As most of my friends know, I was separated on 25 October, 2008 after 18 years of marriage and almost 20 with one person. No need to go into the ins and outs, but definitely time to reflect on the impact of time because 20 years is a fair old while in anyone’s book.
When I went into that relationship I picture myself in hindsight as a slightly shy and diffident character, one whose somewhat English reserve probably meant he failed to exploit this opportunities, but he had nonetheless a certain insouciant charm, an air of innocence born of the last vestiges of optimistic youth, in spite of setbacks through my 20s. I wish he had been different in so many ways, but he was definitely ready to settle down at the time.
Now, here we are again, single. The scales have fallen from the eyes; maybe I’m much more sceptical than I was, but not yet totally a hard-bitten twisted cynic. Well, not all the time. Still some shred of naive romanticism lurking somewhere deep within my soul, but basically it’s a weary and world-wise bloke. Sounds like I should be singing “bewitched, bothered and bewildered”!
So back into the dating game after years away. What would it be like? The politics of dating surely couldn’t be that different, could they? Do people behave like teenagers are supposed to or would this be a more mature, genteel game of chess?
As it happens, the game has moved on mostly because of the Internet, which was not around when i was a teenager. Suddenly it’s easy to meet people and chat like you’ve known each other for ever on the strength of 5 minutes acquaintanship. A very artificial environment, your remoteness giving an undue sense of security that prompts an emotional striptease far quicker than would ever happen face to face. Thus I found myself revealing rather more than expected of myself, my historical baggage and even (shock horror!) feelings. Guys don’t talk about feelings. Do they?
So is Romance dead? Could it be that the subtle art of flirting and wooing has in the intervening years been foreshortened to the point where you chat for a day or two, arrange a meeting and before you know it you’ve hit the sack? Surely people don’t cut out the process of getting to know one another properly and forget altogether the elaborate rituals of courtship, honed over centuries of practice, trial and error?
No, I don’t think we do, but dating is evidently a lot more knowing, not least but not entirely because of encroaching middle age. Granted some people only ever did it to get the prize of a sexual encounter to add another notch to the bedpost, and in that it isn’t very different now, particularly since there are obviously many people out there who obviously are gagging for the thrill of sexual liaisons… and they’re not too difficult to spot either. But there is more than meets the eye to the superficial soundbites of internet coupling. Perhaps it’s a continuation of old fashioned courtship by other means.
At any rate, when I finally did date someone in the flesh (to coin a phrase) things weren’t so very different. Except I wasn’t the tongue-tied teen of yore, but a confident, dashing (literally!) eloquent adult with some considerable charm and even acceptable looks. Well, that’s what I learned though at times I find it rather difficult to believe. Ego swelling comes with no extra charge! She and I met in a public place, got chatting, found things in common, talked about aspects of our lives, chipped in with experiences, shared a few drinks, engaged in eye contact, all the things that tick the boxes for a first date. We even parted, as the song says, with a kiss, a light and delicate peck on the lips with the promise of further encounters to come…. First base (as some teens might have said!)
Not so difficult after all, and as a voyage of self-discovery, worth the investment. Keep at it, guys – your teenage years were not wasted after all!!