How to meet a man at 40
I had a good chuckle reading article below and I have already taken several things on board. The first being, to pair down the checklist. However, I can’t bring myself to throw it out completely, as there are some things are still absolutely essential — ie. honesty and integrity. And oh yeah, being in serious like/love with me!!!
The Sunday Times, January 11, 2009
How to meet a man at 40: It doesn’t get any easier the older you get. So just how do you win the dating game
Before we get started, you need to know that the man you fall in love with will bear absolutely no resemblance to the man you were planning to fall in love with. He will live an hour away from where you live, minimum. He will be wearing a shiny suit and, possibly, a brown shirt. And he’ll have the sort of baggage that requires its own baggage handler. This much you can guarantee.
Because one of the reasons you are single (and this is the only one that is strictly your fault) is that you have written off every kind of man who might conceivably cross your path. You have built a fortress out of your preconditions and you are glowering down from the battlements. Men do approach from time to time, but then they see the vats of boiling oil teetering on the ramparts and think better of it.
As far as you are concerned, this fortress is a normal precaution for vetting prospective men, and so it was, initially. Then time passed, you settled into a routine and now you are mistress of the You Won’t Get Past Me checklist.
As it happens, I was set up with the One at a lunch three years before the party at which we officially met. The reason the lunch doesn’t count as the first meeting is because we barely spoke, and the reason we didn’t speak is because I ran his details through the List database and, in 0.2 seconds, it came up with a You Cannot Be Serious rating. Of course it did! The One was very recently divorced (not for me, thanks). He had three children in tow (uh-oh). I think he’d had a savage £5 haircut, and I’m almost certain he was wearing the brown shirt. So, at that first meeting, I summoned the List and the List gave me permission to do nothing.
This List, let’s be clear, is not made up of sensible broad guidelines such as must not be married or should live on same continent; it is extremely specific. Here are some edited highlights from my List, and I’m not making a word of it up:
– Must have hair. Hair is good, but what if top of his List was “must have large breasts”? That puts a rather different complexion on it, doesn’t it?
– Must not have ex-wife or children. Like the pool isn’t small enough as it is.
– Must not wear fleeces. The bulky navy ones. I’m not going to budge on this one. Fleeces say you’re the kind of man who takes his wife to the pub for your anniversary dinner.
– Must not wear short-sleeved shirts. See fleeces. Add golf/ cricket/rugby club to anniversary venue.
– Must not wear jewellery. Although you can tell a lot from jewellery. Any man wearing a leather-thong necklace is certainly a narcissist who still imagines he could have been in the Rolling Stones. Pierced earrings past the age of 40 equal midlife-crisis man. Gold chains on a mahogany chest are the equivalent of the long little fingernail (just plain sleazy).
– Must have a good job, but not one that requires him to get up at 5.30am and take a laptop on holiday.
– Must not wear hoodies or V-neck sweaters with nothing underneath. Hoodies are for boys. And “nothing underneath” is another I Love Myself sign, only this time there’s also the suggestion of And I Am Hot in Bed.
– Must not sing flat. This, too, I stand by.
– Should play sports to fairly high standard. No excuse for this. It’s probably a hangover from school and the presex checklist of a boy’s fanciability.
When you think about it, this List would be more appropriate for an 18-year-old girl. Right now, and without any further ado, you need to abandon the List. Come on, there is nothing on your List that is genuinely non-negotiable. So you hate goatees, get him to shave it off. So you’re allergic to three-quarter-length trousers. Tell him. Liberate yourself. Start over. Not your type? Right, and that’s been such a success for you to date.
After much deliberation, these are the only up-front non-negotiables:
– Must be kind. If you have heard him be vile about anyone, seen him be cruel to animals, children or boring hostesses, then this man is not kind.
– Must like women. You think this goes without saying. Of course every man you’ve ever been out with has loved women. But are you absolutely sure? Did they like it if you contradicted them in public? Were there many women they found attractive who were a) over 50, b) large, or c) noisy? Thought not.
– Must adore you.
– Must be smarter than you, or at least as smart. Smarter, probably, or you will keep looking for that Achilles heel.
– Must have bigger feet than you. Obviously. And must be hairier.
– Must be able to make you laugh in all situations, including when you get to the airport and discover he has no passport.
– You must fancy him unconditionally.
If you cannot put a tick next to all of the above, then I would seriously consider calling it off right now.
So you’ve dumped the List, or at least made a concerted effort to put aside your prejudices. Now what? First, a small pep talk: you need to be ready for this to happen. Long-term single women have been known to get hooked on keeping their options open. You secretly like the feeling that something life-changing might be just around the corner. And the reason you — who travels solo, makes friends easily and never says no to adventure — need to rethink your future is because you may be ready to try everything and risk everything but your heart.
GETTING IN THE ZONE
– Assume that you are going to be having sex in the very near future. It generates that mixture of adrenaline and pheromones that people have been trying to bottle since the beginning of time.
– Make the extra effort. If you go to the party wearing your second-hottest dress, because you are saving your No 1 dress and you’ve already decided that you’ll only stay for an hour, then you might as well not bother. You will not exude the right anything-is-possible glow and the One will look in your direction and think “Downer”.
– Do something differently. Wear heels instead of flats, put on a slithery dress instead of jeans, do something unexpected with your hair (though obviously not involving an Alice band). You won’t necessarily look any better, but you will feel like you’ve changed up a gear. Part of the game (after a period of being overlooked) is believing you are definitely worth some attention, rather than passable in a low-lit environment.
– Lose your friends. I know, this sounds like madness. Who has the single woman got if not her loyal girlfriends? Who is going to bung you in a cab at the end of the night and then ring to check you haven’t fallen asleep in the stairwell? Nonetheless, as much as you love them and need them, your friends will cramp your style. What you don’t need is one of them rolling her eyes as you nibble provocatively on the rim of your champagne glass, or another bellowing: “Go on, do your Hoffmeister bear impersonation!” Plus, if something should happen to develop when your friends are in the vicinity, you can expect them to react in one of the following ways: gawping, followed by circling at a not-discreet- enough distance, texting all your other mutual friends with updates on your progress; giving the double thumbs-up immediately behind his head; leaping in to help things along (Isn’t she just gorgeous. I just love her! Doesn’t she look amazing tonight? Isn’t this brilliant?). Alternatively, if drunk enough, they may start popping up behind sofas, sniggering. This stuff doesn’t change the older you get; if anything, it gets worse. So don’t automatically arrange to go to the party with a couple of girls or, once you get there, rush to find the people you’ve known all your life.
– Pick your man. Don’t wait for him to find you. The One says he saw me steaming across the room, nostrils flared, elbowing women out of my path, but this is not true. I did spot him in the distance and then sort of worked my way across the room in his direction. But it’s true that I made it happen. And then, drum roll please, I did that thing happily single women so often forget to do. I set about making him like me (as opposed to waiting for him to prove to me that he was worth the trouble).
– Flirt and then some. However much you think you are flirting, double it. What the hell, quadruple it. Barely-there flirting will register as average civility, if it registers at all. Singledom makes a girl cautious. She is preoccupied with not looking like a mad, sad, ticking man-huntress. Trust me, you need to be flirting at a level where you think, “Blimey, steady on, he’ll think I’m a pro”, before you can be confident that he has twigged you might quite like him.
SOME RULES OF FLIRTING
– Be intensely interested in everything he says. Casting your eyes around is counterproductive, especially if you’re hunting the canapés.
– Maintain eye contact for long enough that you are both in no doubt it is not accidental.
– Be very impressed.
– Tease, a bit, but not about any of the no-go areas — height, hair, lisp, mothers, his level of inebriation/sweating.
– Flatter, but only lightly, in passing, and not more than once.
– Don’t touch. You could lightly touch his forearm, maybe. But better not.
– Disappear at some point. For roughly 10 minutes. You want him to have the chance to miss you.
– Some say fiddle with your hair, your cleavage, your earrings. I say don’t risk looking like you have fleas. Don’t lick your lips/teeth under any circumstances. He may think you are chasing canapé particles.
– Be extravagantly open about everything (bar medical stuff). Honesty is disarming.
– Make him responsible for you. Say, “Would you get me another drink?”, “Would you let me lean on you while I do up my shoe”, “Would you tell me what you think about buying property when the subprime market is in collapse?” Just kidding.
BEING SUCCESSFULLY SINGLE
Look, meeting a man is not your only goal in life. It doesn’t keep you awake at night (although it has been known to). But the key to being successfully single is keeping an open mind. You want to exude contentment and confidence, but also avoid giving the impression that you are so pleased with your single life, you wouldn’t give it up for anything, including the right man. It’s all about presentation:
– If there is one thing the single woman cannot afford to be, it’s a burden. You must be sunny and amenable, the best guest, the most reliable friend, the tonic at the party and the one who blends in on the family holiday. Precisely because you are not part of a couple, you need to give out the message, loud and clear, that you are no trouble and guaranteed life-enhancing. Being successfully single means having lots of different options and knowing plenty of people who might think, “Yes, bring her along!” rather than, “Maybe not”.
– People notice single women getting drunk more than they would notice any other demographic. They are waiting for you to get swervy and take to the dancefloor, on your own, clutching a bottle of champagne, and then collapse sobbing on the shoulder of some man who has long since married your best friend. All men over the age of 35 have pretty fixed views about women and drink — not women in general, you understand, but women they could be interested in. They love women who drink. They’re crazy about wild party girls. But they are all petrified of a genuinely drunk woman. Uninhibited is good. Determined to dance is good. Singing is good. Stumbling is less good. Slurring is worse. Shouty and argumentative is not good. Legs buckling is bad. Weepy is bad. Sick on floor is really bad. He decided not to call you, by the way, at slurring.
– The single woman must be prepared at all times. Even if you know that the chance of your freshly waxed areas getting man exposure is zero, there is a certain confidence that comes from being good to go at a moment’s notice. Grooming (don’t you hate that word?) works in mysterious ways. I have a friend who is living with a man she first slept with solely because, that same day, she had shelled out for a very expensive seaweed wrap. The seaweed wrap made her a) more confident on account of her baby-soft skin, and b) absolutely determined not to waste her investment. So there’s a possible double incentive for grooming.
– A woman who has a boyfriend can turn up to a party wearing a holey jumper, a ripped skirt and trodden-down ballet pumps and this woman will look bohemian and sexy. A single woman wearing exactly the same, on the same night, will look scruffy, grubby and, possibly, a bit unstable. People will look at her and think: “Poor Susie. She really has given up, hasn’t she?”
There is one unavoidable truth about clothes that many of us are still determinedly avoiding: if you want sex, then you need to dress with sex in mind. Dressing with sex in mind does not, repeat not, mean second-guessing men’s fantasies. That could work, but it will not work nearly as effectively as you wearing whatever you think is blindingly sexy, for two reasons:
a) A woman in slit satin skirt, fishnet tights, clingy top or similar will look like the reluctant deputy headmistress in the school charity performance if she simply isn’t that kind of girl. b) Who knows what men find sexy? It’s different for all of them, and just when you think you have a handle on what they like, they’ll remind you it isn’t that simple. The look you really want to avoid (apart from goth) is what your mother might describe as “lovely”. Lovely is a bias-cut floral dress and kitten-heel slingbacks, wrap dresses worn with cashmere cardigans, and pastel ballerina tops over slinky skirts. Once, a long time ago, the brilliant Isabella Blow told me I must wear a hat if I wanted to find the One. “You have to stand out in a crowd. You have to let them see you,” she said. “And men love a hat. They see the hat and they want to meet the girl.”
I never got around to wearing a hat Isabella-style (shaped like a galleon, blocking out the sun), but I should have taken the point. You don’t have to put a ship on your head to get men to notice you, but if you spend a decade wearing black trouser suits to parties, don’t be surprised if they walk right past you to get to the girl with the parrot on her shoulder.
© Shane Watson 2009. Extract taken from How to Meet a Man After Forty and Other Midlife Dilemmas Solved, published January 15 (Penguin £7.99). Buy it for £7.59 (inc p&p) through the Sunday Times BooksFirst on 0845 271 2135 or at timesonline.co.uk/booksfirst