Category Archives: divorce

The rise of the bullyhags … they ain’t pretty and they know it

It’s quite astonishing the truths you can uncover when you’ve lived as an adult for a few years. Of course living as an adult doesn’t always equate to your age; my son for example oft displays more maturity in one word than I can eek out of my whole being.

No … living as an adult in my book is recognising life’s lessons for what they are, and not blithely taking the same route, making the same decisions and arriving at the same unsatisfactory conclusions. If it didn’t work out last time the chances are fairly high that it won’t next. Being “grown up about it” means walking away on occasion, taking a risk without being consumed with fear and seeing that the hurtful actions that others display towards you is actually testament to their own inner demons, not yours.

Surprisingly I’ve witnessed some pretty hostile behaviour towards me since my marriage broke down over three years ago, and it still leaves me scratching my head as to why that might be. What makes it even more baffling to my little brain is that it has for the most part come from other women who I’ve come to call (affectionately, you understand …) the bullyhags. Surprising, baffling …. sad and grossly disappointing. You kind of hope your own gender will be batting for you … supporting you through the good times and bad. And generally when times are bad they will support you, but there comes occasion when your day starts to brighten that a few seem intent on spoiling it.

The bullyhags will offer up a few choice sharp and sarcastic words, some deliberate attempts to freeze you out of conversations and relationships and display an underlying inference that moves are afoot to undermine your happiness.

I recall being bullied first time round by the very unrefined Susan Smith when I was thirteen because she’d heard on the grapevine that I had taken a liking to her beau, the even more unrefined Mark Firth. I should point out that I never use real names in this blog unless (I’ve just decided) they have at some point displayed the characteristics of pond life. In this case I deem my decision to name and shame wholly justified.

And so having my polo mints snatched on a daily basis because I had embarked on a crush that was the first of many unsavoury repetitions cast me in the role of the bullyhag’s future victim.

The only good thing about being intimidated in such a manner when you’re a child is that it’s done in a very obvious and visible way. Other children witness it and there can be no doubt as to what’s going on.

As an adult it can be a very different affair. It’s often done subtly, at close quarters and quite viciously. There’s often no warning nor is there an obvious reason why the perpetrator has selected you as their would-be prey. As I said … baffling.

I was a little girl who spent her entire childhood trying desperately to please and impress her father so it comes as a bit of a blow to think that there are people out there quite willing to take you down just because they don’t like the cut of your jib. And for no reason other than that.

Friends have said this is often the work of a jealous mind which always amuses me. Given that some offenders have been in secure relationships with no obvious problems financial or otherwise, I wonder how they think my life feels at 3am in the morning when I have tossed and turned in my bed wondering how my bills were going to get paid and what my future held. And I wonder how they think it feels when I look at my son and worry that I’m letting him down and not giving him the childhood he deserves. But then again, given that the bullyhags are adults I’m sure they take all that into consideration before they launch their subversive venomous attacks.

Put quite simply it appears the bullyhags like to select victims that they deem “getting a bit too big for their boots”, someone who may appear to be making progress and who just needs to be taught a lesson. I guess you only have to acknowledge the column inches in the newspapers given over to tales of woe, tragedy and torment to appreciate that bad news will outsell good any day of the week. We just don’t seem comfortable with the nice stuff. That seems for me to be one of the biggest tragedies of all.

Clearly because I’ve written a whole post dedicated to the bullyhags I’m admitting that I do get affected by it all .. but less so these days simply because I don’t have to wait for the bell to go at four o’clock to make my escape.

Inferiority is a state that’s much easier to fend off when you live your life as an adult.

Was that the bell?

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Filed under divorce, Life, love and the universe, Men, parenting, relationships, sex, Uncategorized, Women, Women in business

Who’s wearing the trousers now?

My last post concerning men and their ensuing aging process seems to have stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest of opinion … the like of which has left me scratching my head somewhat.

I still fail to see why advancing years are such an issue for anyone these days, irrespective of gender. Of course if my dear Mum was reading this over my shoulder right now she’d be pointing out that in her forties she felt great too, but that reaching seventy isn’t quite the same story.

The boys seem to be missing one vital fact here …. the girls like nothing more than men who have matured into learned, confident chaps, relaxed about their lot in life. Shall I tell you why that is? Because it means we don’t have to worry about propping them up and reassuring them at every twist and turn.

I had a very recent date with one man who on the face of it seemed to ooze confidence and gravitas; we’d had several conversations about life, children, values …. all deep searching stuff. He and I were very similar in many regards; we held a very similar political view (if you saw me raging over the Sunday papers, my glasses slipping down my nose and unkempt hair akimbo, you’d appreciate what a big deal that is… you wouldn’t want to cross that woman) and he had a knack of engaging me within a minute or two of a phone conversation. All was good.

As it turned out, Mr Bunched Up (stay with me, all will be made clear) had more issues swimming around in his head than the local therapy group. We were going out to eat …. he couldn’t eat garlic because he had an intolerance ….. We were going to a bar …. he doesn’t ever, ever drink as this doesn’t sit comfortably with his ultra-healthy lifestyle (daily visits to the gym) We discussed relationships and he declared it isn’t possible to have a relationship if you have children and are divorced ….. I wondered exactly what he thought he was going to get out of his dating site subscription.

So there we sat, him with his lime and soda and ham sandwich, me with my wine and deep fried something or other (OK, it was childish) and I realised I’d managed to net another forty something derelict shell of a post-divorce man (borne out of his barbed comment “I HAVE AN EX WIFE, YOU KNOW … HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THEY COST?” when I had enquired if he had a sat-nav system)

Now Mr Bunched Up had let it slip very deliberately that I “wouldn’t be disappointed” if we progressed things to a more intimate level, given his frequent gym visits.

“When you remove my shirt you’ll see there isn’t an ounce of fat on me …”

OK. Fair enough. I can’t say I was totally disinterested in that comment, but let me tell you, after the whinging, whining “can’t do this”, “can’t do that” performance in the bar that night, I would thankfully have signed a celibacy pledge there and then if that was the best offering the opposite sex had to offer.

I have to admit I did find myself falling into that familiar role … “so tell me, why do you think can’t have a relationship with kids …??” …. “what exactly does garlic do to you …?” ….. “oh I agree, I think I should definitely give up alcohol..”

Why? I didn’t mean any of it. I was pandering to Mr Bunched Up’s little neuroses. The next morning I woke having squared the fact Debsyliciously that Mr Bunched Up and I were not going to sail off into any sunset anytime soon. I pandered now and I would never have stopped pandering. And of course, the lingering fact was there in the background that was the most damning of evidence …. he never showed any interest in wanting to know anything about me at any point in the evening.

Now, being a girl of the gender that coined the classic line “does my bum look big in this?” steeped in it’s nervous uncertainty, it made me wonder why all of a sudden I seemed to be surrounded by men who are unsure of themselves, restricted in their habits and obsessed with their self-image. Of course I applaud anyone who has a natural respect for their bodies, but for me “natural” does not involve fastening yourself into a straight-jacket lifestyle.

I’ve got to the point in life where I want to pat myself on the back for getting this far relatively unscathed. I’m not out of the woods of challenge yet by any stretch of the imagination, but I welcome each day, each glass of wine and I think it’s quite appalling that I find my total and utter lack of exercise regime so hilarious.

Seriously … I’m sniggering as I type. Laughing at my of lack of self-discipline and control ….That’s not good, is it?

Maybe I do enough worrying in other quarters. Gosh, I think I may have finally grown up …

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Filed under dating, divorce, Life, love and the universe, Men, middle age, relationships, sex, Women

When it comes to men …. does age matter?

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 …

As for me, well, my jury is still out when it comes to a man’s age. Let’s not let a little number spoil the cornucopia that is life’s rich tapestry ….

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Filed under Carrie Bradshaw, dating, divorce, Facebook, Friends Reunited, Life, love and the universe, Men, middle age, relationships, Sex and the City, Women

Welcome to dating hell …. we’ve been expecting you.

Every so often I am compelled to revisit the scene of so many disastrous couplings of the last few years, maybe in the hope that I can exorcise the ghosts of men past by hooking the man of a daydream or two. It’s a place I’ve come to think of as the graveyard of romance … it wouldn’t be too out of place in some low budget late-night horror film where the men stand propped up at the bar with half an inch of dust on their rounded shoulders as they lasciviously eye the stitched-up women staggering past with lacquered mountains of hair smoking some disgustingly scented French cigarette.

I am of course referring to the den of inequity that is on-line dating.

Now it is only fair to say that when you get to a certain age meeting eligible men of a similar age is difficult. You can be sure that the conversation will take place on any date you make via one of these godforsaken sites …. “well really, where do you go at our age?” ….. “I don’t want to go to clubs …. hahaha! I put all that behind me in my twenties” ……. “I’m so busy with work and this suits me fine”

The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is this …. it’s a last resort, and as such, you can expect it to be inhabited by the types you might catch hanging around on the desolate pier of such. The fog is swirling around as they approach you with their beer-stained raincoats on …. “alright darlin’ …. you look pretty … fancy a chat sometime?”

Of course these sites are never painted like this by any advertisements you might see. No, on the billboards and magazine spreads you see attractive couples with fabulous teeth gazing at each other with such avid fixation that you fear for the ongoing survival of their personal identities. And as you enter the sites for the first time you will read testimonials written by couples singing the praises of clinical mate selection …..

“I couldn’t believe that after five minutes of joining I met Derek, two days later he proposed and now we’re expecting triplets … all in the space of three weeks” ….

“I’d given up hope of ever finding Miss Right until I joined and there she was, sitting in my inbox, on the very first day”…

“I haven’t met my ideal man but I’ve had loads of meaningless sex in some great cars” ….

OK, maybe not the last one, but I’m sure many have wanted to post it.

And so I found myself a couple of weeks ago with my admission fee approaching the Ticket Master yet again ….

“Oh hello little girl …. don’t I know you? Weren’t you the little one who thought she could easily ride the big dipper but ended turning a violent shade of green, running out and vowing never to return?”

“Yes Ticket Master …  that was me….”

“Confident little thing, weren’t we, when we ran out shouting ‘over my dead body will I meet a man here’ …… very particular and fussy, weren’t you?”

“Yes Ticket Master …”

“Well, I hope you’ve learnt to lower those standards a little …. no man wants a wife who insists on punctuation the way you do …. now run along inside”

And so in I wandered, with a feeling of resignation coupled with dread.. No girl should have to be put through this, but I was here so I may as well see what  freaks- sorry- talent the fair had to offer.

Within a few days I had rounded the selection down to two or three likely candidates, who seemed pleasant enough on the face of it but weren’t getting close to even seeing the blue touch paper, let alone igniting it.

Candidate number one had very complicated hair; there looked to be more product going on that head than Trevor Sorbie would know what to do with. I sensed ensuing battles to gain territory even close to the bathroom mirror.

Candidate number two seemed very pleasant but had no profile photograph. This to me is always a cause for alarm because it says “I don’t want people to know I’m on here” which in turn prompts the question “Married, are we?”. When I pointed this out to him, he duly sent a photograph, but it turned out that I found the kitchen units behind him more attractive.

Candidate number three again had a complex hair situation, but this time I sensed it was of nature’s making rather than L’Oreal’s. It transpired that Mr Three is action man … he skies on snow and water, and preferably on the same day if he can manage it. The inevitable question was asked “so, what sports do you like Debsy?” To say I struggled was a slight understatement, and the best I could come up with without lying was seeing how many peanuts I could lob skywards and catch in my mouth. Even on a good day I don’t think that counts as sport, or at least not to the outside world so I’m told.

But the death knell this time has to be the ulitmate faux pas in on-line dating etiquette …. I copied and pasted my messages to candidates one, two and three every night. Well, why not? It was the same news,wasn’t it? “Really busy day … blah blah …. wow, did you hear the rain last night …. blah blah …. ” Copy, paste, change the names and send. Job done.

With a sense that I was taking up space that was more suited to a willing candidate, I slipped out the back door and headed homeward, but not before I heard the Ticket Master bellow..

“See you next time, Debsy …….”

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Filed under dating, divorce, Life, love and the universe, Men, middle age, relationships, Women

What is this thing called “attraction” …. and where can I buy it?

I went on a “first date” on Friday evening.

Rather surprisingly when I referred to the evening as a “first date” to my partner in crime he retorted that it wasn’t a date at all, it was a “first meeting”, because calling it a “first date” placed far too much stress in terms of expectation.

Now whilst I understood his point, it did occur to me that as we get older we take the subject of dating so much more seriously. I never remember travelling to a first date when I was sixteen years of age wondering “I wonder if we’ll hit it off?”. I met each romantic encounter with a relaxed air in the knowledge that if this one didn’t work for some reason then there would be other opportunities down the line. My unwritten dating raison d’etre wasn’t to find “the one” at the age of sixteen, so maybe that gave me an advantage in the lack of expectation stakes.

When you date in later life you frequently hear the word “attraction”, together with “chemistry”. When you were sixteen “attraction” was probably a cheap perfume you bought in preparation for all your first dates and “chemistry” was taught twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings by Mr McNiven. 

Personally speaking I believe attraction to be infinitely the more important of the two when it comes to dating. Chemistry you can have between any two people, it isn’t necessary that it has a sexual element. It’s rapport, a mutual unspoken understanding if you will. It exists between close friends and colleagues, it doesn’t have to lead you down the road to longing and yearning for someone in the way that attraction inevitably does.

Now, if I’ve got this right I understand “chemistry” to be the last test to establish that attraction is present. You may have e-mailed, texted each other and spoken on the telephone and thought “mmm …..not bad” but it’s only when you meet face  to face and you get that “mmmm!!!! Definitely not bad!!!” feeling as opposed to “mmm….. not bad …… but not for me” that you really know. 

In practice I’ve always known prior to a first date if we were going to hit it off or not, but my sources tell me that men still hold out until they’ve taken in a woman’s physical presence before they make a decision on whether to move it forward or not.

My most recent ex, Mr Distant Cynic, was a forthright believer in this theory; he operates very much on the chemistry plane. I, on the other hand, favour the mutable law of attraction and the deep-rooted sense of knowing that goes with it. Our relationship was a curious combination for that reason; maybe it was a chemical reaction that hadn’t been discovered or explained yet.

I’m all for tipping chemistry into the dating bin as another term we’ve come up with to add to the mystique and complexity of the process. Goodness only knows I don’t need finding my soulmate to be more difficult than it already is, so the next time I hear anyone utter “I wonder if there will be chemistry between us …” I’ll remind them that there was nothing sexy or desirable about test tubes and bunsen burners thirty years ago so why have we suddenly decided otherweise?

No, I’ll opt for one huge helping of attraction please.

You know exactly where you are with attraction; it’s either there and you know it’s there, or it isn’t and it’s time to drink up and make your excuses. If it is, it will draw you in, take a hold of you and keep you spellbound. You can’t shake it off, it doesn’t go away and it’s well nigh impossible to ignore.

Give me attraction every time. Unexplained, mysterious and entirely preferable to something I dreaded on Tuesday and Thursday mornings all those years ago. Having said that, those were the days of enjoying all that carefree fun, the days before we handed it all over in exchange for the responsibility of being a grown-up ….. and the apprehension of the “first date”….

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Filed under dating, divorce, Life, love and the universe, Men, middle age, relationships, Women

How to spot a “pirate dater” ….

A few months after finding myself single again I met Captain Climbaboard, who lived at an attractive address in Surrey, was separated in the established sense and had a nice big boat moored at Gosport (let’s not cloud the important facts with peripheral detail). Captain C worked in the city helping to finance large European business parks; he was charming, tall and fantastically good on paper. He invited me out on his boat after a couple of dates and although I was concerned that I knew nothing of seafaring ways save for how to shop on a cross-channel ferry, there was palpable excitement at the prospect of “letting slip” how I had spent the weekend to my cirque des amis. 

Having completed a lightening-quick sortie to Marks and Spencer to acquire the right style and colour bikini, a couple of casual sarongs and some food we could cook in the galley (this was one serious boat ..) I headed off for Gosport marina … or one of them, to be fair. 

Now, Captain C had made a great job of selling himself and his availability in terms of “dropping his relationship anchor” again sometime soon. He had spoken of the qualities he was attracted to in women and had even gone so far as to lean over the dinner table on the our first date and whisper “I think you could keep me occupied for a number of years …” The ocean looked settled and the forecast was fair to good.

We consequently spent a rather blissful weekend in an inlet on the Isle of Wight. The sun blazed down, the water lapped up the side of the boat and all that you could hear was the laughter of fellow sailors moored a few hundred yards away. So when he recounted in the middle of the Solent on our way back to Gosport the tale of how his affair with his wife’s best friend had led to the breakdown of his marriage and his subsequent questioning by police over allegations that he had attacked said best friend on his boat (yes, this very boat …) you can imagine my concern. To be fair, all charges were dropped in his case, but my jury was firmly out and out it stayed.

When I found myself  footloose and fancy-free a few years ago I was in a rather mixed state of mind. I should have whooped for joy at the prospect of the oncoming adventure that was “dating” given that I was older, wiser and now able to stay out after the eleven o’clock curfew. In practice I felt a sense of unease; I had anticipated pitfalls (the most obvious being that my son had to take priority in any future romantic pairing) but also there was a nagging concern that the years that had possibly not been kind to us newly appointed singletons in terms of  “life lessons learnt”. Boy, was I right on that.

Captain C proceeded during drinks back at Gosport marina to talk of how ice-cold his wife had been and how even his soon-to be-ex father-in-law had spoken of how he understood Captain C’s motives as his daughter was as emotionally stunted as her mother. Cheers, Dad. 

At the end of the weekend I wondered who he had confused me for exactly. Admittedly the boat was a great hook, but the accompanying storyline would have needed more than Johnny Depp in the starring role to curry anything that even resembled sympathy. The truth was that he was nowhere near ready to date; you saw that from how quickly the memory of his last tempest bubbled to the surface.

Now, let’s be frank here. People go “a little bit crazy” when they come out of long-term relationships. I’m not sure whether it’s an exuberance brought on by what they deem as “freedom” or a desperate attempt to prove to themselves and their entire peer group that they can still attract the opposite sex without trying “too hard”. More often than not it’s both. 

Captain C  is sadly just one of a number of men who has displayed a common thread of behaviour when it comes to dating; they like the idea of relationships,  they even say they want “someone special” in their lives but when they spot land ahoy the truth is a relationship is the last thing they want or need. So they generally head back for the deep blue sea. The sea that has plenty more fish in it. 

Inevitably there is something still hovering from their past coupling that means they cannot commit to another voyage with you or anybody else.

I’ve espied this behaviour in men so many times now in the course of three years that not only do I account for it, I have erected a harbour wall so high around me that I doubt the most tidal of male waves wouldn’t penetrate.

Enough of this maritime talk; it’s left me contemplating Johnny Depp scaling my impenetrable wall.

Who says women can’t be shallow?


Filed under dating, divorce, Life, love and the universe, Men, middle age, relationships