The new trend in dating: Pen Pals

Its no secret that I go on a lot of first dates. Not deliberately.. I’m always hoping for a pen palsecond, third but you have to start somewhere. Since I work at home, finding first dates has largely come from the occasional IRL connection, and of course, the ubiquitous dating app. After a few atrocious experiences in 2014, I decided to take a break, assuming that my ‘dial a date’ apps would always be there as a source of ‘crap interviews with alcohol’. After a solitary few years I decided enough was enough and decided to get back in the game.

Which apparently now has new rules.

The first being that one is no longer required to go on a date. Connecting on an app now seems to largely involve texting. After all, why try and impress, pay for a drink or even put on pants? Why bother when you can just text?

What I first thought was bad luck has steadily emerged as a trend over the last few months. I kept finding myself on the receiving end of daily texts, photo shares and rambling conversations with dudes I’d never met. First I assumed the guy was busy. Then I assumed married or in a relationship. But after some thorough research, I learned that this is a new norm. The guys who show interest, have no interest in actually meeting. They just like chatting to random strangers.

When a first date didn’t happen for a few weeks, but the texts kept rolling in, it finally dawned on me that I was never going to meet this guy. After texting him to stop contacting me unless he was in Denver, ready for a date, I was met by a barrage of criticism. His main compliant? I’d “broken up with him” over text.

A man I’d never met, never had a date with, thought we were ‘in a relationship’ and he ‘couldn’t believe I’d end it without “discussion”.   I’m still trying to unstick my jaw from the floor on that one.

Next up a pilot who lives just 2 miles from my house, and as a pilot, only works 22 hrs a week. He seemed super interested, but again one week, then two weeks passed and I realized I’d landed myself another texting buddy.

Its now 8 months later and I’ve not had a single date. I’ve had 6 or 7 ‘wannabe’ texting buddies but haven’t even broken out my eyeliner, never mind my sexy pants. 

Being forced to google ‘text buddy, never wants to meet, why?’ at the age of 45 was humiliating even before I hit Search. That all the results were from teenage magazines, even more embarrassing. That I hadn’t realized guys my age want their egos stroked by as many chicks as a 13 yr old… well, I really should know better. These guys just wanted to know they were wanted. Interesting to some chick. ANY chick.

I had a pen pal as an 10 yr old.  It was boring then and its tedious now. You can’t go on a date with a text message and it sure won’t keep you warm in bed. So any guy now who wants to text me more than a few times,  gets an invitation to join ‘PenPalWorld’ right before I block his number.

Love Actually..Actually Holds Up

love actuallyIts that time of year again. The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, the stores are starting to play Christmas music  (goddammit), and I’ve finally had to admit that its time to put my shorts away for another year. Its also time for some of the honored traditions of the season, namely the annual viewing of ‘Love Actually’

I know there are a thousand ‘better’ movies, a heap of timeless classics that signal the start of the holiday season, but for me, its this stupid British movie all about love, and Christmas, and more love.

Sick bags are available in the seat pocket in front of you.

It started 9 years back when a the movie came out and I gamely trotted off to see the next ‘4 Weddings and a Funeral’. I was a bit homesick, as I tend to be around the holidays, and I thought 90 minutes of Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth would cheer me up.  I mean, Richard Curtis is good at the cutting British humor, the dry and nothing ever too serious.. how could it fail?

I left the cinema bawling.

No, it wasn’t that bad and nobody dies. However as a holiday movie for someone 3,200 miles from home, all of the things I ignore for 11.5 months suddenly became things I couldn’t live without for those two weeks before Christmas. I missed London’s Christmas lights (NYC can step aside); the frosty evenings hurrying home to catch the Tube; the late night shopping at Selfridges and yes, even the unique British tradition of the drunken office party (where everyone gets shitfaced at 3pm and starts snogging each other). The movie is a tribute to love, but to me, its a tribute to London at Christmas. Nowhere better. Honestly.

Charles Dickens would shed a tear for London’s retro Victorian picturesqueness throughout December, as people stagger to get their holiday shopping done (and get in a few glasses of ‘cheer’) before they stumble home.  The streets are dark and frosty, the windows all gussied up with tinsel, stars and reindeers, and everyone is out walking the streets.

I think that’s what I miss most. Christmas in the US is about ‘going to the mall’. But in London its about heading downtown to shop, be around people who are feeling ‘Christmassy’, to eat and drink, to meet friends and shop together. And even as you stand in line for 40 minutes listening to Wham! drone about ‘Last Christmas’ or Noddy Holder celebrates a ‘Rockin Rolling Christmas’ one more time, the lack of change is what etches it in my brain. Even now I could list of the 10 songs you’d hear in every British store this holiday season. Us Brits.. we love our traditions.

Back to the movie.

I’m not going to recap the story – rent the movie – suffice to say its a series of love stories intertwined; some are heartbreaking, some hysterical, others charming, one is sickly sweet and one clearly a fantasy on the part of Hugh Grant (who plays the British Prime Minister to Billy Bob Thornton’s US president). Oh yes, this movie has everyone in it and just about every storyline you can think up.

  • Prime minster in love with a tea lady?
  • Cuckolded writer who falls for his Portuguese housekeeper ?
  • 11 year boy who wins the heart of an American chanteuse?
  • Love sick best friend who is secretly obsessed his buddies wife?
  • Aging rocker who’s trying for one last come back?
  • Sad sack waiter desperate to get laid.. in Milwaukee?
  • Aging ad exec who prioritizes caring for her mentally ill brother over getting laid
  • Porn star stand in’s trying to make a date while nakedin compromising positions

Oh.. and that’s just some of the stories.

Now this isn’t a heavy movie, but it is helped by a cast that can act. Well most of them.

Who’s in it? The incomparable Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightly, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Billy Bob Thornton, January Jones, and bizarrely Claudia Schiffer, Denise Richards, Shannon Elizabeth and Elisha Cuthbert. Even Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) is in the damn thing along with Rowan Atkinson. I think the only English actor not in it is Dame Judy Dench.

Bizarrely, everyone is somehow connected to everyone else (well it is tiny London), and everything resolves itself by the final act. Which is where my and every other person’s tears start.

The final scene is at the airport and simply shows people greeting friends, families, kids and relatives off the plane.  Everyone hugs, or kisses, or shakes hands.. but regardless, everyone looks delighted.

(I didn’t say it was realistic by any shot)

Meanwhile, as we watch the joyful faces of families embracing, kids running to parents etc etc.. Hugh Grant intones  the necessity for people to feel love around the holidays, how we’re all connected and that the holidays are a time when we all come together…

…and every single person wants to stick a fork in their eye.

Hey, I’ve bawled even when I was married. It STILL made me yearn to be back in London.

But no matter what my circumstances are, every year I drag out my DVD, my tissues and press play. Its a form of torture, but I wallow in my homesickness. From the sickly sweet storylines, to poor Emma Thompson listening to Joni Mitchell sing ‘Both Sides Now’ knowing she’s not as cherished as she once thought. You either love it or you don’t.

So, if you’re wondering what holiday movie to drag out this year and you’re sick of  ‘A Christmas Story’ or ‘Its a Wonderful Life’, check out Love Actually. Its 10 years old, but it holds up. And you’ll never feel the same about an airport at Christmas ever again.

Romantics Anonymous

say anything real 1Apparently the pending request to attend a 25 year reunion (yes, I was 6 when I graduated) has pushed me into an 80’s kick this week and everywhere I turn there are reminders of the romance and excitement of my teenage years.

Sure I was brace-faced for most of them, and I did have a penchant for unfortunate lesbian haircuts, but damn I was a romantic back then. I wasn’t into actual dating, but I swooned along with everyone else when Scott and Charlene got married on ‘Neighbors’ (Yanks you don’t know what you’re missing), and John Hughes was reading my mind when he directed The Breakfast Club. Misfit? Romance? Sign me up.. and then maybe my Judd Nelson would come along, scarves wrapped around his boots, greasy hair a flapping and that would be that. He’d seduce me in a broom closet and wear one of my earrings…. Ah… romance. Pretty in Pink, When Harry Met Sally, hell even Sixteen Candles.. all sooo romantic. Girl always gets the boy.

DISCLAIMER: Too many chick flicks or ‘yooth’ movies can distort your notion of how romance in real life is actually going to play out.

1. Spontaneous displays of affection out of left field.

‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ ruined me. Not only was there little no chemistry between the leads (Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson and a whole lot of moody ‘wrong side of the tracks’ drumming), but at the end, out of left field, the girl got the guy. As the result of a spontaneous display of affection. 80 minutes into the movie Eric decides he doesn’t actually want to give diamonds to his crush, hands over the jewels to Mary, and they skip off (literally) into the sunset.  Cos that happens.

Cue my first massive display of spontaneous affection. I had no indication that the guy liked me, but hey, maybe its like the movie.. ‘he just doesn’t realize it yet’. I couldn’t afford diamonds (what dude wears diamonds except pimps?), so instead I decided to decorate his car with roses. In the stealth of night I crept around his car, tucking roses into every available gap, and spreading petals across every surface of his car. Under the wind shield wipers, shoved into the grill and the exhaust pipe, the car looked be-oootiful to me as I walked away smugly confident. He’d know it was me (I assumed psychic capabilities) and he’d be over in a shot to declare his love.

(again, one too many chick flicks)

Of course I hadn’t factored in British weather (aka rain and gusts of wind) into the equation, nor had I thought about the effect of a hundred thorny branches scraping across paintwork throughout the night. I also didn’t really think through how a guy would respond to finding his car covered in flowers. What I found cute and romantic at 8pm… in the cold morning light of ruined paintwork and dead flowers, it looked more like a deaththreat from a psycho than an offering of love.  I was just glad I didn’t leave a note saying who did it. And when he spread the news that a psycho was stalking him.. I ooo’d and ahhh’d along with everyone else while backing slowly towards the door.

2. Generosity killed the cat (and the relationship)

I always thought that romance meant doing something for the other person, purely out of the wish to make them feel good without any pay off for yourself. I mean, in Dirty Dancing,  Baby learns to dance and replaces the chick who’s off getting an abortion to be nice. She was generous. She just wanted to help. So, she got Patrick Swayze as a result, but it was out of altruism.

I have since revised this understanding. Being completely, selflessly generous is apparently a sign of ‘psycho’  or ‘idiot’ to dudes (who aren’t Patrick Swayze).

D hailed from the East Coast and had family scattered to the wind. Estranged from his dad through divorce, he and his brothers struggled to maintain ties with each other, never mind with solid old ‘dad’. I listened to stories from his past about days gone by at the baseball field, hanging with the bros and Dad watching the Indians win themselves into the playoffs. I really liked D and the thought of this family tradition warmed me to the point of idiocy. Putting one and stupidity together I decided that, wouldn’t it be nice if I could help reunite the family through their love of the national pastime? Out I went and bought them 6 tickets to the Indian’s home opener.  That would be the Cleveland Indians. Seats behind the home plate. For him, his 4 brothers and good old Dad. I didn’t include myself since it wasn’t my tradition but handed the tickets over, excited to see his reaction.

Strangely he didn’t seem that excited. He just seemed confused as to my actions. He didn’t see the romance of the thing, why I thought it was a nice thing to do, and immediately freaked the fuck out. And I mean freaked.

Its not often you get dumped for giving a gift to a boyfriend. (though in hindsight.. I do seem to be developing a track record).

He kept the tickets of course. And I decided that anything bigger than a keyring would require pre-approval for future men in my life.

3. Stick to Peter Gabriel

Everyone loves ‘Say Anything’. John Cusak, that boom box scene, Peter Gabriel singing ‘Your Eyes’ in the rain as she comes to the window. Instant romance. Now I’m not stupid enough to recreate that scene (even I know the difference between psycho and romantic gestures when women do them), but I loved the idea that a song was telling her how he felt. I love music and it always expresses feeling so much better than words.. especially when you’re smitten and words aren’t enough. When you need music to really show the depth of your love…

Oh yes….I went for it.

The only saving grace. I can’t sing. Instead I decided to commission one of his favorite bands to write and sing a song about him.

Yes. I know.. I’m cringing too.

I corresponded with the lead singer, we developed sort of a nice working relationship and we went back and forth on the key themes, things which we (the man in question and I) shared and what I was trying to say. I had high hopes.. after all, they’d recorded my favorite song of all time. A personalized love song? Who gets that other than Gwyneth and Beyonce? I was beyond excited and sat on my secret for month after month waiting for the track to appear. Which it did, just as we started planning our wedding. Timing? Perfect.

Unfortunately it….it was awful.

I decided not to wait until the wedding to play it for him and I figured whether I liked it or not, it was for my dude. And maybe, just maybe he’d like it? I mean, not everyone’s taste is the same right? Plus it was soooo romantic.

I played it during a romantic dinner one night without a word. Hoping that he’d hear the words as we sat in candlelight and be delighted and surprised to find that they really spoke to him.. that he’d turn to me and there would be this moment…

‘God, what is that awful track?’ he said, ‘Can we swap it? Its making my head hurt’

I explained.

Bad idea. Again I saw that look of surprise tinged with fear. He was too polite to freak the fuck out, but lets just say those discussions of marriage ended pretty fast and within the month we were done.

Note to self. Stick to a key ring next time. Maybe a sweater. If you’re going to play a song, stick with Peter Gabriel. And those romantic gestures? They only work in the movies. 

Tony Bennett and an ode to romance

Tony Bennett: An ode to romance

I was fortunate enough last week to see Tony Bennett live and up close at the Denver Botanical Gardens. Not only was he close enough for me to see his wrinkles and hear his actual, rather than ‘mic’d voice, I was close enough to get a sense of that ‘ol’ black magic’ he’s spun for so many years.. namely, romance.

Sure the guy is 86 but that voice, those songs, the fading sunlight.. both my girlfriend and I were in tears as Tony crooned at us from the grand piano. Yes it was beautiful, but the romance of it what had us so moved and so full of … well.. feelings. The songs of lost love, of long time love, of remembrance and yes.. of the good life.

Now I love a 50s or 60s movie, a pencil skirt and a woman who could hold a martini and a cigarette while wearing a girdle and pancake make up (and still look natural).. but I don’t romance the era. I don’t want to be the housewife of the 50’s or the 60’s and no matter how much Mad Men I watch, I wouldn’t trade the freedoms of today for the ‘white picket fence’ certainty of that era. But what I do long for and one of the reasons I still listen to so much jazz, Tony and Frank.. is the romance.

(and no, even though I love them… Wilco, Bon Iver, The National, Iron and Wine, Elliott Smith, Rufus Wainwright, even M Ward… not really romantic.. beautiful stirring music, but not romantic).

How to describe romance? Hey if Shakespeare and Donne couldn’t do it, I think its safe to say its beyond me. But I just know that nothing will move me like ‘Smile’ or ‘I Left my Heart in San Francisco’, and of course, ‘Because of You’. Maybe its the sense of longing, the ‘almost having but not quite getting’ melancholy that I find so poignant. Or the nostalgic sense of hope, despite the gravely voice and so sad words. Even the upbeat songs seem to fill me with the scent of roses and the heady remembrance of starting to fall in love (and boy, that’s looking back a ways). Listening to Tony (and Frank, and Chet Baker and Miles and Coltrane… the list is endless), it stirs something that reminds you of the highs and the lows of life, but harmonizes them into something that brings contentment and a sense of goodwill and love. Maybe its just me, but listening to these guys makes me love.

Love what? Well – life

But what of romance?  While I’m not getting showered with roses or declarations of affection anytime this year.. I tend to think that my life has some pretty romantic moments. Where I’m content beyond words.  Without words when I breathe in the scent of cigarettes and soap. Or sad but enjoying the wallow. Nervous with anticipation and a stomach that flips. Or having to pull over my car to listen to that song on my iPhone that contains everything I once felt about someone special.

Yes,  I am a bucket of goo under this cold British shellac. 

But romance isn’t something most of us feel these days. I don’t know about you, but the manufactured pink of Valentines day doesn’t really count and unless you’re partnered with an English major, I doubt anyone’s received a love letter that moved you to tears lately. In between the email, the dog, the grocery runs and workouts, there’s not a lot of time or space for romance. Because romance just happens….The early morning text, the emailed song to break up a long Wednesday afternoon or just the quiet hug from nowhere.  But we’re too busy to notice, too busy to remember or it just doesn’t seem, well, romantic enough for some people. Its just so hard to define what it is or isn’t, or how to ‘be’ it. So most of us just aren’t.

We can’t define it, we can’t explain it, we can’t tell people how to ‘be’ it.. but Tony can stand, at the age of 86 and make us all feel it.

Beats me. No wonder he’s had the good life.

Dating ‘normal’

Unexpectedly I found myself on a date with a non hippy, (body part, not ethos), sane, good looking dude one Friday night. I had a scotch or three to celebrate.
Interesting? check. Passionate about his job? check. Good body? big check. Eyes? two, facing forward and aligned, check. Single? check. Chemistry? ummmmmm????

Here’s the kicker. The guy had no edge. Either he was hiding it in his pants or he really was the ‘what you see… ‘ guy. Which threw me for a loop. Where was his self obsessed monologue on his activities?  His off handed criticism of former partners? Slightly sexist comment about my career? Nada.  None of it. Instead, I just had a great date. Which ended at 1am and a request for a second date that following Sunday.

Second date – snowshoeing – gave me the ideal opportunity to dig around his personality to find his edge, plus check out his ass in snow pants (hey, these things are important in Colorado). Damn. He passed that test. Clearly he’s drinking blood or sucking down HGH because this guy does not look his age in the clarity of daylight.
So we hike. And we chat. Well he chats, I’m conserving oxygen and watching him slowly wilt. And again, no edge. He’s open, apparently honest and not hiding much – but with some boundaries. All very appropriate and proper.

The problem becomes apparent- its me. I’m not used to normal people. Certainly not guys I’m on a date with. By now we’ve hit the sheets and he’s already picking out rings as I’m making for the door.  Or I’m planning our vacation and he’s out the door. Instead this guys is telling me about how he took care of his Mum when she was terminally ill with lung cancer. Seriously. He’s that nice. He’s making me laugh, calling me on being harsh and generally acting like a good friend.

The result – I’ve never felt like more of a freak as it becomes clear… this guys wants us to be friends and get to know each other before anything happens. Did this guy write a dating book? I’m floored. Stunned. What a pity that I find him so boring. See? this is what dating does to you..I can’t be attracted to normal. I don’t know what to do with nice or normal.

Now help me find a guy who’s completely career obsessed or has a burgeoning drinking problem please. That I can deal with.

After The First Date: Now What?

 Like you need me to tell you?
Well, since you’re probably sitting around just waiting, trying to not think about it with a slow gnawing in your stomach.. you probably have nothing else to do.

Typically most days after a first date I like to take a few borax showers armed with a good plug of wire wool and some hallucinogenics. But that’s just me. Lets say you had a good first date and while it all seemed to go well, you’re not quite sure what happens next. You had good chemistry, there weren’t any awkward silences and he didn’t have to be carried out of the bar. You may have even had a platonic, pursed mouth kiss or an ‘Aunt Mildred’ distance hug and waved each other goodbye. But will you hear from him again?

Well, I hate to break it to you ladies, but if there wasn’t an ‘asking’ for a second date on the first date.. you’re probably not seeing that guy again, until he reappears on Match.com or gets arrested for hiring hookers on Federal. And no ‘we should totally do this again’ as he scoots off at high speed doesn’t count. I’ve used this myself and its the guilt free kiss off. Yes we might do something again…if hell freezes over or I’m really drunk on a Friday night.

Sure, some guys still live in 1985 and wait the proverbial day or 3 to call, but this warning sign indicates one of two things a) he’s a player, and old school at that or b) he’s not really that keen, but his other dates this weekend didn’t work out any better. After the age of 40, waiting a day or 3 to contact someone after a first date is tantamount to pulling that year old pint of vanilla out of your freezer. You don’t actually want to eat it but, well, you can’t be bothered to go to the store and you’re hungry. (yes, you’re the vanilla with freezer burn). No one wants to throw away the ice cream, because, being honest, after 40, ice cream, even covered with ice crystals and tasting slightly of chicken.. well its still ice cream.

But if your optimism can’t be dampened (and you’re female), you’ve probably convinced yourself that because no-one drooled, farted, mentioned a felony and there was laughter, he’s definitely going to call and you just need to sweat it out. If you’re coming off a dry spell or you’re less than confident in your total desirability, instead of spending the next few hours or days thinking about whether he was a good fit for you, you’re spending your time hoping that he thought you were a good fit. Which I’ve found leads to me dating a lot of psychotic men with alcohol problems.

There’s a reason that girls waiting for phones to ring still features in the movies today. Because its a reality. No matter that he could text, he could poke you on Facebook or send you an email, the 40ish dater knows that he’ll call. So you busy yourself with laundry, and brunch and cocktails and even drag yourself to a cold First Friday art show, all while constantly checking your phone to see if there’s anything happening. Not that you’d pick up… c’mon, we grew up on answerphones. We’re not that stupid. When guys have called me after a first date I’ve learned that its usually the ones you don’t want to call, who will call like clockwork. And who needs to deal with dodging the awkward ‘second date request’? I am sure there are women out there who can bold faced tell a dude ‘sorry, but talking to you made me want to poke my eyeballs out with a fork’ but its not me. I try and communicate telepathically through disinterest, yawning and cocktail dates that last for 1/2 a cocktail (its worth the sacrifice).. but if they don’t get it… well I’ll deal with it via my answerphone. The one time I did confront the yawning gap in chemistry and the sense that I was dating my dad, I ended up in an email back and forth that lasted 2 months. He took my honesty as the opportunity for some free therapy and to learn ‘what exactly about me don’t you like and why?’

That happened.

So, if he didn’t ask you for another date while on the date, you’ve not heard from him and its ooo 4 days later. Now what?

Two words.

Move on.

or three words…

Start a blog.

Yep, I’m still waiting for Joe to call me back after an awesome 2 hour coffee date in Boulder and its been 5 years but I know he’s been busy. It’ll happen.

The Crush

Five weeks into my new budgeted/clean living/ lord this is boring program, my brain turns to the one thing I’ve not renounced. Crushes.

You remember – daydreams based on nothing except beautiful eyes and a delicious drawl, the ‘I daren’t look at you or you’ll know’ interactions, considering and changing clothes before the most innocent of meetings. Clearly with little on my brain except my sputtering lack of a career, the transparency of my bank account and increasing numbers on the scale I know a crush is just a distraction. But its free, its innocent and until Google finds a way to share your searches.. relatively harmless (unless you start driving my his house, in which case, you’re on your own sista).
Just something to give a little ‘oomph’ to your step and frankly, give you a reason to wash your hair on the weekends.

I revel in the secrecy of a new crush, which I hug to myself, fantasizing about the possibility (and fear) of reciprocation and delighting in his presence. Of course, I’m still me which means I know this has a shelf life of about 6 weeks, the reality could probably shorten that to a few hours and really, with nothing in common, I’d be bored by the end of a date. But for now, its delicious to fantasize. 

I’ve had crushes on 5 ft 5 yoga instructors, pear shaped IT help-desk nerds, the guy who fixes my bike and even a former boss who was nicknamed, unfortunately, Mr. Potato-head. Its not about beauty or suitability and often its totally random, but something in my brain just goes off and I instantly created an entire story about that person based on a single flick of a phone, a frown and even, yes, the way someone walks. Based on my internal back-story, this person is  exactly what I’ve been missing, they’re sexual napalm and damn, if only… if only.  
Of course Mr. Potato Head probably was just as dull as his Nordstom casuals wardrobe, and I honestly fell out of crush-ville when my pear shaped guy stood up.. but for a fleeting hour, day or week..I was 15 and drafting love notes in my head. 

And frankly, anything that makes me feel 15 and doesn’t involve cradle robbing or crop tops is fine by me. 



Online Dating Sites: A review

Online Dating Sites: A Review

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than 1 second you’ll understand that I’m no stranger to the ‘online dating’ scene. I actually can lay an embarrassing claim as an ‘early adopter’ when I joined Yahoo Personals back in 1999.  Yes..stop counting.. I’ve been looking for a date for 14 years.

(Pause for acute introspective moment and to call therapist for urgent appointment)

So if you’re thinking about online dating or you’ve heard about a new online site that might, just might hold the key to finding the perfect person for your unique and special needs.. kick back and fix yourself a drink. I’ve done all the hard work for you. And I have the stories to prove it.

I’ll start in chronological order, but since Yahoo personals no longer exists.. drum roll…

Match.com.

I’ve joined Match more times than I can count. Largely due to my naive hope that I wouldn’t need more than 1 month to find a suitable date, I only ever sign up for a month.. which ridiculously means I’ve quit and restarted enough times to have qualified for lifetime free membership. Which I actually turned down because it would be admitting to this sickness and sense of hope that I can’t seem to shake.  Based on zero fact, I believed that match.com contained my future partner and well, based on volume, it probably does. I just can’t find him.
Match.com is known by many guys as a place to find hook ups and by women as the place with the most guys. Unless you’re ‘paper bag’ material, you can guarantee that you’ll have a date by Tuesday. Who with and the state of his mental health is up to you. On the pro side, there are hundred and hundreds of guys, and even as I’ve aged, I can still find a few cute ones who don’t turn my stomach or make me want to clean my Beretta. I have 3 girlfriends who have met their husbands on Match which is why I keep signing up… (all of them are sane, good looking, employed professionals).
On the con side, its a second job to root through all of the potentials and few guys tend to actually read your profile as a result. Despite my clear request for ‘athletic people only’ about 50-75% of my respondents haven’t worn a pair of sneakers since high school and an alarming amount weigh more than my car. I have dated a few, but the amount of fresh divorcees (with little imagination) means that baggage count for those over 40 is high.  You also find that many of the guys – even those into their 50s – still express a ‘maybe’ or ‘definitely’ on the kids front which is ambitious to say the least. I’ve since learned that its a ‘tactic’ to not eliminate those chicks who actually want kids… (though I’m sure that leads to some interesting conversations right around month 3).
Conclusion: If you want a fun night out with a stranger over drinks, and an inevitable story to share with friends go right ahead. If you’re seriously looking to meet someone to date long term.. skip it.

eHarmony.com

After a futile period on Match, I was advised by girlfriends in other cities to try eHarmony. ‘Much better quality of guys’ ‘no losers’  and ‘these guys are actually looking for someone’. Hmmm sounds better. I signed up for my typical 1 month period and with light heart, figured this one would work.
Now whether its the Denver demographic or my friends tastes I’m not sure, but eHarmony in my city seems populated by middle aged short guys with 3 kids and a need for a free live in nanny/ mother.
And to get to that point.. lord. Talk about an investment of time. You’re not allowed to actually email people until you’ve ‘asked’ them a series of inane questions about which way they vacuum or which season they like best (who the f-k cares?) so it can be actually weeks before you have a chance to engage in any actual conversation with this person. To me, this feels too much like dating an inmate who you found on craigslist. A big investment of time and energy in order to … maybe… email? I think it might take a few months to get to an actual date so I’ve never  actually had a date as a result of an eHarmony connection. I can’t be bothered to care whether ‘Kevin’ prefers the ocean over the mountains and how this feeds into our compatibility I have no clue. For me its tended to involve smart alec comments and performance in the sheets. By eHarmony standards I might get to that by next Christmas. Not only is the process long but on several occasions I’ve logged on only to be told ‘There is no-one in your region who meets your requirements’. No kidding.  Nothing like a sign to move.
Conclusion: Maybe its just my region, but my experience was long, boring and tedious. And I tend to save that for the actual relationship.

JDate.com

Ok, ok.. I know I’m not Jewish. but I love love love a Jewish man. I think its my preference for a large nose and poor eyesight, or maybe I never recovered from my youthful Woody Allen fetish.  Either way I logged on and my eyes popped. I gladly forked over my $45.99 for a month of unrestricted access to my potential Meshugener.
I joined JDate fresh off a relationship with a Jewish Adonis thinking ‘must be more where that came from’. Sadly I learned pretty fast that not everyone is looking for a shiske goddess (or they would be on Match.com) and that my lack of tribal affiliation was a bit of a hindrance for this goy. I also realized that with a man of Jewish faith comes a mother of fierce conviction that you’re not good enough for her son and assumes complete control over his life. Frankly I spent 39 years escaping my own mother.. I don’t need another one. 
Conclusion: If you are actually Jewish, its probably the #1 destination. If you’re not, even if you’re converting, be prepared to run into some serious mother issues and men who, surprise surprise, want to date a Jewish woman. 

PlentyofFish.com

By now I was getting desperate (I think Christmas was looming) and after a 6 month dry spell and waning funds, I figured what the hell. The site was free, it had the word ‘ plenty’ in it and it wasn’t going to run me the usual $39.99. Did I mention it was free? Despite an alarming prevalence of photos of shirtless guys taken in their bathroom mirrors, I posted a profile and figured at least I’d get a date or two out of it. Alarming is the only word I can use to describe the responses I received, and I think that I’d have done better wearing a sandwich board sign around my neck in downtown Denver as regards to quality. Call me snobbish but I can’t go on a date with a guy who emails without any punctuation or capitalization. Sure, he might be a genius and have no time for such things as grammar, but I require at least one comma per email. Having said that, I did get a lot of responses, and actually quite a few dates. Hummm. The dates. I’ll spare the details for today, (a whole other story), but at least 2 involved discussions of porn on the first date, and one shared his fathers preferences in the bedroom (not something I thought was part of the deal). I didn’t meet anything I’d consider ‘normal’ (or sane), though one did drive a brand new Porsche 911. Didn’t make him any saner though.
Conclusion: Be scared. Be very scared unless your profile also features a topless shot of you taken in the bathroom mirror, in which case, rock on. These are your guys.

OkCupid.com

I know, by now I should have realized that the trend wasn’t getting any better. But I’d heard from some coworkers at work who were ‘amazed’ that I was single, that OkCupid was the place to meet people. And yes it is.. if you’re 25. I’ve never felt so pervy as I did that evening as I scrolled through my responses. Yikes! I’m only 41, not 61 but every single guy referenced my age.. even those who were similarly aged themselves. The site is great because its not so marriage minded as the eHarmony or even Match sites and it clearly references hooking up, casual relationships and long term as options. On the down side, be careful what you wish for. I usually don’t like to state that I’m interested in having a boyfriend rather than a hook up (scares the weak ones away) but after multiple IMs asking me to ‘connect’ and porny emails… well… my definition of ‘casual’ is definitely different from OKCupids.
Conclusion: Apparently Cupid is ok with you if you’re 25-30 but leave well alone if you’re in any way sensitive. It caused me to get on the scale for the first time in 10 years and made me realize that I’m too old for ‘hooking up’.

Craigslist.org

Don’t judge. This was a few years back and yes, I should have known better that a site where I can sell my old gardening equipment isn’t a good source for romance. But.. it was free and I was going through a particularly intense Missed Connections phase. After perusing the ‘aisles’ for a while, I decided to post and see what landed. 3 hours and 75 emails later I realized that people don’t actually use Craigslist for dating and I’m inadvertently stumbled on a lot of pent up demand. I had emails from all manner of people, many of whom just wanted to chat. It was tragic. Needless to say I didn’t date any of my respondents, but I did start responding to others ads. The results I have to say were actually quite fun. I joined a guy at the Opera, a budding politician at a fundraiser and more than one angsty cyclist who refused to join the mainstream sites. Weirdly it didn’t freak me out more than PlentyofFish did and the people I met were universally cool.
Conclusion: If you’re up for anything and know how to date safely, give it a look. You probably won’t find a partner but you might end up  doing something completely random with an interesting stranger.

So there you have it.. my summary of the major sites I’ve tried. My advice – if you want to get out of the house – do it. If you want to find a partner or husband.. good luck. Let me know how it goes.

Where is the fun?… Valentines Day

Yes, I know its January.. 
Back when my world was made up of bell bottoms, horrid cable knit ponchos and questionable striped shirts, I celebrated Valentines day. V-day was the highlight of the year with the sending of hand written notes and much snickering in the corridors. Since paper ‘Valentines’ originated in the UK, we were taught that February 14 was the day you wrote a note to someone you liked, admired or were ‘sweet’ on. Poem optional. The only rules were that you didn’t sign it, and it was meant to be from a ‘secret admirer’. Cards were quickly assembled that day from lined paper torn from workbooks and the sentiment was pretty limited to ‘I like you’. The odd extrovert might draft an ‘ode’ of love, but generally this was limited to boys called Graham with lisps and affectations involving scarves. The receiving of the card was pretty darn exciting, but trying to work out the chicken scratched author was intoxicating. Hoping that it was who you hoped it to be.. (..and equally terrified that it might be him)..and hiding your disappointment when you realized it was actually from Damien with the big mole, not Spike with the cool hairdo. Valentines day didn’t need a sugar high, it was full-on ‘CSI’ at our school by 3.45pm. The one day no-one wanted to leave school.

As we got older, the exercise pretty much stayed the same but complexity rose with age and fear. The notes became cards (still often hand made), the senders anonymous (pushed through his mailbox in the early evening dusk followed by Lance speed pedaling) and the analysis of his projected interpretation, detailed (oh the hours trying to figure out what he’d think!). We rode our bikes 6 or 7 miles to make sure that our Valentine couldn’t identify the correct postmarked source (yeah, guys lie awake wondering about that), wrote 17 drafts to hit just the right note of flirtatious innocence, and wove clues to our identities more deftly than Shakespeare.  I swear that in 12 years of school not a single guy ever knew that Valentine he received was from me, (and if he did, he’s currently working for Mi5). In hindsight, I don’t think we quite got the idea quite right.

The Valentines we received were up for public debate and interpretation. Green ink? Must be Gareth, he was kind of ‘alternative’. Spelling mistake? Clearly Andrew- he never could spell ‘February’ correctly. The drawing of the filigree heart? Definitely Chris – everyone knew he was the best at ‘drawing’ in the school. Huge dirty fingerprints? Got to be ‘big John’, after all he was always playing rugby during break. Clearly the guys put 1/100th of the effort and time into the act of composing and exchanging notes, but they didn’t seem too fazed when we figured it out. I guess for them it was the point.. duh. 

In a school of less than 600, you generally knew exactly who liked you and who thought you were dragged through the ugly bush so your options were limited when it came to imagining, but ending the day with the notion that someone out there thought you were the cats pajamas was awesome, even if you couldn’t be sure. No note? Clearly it got lost or he was too shy (hey, girls start making excuses for guys from birth). Maybe next year he’d work up the courage.  Yes, that’s it.

By the time I was in college we were too cool for notes and too poor for gifts, so we got creative. My roommate Sarah spent 3 hours cutting potatoes into hearts for her boyfriends dinner (sadly he decided to help out and mashed them right before she served dinner), and I decorated my boyfriends car with flowers I stole from the campus gardens (much to the hysterics of his roommates).  Cheesy? – beyond measure. Fun ? Totally.
At age 23 someone delivered a 6 foot fig tree to my door and then offered to help me iron my work shirts. At 26, I re-papered a boyfriends walls with cut out red hearts (which unfortunately left pink stains everywhere) and greeted him wearing nothing but a paper heart of my own design. Cheesy? You betcha. Fun? he laughed like a drain.  Especially when he realized I was stained red along with the walls.

Now that I’m 40ish and living in a different country, I don’t recognize Valentines day at all. Yes its commercial, its a hellish shade of Pepto pink and seems to be dominated by demanding, expecting women. That actually doesn’t bother me a jot. But what I don’t see is the fun. When did it stop being fun? I hear women complaining about roses that didn’t get sent, over-crowded restaurants and even dismissal of the day entirely (‘we prefer to declare our love every other day of the year’). For some it reinforces the agony of being alone and others use it to celebrate girlfriends. Women seem to be the recipients, rarely the initiators. Cards are used to accompany flowers or forgotten altogether and the notion that it might be silly or lighthearted seems to be something left behind at school. And no-one seems to be having much fun.

Me? I still believe in the fun of Valentines day. I think that everyone needs a little excitement as part of their day, implications be damned. So I’ll be spending the next 2 weeks composing my anonymous love sonnets, finding the perfect card and cycling out to parts of Colorado hereto unknown to deliver a chicken scratched note or two. He won’t know its from me, but I’ll have fun and this time I won’t need to repaint anyone’s walls.

Are you there God? Its me, Rachael

Like many girls, I grew up on Judy Blume. I was passed a copy of ‘Are you there God? Its me Margaret’ via my sister at the age of 11 and was astonished to realize that it wasn’t just me who was freaked out about periods and growing up. I don’t actually recall asking for divine intervention, but I do remember the book giving me a vague sense of ‘okay-ness’ that I wasn’t a freak. To be honest I couldn’t quite relate to Judy’s excitement about ‘growing up’ and the promised ‘changes’ made me feel vaguely nauseous and in some cases, downright depressed.
C’mon.. who wants to learn that they’re never going to be able accomplish that back-flip in gym because the new boobs she’s growing are going to whap her in the face? And that weird smells and hair are suddenly things to worry about. One day I was building a dam to catch fish and suddenly I’ve got to worry about wearing a bra???? WTF???? Ok, guys had stuff going on to, but getting stronger and growing an Adams apple didn’t seem quite on the same scale of ‘WTF!!’ as boobs.

Where are you today Judy? I’m 40ish and I need a new book.

I don’t need reassurance about first crushes and the trickiness of girl friends, but I do need to know its ok to spend $200 on a pair of jeans. To notice that my knees aren’t quite where they used to be and that those weird brown ‘freckles’ on me hands are actually signs of wisdom… not an indicator of potential melanoma.That impotence isn’t a rarity amongst guys my age, its called ‘a weekday‘, and that grey chest hair is ‘foxy’ instead of vaguely reminding me of my 73 yr old dad.
I need to know that everyday brings new excitement, and new pills to fix that ‘excitement’. That crushing on a 45 year old isn’t creepy – he’s actually in your age range – and that yes, you can’t drink a bottle of wine and feel super awesome the next day. Sure, being 40 can be scary, but I have a feeling Judy could find a way to make me all feel better about it.

Failing that, I guess I can thank my stars that I no longer have to worry about growing hair, and only have to worry about losing it.

Sliding into marriage

A friend of mine recently made a casual reference to ‘finding a wife’ which got me thinking. Not about finding a wife (sorry, I personally can’t get into boobs), but about how marriage actually happens. Yes, I’m not retarded.. there’s a ring and a book and somebody talking, vows are said etc. But actually getting to the place of wanting to marry someone. After 40, its feels as likely as going to another planet. I mean, I haven’t made it past 12 weeks with a guy in 6 years. And its not for want of trying.. (I think medals have been given to people who’ve “given it a go” as often as I have. I am the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ of dating). Its not that I’m picky, its just that ‘it’ isn’t really there.

When I was younger, ‘it’ was everywhere and marriage seemed so certain. That was what you did. You got a job, found a guy, fell in love, lots of stars and tweety birds and then he landed on his knee and that was that.  Cue Corinthians 13 (4-7), Jerusalem and a nice big cake. Mmmmm cake. Fireworks and squeals of joy.

But my path to marriage was slightly different.

I didn’t so much squeal and jump with joy at finding my man on bended knee, as slide sideways into what I presumed was an agreement mid way through a discussion of a trip to France. He just kind of slipped it into the conversation

‘…and I guess we could get married before we left’

“….?”

“..so it would be kind of like a honeymoon”

“.. um…. okay?”

There you have it ladies and gentleman. The least romantic, non proposal, proposal.

The conversation quickly moved on to discussions about Tour de France favorites, the need for a slightly different gearing on the new fixed gear and the need for my wheels to be retuned.
My brain was so confused and shocked that I actually forgot the conversation until the next morning.

I don’t even think we had sex that night.

Nothing like waking up the next morning thinking ‘ I think I got engaged last night.. but I’m not really sure”. Note to any prospective proposers… she should know that she’s engaged after the event.

Because I was young and stupid, I didn’t see the actual conversation as a sign of his lackadaisical attitude towards the whole thing and the absence of a ring didn’t bother me (I’ve never been one for jewellery). He had just bought me a new saddle after all. I just kind of ‘slid’ into being engaged and it wasn’t until our trip loomed that I actually questioned the entire thing.

We’d lived together for close to 2 years, we’d been dating for 3 and we were over 30. We got along great in a ‘best friends’ manner and maybe that was enough. Wasn’t marriage the next step?
Having said that we’d never had a fight, and he seemed to enjoy his time on his bike than he did his time in bed with me.
The night before we were going to do ‘it’ it started snowing. In July. And I did wonder whether it was really a good idea to be so unexcited about getting married. We had no guests, no event, just an appointment to declare our love half way up a mountain. I always felt that it would seem more exciting. More certain. Committing to take life on together – surely it should feel more momentous?

Instead I found myself thinking ‘well if it doesn’t work out…’  (yes, I want to slap myself too)

And surprisingly it didn’t.

I don’t recommend sliding into marriage. I don’t think anyone (even me) should have ‘slid’ as I did with a little more thought. But throughout my 20s I fell in love every year and thought every guy was ‘it’. As my 30’s proceeded everyone seemed to be settling down, choosing their partners and relationships took on a new, more serious tenor. ‘It’ wasn’t everywhere and finding someone I liked seemed to be enough of a challenge. So when I found a guy I liked and who didn’t piss me off too much, and well, I slid.

Now I’m in my 40s, single and thickly skinned by numerous dates, the idea of marriage has shifted again. Its not just ‘what you do’. Its not around every corner and its certainly not going to be right with every guy I meet (jesus, have you read my blog?). I believe that ‘it’ is out there and worth waiting for. I’m in no hurry, but I’m not looking for perfect.  At 40 I can finally say with total honesty, I’m not looking for a husband. I’m looking for right.
So if you find yourself thinking ‘I need to find a wife’ (or husband), be warned by my ridiculous story. Find someone, but find right

What those dating profiles actually mean


In moments of boredom, solitude and basically when I need to tune out, I peruse the ‘man ads’. Not the ‘here’s Mr. Winkie, you wanna piece?’ ads, but the ‘looking for a date/ I’m witty and yet still strangely single’ type ads. After oooooo 5 years of this (it comes in waves, its not my second job or anything), I’ve discerned some general guidelines for sorting. Ignore at your peril.

” I have 2 wonderful children who are my life”
As of the mid 30s, this is a staple opener for the divorced guy. Take this to mean he’s a stay at home welfare dad, he’s boring and has little use for anything other than Sprout Tv and Tater Tots, or that he’s not actually looking for a women, but a ‘woman hole’ for Mr. Winkie. This guy hasn’t dated in a loooong time and is using his kids an excuse for having no friends and no social life.
Advice to Guys: Stating that you have no time for anything other than your kids in an ad for an actual, live woman pretty much cements your priorities out of the gate. We get it – they’re wonderful, they’re amazing and unique, but so are we. Next.

“Looking for that one special lady”
Now I know I”m no longer able to wear a mini skirt and I think Justin Beiber looks like a lesbian, but no one under the age of 80 likes to be referred to as a ‘lay-dee‘. Anyone who self identifies as a ‘lay-dee‘ is typically a early 40s transsexual who wants to host tea parties while listening to Chris De Burg or an upper class wannabe with Parade magazine china on the dining room wall. If I’m a lay-deethat makes this guy a mother obsessed wuss. What he actually wants is a ‘nice girl’ who doesn’t ever say the wrong thing, swear or god forbid, have sexual demands.
Advice to Guys: We are are ‘women’ ‘chicks’ ‘girls’ ‘dates’ or even ‘dude’. We may sometimes be ‘bitches’ but wait for the blue hair and estrogen cream before you call us ‘lay-dees‘. My vagina still works thank you.

No one can believe I’m single” 

We can. You’re on a dating site.
Advice to Guys: You’re on a dating site. We’re all mostly single. Many of us are surprised about this. Sharing your confusion as to this fact only reinforces your oblivion towards the real world.

“I’m just looking for that one right person”
I’m totally thrilled that you don’t subscribe the to polygamous lifestyle but I have to break it to you. There is no ‘one’ right person. There are many right people. The fact that you haven’t met any at your age indicates you might need to leave the house occasionally.
Advice for Guys: Don’t be so damn picky. 35 yr old blond, millionaire, large busted virgins are impossible to find outside of SecondLife or Russianbrideforsale.com.

“Looking for someone real”
This is my personal favorite as a online headline. You’re online. No one can see you. No one knows who you are. I could be a man. Or 12. Or living in Nigeria. My picture could be taken from a website for slimming pills. I could actually be Charles Manson. You’ll never know. Does anyone ever wake up and think ‘hey, I’m not actually real, I’m kind of fake’.
Advice for Guys: We’re all as real online as that picture you took back in 1989 leaning against that Porsche and posted yesterday. Kinda real. Sorta real. Really real. Take a chance, you might really like the ‘real’ me.

Sexting

Once upon a time girls and boys used to hold hands, snog in the bike sheds and send each other cryptic notes during class.When the girls and boys got older, they spent hours on the phone whispering and giggling with each other, fondled each other on park benches and trying to get away with an illicit hand down the pants.

These days, they sext.

For the uninitiated (or those trapped under a large rock in Utah), sexting is the sending of lurid photos of your body parts (or your entire self) and suggestive comments via your phone to your boyfriend, lover or these days, apparently anyone who might be interested. Boobs and full body underwear shots seem to be popular, along with suggestive poses, gynecological shots and even guys are muscling in with ..ahem… a firm grasp on themselves. Looking at it objectively, sexting echos the schoolyard with a ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ theme, but with the daring possibility that your photo could end up on his (or her) Facebook, Twitter or simply stored in a secret folder on his (or her) laptop until his IT department finds it during laptop replacement time (yes it happens, I know the IT guy at work).

 If you’ve not tried it and you’re a consenting adult (teenagers doing this makes me shudder), I highly recommend everyone try it it. It’s simultaneously liberating and terrifying. On a good note, you can take as many photos of yourself and select the best one, thereby avoiding shots of the cellulite on your thighs, your varicose veins and stretch marks.  Its titillating, and suggestive texts back and forth can really ramp things up for later. On a bad note, you are sharing something extremely private which may or may not be treated as you think. It really tests the level of trust you have in your partner (‘no honey, you can’t use it as your screen saver’). You also might open the floodgates for random photos of groin shots from your lover during your conference call (not everyone’s ideal morning wake up call). If that’s your bag, great, just make sure you don’t leave your phone on your desk during any meetings. Your boss or coworkers do not need to meet your partner’s … bits. It makes the company holiday party so much more fraught for everyone.

WARNING: Do not sext someone who you have not yet been …intimate..with.  People who have just started dating have enough excitement going on without sexting and to use the phone as your primary method for seduction… well, its trashy and I don’t think its terribly effective for anyone over the age of 21. Its the equivalent of someone flashing you and hoping for a positive reaction. High risk, low chance of success.

But if you know this person, you’ve already been intimate and you trust them… .. a few tips to help maximize your experience.

Check what actually appears on the screen before sending it. Smart phones love to suggest alternate words for your misspellings which can result in you asking your partner to ‘flare me senileless’

Exclude your face: Unless you’re legally bound to this person or possess suitable blackmail material, avoid including your face in any photos. Not that every man isn’t a trustworthy petal of joy, but if the love of your life should happen to dump your ass, your face isn’t going to be plastered all over Twitter. Yes, its weird, but do you really want people connecting your face to those nipples?

Sexting while drunk. One word – don’t. Sure, after a drink, suggestive comments or photos are flirty and fun. After 5 martinis, not so much. And yes, people can tell you’re drunk if the text says ‘I wan Ur pie us’. The walk of shame is nothing compared to the ‘scan of shame’ when you realize that you conducted  40 minute sexting session with an albino guy you dated two years ago, including a flurry photos of what may be your butt, your foot or the corner of your leather sofa.

The setting. For the sake of all that is rational and holy, consider your setting. Things which should not be included in your sexy photo-shoot include; your dog, the Christmas tree, dirty dishes, your toilet, your kids (unless you actively like visits from CPS), stained clothing (a different kind of ‘dirty’), fluorescent lighting, the book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ or family pictures.  Appropriate places include your bedroom, a bubble bath, your garden (as long as its not communal) or a fur rug (if you happen to live with a hunter or a former porn star). And no matter how proud you are of your granite, the kitchen ain’t sexy. And for the love of christ, do not take a photo of yourself in front of the bathroom mirror…that’s for guys on Craigslist and reality tv stars.

But how do I take a photo of myself? Well you have two choices. Grab an understanding friend or get creative. Prop the phone on a pillow, use the swivel function on the iPhone or Google it. Someone out there (actually over 1,354,782 people) have ideas on how to photograph yourself using your phone.
But maybe just start small, go traditional.  Text a flirt. Text a suggestive comment. Describe what you have in mind for tonight that doesn’t involve the Real Housewives of Atlanta. It won’t end up on Facebook and no-one can see you blushing.

The 40ish guide to dating a cyclist: How to tell is your cyclist is juiced

Despite the predictable admissions from Lance Armstrong this month around his long term use of EPO, blood transfusions and HGH, I was surprised that so many people were surprised. The fact that half of the tour was disqualified in 2009 due to positive drug tests, and that many of Lance’s team mates themselves had been accused of doping apparently didn’t clue anyone into the ever-so-small- possibility that Lancelot himself might be slightly more ‘enhanced’ that other riders.
So today I wanted to help out other citizens who might be starting to question whether their own cyclist partner is ‘juiced’. Here’s a handy guide to checking.

1. Have you recently been unable to locate your partners balls?
Quick, while he’s asleep, check under the covers. If your partner is starting to resemble a Ken doll in the frontage department, he may be juicing. Sure, it gets cold this time of year, and yes, the current trend for skinny jeans has rendered many a genital to Flat Stanley proportions, but if finding them involves a head lamp or tweezers, he’s juicing.

2. Does your partner now weigh 200lbs less than he did in high school?
Sure, he’s now a cyclist and as we’ve noted, cyclists treat body fat like Gwyneth Paltrow treats the lower classes, something she can’t relate to and be rid of asap. But if old high school photos are more Michael Moore than Eddy Merckx, he might not be on the straight and narrow. If your partner’s arms and legs resemble that of an 8 year old girl and he’s riding every week.. he’s probably juicing.

3. Does your partner shave more than 3 times a day?
An interesting side effect of EPO, HGH and steroids is the increase in hirsuteness, or hair growth. Now if his balls are hidden by a new 70’s style afro, his chest hair has grown up over his back and is now carpeting his buttocks, it might be juicing.

4. Could you partner fill your bra better than you?
If you can count your partners abs yet he’s rocking a set of moobs, you definitely have a candidate. Not sure if its moob or pec? If he can hold a pencil under each one..its a moob. If his nips are more perky than yours.. its a moob. If you’re still reading this one looking for other indications..yes.. its a moob. He’s juiced.

5. When angered, do his clothes shred off and his skin turn a mottled green color?
Steroid abuse causes increased feelings of anger and uncontrollable rage. Unless he was exposed to gamma radiation during a laboratory experiment and loves to rock some ‘jorts’, he might be juiced.  If on the off chance that you are living with Bruce Banner, you might want to take yourself off for a pedi when he finds out that you ate the last of the Nutella.

6. Can you 45 year old partner ‘meet your needs’ several times in an hour?
A benefit that Lance clearly enjoyed was the impact of steroids on sex drive. All that testosterone landed him with 5 kids, 2 wives and a pop star ex. All while riding literally 100s of miles every week, 1000s of miles during for 7 consecutive summers and supporting Livestrong in raising $500 million to support cancer victims (what have you done since 2001?). Given his travel schedule alone, how he managed to procreate speaks to some serious juicing. Most 43 yr old guys can’t even muster enthusiasm for some gymnastics after a hard week in the office.

7. Have recent vacations with your partner involved short trips to France, Austria or Spain?
Sure you’ve always wanted to go hiking in the Alps and its lovely to meet some locals, but if your last few vacations have involved extended day hikes to remote areas of the Pyrenees and a highly excited spouse you might want to check those ‘salami’ that Klaus gave you. No-one gets that excited about air dried meats, he’s juicing.

And finally, if your spouse has 1 ball, 7 TdF Championships, multiple team mates accusing him of cheating, has been providing spot checks to the Cycling Federation for the last 12 years and just called Oprah for a quick chat…. I think you know where I’m going. 

My next wedding – the year 2056

I read today about an 88 year old woman getting married this weekend which got me thinking.
As someone who’s marriage ceremony probably foretold its depth and potential longevity (Bride wore Tevas, groom forgot to write vows, no-one in attendance and it snowed in July), I always have a vague longing for a wedding at the back of my mind. My wedding didn’t really signal much except doom, but I do think that saying something nice to each other, about each other, in front of some people you like, and who like you.. well that’s kind of nice. It signals commitment, and a willingness to  declare your love for someone, without getting cited for public indecency. Been there.

I was never one to daydream with tea towels on my head and people carrying my skirt, but after experiencing what was probably one of the most depressing wedding ceremony’s in history, I kind of want to do it again… except this time, a little differently. And if it takes me to age 88 to find the guy… well so be it. Gives me time to save for a nice dress.

My Wedding: Year 2056

Location: If we’re not all living on rafts or on the moon, I’d really like to get married outside. Yes, I did that last time, but this time somewhere nice and scenic. Without snow. Or hikers interrupting the ceremony for a quick photo. Potentially with mountains all around. And grass. And sun. Getting married in snow seems terrifying and too nipple-tastic for someone as blessed as me, and being able to wear a dress means heat is a necessity unless I want everyone focused on my chestical area. Plus I’ll be 88, don’t want me or my groom to die during the ceremony. So, mountains and grass in the summer please. Unless the air is now 99% carbon dioxide ..then I guess an oxygen tent would be more appropriate. Plus I always did like camping.

Ceremony: Last time this featured some strange lady chanting something vaguely hippy about the earth for about 2 minutes and then an awkward silence while my groom tried to make up his vows on the spot. This time I think skipping the entire traditional thing makes it easier. Hand fasting is an old Celtic tradition where hands are bound together  (yes, tied) with a number of different colored ribbons as the host talks about what each ‘bind’ represents (love, compassion, ability to make a decent cup of tea etc). Its terribly romantic plus it has the benefit of physically restraining your groom should he want to make a dash for it. Of course at 88 he’s probably not much for running, but if his wheelchair starts moving, I’ll be dragged along for the ride.

Attendees: A wedding is really about people. Yes, its about 2 people, but without any guests, its kind of sterile and weird. If its just about the 2 of your, why not get married in bed and why do you need a 3rd person to says things?  Nope, weddings need people. Hopefully ones who like you and are pleased to see you in love and join your celebration. Plus at 88, it can double as a funeral wake without the awkwardness of death, plus I get to be there and people say nice things about me.

Attire: Yes I wore Tevas last time and I thought it was a signal of my carefree spirit and desire for foot comfort over fashion. In actuality they looked stupid. Like wearing slippers to hike in. At 88 I’m probably in ‘comfortable shoes’ anyway, so at least this time they’ll have bows on them or something. And they’ll not be made of rubber (not unless Crocs has taken over all shoes manufacturers). I will wear a dress, even if they have to sew it around me, and it will not be white. And yes, I will wear blue underwear, though probably not a thong. No-one wants to see a thong on grandma. Unless everyone is wearing jumpsuits in 2056 and its providing life support, my groom will wear a suit. It will hide his hump and he can comfortably wear his pants pulled up to his armpits.

Honeymoon: Since I’ll be 88, the honeymoon will probably last all of about 2 days. I can’t see the love making taking all that long given that we’ll probably be nervous of heart conditions, blood pressure and deep vein thrombosis to really go crazy in the sack. We’ll probably go somewhere featuring water, enormous beds and more heat. Old people love heat. Oh god.. this sounds like Florida. So, NOT FLORIDA. Unless the world has ended and the only thing surviving is Florida. Which would just be my luck.

Happy Ever After: As a octogenarian, I hope to have a few good years left in me, even if its filled with the NYT crossword and 1960s movies starring Doris Day played at high volume. Who knows what they’ll have invented by then, maybe I’ll have 50 years left (god help my feet). Regardless I hope to spend my married life, my second married life, sharing a bed, a dinner table and some serious hand holding until the end of time (or until his gets cold and blue, in which case I probably will let go).

It will be very ‘happily ever after’ the 2nd time around… mostly because I can finally, finally, resign my match.com subscription.

Signs you might be dating a gay man


 As the survivor of not just 1 but 3 “relationships” with gay men, I think I’m qualified to expound on some key signs to watch out for when dating a ‘maybe gay-be’ (MG). Dating an MG isn’t actually dissuaded – heck if you like dancing, you love to laugh and your wardrobe could use some updating, I positively encourage it. Just don’t be expected to get any kind relationship outside of the mall/club/late showing of Funny Girl. And sure as heck don’t be thinking that spark, that witty ‘eat you with a spoon’ affection is going to translate into anything meaningful or naked…well, not unless there’s another dude involved.
One “relationship” with an MG is common by the time you hit 30. 2 was pretty careless, and 3, well 3 is downright stupid. Below, a few signs I probably should have paid attention to (and which should give you pause for thought). Hit 3 out of 6, you probably want to monitor his Ellen watching.

Not having a significant relationship since high school
When the guy you’re dating has 14 best girlfriends, non of whom he’s tried or succeeding in sleeping with, he might be a MG. Actually, let me break it to you – he’s an MG. If his last girlfriend wore legwarmers and a side pony tail, he’s an MG. And no, he’s not refraining due to his strong religious beliefs -that’s what’s keeping him in the closet.

The number of hair products in the shower is greater than 2.
You might think you’re dating a metro’, or maybe the guy who’s postponing his ‘hair club for men’ subscription until his 401K vests…but no straight guy ever needs or uses more than 2 things on his head in the shower. Shaving cream and a razor (go baldies) or shampoo and maybe some conditioner the last chick left behind. The only men using ‘glaze’, ‘color care’ or a ‘deep conditioning mask’ in the shower are gay, hairdressers or some combination. Take a wild guess.

Dancing in the local dive bar
Beware any guy that a) dances well, b) dances well in a bar c) dances well in a bar – with no dance floor or music- on the first date. I put it down to youthful exuberance and a Southern upbringing. Clearly, I’d never been to the South. I think they lynch you down there for this,

Reviewing pictures from your week long trip out of town and finding they’re all of men
You’re back from your trip. And the weirdest thing, all of the pictures on your camera seem ‘off’. Some dude or dudes always seem to get into the shot. There you are in front of Café Dumont, and darn it there’s a dude in the way. Then again in the French Quarter –well, a bit of your head, a lot of that dudes chest. Finally out on the bayou with the boys.. lots of the boys from behind, not so much of you. He’s not a bad photographer. He’s just showing you where his sightseeing interests really lie. And sadly, you’re not part of that picture.

The first (and last) time you have sex, he ‘can’t find it’
It’s not hard to find – there’s a landing strip pointing the way for gods’ sake. And if the right things are pointing north, it’s actually hard to avoid it. Maybe the reason he can’t find it is because he’s never been there before. Or he went there once and doesn’t want to go back. Kind of like Boca.

Having his mother highlight his hair in her kitchen
Nuff said.

Bridget Jones: The lost pages..

I recently read that Helen Fielding is writing a third installment of the popular Bridget Jones series but that the script was rejected by all actors (yes, even Hugh Grant), as needing more work. Since Renee Zellweger still looks vaguely breakable, I’m assuming its going to take a while. Therefore I have decided to share a day from Bridget’s life as she heads into her 40s.

Weight: 134lbs
Cigs: 0 (decided to stop smoking until I am 60 due to horrid lines appearing on upper lip)
Days until I can have a fag again: 6,939
Days until next lip wax: 72

January 15 9:00am
Hurrah! am celebrating 7th wedding anniversary with Mark Darcy today. Did quick Google and apparently copper, wool and desk sets are gifts for 7 years. Humph. Not terribly romantic to receive frying pan or jumper as gift from loved one. Not sure what desk set is, but since do not own desk, assuming will not be gift. Wonder if involves protractor and ruler? Not much use for that given that 99% of day spent reading WedMD and Lainey Gossip.
Cannot believe has been 7 years though Mother keeps reminding me on weekly basis of declining years and need to generate babies. Think she may have better record of menstrual cycle than me.
Thing is, not sure about babies. Are very cuddly and sweet, but do seem to scream a lot and vomit on things. Also, all friend had babies in 20s and 30s. Think that eggs may be old and dried out by now?
Oh no. What if results in giving birth to Benjamin Button type baby? Would be very confusing. Have enough problems remembering birthdays and ages, never mind in reverse.
Also wondered if body will recover from baby growing. Ok for friends who had very stretchy skin in 1990s but wonder if would be left with large empty skin sacs after baby born. Yikes! Potentially would need to roll up stomach or fold in origami style to fit into skinny jeans. Too scary to think about. Need a fag.

9:01am
Damn forgot about fag retirement. Will have biscuit instead. Or maybe a couple. Hob Nobs or Jaffa Cakes? Both. Have noticed that Mark Darcy starting to grow strange tire of skin around middle lately. Must remember to stop buying biscuits. Do not want Mark to develop breasts in manner of friends husbands. Would be mortifying to have husband with bigger breasts than me. Still very cuddly. Especially in bed. Actually have been mainly cuddling lately. Wonder if strange tire development impacting desire for sex? Must remember to look up aphrodisiac foodstuffs on Google for tonight. Would be weird not to have love making on anniversary. Wonder if Mark has impotence. Would be very hard to satisfy mother’s requirement to push grand kids on swings if so. May need to inform mother of barren status to reduce number of calls made asking on status of uterus. Is most disconcerting to be told by mother to run over to court to seduce husband while sitting in office. Coworkers think mother is madam or pimp.

3:00pm
Meeting with boss concluded with request for me to arrange coffee at next meeting. Humph. Do not think appropriate request for very important senior editor. Sometimes think that boss does not consider advanced age and experience when organizing catering. Wish that had old timey ‘char lady’ with tea on trolley in office. Would limit the number of times I need to walk back from Starbucks with 8 different orders of latte. Not sure that delivering coffee to meetings will help with promotion opportunity.  Slimey Jed promoted 2 years ago and he only 28! Wonder if career is over and will be spending remainder of career fetching coffee. If so, may consider investing in tray and apron. Latte on Whistles pantsuit is regular occurrence. Can envision self at 65 pushing coffee cart around office. Wonder if will still make Hob Nobs then? May need to stock up. Life without Hob Nobs  inconceivable. Damn. Worried about longevity of Hob Nobs. Did not think that biscuits would play major role in 2013. Ooooo. Wonder if pregnant?

8:00pm
Phew! Am not pregnant (though am now proud parent of case of Hob Nobs).  But am also still waiting for Mark to come home from office. Sad that personal celebration of love and fidelity put aside for getting an Iraq boy out of Guantanamo, however can see point. Guantanamo probably not have Hob Nobs. Marks phone is turned off. Wonder if not actually arguing for return of Amed to Mosel but instead whipping Amanda Whitehead (cruel, thin intern) around office in manner of 50 Shades of Grey? Mark does have jolly big frown. Maybe has built office dungeon for late night tying up of interns? Would explain why love making not priority these days.
Oh no, do not have cleavage to be divorcee! Must try calling again.
No! Phone still off.
If affair in progress will need to move  in with Magda and Jeremy.  Would be forced to sleep in Ikea bunkbed and share bathroom with 7 year old and 11 year old. Can imagine trying to hold door closed while taking bath, and having fancy shampoo used to clean dog. Do not want to sit down to dinner in manner of singleton and be pitied. Plus ‘divorcee’ sounds very slutty and am too tired to be slutty these days. To be frank, like to read a book in bed at 9pm. Wonder how divorcees stay awake on dates? Maybe why they are always meeting in coffee shops. Do not think would be successful divorcee as do not like coffee.
If divorced would need to do online dating which would clearly not work since do not have any photos of self that do not feature a) bridesmaid dress, b) wedding dress or c) drunken leer. (though later wedding photos show both wedding dress and drunken leer, plus a lot of leg if I’m going to be honest). Hmm. Plus dating at 41 means would be dating weirdos that no one wanted or man who already had family. Not sure how would feel about dating man with children. On plus side would have instant family, resulting in cessation of mothers calls about babies. On negative side, would have to spend weekends at soccer fields and swimming pools. And hair gets very frizzy in chlorine. Oh dear. What if they didn’t like me? Would be scary ‘step mother’ in manner of Cinderella. Sad. Do not want to be evil stepmother figure.

10:00pm
Hurrah! Mark home and assured me that he is not having affair with intern or other office mates. Also Amed will be going home to Mosel by end of month! Hurrah! Am saved from divorce scenario. Mark got quite excited after a few Hob Nobs and we ended up rolling around on living room carpet. Haven’t done that since singleton days. Have still got it!

February 15 9:00am 
Oh shit. Might be pregnant.

Hello. My name is Rachael. I am addicted to reading trash.

There are no 12 steps for trashy reading.
Its something its taken me a long time admit and will probably spend the next 30 years trying to manage.
I love to read trash.
Now, by trash I don’t mean bodice rippers and line ink renderings of Fabio on the front , or pulp thrillers featuring devil spawn and supernatural forces. No… its even worse.

I like chick lit.

The vanilla of trash.It would somehow be excusable if I was getting my thrills from stories of serial killers on the loose, forensic scientists with a crush on the sexy detective, or even bad ass morticians. Nope, give me a girl who hasn’t got a clue, a couple of impediments and a happy ending and I’m set for an afternoon on the sofa with a Cheshire cat grin.

It started slow, borrowing some of my sister’s Marian Keyes.Then I read a Shopaholic. I laughed at the simplistic plot, the basic language and the heroine’s basic stupidity.. but I was hooked. Shamefully hooked. I found myself scanned Amazon for other pink covers. Anything featuring heels and potentially a handbag. I looked at the ‘Others also bought’ strip with a notepad and expanded to Meg Cabot, Emily Griffith, Harriet Evans, Jennifer Weiner (a little high brow and meaningful for trash, but still delightfully escapist). Soon my collection of pink covers were overtaking my spare room and I started strategically re-shelving them amongst my ‘serious’ books so as to dilute my apparent addiction for anyone who strayed over to check out my literary collection. I would excuse my books when eyebrows were raised as ‘summer read’.

I knew I had a problem when I started dating and had to start racking my brains for  non trash titles for ‘My Latest Read’ on my match.com profile. No one wants to even wink at a woman who’s entire back catalog focuses on finding a mate, getting married or at least getting the hot guy all while appearing disarmingly lost and befuddled. I’d run a mile, and I’m her.

My Kindle became an enabler. I could hide my addiction behind a few well meaning downloads (‘oh the new Ian McEwan? Love his female perspective, the best since Atonement’). Meanwhile there they lurk in my Archives, literally hundreds of vanilla pulp novels featuring watered down Bridget Jones-es. I scan Amazon for new releases, download samples, and purchase while lying in bed. I love a new download at 9pm. Nothing beats the excitement of discovering my heroine, learning her weak spots, trying to identify the guy in the background who will inevitably win her heart. Really, I’m cringing even as I write this. I know I have a problem, I just can’t stop.

This wouldn’t be such a crushing issue except I want to write. I have wanted to write books since I was 8 years old and started keeping a diary. And if I follow what I’m told, ‘write what you know’, I’m admitting that that literary mask I wear is just that.. and not only do I partake frequently, I want to actually ADD to the genre. Bring my own vanilla scented, heart driven, female ‘not quite got it together yet’ protagonist into the world. So I excuse my reading, mentally mark it up as ‘research’ and download the new Madeline Twickenham.

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step. Well, I’m admitting it. I am powerless over Chick Lit. The second step.. well I don’t think a higher power is going to help me, but maybe if Helen Fielding  would get off her ass and write Bridget Jones sequel I might be tempted to consider it.

I found it!!! but do I trust it?


A few months back I found myself deep in an unexpected relationship. From nowhere it came, swept me off my feet, took off my boots and massaged by toes while calling me Queen Bee. I couldn’t help help but question – is it love? or  is it merely the mirrored reflection of one who has sought love so so long and who has simply found someone else equally open and ready to be loved? Are we both just in love with the idea of love? 
And yet I found myself at home with this person. Truly myself and yet, slightly awed that someone would find me awesome. He is – well he is everything. Complicated, passionate, scattered, focused, equally smart and simple, loving and yet sometimes strangely distant. He makes me laugh, he makes me feel loved, I like spending time with him, and yet I’m perfectly content to be alone without him.. secure in the knowledge that he’ll return. Is this really what I’ve been seeking and am shrinking in its recognition? It seems so, yet based on life’s trajectories I can’t help wrestle with whether its really real. Is it meaningful? Does it need to be? Can it grow to be? And yet and yet.. all this good can’t be true. It’s an embarrassment of riches. I kept asking myself -Is it real? Will it blow itself out? Will we – as we have both done in the past – fuck it up? If I were younger I wouldn’t know enough to question it – I’d be madly thinking of all that I needed to be in order to make him love me. What I needed to change. How I could inure myself to him. Instead I am just me. And he keeps returning with a smile in his eyes and a warm touch. Maybe it will be a passing fancy. Maybe it really is the one I’ve wondered about and every crappy Disney song warbled about. He talks about rings and marriage, being together and walking the next 40 together. He plans trips and schedules our Thanksgiving, our Christmas together. I meet the parents. So I can only go with it and try to protect my heart a little as history has taught me. If it blows itself out, I will just have the knowledge that  light really can reach places never previously lit. 
Three weeks later he stopped returning my calls and I’ve not heard from him since. Goes to show. At 40, you’re still 15. 

Low expectations, high hopes. Dating at 40.


After 5 weeks on Match.com, the daily check-in was starting to become a chore. 
Like, Don’t Like, Maybe, Maybe, Are You Crazy. F-No!!
Who’s been looking at me? Scan, scan, click, ‘3+ kids…@#?!!’ Next.

Ah the joy of online dating.

Don’t get me wrong, after 74 emails from a variety of ‘not too shabby’ guys (skipping over the random notes from 57 year old guys who called me ‘a super gal’), I was pleasantly surprised. What had looked like a wasteland a few years back (as we transitioned from the ‘got to find a mate for mating’ to the ‘thank god I’m not married any more’ to the ‘maybe I actually want a girlfriend again’. The hair was thinner, the stomach’s no longer approximating a washboard and expectations on all fronts significantly lower (‘if you like grabbing a pizza and watching some tv, we’ll get along just fine’. Not that we’ve given up, but after 40, when the frenzy to procreate has subsided or in already in full swing with the partnered up, the definition of a desirable relationship changes.  The occasional dinner, someone who knows a little about a variety of things, and someone who can make you laugh (with, not at him). A late night ‘end of the day call’ and maybe one day, someone who doesn’t mind your proclivity for leaving tea bags in the sink.Yes, dating at 40.. definitely different. 

I’m not alone. I’m joined by my fellow match-ers ‘the happy divorcee’, ‘the never married but not sure why’, ‘the over-therapied’ and ‘I found him but he found someone else’. Oooo we’re a fun crew! Thankfully at 40, no-one expects to find George Clooney lurking underneath the dim snapshot in a bar, the shaggy grey beard or the ‘atop a mountain’ pose that at a range of 30 ft, could be a man, a woman or even a wooky, who can tell. So with expectations bouncing along the ground, we peruse, we click, we ponder and we groan. And maybe, sometimes, we’re delighted and amazed that someone hasn’t already snatched up this gem, (or let him get away). And that’s 40. Bruised but still hopeful.