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.