It’s been difficult to meet a potential partner with a child in tow. People just assume you’re in a relationship. Work was a joke! Do you know there’s a shortage of men teaching in primary schools? And (I hate to stereotype) the few sports coaches who did flatter the ladies, were usually straight out of college. Nights out with the girls seemed to decline over the years as one by one, they found their mate, and reproduced. On the rare occasion we were let out, you couldn’t help thinking this was your one and only chance to meet a guy during a 5 hour window of opportunity. I must have reeked of desperation. The kind that only attracted those on their weekly episode of ‘no strings attached’ fun. Luckily I never lowered my standards to this.I had little choice but begin online dating. People spoke about the free dating sites, and I was intrigued. Writing a profile was challenging for someone who is modest such as myself. How do you blow your own trumpet without sounding like a cocky ar**! Having a quick nosy at other profiles (for research purposes of course) was a mistake. The competitive me came out. Their profiles were sexy, sassy and witty. If they were single what little hope was there for the rest of us? It didn’t take long to reach the point of pressing the button, the button that made you become a piece of meat hung out there for predators near and far to nibble on. And that’s just how it felt at first. Suddenly my inbox was inundated with winks, messages and invitations to chat. Perhaps this was a good sign. It felt wrong to scan through peoples profiles like they were CV’s. You soon got into a routine of sieving through those who were of no interest to you, and detecting those who were players by key words hidden within their profiles. The naked selfies in the mirror…. that was definitely desperation!!! But I was addicted to the site. Sucked in by the hope of someone new entering the arena who was my Mr Right? It didn’t take long to stop living in the real world as I excitedly hurried back home to my laptop for a quick flirt, and the giddy feeling at the thought of going on a first date with someone I’d been chatting to for weeks. This was the problem. A pattern emerged, investing in weeks of chatting to one person on the screen, whose photos gave the perception of a hotty, and the detailed profile of the perfect boyfriend. You could not help building a whole package inside your head based on the snippets of clues tossed to you through your laptop. Over time, this evolved further, until you had created your perfect avatar who you expected to meet over a perfect date. Unfortunately, reality was somewhat different. The person in front of you ended up being your avatar’s somewhat shorter and older cousin, with a tiny resemblance of the person on the computer screen, with a much squeakier voice, and excitable mannerisms and gestures. After much conversation (well, if would be rude to leave after ten minutes) it emerged that the business they were CEO of, was actually a selling site on Ebay. There is only one thing that runs through your mind at this point… How the hell do I get out of this date quickly and painlessly? Needless to say, this was never achieved promptly by someone with impeccable manners and who feels some sort of loyalty to the person they had been speaking to over the past few weeks. When you did escape, you knew the next dilemma you faced… How to let him down gently when you get the text saying ‘they hope you got home safe, and that they enjoyed your company and would love to do it again’. Again, this is awkward for a nice person. To ignore the text would just be cruel. It always ended up as some version of the classic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech.
So, this went on for some time with the same pattern of events. It always ended with the deflated feeling that yet again, there was no spark when you met the person. You start thinking there must be something wrong with you, you were some sort of a commitment phobe. When you’re single, everyone around you looks happy in a relationship, and let’s face it, sometimes you can’t help thinking they must have settled for less. The more you think about finding Mr Right, the more of an obsession it becomes. The loneliest times are always Christmases, birthdays and of course Valentine’s Day. The winter months are bleaker than ever with no one to cosy up with. You crave for someone to hold you and tell you that everything’s okay when you have a bad day at the office.
After a while, the buzz of reaching out to guys from behind a computer screen, wore thin. It became draining scanning through the guys that didn’t reach your high standards. The text talk messages became infuriating ‘hey ur sexy, wanna meet?’ Soon the site was only being visited every other day and that was only because it became routine. It was when I was out shopping in a supermarket when a guy suddenly caught my eye. He held a stare and all I could muster was a blush and to scuttle away with a smile on my face. It was a glimmer of hope that there are actually guys all around you who are passing you daily, going unnoticed. It suddenly dawned on me, when was the last time I went out for drinks with friends? I’d been on dates, at least one a week. But when was the last time I was out to have fun and not on a mission to find Mr Right? My life had been taken over. it was time for a change. I was going to live instead of racing back home to my inbox. That is exactly what I did. I firstly deleted every single one of my dating profiles (including the site I had a month’s subscription left). It felt fantastic. Just as it did when we burnt our school uniform in the summer of 99 (or was that just us being rebels?). I contacted friends who had been neglected for a while, and begged them to be my sidekick. I spent more time hanging out in general whether that was sunbathing in the park or visiting a museum for the tenth time. Soon the need to be in a relationship had been replaced with having a good time and making money. I felt powerful and carefree. This of course meant that I could now hold a gaze with a cute stranger. For the first time, I was enjoying life and didn’t need a relationship to complete it.
‘You will meet Mr Right when you least expect it’. Isn’t this the reassurance couples offer? Well they couldn’t be more right. It was the most unlikely place that I found love… My son’s Christmas disco of all places! I was wearing an old bobbly woollen jumper, I hadn’t even bothered to reapply my makeup from the day and my hair was in a falling out state. I was just sat with friends having a beer (yes we had alcohol at our children’s Christmas disco). It was even a sophisticated can of Stella that I was cradling. I was chatting with my friend whilst scanning the dance floor when I caught the eye of a guy sporting a Christmas jumper. I didn’t even think anything of it because he had two boys in tow and was obviously another one of the married men who get their kicks by stalking me with stares hoping I will respond to boost their ego. I did what I always did… I looked anywhere but in their direction and appeared to be having a great time. I even braved a strut right on past the guy without even acknowledging him. But the guy was persistent as he moved over to our side of the hall, I could feel his piercing stare. I felt intrigued, and saddened when he suddenly was gone. I resigned to the fact, it was another brief encounter with a guy that I would never see again. But I promised myself if I did see the mystery man in the playground the next day (the final day before the Christmas break), then I would approach him. The next day there he was. Playing it cool, I stood next to him in the huddle waiting for the children to be released. I caught his gaze and asked him why he was still wearing his Christmas jumper?