Single Women: checklists are not romantic

Via an email from a reader and Hector Drummond on Twitter, I find this article:

Alice Judge-Talbot married her university sweetheart at 23 and had two children, before their happily-ever after crumbled and she found herself a divorced single mother on the dating scene.

She describes the collapse of her marriage in this article, and to be honest she doesn’t seem to have done much wrong and she’s taken it quite well. I know enough single mothers to know that sometimes things don’t work out, and it isn’t anyone’s fault in particular. At any rate, she’s not using her column inches to justify selfish and unacceptable behaviour on her part, nor to bad-mouth her husband (with whom she still maintains cordial relations); that this is unusual for articles of this nature says quite a lot. So I don’t think this woman is a deranged nutter, but as the article will show, she’s not being very realistic when it comes to finding future romance:

As a married person, I always enjoyed meeting new people and discovering new things, so I reckoned my dating life should be no different.

One often hears the friends of single women say “but she’s such a great person” as if the criteria for friendship is the same as that for a romantic partner. It’s not, and the two are very different. Your friend Lucy who you’ve known since college and is “unlucky in love” might be have been great on your holiday to Mykonos and a riot on a night out in Leeds, but that doesn’t mean a thing in the eyes of a man who’s looking for someone to share a chunk of his life with. People – including successful, handsome men – might have been happy to meet the author in a social setting, but that’s a whole different prospect from getting involved with her romantically. For a start, a lot of these people might already be in a relationship.

I expected glittering conversation over bottles of wine, interesting individuals who would change my perspective on life and love, and I figured that as an approaching-30 mum of two with only two evenings off a fortnight my spare time was precious: I didn’t want to spend it with men who didn’t fit my idea of perfection – or, at least, who didn’t get close to it.

There’s something strange about single women over a certain age in that they seem to only begrudgingly make time in their busy schedules to meet prospective partners. Okay, this lady is a single mother so she’s probably run off her feet, but you also see this with childless women. They pack their calendars full of guff like spinning classes and brunches during which they moan and bitch about the dearth of suitable men. But when one asks her out on a date her immediate response is to say “Oh, I’m really busy right now” and after a minute or two of face-pulling she’ll say “Maybe we can do Tuesday week, if I can get away from work easily.” Firstly, what’s this saying about her priorities? And secondly, what message is he going to take away from this? I’ve said this to women before: if you’re genuinely interested in a guy, and you want a relationship to work, you need to give him your time, not excuses. If you can’t do that, you’re not being serious.

Also, note the casual assumption that two evenings per fortnight is sufficient time for a single man looking for a serious relationship. Why would a man settle for that if he can find someone who’s free every weekend and one evening in the week? She’s acting as if she holds all the cards, and it only gets worse:

So focused was I in my quest for the perfect man that I decided to draw up a list of things I wanted in one. My thought was that, if they didn’t tick off at least half of the things on my list, then they probably weren’t going to be the one for me.

Ah yes, the the modern woman’s 277 bullet-point list of requirements every partner must satisfy. Thankfully this lady narrowed it down to a mere 18:

1. Intelligent, or at least well-educated.

2. Tall, preferably taller than 6 foot.

3. Older than me, probably between the ages of 32 and 40.

4. Doesn’t live at home with his parents.

5. Lives near me.

6. Likes music, but not bad music.

7. Has a challenging career that he loves and is passionate about.

8. Likes fancy food and to be cooked for. And cheeseburgers.

9. Respects and encourages my career.

10. Likes children, maybe has some – but doesn’t advertise them to the weirdos stalking their profile.

11. Has a great sense of humour (by which I mean ‘laughs at my jokes’).

12. Hot (duh).

13. Plays some sort of sport or at least goes to the gym.

14. Is fairly cultured, or at least likes to pretend to be.

15. Looks good in a suit.

16. Looks good out of a suit.

17. Understands the value of a nice pair of shoes.

18. Believes in chivalry.

As some wag on Twitter pointed out, I’d fail on No. 6 alone. But the question the authors of such lists never seem to ask themselves is why would a man with all those qualities be single? Because he hasn’t met the right woman yet? Yeah, right.

The other thing which is obvious is that these aren’t necessarily things she wants in a man, but things which her friends will approve of. Look at No. 14: who cares if he’s fairly cultured, provided he’s a good man and loves her? Well she does, because she doesn’t want her friends sniggering at her for being with a “low status” man according to their criteria of social ranking. This is a good half of the problem single women have: faced  with a shortage of men to begin with, they dismiss a huge chunk of them as unworthy because of what their social peers might think.

And so I set about my dating game. I went out with investment bankers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, 25-year-olds (I KNOW), journalists, comedians, marketing executives, academics . . . you name them, I’ve dated them (probably). I sat through endless hours of strangers regaling me with stories of their ‘colourful’ lives (I’ll be the judge of that, pal).

Note the long list of “respectable” professions of which her friends would approve, along with the in-joke about dating younger men. This is an attempt to show there was nothing wrong with the men she was dating on paper, hence she cannot be blamed for the subsequent failures.

I drank red wine in at least four different counties and in front of 16 different open fires, and the only reason I didn’t start a blog about all these awful dates was because my mum told me it would have been mean.

Why, it’s almost as if job titles have little to do with character and suitability as a partner.

It’s amazing how sterile and calculated the process started to feel. I’d meet someone and immediately assess them for the points I was looking for. If they didn’t fit? Game over.

Going dating with an 18-point checklist felt sterile? Who would have thought? I’d love to get the blokes’ feedback, but we never do, do we?

In the course of my dating I met many 30 and 40-somethings who were just desperate to settle down with a woman who’d happily cook for them and massage their egos for the rest of their lives and, I have to tell you, as lonely as I was I just wasn’t quite down for that.

A familiar lament. There are actually plenty of men who are ready to give these women everything they want; the problem is, the women find them repulsive.

To be honest, I had my own ego to take care of and there really wasn’t going to be time to look after anyone else’s.

There’s that time thing again. And it’s amazing how many women say they want a relationship but don’t want to massage someone’s ego. Isn’t the mutual massaging of egos and giving affirmations and assurances one of the fundamental bases of a relationship? Allow me to quote from my book:

Compliments are important to men, same as they are to women; we all need our egos massaged sometimes, and praise from a partner is a big part of it. Despite her bravado, Katya needed assurances, same as the rest of us. If I’d never told her how pretty she was or remarked on her wit or let her know I found her intriguing, she’d wouldn’t have slept well at night. It’s true that actions speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean that words don’t matter at all.

A man or woman who thinks they have no obligation to massage their partner’s ego from time to time shouldn’t be in a relationship. And I’ve written before about women who think relationships involve no sacrifice or mutual obligations whatsoever.

I started to understand my single girlfriends’ wails when they’d come to me complaining about how they couldn’t find a boyfriend.

Understand, no. Relate to, yes.

Granted, the dates seemed to be easy to come by, it was just the quality of them that was a bit dubious.

As the saying goes, you can find a man who is smart, handsome, and single: pick any two.

Really, I just wanted to meet someone with whom I’d share a bit of chemistry and perhaps some interests and hobbies.

Which is what blokes look for, and when they find it they get married.

When I first became single I hadn’t thought that was a huge ask but, as I got deeper into my experiences of dating, I started to feel more and more envious of the 18-year-old me who’d met her perfect match in the most innocent of ways.

Now this lady didn’t initiate her divorce so I’ll not say anything mean, but I wonder how many women who did, and subsequently ran into the realities of dating past 30, now feel the same way? A lot, would be my guess.

I understood that I was an adult now, a mother, and had different thresholds and expectations when it came to the opposite sex, but why was this finding-a-man thing so freaking hard? I was a good person:

You might be a good person, but it’s not your place to say it. You sound like my Dad’s roofer. We need feedback from the blokes.

where was my Prince Charming, Mark II?

Married, oblivious to your existence. Predictably, there’s a book to be flogged:

Copy extracted from The Back-Up Plan by Alice Judge-Talbot(published by Coronet £18,99 and out now).

£19 for this? Lordy.

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37 thoughts on “Single Women: checklists are not romantic

  1. 2. Tall, preferably taller than 6 foot.

    Only 14.5% of men are over 6 feet (1.8 metres) and if you want them over 6 foot 3 (1.87 metres), then that falls to 3.9%. So if you are looking for a tall man (setting aside all the other items in the list that this person MUST have) realise that out of 100 men, only 15 will be over 6 foot. Guess what? They have their pick of women and are likely to already be “spoken for”.

    So, 100% of the women are after 15% of the men … do you see a mismatch here (unless women only consist of 15% of the population). When I hear the females cry “Where are all the decent men?” I have to smile and am tempted to shout “Down here”.

    I read a blog posting that stated that women considered 80% of men on a dating website to be “below average”. This is statistically impossible but indicates just how high they set their standards and how limited the pool that they are looking at or at least are willing to consider.

    Let’s face it, the only heads she’s likely to turn nowadays is when she shakes the box of cat biscuits.

  2. The bit that jumped out at me as that she abandoned a toddler and a baby to party in New York. What happened to taking the kids to stay with your mum for a bit?

    The requirements are in any case contradictory. A man who respects your career, laughs at your jokes and believes in chivalry is in fact a doormat and you won’t find him “hot”. If he has a career that he loves you will play second fiddle to it. &c. &c. &c.

    And if he looks good in a suit, thinks good shoes are important and is single he’s probably gay.

  3. @Roue le Jour:

    And if he looks good in a suit, thinks good shoes are important and is single he’s DEFINITELY gay.

    There. Fixed it for you.

  4. “ I was a good person:”

    To use her own words, I’ll be the judge of that, pal.

    DK

  5. I reckon everyone uses some kind of checklist, be it explicit or implicit. Yes the six foot requirement is daft as outlined above but whether it was bullet pointed or not, given her preferences it is more likely she’d find a six-footer “hot” than a shortie.

    But whatever your set of requirements or desires, you can’t assume there is someone out there who meets them all- nor, even if you meet one of them, and given how you are, what your situation is, and what other options they have available, that they’re going to be mad about you too.

  6. Many years ago:
    “Pen, what is your ideal woman?”
    “Is she breathing?”
    “Yes.”
    “She’s my ideal woman.”
    Conclusion – throw checklists in the bin and talk to people.

  7. ’Has a challenging career that he loves and is passionate about.’

    But then he won’t have time for YOU, love…

  8. Two questions to ask yourself when contemplating a relationship. What do I want this person to do for me? And what can I do for this person?

    I get the impression that she doesn’t have a clear answer to the first and has given no thought at all to the second.

  9. Fundamentally, from an evolutionary (and economic) viewpoint, he would be an appreciating asset (most men hit peak income in late 30’s – 40’s after all) whereas with 2 kids already done, she would be a (fast) depreciating one. Neither a long term relationship nor marriage would make sense from the male perspective. The old adage – “if it has wheels or legs, rent – don’t buy” truly apply.

  10. That male checklist in full.

    1. Not a land whale.
    2. Not a cnut.

    Bonus points for having nice pair of tits or owning a bar.

  11. I have some experience in this, my first wife passed away when I was in my early 40’s, and I found myself dating again. Apparently, I was somewhat of a catch.

    First off ladies if you have a list it’s really a set of demands. You’ve stepped off on the wrong foot and it will show. We are both used models, so our past is indicative of future returns. I will want to know about that. This is not just about what you want, it’s also about what I want. A system of mutual rewards is a sound basis for moving forward..

    I met some real humdingers. Many of these women have no hope in hell finding a man that they will be happy with.

  12. 1. Find someone you like fucking and likes fucking you
    2. Who is a responsible sort
    3. And kind
    4. And doesn’t screw around
    5. And is prepared to fight when someone attacks you

    That’s your list. That’s the non-optional. Everything else can be managed. He likes steak and listening to Slayer, you like salad and Mahler? Get him to cook his own steak and play metal when you’re out. If he ticks 2) and 3) you’ll make it work. Or maybe sometimes, as a kind person, you’ll cook a steak for him and he’ll make you a salad.

    Most of that list is external. It’s about how your marriage looks to the outside world. Which doesn’t bring you happiness. If you get shunned by people because your husband is uncultured they were never your friends. Find better ones. If your man ticks 3) he’ll still go with you to see musicals sometimes even if he doesn’t like them much just to be with you.

    Personally, I think a lot of London women probably need to get out and go to regular places with regular blokes. Find a plumber in Northampton that makes sure the mortgage gets paid, fucks you properly, takes the kids to ballet lessons and watches the footie. Because if you prioritise his “interesting career” or “culture”, you’ll soon find yourself with a useless freeloader.

  13. I think a lot of London women probably need to get out and go to regular places with regular blokes.

    I think that said regular blokes, while probably not averse to the idea of a posh bird called Alice who is in reasonable nick, would soon find being stuck with a patronising snob (and some other bloke’s kids) utterly intolerable.

  14. Many years ago, and regrettably briefly, the Guardian employed Ann Widdecombe as an agony aunt. The column was called “Buck Up!”, and did what it said on the tin.

    Have you considered contacting them to revive it, with you as the aunt?

  15. As you’re professing your love to her, she’s mentally scoffing at your low-rent pronunciation and thinking the guy at the next table is hotter.

    She seems to have no clue why her marriage died, which usually guarantees that the next one will go the same way.

  16. Reminds me of the joke. Single men are like parking spaces, all the good ones are taken and the rest are handicapped.

  17. She describes the collapse of her marriage in this article, and to be honest she doesn’t seem to have done much wrong and she’s taken it quite well. I know enough single mothers to know that sometimes things don’t work out, and it isn’t anyone’s fault in particular.

    No, I’m going to pin this one on her. She talks a lot about the things her husband did that she didn’t like, and her postnatal depression, but there’s not a whiff of any acknowledgement that she might have had anything to do with it. They just “fell out of love”. Given the fact that her husband found a new partner almost immediately and she’s still in denial about hitting the wall – not to mention her fabulously self-absorbed and entitled dating strategy – I feel pretty confident assuming the marriage ended because she couldn’t be arsed to keep her end up.

    The pseudonymous Theodore Dalrymple has talked a lot about his work with career criminals and how they reflexively avoid any responsibility for their actions, describing everything in the passive voice, as if their criminal acts were the result of an indifferent and fatalistic universe: “the knife went in”, “he just died”. I see a lot of that in this article and it sets off my alarm bells.

    To be honest, given all the relationships I’ve seen fail I’ve reached the point where I’m all in for Team XY. I assume that absent clear evidence of physical, sexual or drug abuse or criminal activity by the man that any marriage ended because the wide was self-absorbed, irresponsible and/or unfaithful. It seems like the surest default assumption.

  18. “To be honest, I had my own ego to take care of and there really wasn’t going to be time to look after anyone else’s.”

    This is the only thing you needed to know about her.

  19. “I went out with investment bankers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, 25-year-olds (I KNOW), journalists, comedians, marketing executives, academics . . . you name them”

    This is a common claim, but I really struggle to know where all these 30 something women are finding CEO’s to date? I know a few CEO’s, and the only one I’ve known to become single was snapped up in seconds by one of the more attractive women who worked for him. That girl was a lot smarter than the one writing here.

    I can’t imagine a single one of them putting time into ‘dating’ the way these women describe.

  20. I imagine that they are CEO’s of a one or two man internet operation selling Persian rugs. Those people definitely are the kind who need to be “dating” to meet girls, having none to engage with professionally.

  21. I tend to think that if she has the ego to write a book about her divorce her ego was a major factor, her article seems to reinforce this view.

    I also assume that her husband was cheating on her since he was away from home in the music industry.

    Further I think the reasons most people cheat is ego, I get the vibe (perhaps wrong) that she never supported his ego. He would have been extremely stressed being self employed events supporting a family with a sick kid, the guys a hero and she didn’t see that as a commendable scarf ice.

    Also she is a thirty something with a divorce and a disabled kid, her list should be; 1) has a pulse.

  22. I wonder what the statistical distribution of breast size is? Whats the top 15% cut off point? What would be the feminist reaction to a man who put at No 2 on his list of the ideal woman: must have breasts bigger than size X?

  23. In her case shouldn’t priority #1 be that he is willing to accept her 2 kids in to his life?

    And did she do DD on those job titles? 99.99r% of women know that men will say anything for a shag.

  24. Thing is, for women relationships are much more about social status than they are for men, so they’ve always got a checklist, even if it’s hidden in their unconscious.

    Mind you, I know a few sensible women who have wised-up as they got older, and went and married decent-but-ordinary blokes they wouldn’t have looked twice at when they were younger, and have been happy ever since.

    But you don’t find many women like that in media-land, or in London professional circles.

  25. What these women, and I suppose there’ll be a few men, forget is that when they really were single they were sorting every time they went out and interacted with men. By the time they got to even thinking about starting a relationship they’d probably dismissed 100s if not 1,000s of potential mates. Some may have gone on to be friends but that doesn’t mean they hadn’t already failed a mental checklist.

    So why do they think they can walk in to a new relationship just because they’ve written a checklist and been on some dating sites?

    Another curiosity is why they think their female friends who are in stable relationships can help them? Shouldn’t they be talking to their male friends, preferably those that didn’t get married until later in life and were prepared to accept a woman with baggage? If they thought about that a bit more they might realise they don’t have any and that might give them a clue.

    Or better still, just accept life’s a bitch and then you die, and make the most of what the the lottery throws at you?

    A final point about bachelors, because that’s what she’s really looking for, of the two I know, one has never been married (he’s definitely heterosexual), and the other divorced over 20 years ago. Both would not make good long term partners. They’re comfortable in their own company and see their girl friends as they see their male friends, although there may be some sex involved with the women. But most of all they like their own company most of the time, and the thought of having a woman around for much more than a couple of weeks frightens them as much as having their male friends around as long.

  26. “Another curiosity is why they think their female friends who are in stable relationships can help them? ”

    Because women will give them the answers they want to hear.

  27. 2. Tall, preferably taller than 6 foot.

    Yes, that one is particularly silly. The only reasons women want a man this tall is because 1) it gives a psychological feeling of protection and 2) they look better in the eyes of others. Given it’s mostly 2 they are concerned about, it’s little wonder these women struggle to find romantic happiness. As others have said, it’s like a man demanding huge tits and a tiny waist which rules out 85% of the female population.

  28. But then he won’t have time for YOU, love…

    Indeed. How long before she’s complaining that he works too much?

  29. I have some experience in this, my first wife passed away when I was in my early 40’s,

    Ouch. You have my every sympathy.

    and I found myself dating again. Apparently, I was somewhat of a catch.

    Well yes, you would be.

    I met some real humdingers. Many of these women have no hope in hell finding a man that they will be happy with.

    Indeed.

  30. Because if you prioritise his “interesting career” or “culture”, you’ll soon find yourself with a useless freeloader.

    Oh yes, like the woman I met who married a guy who was very artsy, very charming, did lots of drugs and hung out at festivals, as well as sleep around a lot. Turned out he was a useless freeloader. Imagine that.

  31. I imagine that they are CEO’s of a one or two man internet operation selling Persian rugs.

    That would be my guess too. She wasn’t dating Blue Chip CEOs, that’s for sure.

  32. But most of all they like their own company most of the time, and the thought of having a woman around for much more than a couple of weeks frightens them as much as having their male friends around as long.

    This is what trips up a lot of women. I’ve advised a few that they ought to settle for a guy who’s smart, successful, loyal, etc. but prefers his own company most of the time. If she lives nearby, she can spend weekends, holidays, even a week or so at his (or he at hers) and enjoy a pretty good relationship. But no, they don’t want to compromise, and insist on finding the full-on relationship with cohabitation they ought to have nailed down a decade before. Well, good luck, I tell them.

  33. But you don’t find many women like that in media-land, or in London professional circles.

    Half the problem is most of these single women are well-educated (in the sense they have lots of certificates) and won’t date a guy who’s beneath them on the credentials score.

  34. 7. Has a challenging career that he loves and is passionate about

    Pretty sure that’s a euphemism for ‘he brings in shitloads of money.’

    10. Likes children, maybe has some – but doesn’t advertise them to the weirdos stalking their profile.

    That just seems weird. She doesn’t want her friends to know she’s dating someone another woman rejected? Is this one of those non-reciprocal list items or would she be ok with a guy rejecting her because she mentions her kids on her profile?

  35. “Half the problem is most of these single women are well-educated (in the sense they have lots of certificates) and won’t date a guy who’s beneath them on the credentials score.”

    Chalk up another win for the Blairite tertiary education policy of ‘all shall have prizes’. Basically anyone who wants ‘a degree’ can have one now. It may be in Feminist Studies from a former FEC, but its a degree, and confers the right on the holder to assume a sense of intellectual superiority over the bloke who left school at 16 and now runs his own plumbing firm turning over hundreds of K, because that sort of manual stuff can be done by anyone darling, no brains required at all……..

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