There’s a line uttered by Carrie Bradshaw in the now-immortal Sex and the City (immortal, that is, to most women between thirty and fifty) that goes …
“Men in their forties are like the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle: tricky, complicated, and you’re never really sure you got the right answer.”
People who haven’t been “re-singled” in mid-life possibly won’t relate to this, but it has come to my attention on several occasions that forty is the age at which men dive into the deep, dark cavern of despair when their relationships go belly-up. That’s not to say that they don’t venture out again and sample “what the world has to offer” (if you get my drift …) but, ultimately, they remain long-term patients in emotional intensive care.
Take my initial foray into the dating arena after I found myself single again, for example.
Mr Shifter, 49, was the owner of an international logistics company whose marriage had broken down when his wife of seventeen years told him she had reignited a relationship with her first love whom she had found again through Friends Reunited. It became apparent after a handful of dates that although his ex was not physically present, her memory was not only there … it was ordering seconds. When he started to eye me up and down at our last meeting to support his verbal commentary on how alike she and I were physically, I realised our time together was not going to ultimately be translated into a Hollywood block-buster of a love story.
Friends Reunited. What a hot bed of illicit wrong-doing that turned out to be. I noticed yesterday that the site may be sold by it’s owners ITV for £15 million, this after they bought it for £175 million some three and a half years ago. It did make me wonder if ITV were offloading after having paid out damages (without prejudice) to all the victims of the relationships it had allegedly wrecked unintentionally …. There is something about a first love akin to the metaphorical sleeping dog. It’s best left uninterrupted. There’s a lot to be said for the adage “it didn’t work out for a reason …” but we do still feel the need to go back and poke it, don’t we? And Facebook, there’s another one …
So Mr Shifter and I parted company amicably; he said he needed to see if there was anything he could salvage from his marriage. The last time I spoke to him he told me they had sold the ex-marital home, divided it all up and he was now living in a “sh*t-tip of a shoebox semi-detached”. No bitterness there then.
On the flip-side I did enjoy quite a few dates with my then financial advisor who was almost ten years younger than me …. I know, I know … business and pleasure should never be bed fellows.
The Mortgage Man had a boyish charm that allowed him to capitalise on my lack of financial awareness. He invested in a couple of nights away for us that sadly happened to fall on the weekend of the most momentous rainfall known to man in July 2007. We ended up staying in a hotel seven miles away from my house as that was as far as my car could swim, and on the last day, marooned by vast expanses of water, I realised that he had to constantly have the TV switched on in our room. He hopped from channel to channel and eventually settled on a thirty year old episode of Top Cat.
Before I allowed myself time to think, the words “you’re just a boy trapped in a man’s body, aren’t you?” had left my lips. There was no way to bundle them back up and swallow them whole.
He stared at me in disbelief. I went to pack my toiletries sensing that my stock price had dropped.
Now I’m plucking these two tales from a bag of similar story-lines, and as I see it there are two recurring themes … “re-single” men over forty struggle to truly move on emotionally but they do make better father figures …. and men under forty don’t allow themselves to become trapped in a relationship’s shipwreck.
I’m generalising. Of course I am. But it does make me wonder if the men I’ve dated really think they are over the wall of their emotional past and running towards freedom …