What does an invisible woman know about passion?

Melinda Coxhead, below, is in a sad state. She finds great difficulty in being single in her 50s. She should try being single in her '70s. I have been there. The sad truth is that the older you get the less likely you are to form new intimate partnerships. I have no good news for her. It is only going to get worse. So she should grab even a half-suitable partner if she can.

I practice what I preach. There are epic incompatibilities between my present partner and me but we still have a good interpersonal relationship with lots of laughs during our times together. I look to the good and smile at the incompatibilities

It is no longer possible to deny that I am turning 50. I’m not just turning 50, I’m hurtling unwillingly into its devastating path.

Fifty has taken my once-heaving breasts and tenderised them into schnitzels. Forlorn nipples facing my knees in defeat. Middle age has slackened my jawline, lined my neck and deepened my wrinkles overnight.

I’m trying to love myself whilst dealing with being less attractive. It’s true what they say about becoming invisible as I notice people see me less and less.

Even insensitive algorithms can’t help themselves, with ads on menopause belly, retirement villages, exercising for the middle-aged, bowel cancer checks, embrace the greys. Apparently, even the emojis I use are old.

The disturbing fifty shifts are many but perhaps the most onerous is the shift of love. Being single at 50 has presented a new landscape. It’s barren and desolate but also rife with a few unexpected landmines.

There are two major differences about being single at 50. The first is the shift in popular opinions about what I’m searching for.

According to these opinions, at this age I’m no longer looking for the love of my life. I’m looking for a “companion”, like I want a golden retriever. Does middle age mean I don’t deserve love or passion? Can I no longer expect to meet the love of my life?

My search for love means I still want butterflies, flirting, anticipation and desire. You don’t get that with a “companion” – you get the early-bird special at the RSL.

Which leads me to the next shift. What has happened to the men in my demographic? Collectively they have left me scratching my head. I’ve racked up my fair share of pathetic first date stories, but these most recent experiences have me rattled.

The first is fairly mild. Chatted online, shared some messages then a phone call. He seemed interesting and normal, so we agreed to meet. Now let me remind you, I’ve been single for 15 years and I’m not used to a man in my space. It was a cold Melbourne night and I was all rugged up. I had just greeted him when he said “let me take your coat”.

I wasn’t ready, it was meant to be my security blanket for the first few minutes before I took it off when I felt comfortable. He rips it from my back, one of my arms gets caught and I’m flapping it about in the intimate, dimly lit restaurant. He pulls it free, along with my scarf and runs off to hang it up ... I may as well be naked. I left my hat on to compensate.

We have a polite conversation, there’s not a lot of laughter, but the conversation flows and he is interesting. Until it also becomes apparent that he is quite rich. And refers to it to the point where I become uncomfortable with my poor status. I mean every girl wants to meet a millionaire but, in the end, his big talk is just tedious.

Then we got up to go. He runs to get my coat which he helps me with. But then he positions his arm in a way so I must loop mine through it. It’s so forced and awkward I walk stiffly out of the restaurant. Suddenly, I’m cast back to regency England like we are taking a turn about the room before the men retire to the drawing room for cigars.

I managed to get my hand out as we bought gelati after dinner. He offers his arm again, but I say, “Sorry, no I can’t do that. Um, don’t take it personally.” Insert nervous laughter. I see him grimace. Cue few minutes of discomfort, thank God we are walking back to the car.

Next there was a guy, let’s call him Bob. We shared some lighthearted banter about how we were both on to our second coffee for the morning when he sends a photo of his coffee cup. Suddenly, I’m struck with doubt, confusion and repulsion. Can I reject a man because of a dirty coffee cup? I ran the problem by a friend who is equally repulsed but advises to at least proceed with the phone call. Sadly, it is not a success due to his poorly timed humour. I bring up the coffee cup – he explains he only washes it about once a fortnight to enhance the flavour. Next!

Unfortunately, it gets worse. The next guy sounds genuine and pleasant. Jovial chat ensues. I mentioned to him that I work with a team of podiatrists. He immediately pipes up that he has an injured toe. I remind him I’m not a podiatrist, I just work with them. “That’s ok,” he says, “if I send you a photo you can show them.” I’m half laughing as I think he must be joking.

We bid each other good night and just as I’m considering a date there it is. A photo of an injured, gross-looking toe. I’m exasperated, disappointed and sad. What is going on? I thought he wanted a date, not healthcare. Have men given up? Or is there such a man shortage they think they can get away with this lacklustre behaviour? My hands are in the air. I give in.

So, I’m baffled. I know what you’re thinking, I must be fussy, unrealistic, indecisive. What is wrong with me? I’m not desperate, lonely, or sad. I have a full life. But these experiences have galvanised my resolve to search for nothing less than butterflies, desire and anticipation.

When I do meet my life partner, I know it will feel like coming home. I need it to feel like coming home. We just haven’t found the way home yet.


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