Marriage is like chickenpox, the younger you are when you get it out of the way, the better. For some insecure women, being a child bride is a bit like being picked first for the netball team – you can relax, secure in the knowledge that you are not going to end up as a substitute who only gets a game when one of the favoured players drop out. That wedding ring is like having the BSI seal of approval stamped on your finger. And a couple of years later, if you’re clever enough not to have children, you can have the obligatory divorce – a messy one for those addicted to drama, or a nice civilized, clean one for the sensible, where you and your ex remain great friends, and he hangs around both as living proof of your desirability and acts as a benchmark for all future applicants.
This leaves you – young, free, single and with your share of the profit from the marital home, a fully stocked kitchen, matching bed-linen, colour co-ordinated towels - thanks to the wedding presents, and some nice pictures. You are no longer insecure about your own ability to attract, commit and be committed to. You’ve been there, done that, got the toaster,
So far, so go girl. The world of men is now your smorgasboard. Well for a while anyway.
Get to forty and a lot of the plates are empty - you’re left with a few open sandwiches with curled up crusts, and some dodgy prawns. In the words of the country song – eventually ‘all the best men are either married, dead or gay’. Of course, you still may not be looking for a life partner – just someone to spend a little quality time with – but how do you pull the no strings relationship when all the best fish in the sea are extinct?
According to women who know about these things you have two choices – cross your legs, and hope for the best or advertise.
My far from desperate fiftyish friend, a head hunter, cherry picks her way through a computer dating website – vetting men using the same criteria she applies to her candidates – checking out which papers he reads, where he went to university, what his interests are and his employment history. She’s would prefer an American, Ivy Leaguer who takes the FT or the Washington Post - though at a pinch a dog walker is looking like an increasingly likely candidate because he’s only 40 and he works out. Older men, she claims, don’t take enough care of their bodies and she is not willing to waste her service history on an old banger. But though you can learn a lot from a resume and a photograph, and even post your own and keep checks on who’s visited it - or contact the viewers later, as my friend does, and ask them why they didn’t get in touch - computer dating sites don’t yet do voices. After shopping wisely it’s a bit of a surprise to discover that your six foot six, abseiling, Times-reading city banker talks like he has a helium balloon up the sleeve of his Thomas Pink shirt. Her latest advice is speak on the phone before you commit.
Alternatively you can try the personals, a method favoured by several of my man-seeking friends, whereby you start off by calling up their number and listening to their message. ‘He sounds nice’, apparently is the start of a potentially wonderful relationship.
Well, everyone knows you can’t believe the advert – for a start, 40 is the upper age range for women – men think you get dentures in the post at 41 while mysteriously believing that they go on looking like Jude Law. And all men who advertise are attractive, witty and tall, while all women are bubbly with GSOH – and both insist they’re looking for companionship and a mutual love of theatre. Miserable, plain, humourless, seeking mutual love of clothes ripping sex wouldn’t get many replies, I suppose.
One of my friends’ latest personal escapades was with a man who said he had hair like George Clooney leading her to expect nothing less than the man himself. ‘He was very ordinary,’ she said afterwards – lamenting how anyone would promote themselves as a cinema heart-throb when their only resemblance was very short hair, and yet fail to mention they had protuberant buck teeth. ‘I told him I was 16 stone and wore Laura Ashley smocks, she said ruefully, all size 8 of her in a Gucci leather jacket. ‘I thought it would be better for him to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed’ – further highlighting one of the great divides between men and women – the self-deprecation trades description act.
If, however, advertising fails to appeal, I have discovered another way to attract the opposite sex. Simply stay married. There’s nothing like a ‘safe’ woman to turn a man on. They figure you don’t want a husband as you already have one, you don’t want babies as you have them too, and you won’t tell their girlfriend or cause trouble if he won’t leave her. You’re not a bunny boiler, in other words.
Who would have thunk it – all that from a little marriage certificate?
Idiots – I have just the pot for old Thumper.