand, another (female) friend seems to excel in making hurtful comments, even though I know that she has a kind heart – really. E.g. “You must come to lunch next week, as so-and-so is coming and her husband has just dumped her too”…..To which I retorted quietly, that I didn’t feel that I had joined some sort of club for newly discarded wives, and would she please not view me as a amember of one!

  • Dawn says:

    Even if you did have lurid tales to tell, why does ‘happily married’ think you’d tell her?

    Being single is not a disease. It’s quite enjoyable most of the time. In fact, if it weren’t for the ‘happily married’ among us, it’d be downright fabulous.

  • MissMalbec says:

    I wish there were “Like” buttons for for the comments.

    Sharing escapades of my sex life is not part of the “single” job description nor is it a contagious disease as Dawn wrote.

    Depending on the Smug Married, I would inform her that her allegedly perfect husband shares their non-existent married sex life stories on his almost discreet dating profile.

  • skrundles says:

    Having just been asked ‘How is the love life?’ almost as a joke, I have found all this fascinating. I just smiled and hinted I didn’t have one, the other lady said ‘do you really think she would share with us if she was seeing anyone?’ and smiled. I smiled and walked away knowing that there is only one person who needs to know, I do and they don’t!
    I have holidays all the time with girlfriends and have to say I don’t miss any of the arguments or silent phases or car parking decisions Sit in any bar or restaurant and when you have decided who is on an internet related date then look around at the clearly ‘there for the grace of god brigade’ are they talking? are they happy? are they relaxed? do they look good? are they smiling or laughing like we do when out with our girlfriends?
    I used to think single men had it good as they could walk into any bar, buy a pint and start chatting to anyone, a female doing the same well…… but now I realise we single women can do anything they can’t and wish they can, we can go to the cinema together but 2 male friends together is always assumed they are gay, same goes for shopping, coffee and holidays so cheer up Ms P!

    • Jill says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with your point about holidays with girlfriends – some of the best holidays I have had have been of that ilk. I can’t wait for the end of next month when I am off to Turkey with three female friends, all of whom are still married (first and only time – so far!) But frankly I don’t think any of them has the perfect marriage – and by the end of the week, they may be envying me – well, I can wish, can’t I?!

  • PY says:

    I think I am going to have to pick you up on the sweeping generalisation re a couple of men hanging out together.

    If I spend an evening out with a ‘beer buddy’ , we may well be heads down sorting out the problems of the world. But a good wing-man is becoming esential in such circumstances , particularly when tackling the marauding blooms of plankton in certain neighbourhood establishments.

    Shopping is not on the radar and therefore not missed. Unless it involves truffling through a sale rail it is never going to hit the agenda – which is probably why I have never reached style-icon status.

    Coffee – see beer above.

    You are failing to appreciate or respect the uniquness and importance of male bonding, forged on holidays, a deux or en masse – particularly where there is a whiff of adventure/danger and generally fuelled by alcohol.

    The cinema is a bit of a bugger, granted , but this blog has already touched on the subject of ‘walkers’ . Theatre, cinema, opera, wine tastings, business dinners, christenings, bar mitzvah’s, weddings even the rather tricky gig of ‘Friend of Mother of the Bride’ – if a man is fortunate enough to have a big enough pool of “friends what ‘appen to be girls” , (as my son once described a playground platonic relationship) and is a profficient social chameleon, neither he nor the lady inviting him will miss out at all.

    But such occasions are a fleeting relief from the hunt for ” an ongoing, fulfilling relationship with someone else , for however long that lasts and continues to be fulfilling ” (as Fi eloquently put it) – and I don’t think that a best mate can fill that role , be they male or female.

    • fi says:

      Well I went to see the new Bourne movie on my own last night and 2 blokes came in together and said behind me. I didn’t think they were gay but maybe if they’d gone together to see SATC I might 🙂 however I have noticed something quite a lot really over the last couple of years as I go to the cinema a lot – the number of ‘bloke’ movies or ‘DickFlicks’ all seem to show grown up men acting like big kids. Ted (dire dire film), The Watch and that stupid movie about men lugging kids around, in which the only joke seems to be that 40+ year old men are acting like teenagers – being incompetent/untrustworthy, getting drunk or smoking dope/sorting coke and trying to have sex all the time but not very well. What is that about? Who is the audience? Men haven’t always been portrayed this way have they?

  • EmGee says:

    It’s rare for me to want to see a film from the mainstream studios anymore, like everything else in the media, the target audiences are though with discretionary spending money (teenagers mainly) and cheap laughs are cheap to make – over and over and over again. The same people who made the lame but profitable teen flicks in the ’90s are making the same movies for the same audience, they are all, filmmakers, actors, and audiences, just 10 – 20 years older.

    I heard one 30 yr old man explain how great Battleship(basically a Transformers movie, see above) was than The Avengers (another super hero flick), which he walked out of after 15 minutes because it was boring.

    It comes down to economics: stupid people spend their money stupidly, so they make movies that appeal to stupid people, and apparently there are a enough of them around to be profitable.

  • PY says:

    Well, the world isn’t exactly short of ‘Chick Flicks’ either, Fi, with their fantastic cocktail of romance and aspirational hyper-spending/self indulgence – usually involving a fair sprinkling of male dolts. All very formulaic. The B.J. Diaries, SATC , most rom coms involving Jennifer Anniston or Julia Roberts etc etc .

    And now we have the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ a-waltzing around the corner (presumably that will be shot in black and white).

    It’s all about bangs for the bucks with not much originality coming through. For heaven’s sake , the star performer last year was a Jack Russell .

    • fi says:

      No, chick flicks are awful too, but they’ve been around for a long time. It just seems as though there is a new audience of adult men who must identify with these characters ( adult men who behave like kids) for Hollywood to invest the money in making these films.

      • PY says:

        But isn’t this a result of the targeted ‘dumbing down’ of men by the advertising and press industry, let alone the ‘Frat Pack’ of Stiller. Owen, Jack Black etc and their director/producer chums such as Atawood , willing along a lucrative franchise ?

        How many times will you see a man portrayed on TV or in film now as a total klutz ? The link below will explain it better than I can :

        http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/branded/2012/03/huggies_diapers_first_its_ad_used_a_doltish_dad_then_came_the_outcry_.html

        I do think that this is the tip of a larger iceberg. I have been fortunate enough to maintain a key role in my sons’ lives. Whether or not I am a good role model, time and others will judge but at least I have been able to point out the idiocy of the male stereotypes you have highlighted .

        But what of those boys who have not had the benefit of a significant male figurehead in their lives – whose role model is Homer Simpson, for example ? It strikes me that society is storing up problems for itself if it can’t achieve a balanced view.

        As for the likes of George Clooney and Hugh Grant, Ms HTB , I think society does judge them accordingly – as rather sad and ageing commitment phobes making fools of themselves chasing tail. They will not to be held in high esteem in their dotage, unlike Catherine Deneuve or Helen Mirren for instance.

      • fi says:

        Interesting article. I think maybe years of portraying men like irresponsible idiots in adverts and sit coms has created an image of what is acceptable and tolerated behaviour. Its almost a given now that, what a joke, children will be put into clothes back to front by a man if the woman is away, or put the washing in at the wrong temperature so the colours will run, and he’ll be lying down with Manflu or watching sport with his mates drinking beer while the children are injuring themselves.I suppose it’s not hugely surprising if young men aren’t in a rush to disprove that – as my son said to me when he was 11 (and he’d already worked this out) he made a mess at my house when he was asked to do the dishes as he knew I’d stop asking him to do it because I got fed up clearing up after him while his dad just made him do it again and again until he learned to do it right. George Clooney – not even a pretty face, and Hugh Grant – an ageing dissipated roue (may have spelled that wrongly but you know what I mean). I’d like to bring back James Stewart and a bit more Daniel Craig (as Bond ) as alternative role models please.

    • Uh oh- Guys, the women are starting to figure out that “chick flicks” are pure simplistic escapist fantasies, and that life is never really anything at all like these adult fairy tales- The “Sex And The City / In Her Shoes” plan won’t be working much longer- The jig will soon be up- WE NEED TO COME UP WITH A PLAN B HERE- AND SOON !!!!

  • Jill says:

    This thread almost sounds like the plaintive wail “They don’t make ’em like they used to….”!!! But I do agree about the quality of most mainstream films – I always make sure I read a reputable critic’s review before opening my moth-filled wallet. But how about Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – a great hit hereabouts – or Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, or even The Artist, mentioned above by PY? And talking about films, I recommend that every plankton should definitely see Two For the Road, with Albert Finney and the divine Audrey Hepburn….hugely poignant but so true.

    • EmGee says:

      Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, or The Artist.

      Those are all considered indie films over here, not likely to show in a regular cineplex outside a major city.

      I only found out about “Marigold Hotel” on the last day it played at the local Indie cinema (local being 40 miles away) so missed it, but would love to see it. We went to see the Intouchables the next day instead.

      I went to see The Avengers w/ my bf, and it was okay. I don”t mind action and adventure if there is a plot that hasn’t been rehashed a million times, and good actors who aren’t just calling it in for a fat paycheck.

      When it comes to movies, I can always find something interesting (usually foreign) to watch for free (w/ a few commercials) on Hulu. That’s about my movie budget anyway. 🙂

    • PY says:

      Talking of a plaintive wail , having already read the book, I saw ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ (on my own) and courtesy of a Times+ preview. I ended up sandwiched between two brace of Fulham Plankton.

      Thank God I had a bit of a cold and a pack of tissues to hand, as there was collective sobbing either side of me at the grande romantic finale.

      A bit sad for the fish, as well.

      • fi says:

        Ha ha ha

      • Jill says:

        Aha, PY, you may have solved a thorny problem for me, for which I am heartily grateful. I also went to the Times+ preview of “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (at Eastleigh, the nearest venue to my home). I took as my guest a prospective “twinkle” as P would call him, having met said PT on a skiing trip a month or so earlier. I am wondering if I gave him as bad an experience as your brace of Fulham plankton, although I’m sure I didn’t sob – from memory I think I laughed a lot – and that is why he has not shown any enthusiasm for any further dates – hot or otherwise! Maybe I should ask him to the next such film, which is in a couple of weeks (or is it next week) and see if he turns very evasive ….

      • Jill says:

        Oops, more thanks to you PY, as I decided to check and see on which date said film was actually being shown, and found out that it is next Tuesday – something called “Lawless”, which I am sure will not induce tears in the female members of the audience.

    • Jim says:

      I think all films have been dumbed-down ‘bread-and-circuses’ fodder since the silent days, like the music halls before them. Zero-effort faux emotion substitute canned for the masses to sell popcorn and pick-n-mix. Can’t really get too worked up over the whole ‘my spoon-fed boredom palliative is culturally superior to yours’ bunfight. The best plots, best scenery and by far the best cinematography is now and always has been in books…

      Peace 🙂

  • Jill says:

    And has anyone on here managed to see A Separation yet? I keep trying to rent it from Lovefilm but it is never available, so an awful lot of you must be before me in the queue!

    • fi says:

      No. I’ve never heard of it actually. Just googled it and it looks a bt depressing. I did see salmon fishing and marigold hotel and the artist – all good. Another brilliant one is Angels Share – think it might be subtitled for non Scots – which is very realistic in representing bits of Glasgow. Happy endings – that’s what I like.

    • PY says:

      Glad to be of service , Jill . Good luck with the PT – but if he wasn’t laughing with you along to Ms Scott Thomas , is there much hope ? But , at least it’s free !

      • Jill says:

        No, PY, I have decided that the PT is now an ex-PT since he has not bothered to get in touch for at least a month, so I plan to take a more reliable friend (female) to the fillum, or, failing any volunteers, my temporarily-resident student son whose cup of tea it might rather more be. (That’s if he has recovered from and returned from the Notting Hill Carnival.)

    • The Plankton says:

      I have wanted to see A Separation for ages, and failed. pxx

  • Chris says:

    You know reading all ghese comments here made me reflect. I personally think that any woman in Britain with a discernable waistline can get a man, irrespective of her age. The biggest problem, of course, is finding a woman with a discernable waistline these days……..

    • fi says:

      Chris ANY woman can get a man irrespective of the waistline situation.
      The more attractive (physically, mentally, emotionally etc)you are though the better quality of man (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc) you can get.
      I think though that women here probably fall into the category of working at keeping themselves physically attractive on the offchance they’ll meet someone. In my experience it’s only men that of a comparable age that are in relationships or have just come out of them that make the same effort. Which is why the women here complain that they can’t meet any men they like – there is no problem meeting the overweight drunken slob. 🙂 ps I have a waist

      • Jill says:

        Hear, hear, fi. You got in first, but I was going to thank Chirs for his helpful observation and ask him if indeed HE has a discernible waist….!

      • Chris says:

        Oh dear, fi, I think your indignation has sprung the trap !! The whole premise of this blog is that of middle aged women who CANNOT get a man for a permanent relationship. If the premise is they cannot meet a man who meets their standards, that would then nuance this bolog in a whollly different and rather familiar direction. That would be just what are the children of the ‘because I’m worth it’ culture really worth ?

      • fi says:

        Chris. I assure you that the premis of this blog is that women over 40 can’t meet a SUITABLE man for a permanent relationship. Quite what suitable is defined as varies from woman to woman. For some it is a man within a particular geographical area, for others particular interests, or background, or education level. It is not that NO MEN AT ALL are available. And yes frequently on here there are discussions about whether people are being ‘too choosy’.

      • Chris says:

        Hi Fi,

        Got to tell you a funny story about that Prince Charles thing. Current girlfriend is Malaysian. SWent to this old Chinese dentist in Sarawak with her. First things he does when he sees me…..ho ho ho, he says ‘ you look like Plince Charles ‘…….very funny. Everywhere I went in Malaysia they say the same thing. Anyway, before her I had a Chilean girlfriend. Off I go to Chile to meet the family, they have giggle, tell me I look like Charles, try to persude me to do impressions of. Her nephews end up calling me ‘ears’. All good harmless fun but now you can see why after all this time I am a bit paranoid about the Charles face thing !! So I am very happy to hear from you that the old mush thing don’t matter too much !!!

      • fi says:

        Chris I can assure you I for one don’t like traditionally good looking men. I quite like quite ugly blokes with mobile faces that are very expressive. I have a friend who thinks blokes with those lines that run down the sides of their mouths are handsome. I don’t know if we are the only women in the world that don’t like ‘good looking’ men but probably not. The most handsome man in the world to me is Tommy Lee Jones who has really really bad skin and the most unnattractive is George (bland and boring) Clooney. It’s really not about facial features and I suspect that if you’ve been going around thinking you’re not handsome enough, it’s your attitude and/or image that has caused your lack of success. I’ve been reading this guys blog http://dannyfrom504.wordpress.com/ and he’s unbelievably successful with women. And I have to say he’s bald, not good looking and tiny. I mean titchy – handbag size. He has nothing going for him appearance wise but I can see why he’s so successful and I’d give in if he started chasing me. It’s really not about facial features for a man. I don’t think anyway.

  • Jill says:

    Sorry, typo – Chris. Think I am becoming dyslexic in my latter years!

    • Chris says:

      Hi, Jill,

      Yup, I do have the ol’ discernable waistline……..tall and slim…..but still scuppered by the fact that people say I look like Prince Charles……so me boatrace leaves me truely knackered…..you see, that one flaw negates my qualities and and banishes me from the attractive quartile…..you ladies are sooooo demanding !!!

      • fi says:

        Ah well. I don’t think that can be what’s holding you back to be honest as women don’t put as much emphasis on how good looking someone’s face is as men do with women. Height, personality, body shape, charm, posture, intelligence, wit – yes. Face not so much.

  • Scott Benowitz says:

    Why am I the only person on this site who is writing in using both my real first and last name? I’ll bet if some of you used your real names, you might be recognized (which I DO see is what you are trying to avoid), and then single people of the opposite gender might know that you are both lonely and available… and then perhaps you just might discover that you’ll soon be neither lonely nor available much longer….

    Just a thought…

    (By the way, if you do google me, there are at least 3 people with my name in the U.S.- I’m not a chef, and I don’t live in Montana)

    • Jill says:

      Why do you assume that you are the only person on here who is writing using his or her real name, Scott? Jill (aka Jilly or Jillian) is my real first name, but I wouldn’t reveal my last name as it is an unusual and quite recognisable one, and I have four grown-up sons who might be embarrassed if they became aware that I was writing so frankly about their father, for example. However, I have told the two older ones that I am internet dating, and they thoroughly approve of me doing that, so perhaps I am being overly cautious. Still, not a risk worth taking, I feel.

      • Scott Benowitz says:

        Weird- When I tell people about Ms. Plankton’s blogsite, they immediately start talking about internet dating- Perhaps it’s how I’m describing it (“this English lady, she’s obviously a writer, she lives somewhere in the greater London area, nobody knows her real name, she got divorced a few years ago, she’s in her late 40’s and she believes that alone will frighten away every single man in the entire world, and so she write about it in The Times once per week…”) but this is about as far from internet dating as you can possibly get… Ms. Plankton’s site has about as much in common with internet dating as online stock buying sites…

      • Scott Benowitz says:

        2 Jills !!! The Jill with the pink square logo next to her name and now there’s the Jill with the lime green colored square logo next to her name … However are we going to keep track here?

      • Jill says:

        Eek, something bizarre has happened to me – I have turned green! My former pink persona has been tampered with….but this IS still me, Scott. Can’t wait to see what colour I become when I click on “Post Comment”…..here goes…..

    • fi says:

      Scott maybe the rest of us aren’t as attention seeking as you? 🙂

  • Jill says:

    Still green…….curiouser and curiouser…..

  • Scott Benowitz says:

    @ Ms. Plankton- Here- http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article3518582.ece

    This article is directly beneath yours in the relationships page of today’s Times, at least the online version at appears in the U.S. edition-

    The article has nothing at all to do with you, read the readers’ comments which are posted beneath the bottom of the article- I’m trying to see of the worlds’ leading experts might be of any assistance to you here… …..

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    If this doesn’t work, only the employees at your nearest branch of The Spearmint Rhino can offer more advice about how to meet available men, although I’m pretty certain that’s quite far from what you’re presently looking for …. …..

  • Thin-Skinned Future Geezer Yankee says:

    RE the Storm…

    Perhaps we singles don’t get to lean on somebody when a scary storm is raging in the heavens. But at least compared to many of those in relationships, we don’t have to suffer the inevitable tempests raging under our rooves. Sure we don’t get that occasional brilliant sunshine. But there is something to recommend about the consistent tranquility of solitude.

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