So we are finally back in this place.
The place I hoped I would never go back to. The hell that is online dating.
I have tried to enjoy dating, I really have. I have thrown myself into it with gusto, telling myself that this time it will be different. This time, I will be that lucky person who pops up five minutes after getting divorced already ensconced in a new relationship. This time that will be me, except not divorced and just really, really bitter from DECADES of rejection. I’m a catch! Anyway, what have I got to lose?
Well, my sanity for a start.
And hope, hope is what I have to lose.
It reminds me of the ancient story of Pandora’s Box, where Pandora opens the box and everything flies out except hope. Hope is all you need, is the message. There’s always hope. When I was at university I had a poster of the sun setting over a lighthouse with the words “There is hope” written on it on my bedroom wall. And I believed it; when all else fails, there is always hope. But sometimes it’s hard to have hope. When you’ve been knocked back so many times you’ve lost count, it’s hard. How many rejections do there have to be before it seems more sensible to give up entirely?
When I chose to have a baby on my own, part of that hope of meeting someone went out the window, and I was glad about that. No longer would I have to go on endless dates and suffer endless rejection approximately ten minutes after each one. Instead, I could eschew men entirely and take my destiny into my own hands. What I really wanted, I decided, wasn’t a man but a baby; a family to call my own. And I was lucky enough to live in a time and place when I could create that family for myself, so why wouldn’t I?
As time went on, I threw myself into trying to have a baby and then, having one. Babies take up a lot of time and energy. I didn’t have the mental or physical energy to do anything else and anyway, my body was ruined and I was ageing rapidly by the day. No one would want me now, and I no longer needed to care. My work here was done. I had reproduced, and my love life could now lie down and die as though it was a post-coital praying mantis, but without the prior “fun bit.”
But eventually, the will to date came back. I don’t know why. It was always so awful before, why did I ever feel the need to go back? I suspect it was the dreaded FOMO; the fear that other people had something I didn’t, and this time it wasn’t something I could pick up on Asos.com after a quick Google. Perhaps it was the knowledge that other single parents were still out on the scene, and apparently didn’t agree with me that we were now supposed to sacrifice our own lives entirely for our children and never again darken the door of Match.com, instead preferring to devote ourselves to such worthy causes as Work, Cleaning The House and Reading A Book Occasionally Because I’m Like, Still A Person With Opinions and Stuff. Thank you books, for you have reminded me that I am still a person with opinions! I just have no one to share them with apart from a small child who is still baffled with the world and working things out. Sample conversation: Piglet: “Mummy, let’s read this book!” (pulls out ancient “Children’s Bible” of unknown provenance inherited from my mother and festooned with pictures of a blonde Jesus and phrases like “and lo, it came to pass”) Me: “OK,” (starts to read story of Adam and Eve). Piglet: “Where’s God?” Me: “He’s invisible, so He can’t be in the picture.” Piglet (listening to Mummy, doling out punishments to Adam and Eve in the imagined voice of God, which coincidentally is also the voice of Father Christmas, the Fat Controller and Gordon the Grumpy Blue Engine): “Is He a baddie?”
I’m a Religious Studies teacher. I’m supposed to be good at this sort of thing.
“No, he’s not a baddie. He created them, and they didn’t do what he said, so now he’s annoyed. Sort of like ME AND YOU Piglet!”
I then spend the rest of the evening wondering how I could have handled that conversation better by introducing four year old Piglet to the old philosophical conundrum of the Inconsistent Triad in an accessible and age-appropriate way.
Perhaps, as some of my more religiously-minded students often answer when faced with the Problem of Evil, life is a test, in which case I think it’s safe to say that I am being tested to see how long I can continue the farce of internet dating before I re-write my profile to proclaim to the world how bitter and twisted the experience has made me, starting with an opener like “NO LIES AND GAMES. NO PLAYERS AND NO DICK PICS,” as if that’s sure to attract my one and only soulmate, who just happens to be on Tinder that day (location: three miles away) searching for someone sick and tired of the dating game and looking to settle down five minutes later, having wooed me with wit, scintillating conversation and boundless admiration of my much-reduced post-motherhood fashion choices.
If life is a test, it’s the sort of test Michael Gove would approve of. Old fashioned, backward looking, and fit to equip you with the sort of knowledge only a Brexit-supporting Tory politician would approve of. Could you personally re-create the Bayeaux Tapestry from beginning to end using only three balls of wool in muted medieval colours? Come on in! You’ve passed the test! Could you start a genuinely interesting discussion about whether it really is Harold being impaled through the eye by an arrow, or whether he’s actually under a horse at the bottom there? Bugger off you history-doubting liberal snowflake!
So I shall continue with the online dating, and though I like bitter things-lemons, for example. Where would we be without lemons-I shall try not to be bitter, or at least to channel Beyonce and make lemonade out of my bitterness. What have I got to lose? Nothing, except my sanity.