Polyamory and Mental Illness

Via David Thompson, an article in Everyday Feminism on how difficult it is to be polyamorous when disabled:

As someone who’s disabled and non-monogamous, it’s hard for me to relate to most of them.

Back when I used to trawl through the Twitter feeds of polyamorists in an effort to understand who they were, I noticed a lot of them are self-described as disabled in some way. Now when ordinary people hear the term “disabled” they think of some poor soul confined to a wheelchair, or perhaps blind or deaf. But when the sort of people who get into polyamory talk about being disabled they mean:

For example, for scent sensitive people this can mean partners not wearing any scented products.

Scent sensitivity is a disability? Who knew? The article continues:

It can be hard enough to find one partner, let alone more than one.

One of the great ironies about polyamory is it is often practised by people who are manifestly incapable of holding down one stable relationship, let alone several concurrently.

That’s even more difficult when you’re disabled.

Then why do it?

Not through any fault of our own, but ableism can paint disabled people as inherently sexless or undesirable.

If a potential partner starts wittering on about scent sensitivities, I can believe it.

One friend I spoke to who did not want to be named explained her experience, “as a disabled-since-birth superfat genderqueer femme, it’s not always possible to find partners who I trust and am able to be open with.”

Or anyone who wants to be with you.

Another friend who wanted to remain anonymous mentioned that a big hurdle for her is the impossibility of meeting people when you spend most of your time in bed.

Whilst I am sure this is true and a genuine problem, if finding one partner is impossible it’s rather difficult to see how polyamory is even on the horizon here.

Though I identify as non-monogamous and occasionally have other sexual partners, I currently don’t have the energy to maintain other serious romantic relationships.

I’m low on energy, so I have to settle for shagging around. I’ve got to try that one.

Sometimes I am too sick to make my own food and rely on my partner to feed me.

According to her bio she has four kids and “an amazing partner”. If she’s so unwell she sometimes can’t feed herself, yet she has time and energy to go sleeping with other people, where do her children sit on her list of priorities?

Non-monogamy can work great for this as the more people you have for support, the easier the workload is on any one individual.

Being disabled and polyamorous is good because there are more people to shoulder the enormous burden which is me.

So, if my partner needs a break from that responsibility then someone else can take over.

Lucky him.

Conversely, sometimes we may need so much care that our partners don’t have anything left over to give to other partners.

Which – again – raises the question: why are you practising polyamory? Frankly, if you’ve got the time and energy to run around sleeping with multiple partners, you’re probably not that disabled.

My partner has agoraphobia and get stressed out in social situations, and as his primary mental health support, I need to be available to help him with his anxiety.

Remember, polyamorists are perfectly normal.

So if he is going to go on a date, part of my emotional caretaking means being available before and after his date to help him relax and and process and deal with the anxiety.

Should this man-child really be having dates, other than with a shrink?

Practically, this means that we cannot be on dates at the same time…

A bloke can’t bring his wife along on a date. Imagine.

…and I need to make sure I have the emotional energy for that support.

I’m going to assume while daddy is on his date and mummy is trying to cope with the emotional stress of it all, the kids are parked in front of the telly with a gallon jug of Sunny Delight and a family pack of Monster Munch.

One friend, Demi Simon, says that her mental health issues have made it easier for her to be polyamorous because she already needs to navigate the world in a different way due to her mental health issues, so adding non-monogamy on top of it makes sense to her.

A point I make often when discussion polyamory – which I originally got from commenter Daniel Ream and now shamelessly cite as if it’s my own – is that it’s a coping mechanism for people with severe personality disorders. In many cases, polyamory is a form of self-medication via the medium of meaningless sex with strangers. Paragraphs like the one above go a long way to reinforce this view.

Sometimes the need for open relationships is directly related to mental health.

Well, yes. It’s refreshing to finally see this so honestly stated.

My friend Bear identifies as someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (often erroneously referred to as multiple personality disorder) which is integral to how and why they practice polyamory.

They say, “I don’t have any illusion one person could meet all my personalities needs. We are very different. Different tastes, different hobbies, different things which make us happy.” Diverse brains can be an asset!

As I said, it’s a coping mechanism. Keep this in mind next time the BBC or NYT runs a puff-piece on polyamory.

While there doesn’t necessarily need to be any sex involved in romantic or other kinds of relationships, for lots of people sex is an important part of how they practice polyamory.

As I’ve said before, sex defines a polyamorous relationship. Absent the sex with more than one person, you’ve got a normal, monogamous relationship.

As a concrete example, some people’s bodies may prefer sex that involves pain, others may have to work hard to reduce the amount of pain during sex in order for it to work for them.

I’m just going to throw this out there, but do disabled people really go seeking additional pain during sex?

As disabled people, we are twice as likely to have been victims of sexual trauma. This will often affect the ways we do sex and relationships. One disabled friend shared that her (also disabled) partner is generally unable to have sex due to trauma issues and she looks to other partners to meet those needs.

So let’s fix this by having multiple sexual relations running concurrently in a setup which even the most robust people find extremely stressful. Yeah, that’ll work.

This is just the beginning of the conversations we need to have and resources we need to develop to make polyamory as much of a possibility for us as it is for non-disabled people.

Well, insofar as polyamory is a route to successful and happy relationships, you’re on an exact par with your non-disabled peers. But I’m a bit concerned about this demand for “resources”. What exactly do you mean by that? What you need is psychiatric help, not taxpayers’ money spent furthering your delusions.

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Whatever the question, polyamory isn’t the answer

Regular commenter Theophrastus sends me the link to this article about – what else? – polyamory:

Sam and I have been together for almost a year now, and I don’t think he took me seriously when I first, briefly, mentioned that perhaps monogamy wasn’t for me.

One of the things which strikes me about polyamory is how soon its practitioners get into it. I could perhaps imagine a couple who’ve been together twenty or thirty years wanting to spice things up a bit, but these articles seem to feature people who, in relationship terms, have barely got out of the starting blocks. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that in many cases polyamory is an option taken by those who are bored in a relationship but lack the courage to end it. That seems to be the case here, at any rate.

But as time has worn on, we’ve butted up against my resolve like rubber ducks against an iceberg.

They’ve been together a year, and time has worn on since she first mentioned she wanted to sleep around. When did she originally bring it up, the first week?

Non-monogamy seems to be having a moment.

Among lefties with mental illnesses, yes.

I’ve never been a hardline monogamist. In my last (monogamous) relationship, I always contended that if my partner slept with someone else, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that it was, y’know, done.

In what way was this a relationship, I wonder? There doesn’t seem to have been much by way of mutual respect: he was shagging around, and she didn’t care.

It seemed reductive to boil down the suppers, red-wine-stained kisses, whispered secrets, adventures and grievances and confidences we shared…

Is she referring to her own relationship, or one she’s read about in Jane Austen book? Because I can’t imagine her relationship had much by way of shared confidences.

…the sheer everything of a relationship, to a shag.

On the contrary, the one thing which defines a polyamorous relationship as distinct from a normal one is, as she puts it, a shag.

If our relationship existed on so many levels – friends, teammates, confidantes, lovers – then it couldn’t be undone by one act; and that’s quite a noble thought, isn’t it?

I suspect the “if” which starts that sentence is doing a lot of heavy lifting.

Polyamory has been getting a lot of press.

Oh, I know.

It basically means having concurrent relationships with more than one person. You might have one primary, but everyone you choose to be with is more or less equal in your affections. My preferred configuration isn’t actually that radical: ethical non-monogamy is basically a good old-fashioned open relationship.

Or shagging around, as it’s otherwise known.

There would only ever be two of us in it, but I’d like to trust that person so implicitly, and value them so wholeheartedly, that if they slept with someone else it wouldn’t damage us. I’d like for the other person to trust and value me just as much so that if I did the same…

Let me stop you there: any man who is happy to let you sleep with someone else doesn’t value you much at all.

…we’d be able to look at it for what it is: a banal act that is fun or weird or intimate or exciting, but ultimately not a threat to our harmony.

If it’s that banal, why construct your entire romantic life around it?

“A sort of flexitarian approach to relationships,” I said to Sam. “You have a primary partner, and they’re the important one… ” He rolled his eyes, and I told him he was being too middle class about it.

A freelance writer wittering on about sex in The Guardian thinks someone else is being too middle class. The barriers to entry into the world of polyamory may be low, but a complete lack of self-awareness is most certainly among them.

Finally, he admitted to me: “Maybe because of the traditional expectations that are put on men, it’s more difficult for us to be open about it. There’s something a bit embarrassing about the woman you’re dating wanting to sleep with other people; as if maybe you’re inadequate.”

Well, yes. Perhaps if you grew a pair you’d not find yourself in this situation.

Earlier this year we’d reached something of an impasse…

Meaning, she was bored, assuming she was ever interested in the first place.

Because we don’t like the idea of our partner being with someone else. But generally, it’s because we’ve been taught to believe this means that our partner will leave us.

Well they have left you, of a sort. If they’re not with you, and are with someone else, how else would you describe it?

Of course,” she continued, “the key point of non-monogamy is that even though your partner might be with another lover, they’re actually coming back to you.

Like all good ideas, it’s obvious once explained.

And that extra joy and love and happiness might even fuel and rekindle the relationship they have with you.

This is the kind of thing blokes say to their wives when they’ve been caught shagging the secretary. It’s rather odd to hear a bunch of enlightened feminists coming out with it, though.

We’ve been conditioned to believe other people are a threat to our relationships, but what if they aren’t?”

We’ve been conditioned to believe turds taste awful, but what if they don’t?

I soon put this to the test, when Sam failed to meet me one night as promised and instead went home with another woman.

These people deserve each other.

A little scab developed over the wound of not being chosen over a nameless woman in a shitty bar.

Say what you like about the guys on Jackass, at least their self-beatings are funny.

And we have had the conversation, over and over with each other, but also with others – incredulous friends who can’t quite believe that it’s “a thing”. We field the questions in turn: no, it’s not perfect; yes, we do row sometimes; yes, there are rules; no, we don’t know how long it’ll last.

I get the impression this is another reason why dull individuals get into polyamory: it makes them look edgy in front of their friends, and gives them an identity in the absence of any other.

And, yes, sometimes I get tense and irritable when we sit down to eat and he’s too tired to talk because he spent half the night with someone else.

Can’t you just feel the love?

As far as I’m concerned, hardline monogamy is a recipe for disappointment…

As far as you’re concerned, I’m sure I agree.

…because even if you manage it, there will always be a part of you – that bit that has crushes on colleagues, and fantasises about handsome strangers – that your partner cannot share.

That’s why functional adults have such a thing called impulse control, and learn not to sacrifice long-term happiness for short-term gratification.

Maybe we should just burn them all down, these narrow streets that we’ve paved so that our desires move in straight lines.

I have severe personality disorders which prevent me from building lasting relationships, so we should burn everything to the ground.

Maybe it’s not committed relationships that non-monogamists are rejecting, but the idea that those relationships have to end when the romantic part does.

If relationships ended when the romantic part does, the divorce rates would be around 100% following the birth of the first child.

And isn’t that desire – to keep those crucial people in your life – deeply romantic in its own way?

Crucial for what? Paying the rent? How romantic.

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A sacred act within hours of meeting

Via reader Robert Harries, this article:

For our first date, he took an Uber to my apartment through a winter storm. As the snow fell outside, we sat close on my couch while he talked touchingly about poetry. Two hours in, I was hoping he would kiss me, and he did.

Woman invites stranger to her home and within two hours things get physical. Why do I get the impression we’ll shortly learn the man doesn’t consider her marriage material?

We had met on Tinder. I was nearly 30 and he was 24, but our age gap somehow seemed a lot larger than five years.

She’s 30 and this is her approach to dating?

Not because he acted especially young. It was more that when it came to sex and foreplay, he acted so differently from guys my age, asking for my consent about nearly everything.

“Is it O.K. if we go to the bedroom?” he said.

Erm, that’s not asking for consent, it’s a suggestion you stop fooling around on the sofa and get down to business on a bed somewhere.

I smiled and led him there.

Of course.

He tugged at the hem of my sweater and said, “Is it O.K. if I take this off?”

I nodded. Underneath I was wearing a thin tank top.

“Can I take this off, too?” he said.

I laughed. “Of course!”

Jesus wept. Is this how Americans have sex nowadays?

He kissed my collarbone. I breathed into his neck and pulled off his shirt. He fingered the clasp of my bra.

“Is it O.K. if I take this off?” he said.

I think I snorted. “When you asked about the sweater, that was my yes from the waist up.”

“Just answer the question, ma’am,” said his lawyer, standing at the end of the bed holding a video camera.

He looked scared. Somewhere in our five-year age gap, a dramatic shift must have taken place in sexual training. I sensed this would be a different kind of hookup than I was used to, but I couldn’t predict how.

For his part, he was surprised they’d not discussed money.

I lay down on my bed, and he lay beside me.

“Is this O.K.?” he said.

“I invited a guy from Tinder to my empty apartment on a snow day,” I said. “Let’s just assume you have blanket consent.”

So where does this leave the feminist argument that consent is an ongoing process and can be withdrawn at any time?

“I’m not comfortable with that.”

I looked at his earnest eyes, hair flopping into his face,

Unsolicited advice for women: if you want a man to behave like one, don’t pick someone with floppy hair.

Hadn’t I already said yes several times? Wasn’t I lying there with him, my leg tossed over his, my whole body arcing toward him?

Maybe he was having second thoughts? Most sensible blokes would be wondering, with things being this easy, what the catch was.

Then he raised my arm above my head, put his lips to the soft skin of my inner arm, and licked me from armpit to elbow.

This is what happens get when you invite floppy-haired man-children into your bed.

I pulled my arm away.

See?

I had been single and sexually active for more than a decade and considered myself to be sexually liberated,

Single for more than a decade? Colour me surprised.

but I could not remember anyone having done that to me. “It’s just really intimate,” I said.

She sounds as though she’s more used to being bent over a dumpster in a back alley.

Now he was the one who laughed. “That’s intimate?” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “It is.”

He and I seemed to have such different understandings of which acts were assumed to be acceptable and which required voiced consent.

It’s almost as if getting to know one another a little before having sex might be a good idea.

At one point, he put his hand on my throat and asked if the pressure was O.K.

WTF? This on a first date? Perhaps things have changed since my day after all.

“I’ll tell you if I die,” I joked.

There’s a strange man in my bed with his hand on my throat. Time for a joke!

At another point he kissed me from forehead to toe and said, “I think that’s everywhere.”

He’d grown tired of his choking-the-new-date routine when you started joking instead of getting wide-eyed with terror.

At the end of the night, he said, “See you soon,” and took an Uber back to his apartment through the snow.

He didn’t even stay the night? Oh dear.

I just wasn’t used to being taken care of in that way.

There are low bars, and then there’s this.

Sex makes me feel unsafe, not because of the act itself but because my partners so often disappear afterward, whether I waited hours or months before the first time.

Imagine my shock.

Yet something else about his asking also made me uneasy. It seemed legalistic and self-protective, imported more from the courtroom than from a true sense of caretaking. And each time he asked, it was as if he assumed I lacked the agency to say no on my own — as if he expected me to say no, not believing that a woman would have the desire to keep saying yes.

Well, yes. Feminist have set about to destroy the relations between men and women and this is the result. Take it up with Laurie Penny and her ilk.

Still, I liked that he was trying to keep from hurting me unawares. He texted that night, reassuringly. I decided I would call his asking lovely. I decided I would try to learn.

Reminder: this is a 30 year old woman.

The second time he was in my bedroom

You almost whooped for joy?

“Because I’m the one who could make you do something you don’t want to do,” he said. “Not vice versa.”

But that wasn’t what he was trying to do. He and I were enjoying a mutually desired sexual experience, and by making that distinction he was importing the language of coercion and assault into sex that was healthy.

There’s something very Darwinian about this, isn’t there? I think we can safely assume neither of these two are going to reproduce.

While he was waiting for his Uber to arrive…

…having wiped his knob on my curtains…

I did not see him soon. I texted him a few times in the days that followed, playfully at first, then more pressing. He ignored me.

Facepalm.

At first I couldn’t believe he didn’t answer, and then I was devastated. My roommates didn’t understand why I was so much more hurt than usual.

“Because he kissed the soft part of my arm,” I said. “And then he disappeared.”

What?

They looked at me blankly.

Yeah, I’m with them.

“Because he asked for my consent, over and over. So sex felt like a sacred act, and then he disappeared.”

“A sacred act?” one roommate said, laughing. “Girl, you sure don’t treat it like one.”

Heh, I’m beginning to like her friends.

When he asked so many times about my desires, when he checked to be sure he was honoring and respecting me, then sex, however short-lived, became a reciprocal offering. But the moment we pulled on our jeansthat spell of reciprocal honor and respect was broken.

He was covering his arse, my dear, making sure you weren’t going to cry rape and go running to the police. No respect was broken because there was never any in the first place.

And she was right, in a way. Asking about my feelings during sex didn’t extend to caring about them after sex. Consent is not a contract of continuation.

Nor is any relationship according to some feminists, even a marriage. Should we therefore be surprised that men aren’t showing much interest in commitment once the sex is over?

But in the days and weeks after, I was left thinking that our culture’s current approach to consent is too narrow. A culture of consent should be a culture of care for the other person, of seeing and honoring another’s humanity and finding ways to engage in sex while keeping our humanity intact. It should be a culture of making each other feel good, not bad.

Oh, so there are benefits to entering into relationships with mutual obligations after all? How does this square with feminists who thinks “nobody owes anyone shit” and that women have the right to abandon a relationship on the spot and cut off all communications with their former partner for any reason, or even none at all?

And if that’s the goal, then consent doesn’t work if we relegate it exclusively to the sexual realm.

I wish we could view consent as something that’s less about caution and more about care for the other person, the entire person, both during an encounter and after, when we’re often at our most vulnerable.

Well, yes. There was a time when men were expected to demonstrate good character, compassion, and a willingness to engage in a long-term commitment before women slept with them, but feminists decided that was too oppressive.

Because I don’t think many of us would say yes to the question “Is it O.K. if I act like I care about you and then disappear?”

Which is why it’s not a good idea to have sex with strange men before you’ve ascertained their intentions. As Rob Harries remarks, the author of this piece went to Yale; I’d be willing to bet her grandma was much, much wiser.

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Renegades? More like desperados

Via a reader on Twitter, this:

I’ve had so many bad dates in the last five years I thought I’d rather set my hair alight than meet another stranger for a disappointing drink.

This reminds me of something an Elmore Leonard character once said:

“If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

It never seems to occur to these women who’ve had hundreds of terrible dates that they might be the problem. So what’s this particular woman going to do instead?

But it’s Friday night and I’m with a gang of women buzzing around East London hitting on hotties IRL and I’m conscious I’ve not had such a fun night out in months. Sure it feels mad to be striding up to a man in a blazer to tell him ‘you look hot in that’ (which he does – in more ways than one) but it beats the hell out of messaging some chap on an app for the umpteenth time who never replies at all.

She’s basically formed a hen party, only nobody’s getting married.

Going Renegade, for the uninitiated, is a new dating movement led by dating guru Hayley Quinn, designed to help us wrest back control from the dating apps that oppress us and meeting men we fancy IRL.

Dating apps, even oppressive ones, do nothing to stop people meeting each other in real life. What might be preventing you finding offline love, however, is your age, your looks, your expectations, your personality, your morals, the decisions you’ve made in the past and what you think of those decisions now.

It helps that we’re several bottles of prosecco down and have one to one support from Hayley’s three-strong team of male dating coaches.

I should have added degree of self-respect to the list above.

We’ve undergone an hour-long crash course in chat up lines and the importance of VEP – ‘visibility, eye contact, proximity’. We’re single and we’re mingling. We’re learning to identify the men who are interested in us and we aren’t waiting for them to make the first move.

So basically, pickup-artistry for women.

Hayley explains that – thanks to so much bogus dating wisdom – while men get to play ‘The Game’ women feel bullied into following ‘The Rules.’ And that’s just ridiculous, outdated, un-feminist nonsense, according to her.

Yes, the reason modern women can’t form stable relationships is because they’re too traditional. Uh-huh.

In fact, her first act in what is essentially a three-day dating bootcamp, is to insist that we are complete in and of ourselves. ‘Women are repeatedly shamed for being single,’ she explains. ‘But the first thing to remember is – you don’t need a man to make you whole.

So the bootcamp starts off by telling participants they don’t really need to be there, adding to any existing delusions. There may be better ways to spend £897.

This is primarily about making dating what it should be – fun. It’s about rediscovering your playful side.’

A red flag for men looking for a partner is any suggestion a woman “likes to have fun”. Every social group at university includes a girl who is a lot of fun to be around, comes down the pub to watch the rugby, and gets drunk a lot. While she may experience no problem getting laid and have plenty of male friends who genuinely like her company, nobody actually wants to date her. There’s a reason for this, and lest you think I’m being sexist, how many women would be impressed by a single man over 30 who talks about “discovering his playful side”? These women need to grow up, not stay stranded in adolescence.

Men, she insists, are just as shy as we are about making an approach when they fancy us and it is ‘empowering’- not embarrassing – to make the first move.

I thought the common complaint among modern women was that men are overflowing with toxic masculinity and won’t take no for an answer?

‘How will anything ever happen if you see a cute guy and then stare at your phone or your shoes?’ she demands.

Or you could try acting normally.

We spend Saturday in Soho – hitting on men in broad daylight, stone cold sober.

There are videos of women experimenting with this approach on YouTube. Most men assume she’s pulling some kind of scam or she’s a hooker. The ones that don’t look as though they’ve not spoken to a woman in years.

On the Sunday, at the Going Renegade HQ near Hackney Central, we work on our flirting techniques. Hayley’s top trick is to ask men to take photographs of you for Instagram. ‘This is the go-first principle whereby offering information about yourself works as a useful prompt to get him to ask you out,’ she says. ‘If you give him your Instagram information, that could lead to a follow and a date.’

Giving out social media information to complete strangers? What could possibly go wrong?

Hayley’s advice is particularly illuminating when it comes to that handsome stranger you lock eyes with on the tube. When this happens she recommends ‘making a kerfuffle’ – pulling things out of your bag or dropping a book at his feet. When he notices, you then follow up with a friendly, open-ended observation before introducing yourself.

The problem with this is, unlike men you meet on a dating site, there is a good chance the handsome stranger is simply going about his business and isn’t looking for a relationship, let alone one with a stranger he’s met on the tube. Aren’t women forever complaining about men harassing them on the public transport, trying to get their number? Bit of a double-standard there, no? I expect the only thing that would come from such an approach is a lot of embarrassing rejections along the lines of “sorry, I’m seeing someone” and blokes who snap up the chance of an easy lay.

‘You have to give a man time to realise that you really are chatting him up,’ Hayley teaches. ‘We’ve been so well trained in “stranger danger” since we were at school it’ll take him a few minutes to catch up with what’s going on and be able to respond in kind. Be sure to exchange names because that’s very powerful.’

Years of feminists branding all men as dangerous sex-pests have resulted in the criminalisation of ordinary male courtship behaviour. Men have taken note, are giving women a wide berth, and now women have to come up with weird and humiliating methods of getting their attention. Girl power!

Initially, I was very sceptical. Also incredibly nervous. But if you’re courageous enough to try them, Hayley’s techniques certainly work. On the journey home, one member of our group, Poonam, struck up a conversation with a man who’d just run the London marathon. She asked for his email so she could contribute to his JustGiving fund. And several hours later he emailed back – asking her out to dinner.

Right, but your problem wasn’t that you lovely lasses couldn’t get dates, but that they were terrible. Does meeting a man on the way home, even one who’s run the London marathon, give you a better chance of avoiding bad dates than online dating? Not for the first time in articles like this, the conclusion brings us back to where we started. So what’s the point of it? Ah, of course:

Bad Romance by Emily Hill is available to buy in Hardback now.

There’s a book to flog; I might have known.

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Disappointment and Sadness

From The Telegraph:

A premium dating agency has been ordered to refund a client almost £13,000 after it failed to find the woman the “man of my dreams”.

Tereza Burki, 47, paid Seventy Thirty Ltd £12,600 after she was assured they only dealt in “creme de la creme” matches, the High Court heard.

But Judge Richard Parkes QC today ordered the agency to repay her fee, ruling that she had been “deceived” by Seventy Thirty’s then managing director.

Upholding Ms Burki’s claim, he ruled the agency’s then managing director, Lemarc Thomas, was guilty of “deceit” after misleading her about the number of suitors on the site.

The divorced mum-of-three was also awarded £500 for the “disappointment and sadness” she suffered.

I think this says less about the delusions ageing, single women subject themselves to than a British justice system which appears, at least to me, to increasingly view grown women as being rather dim and having no agency. Now it could be the judge simply thought charging gullible fools £12k was not on and made an example of them, in which case I hope he feels equally strongly about fifth-rate universities charging thousands for useless degrees (listen to James Delingpole’s latest podcast for more on that). But I suspect he’s decided this is a special case because she’s a woman; the £500 for “disappointment and sadness” certainly points in that direction. Would he have ruled the same way had a man sued any of the dozens of dating sites which use bots with half-naked avatars to send messages to men which they need to pay to read? And isn’t the bulk of marketing aimed at men men based around claims the product will help them get laid? Can I sue because I discovered some years ago, much to my disappointment, that “the Lynx effect” is a figment of a marketing guru’s imagination? A reader on Twitter sends me this link with some details of her complaint:

What she wanted in a partner was a ‘sophisticated gentleman’, ideally employed in the finance industry. It was important to her that her partner should lead a ‘wealthy lifestyle’, and that he should be ‘open to travelling internationally’. For that reason, it would also have been appealing to her that he should have ‘multiple residences’.

Why is she more deserving of sympathy than a man of similar age who blows all his money on a motorbike in order to impress hot young barmaids?

Ms Burki was shown profiles of men who were said to meet her criteria and be actively seeking a romantic partner like her. For example, one who she found attractive “was pictured perched on the bonnet of an expensive car in front of what appeared to be a substantial house” and she was told that his profile fitted her criteria.

Okay, here’s a picture from OKCupid’s front page:

Does anyone in their right mind think these are representative of lesbians you might meet on a dating site, and that any of those featured on the marketing blurb are from real profiles? I’ve played around on dating sites, and sometimes I wondered if I was looking at a selection of extras from The Lord of the Rings. It seems either judges are as prone to white knighting as the most craven beta, or caveat emptor no longer applies to grown women.

That said, the link does include an instance of an Australian man getting his (substantially smaller) membership fee refunded in 2004 for similar reasons:

The judgment consists of twelve terse paragraphs, each one sentence long, and including one: “The majority of the women in Mudgee and Dubbo did not meet the criteria required by the applicant”, which, read alone, no doubt casts the female population of Dubbo and Mudgee in an unfair light, and concluding with a finding that the conduct of the agency was misleading and deceptive and ordering repayment of Mr Galletti’s AUD 770 membership fee.

If getting people to part with their cash by implying they can score out of their league are grounds for being sued, the advertising industry’s going to get hit pretty hard, isn’t it?

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Round and round the Mulvey bush

A few months ago I blogged about the travails of Kate Mulvey, a 50 year old woman who believed her 2:1 in Italian from the University of Kent intimidated men. Well, she’s  back:

A couple of years ago, I too joined an expensive matchmaking agency. I had just come out of a seven year relationship, and was on the wrong side of 50.

Ah yes, this was the seven year relationship during which you never got so much as engaged.

I soon tired of online dating and receiving messages from over weight baldies who peppered their emails with childish emojis.

Readers may recall this is how Miss Mulvey looked when she was 31:

Fast forward two decades and she’s disparaging men for being overweight and bald. I wonder what they thought of her?

I hankered to find Mr Right-for-me, a man who was suitably educated and a successful professional.

Like a 2:1 from the University of Kent? Now these fat, bald men she’s meeting might litter their emails with childish emojis, but Mulvey’s approach to dating is scarcely more mature.

And so this is how I found myself, throwing money (my entire savings to be precise) to an upmarket matchmaking agency in central London. The agency claimed to filter out the undesirables, the mediocre and give clients the personal touch, so I handed over the hefty sum of £6,000.

Hang on a minute. Your entire shtick is you’re a successful, educated single woman who’s over 50, yet your entire savings were a mere £6,000? And what the hell were you thinking in handing over this sort of cash to a dating agency? Does this sound like a suitable life partner for any man, let alone a smart, successful one?

As I waited to be matched with someone from their ‘extensive database’, I idly imagined my handsome date, cashmere polo neck, a bit academic and kind. We’d eat steak tartare and swap notes on our latest clever box-set find and favourite novels.

What’s in it for him?

How could I have got it so wrong?

Because you have an unreasonably high opinion of yourself, unrealistic expectations, and you appear not to learn from mistakes.

The reality was an array of terrible matches, a growing sense of alarm and a flaming row in a flash restaurant in Chelsea.

Did he ask to split the bill, but you’d spent all your cash just getting to this point?

The first indication that all was not as I had expected came when I met personal matchmaker at a Park Lane hotel for ‘tea and an interview’.

Personal matchmaker? That sounds like something I might be good at. I’d direct Mulvey to the nearest pet shop which offers bulk discounts on cats.

“So, are you a psychologist?” I asked, eager to press her on her method of assessment.

“Oooh no, I’m just a people person. I love people,” she trilled.

Six grand.

I told her how I loved folk music, my favourite film was The Deer Hunter, and enjoyed weekends in the countryside. So far so banal.

Women seem to think sharing a hobby or having similar opinions about books or films is the key to meeting the right man. Did she say anything which might indicate her character, in the manner her Telegraph article does? Or did she wisely keep that hidden? If I were doing the job of the matchmaker, I’d start by asking who she last dated and what went wrong.

A few days later she emailed me with the details of W, “a successful entrepeneur who had travelled extensively and also liked folk music”.

Could this woman get any more shallow? This obsession with “travel”, as if that makes you more cultured.

When I met him at a pub in Richmond, I was shocked. I was expecting a cultured and dynamic man, instead I got a man in a pair of jeans, a moth eaten jumper and the table manners of a modern day Baldrick.

Why would you expect someone cultured and dynamic? Because he’s well-travelled? And can we get his view on expectations versus reality?

And therein lies the rub. These agencies trade on their exclusivity, yet the men I met were far from the international super elite they promised.

Why would the international super elite be on dating sites? That the whole thing was a con ought to be obvious to anyone with half a brain; didn’t the Ashley Madison leak show there were virtually no women on the site, and those that were were hookers?

And the so called experts were a group of ex pr girls with swishy hair and ability to write up a nifty ‘press release’.

And the ability to persuade gullible fools to part with what amounts to their entire savings.

It wasn’t too much of a surprise then that they rarely got it right. For the next few months, I dated up and down the eligibility scale. Some men were pleasant but dull, others who said they wanted to be in a relationship but were burdened with so much baggage they were toxic.

So you’re over 50, spending thousands on a dating site, but you rule out anyone who’s pleasant but dull and anyone with baggage. Well, good luck with that. Remember, this is the woman who thinks men find her intelligence intimidating.

There was the 65 year-old American with a stunning property portfolio who broke the rules and googled me, only to inform me that I was too old for him.

Heh! By how many decades?

The funny looking barrister, who invited me to his St James’s club, and turned out to be prickly and aggressive

A minute ago you were complaining they were pleasant but dull.

I was about to call it a day and demand my money back, when my matchmaker sent through the detail a publisher from Oxford. We met at a pub near his home.

But very quickly the debonair man who had seemed laid-back in London had morphed into a raging chauvinist in the countryside. When I started to chat to waiter in Italian, it became clear that my date was not happy. He muttered something under his breath and rolled his eyes like a stroppy teenager.

“I WAS WONDERING when you were going to let me join your conversation,” he boomed. I tried to laugh it off but clocked this was a man with a fragile ego.

Okay, if you’re going to recycle old stories at least try to maintain consistency. According to her earlier article, this happened in Italy not the Cotswolds, and it was with a guy she’d been with a year. I suspect this whole thing is unalloyed fabrication.

It is a tough time for midlife dating today, and there are a lot vulnerable educated women like me who are so desperate for love they are willing to try anything whatever the price.

Except be with a pleasant but dull man, or refrain from having conversations with other people in a language your date doesn’t know.

Yet, the quality of men were, I no different to those on online dating sites.

And the quality of women is just stellar, I suppose?

I learnt the hard way, but my advice when it comes to dating is: trust your instinct and meet through friends of friends.

Firstly, I suspect her friends are few indeed. Secondly, I’d bet her acquaintances learned not to introduce her to anyone the hard way a long time ago.

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A Bad Date

This rather tragic story offers much insight into modern dating:

Shepherd met Charlotte – or Charli, as she was known – for the first time on a December night in 2015. Before that, they’d got to know each other online through the dating website OkCupid.

The 28-year-old web designer took his 24-year-old date to the Oblix restaurant on the 32nd floor of London’s Shard – an unmissable skyscraper with stunning views across the capital.

They ordered two bottles of wine and flatbread. When the £150 bill came, he paid.

Some folk may get the impression this Shepherd chap is a smooth, master seducer but in reality he seems a little desperate. Only an idiot would take someone they’ve never met to one of London’s swankiest restaurants and cough up £150; he’s trying to get money to do what his personality can’t. A first date should be a brief affair somewhere cheap, relatively quiet, and brightly lit offering both parties an early escape if necessary. And any woman being wined and dined in The Shard to the tune of £150 on the first date ought to know she’s being paid for something.

They then went back to his houseboat, 10 miles away in Hammersmith, west London, by taxi, where they drank more alcohol.

This doesn’t sound very sensible either; I can only assume she was looking for a one-night stand, or a fling at the most. That being the case, his taking her to The Shard was rather unnecessary.

During the evening, Shepherd told Charlotte he had a speedboat.

Later, in a police interview, he admitted: “I think I was probably, you know, wanting to sleep with her basically, and so that was probably what I wanted to do and she wanted to go in the boat so I’ve gone ‘OK’.”

A genuine alpha-male, having got a girl back to his houseboat and begun plying her with alcohol, will be mentioning the bedroom, not speedboats. Either he was misreading signals, or dinner at The Shard didn’t do enough to impress her.

The pair headed out on his 1980s, red, 14ft Fletcher Arrowflyte GTO which he’d bought from Gumtree. The court heard the boat was badly maintained.

Witnesses for the prosecution, who examined it after the accident, said it had a number of pre-existing defects, including “poor and sloppy steering” and a “partially opaque” windscreen.

At this point you have to ask what the hell this girl was doing climbing into a speedboat – in any condition – at night with a man she’d just met. Unsurprisingly:

On the night of the accident, Shepherd sped along the Thames towards the Houses of Parliament at 30 knots – well above the 12 knot limit for that part of the river.

It was cold and dark. He’d taken champagne on board, and according to his account, he let Charlotte take over the steering on their way back for a “thrill”.

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC described that decision as “sheer madness”.

Not long after Charlotte took the controls the boat crashed and capsized by Plantation Wharf.

It’s thought it hit a floating piece of timber or tree.

With tragic results:

Steven Morrissey, who lives in a flat close to Wandsworth Bridge, said in a witness statement he heard Shepherd calling out.

“He just kept saying, ‘Help me, help me, somebody help me.’ It was just ‘help me’ – not ‘us’, or ‘her’.”

Is anyone surprised by that? Maybe Ted Kennedy was his role model?

Shepherd was found clinging to the upturned hull of the boat near the bridge at about 23:40. Charlotte was found in the water close by just before midnight.

She was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead, with a post-mortem examination later finding she had died from cold water immersion.

When emergency crews spoke to Shepherd after he was pulled from the water they said he appeared extremely confused and drunk. Jurors heard how he asked them where Charlotte was, but he couldn’t remember her name.

Charlotte’s mother, Roz Wickens, said: “There are no words in the universe to describe how wonderful Charlotte was… the best daughter ever, my best friend. We’ll never get over losing her.

Rather than rant about toxic masculinity and virtue-signal with MeToo hashtags, wouldn’t it be good if feminists spent those efforts teaching young women basic common sense, especially in the age of dating apps and a hookup culture? There was a time when young women knew how to take things slowly and avoid idiots like this Shepherd guy, but those skills seem to have gotten lost in the great drive towards equality, modernity, and the emasculation of men. And who were the architects of that, again?

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Priorities Revealed

When I was in London I met up with a couple I’ve known for a while, who I’ll call Ed and Jennifer. We got talking about one of their friends who I’d met at their wedding, a Dutch woman by the name of Kirsten. Now this Kirsten was an interesting character: late thirties, highly intelligent, and extremely well credentialed having been to a top university in Holland and later did a Masters at Columbia University in New York. She spoke several languages and when I met her a few years back she was working in London as a senior manager in the marketing department of a blue chip company we all know. What made her more impressive was she’d fallen seriously ill as child and been expected to die, but miraculously survived. The illness left her with physical damage and she needs to undergo daily medical treatment for the rest of her life, something she manages incredibly well.

Now Ed’s wife Jennifer insisted that Kirsten wanted a husband and to start a family, but was finding the London dating scene hard going. On top of the usual dearth of available men, she had to find someone who would accept her physical scars and medical condition. Eventually she entered into a rocky but not unpleasant relationship with an Italian called Raphael. He was in his early forties and came with multiple oddities and quirks of his own – which helped explain why he was single. He didn’t seem sure of what he wanted and their relationship was on, then off, then back on, then off again over the course of about a year. Then they split up for a few months, only to get back together once they realised they missed one another. When I heard from my friends that Kirsten had met a guy who finally accepted her, I was happy for her; she’d beaten the odds and found someone who might not be perfect, but was overall a pretty decent chap. When we last spoke Kirsten and Raphael had been back together about a year, had been holidaying together, had met each other’s parents, and we talking about moving in together. As Kirsten had told Jennifer, and Jennifer told me, settling down and having a family is what she really wanted.

However, when I met Ed and Jennifer last month they told me the outlook between Kirsten and Raphael was gloomy indeed.

“Why?” I asked. “What happened?

“Kirsten’s moving to Chicago, she got offered a promotion,” Ed said.

It transpired that Kirsten had accepted the post in Chicago automatically, having been conditioned for over 15 years to always put her career first. Kirsten and Raphael were trying to work out whether he could move to Chicago, but he had a business and a sister in London he was reluctant to leave. Personally, I thought she was nuts: she’d spent years desperately trying to find a partner, going through umpteen disappointments, and when at long last she finds someone she drops him like a stone to climb the corporate ladder.

“Well, it’s her choice but it’s clear where her priorities are,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Jennifer asked.

“I mean, she doesn’t really want to settle down and have a family, does she? If she did, and that was important to her, she’d stay in London with Raphael.”

“Oh no!” Jennifer replied. “I think she still wants to do that, she says if it doesn’t work out with Raphael she’ll try to find someone in Chicago.”

I’ve seen this a lot with single women over thirty: there is an enormous disconnect between what they say they want with their life and the decisions they actually make. You see this particularly with educated, professional women who continuously put their careers first while saying what they really want is to settle down and start a family. Roissy over at Chateau Heartiste often makes the point that one shouldn’t listen to what women say, rather you should watch what they do. Look at the choices they make, and draw your own conclusions as to what their true motivations are.

I heard while I was in Dubai that Raphael and Kirsten had split up for good. I still can’t get my head around her decision. I noted with interest that Jennifer genuinely believed Kirsten’s priority was to have a family. Ed’s view was much the same as mine.

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White Knighting for Students

Remember this guy?

Before I married my wife two years ago, she had huge amounts of debt to her name, including large amounts of student loans. After we married, we diligently almost paid everything off, helped by my salary being three times that of my wife.

 

She recently asked for a divorce, saying she was taking the house and my retirement.

We’ve only been married a few years, and frankly I can’t help feeling taken advantage of. The only advice I can find discusses whose responsibility the student loans would be, but now it just seems that she got me to pay all of her debts, and got some new stuff, while I threw away years of my life.

Well, he’s not alone:

I supported my girlfriend during her recent studies. We are not married. She took 3 years from the inception of the program to finish, pass her board exams, and get her license to practice dental hygiene, despite the fact that it’s only supposed to be a 26-month program.

During this time, I paid the rent, utilities, food, entertainment, vacations, some medical expenses, toiletries, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Her mother covered some things for her, and her ability to take loans was restricted by previous undergraduate loans as well as lack of availability of federal loans due to use of grants in undergraduate.

Our relationship is unwinding. I have sacrificed greatly in order to provide for her. I could have paid for the remainder of my student loans, advanced my career by investing in continuing education and, of course, increasing my portfolio and retirement accounts.

Is there any legal recourse I can take when we break up, to receive reimbursement for my contributions to her living expenses? Despite me not paying a cent towards her actual degree, her living was majority financed by me (80% at a minimum). Her income is going to quadruple with her new job.

There’s a pattern here, isn’t there? It’s time men got a bit smarter.

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Freezing eggs won’t help you, ma’am

A reader sends me a link to this article which begins thusly:

Today is my birthday – I’m 36. I’m celebrating, since you ask, with an outing to Richmond Deer Park, followed by champagne and pizza in the garden. I know: so civilised and mature.

This is to let you know she’s a middle class wannabe posho. If only single women in their mid-thirties knew how unoriginal stuff like this is, and how shallow it makes them look, they’d quit doing it in a heartbeat.

Anyway, just over a year ago, heading for 35, I was sitting in a pub with my father in central London…

You just knew it wasn’t going to be in a shopping centre in Wolverhampton, didn’t you?

…and I asked him a favour. With his coolly quantitative analytical skills – he studied physics as a young man – could he please help me decide whether I should freeze my eggs before I turned 35?

And he thought he was going for a quiet pint. Of all the topics to discuss with your dad, this is an odd one indeed. And all because he studied physics in his youth.

I didn’t think too hard about whether the ‘right’ man to do it with would appear. In fact, I have always thought the desire to be a mother must trump romantic uncertainty. If need be, I’d find a male friend (or try to find one) to co-parent. If I really wanted a child and nothing else offered itself I could always go the sperm bank route.

After which you could carve out a career writing articles on how hard it is to raise a child alone, and how the government should do more for people like you.

It turns out that in this respect I’m a bit different from my peers. A report last week found that women are freezing their eggs not because of their careers as has been commonly assumed but to give themselves more time to find a good partner with whom to start a family.

Oh yes, their failure to settle down with a suitable partner in a decade and a half is because they’ve not had quite enough time.

The Yale University study, which analysed the egg freezing motivations of 150 Israeli and American women, found that women “weren’t freezing to advance, they were facing the overarching problem of partnership”.

Well, yes and no. Most will have prioritised their careers such that they’re now too old to find a decent partner. So while it’s true they may not want to advance further, the root cause is their careers took priority at a time when there was an abundance of suitable men.

Thanks to the internet, women may have more romantic and sexual options than ever before, but the quality of options is downright depressing.

Whereas 35 year old women who don’t know what they want and turn to their fathers for advice on egg-freezing is just what every guy dreams of. Every woman I speak to or read on the subject of online dating complains about the quality of men as if they’re the catch of the year. They don’t seem to realise the men they’re meeting on the internet are their peers, counterparts in the same dating pool.

Clearly, many women freezing their eggs think it’s possible that the right man can eventually be found with a few extra years’ searching.

It’s amazing what desperate people will believe, isn’t it?

Have you ever scrolled through the male options on the dating apps Tinder, OkCupid, or Bumble? Try it. It’s not pretty: man after man gurning from a cringingly contrived mirror selfie, big black sunglasses on, too much hair gel, leering or vacant expressions and an incoherent word or two by way of ‘profile’ description.

Because the women on Tinder and OkCupid just exemplify marriage material, don’t they? The duck-faced pouting, the cleavage shots, the list of demands in the profile, the sense of entitlement that accompanies every description, the empty references to travel, food, and “having fun”. And leering expressions, you say? Here’s a photo of the author:

Be still my beating heart.

Often the man is posing, topless, with some kind of animal. (I don’t know why that’s a thing, but it is). There’s very little boyfriend – let alone father – material about.

This woman has been writing about dating and relationships for 20 years, yet here she is, single, asking her dad for advice, and sneering at the men she finds online.

When one does manage to find anyone halfway nice looking and able to hang a sentence together, good luck actually arranging a satisfactory meeting with them.

I imagine they make a beeline for the door the moment they discover you’re a feminist.

My friend Katrina, 37, who happens to have just completed three rounds of egg freezing, is a case in point. Like the women in the study, she froze her eggs not for the purposes of her (extremely successful) career but in the hopes of finding a partner.

In her attempt to do so, she has doggedly trawled a number of dating sites and apps, and tried speed dating events for hipsters and posh people. She’ll often be chatting with several men at once. But when it comes to actually meeting up, they simply vanish into thin air – or, like one mysteriously-occupied “entrepreneur”, keep ignoring the fact that she has a demanding day job, and suggesting impromptu coffees at one in the afternoon instead of the evening drinks she offered.

Firstly, men don’t care she has a demanding day job: after all, that is likely what landed her in this position in the first place. If she is still prioritising her work, chances are she’s not going to make a very good partner. Secondly, a quick coffee at 1pm is much better for a first date than evening drinks. There is no pressure, no expense, you’re in a public place so it’s quite safe, and if you don’t like one another you can leave easily. It sounds as though this Katrina expects to be romanticised over expensive cocktails she won’t be paying for, and is unwilling to compromise. Little wonder she’s single.

It’s all very frustrating and leads me to think that women who want to be mothers should go a non-traditional route, be that sperm bank or something else, rather than waiting around for a Mr Right that may well never appear.

Notice it never seems to occur to these women that they might be the problem? What if Mr Right can’t do evening drinks but only a quick coffee during the day? Oh well too bad, better go freeze my eggs.

Some posit that the mismatch between successful women in their 30s and their male counterparts comes down to women being now the more educated sex. Certainly, my single friends and I all feel that as the quantity of options facing women in their 30s has soared, the quality of the options has dropped off a cliff.

There’s that complaint about quality again, as if Maria Sharapova is writing this column rather than some haggard old feminist. And I’ve written before about how women are so self-absorbed they refuse to date men they believe are intellectually inferior to them. I feel sorry for some single women, but not those who treat men with such utter disdain as the author and her friends seemingly do.

Education may be partly to do with it. But perhaps it’s just that women – trained from an early age to be self-aware, emotionally astute and good at multi-tasking – reach a peak of all-pistons-firing personhood in their 30s and 40s that men simply can’t match.

You really believe that? That you’re so brilliant men simply can’t match you? Or could it be you’re not very nice, you’d make a lousy partner, and men simply aren’t interested?

Whatever the underlying cause, as long as egg freezing brings women relief from stress I’m all for it.

Alas, freezing eggs is so far removed from a solution to your problems it’s a category error, akin to Googling for misplaced car keys. Hell’s bells, feminism has wrought some damage, hasn’t it?

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