Society can be cruel to women thrust into a singular existence. How easy it is for a lone man to spend time drinking at the bar, pint in hand, discussing ‘men’ topics with the barman. Not so for a lone woman. No easy camaraderie with the barman over a glass of wine. A knowledge of football is viewed with scepticism and unless the barman has a strongly feminine streak, the latest celebrity gossip is not on the cards as a conversation topic.
So, surrounded by the broken remains of a long term relationship, how easy is it for a woman to rise like Phoenix from the ashes? Where can she find new friends and new interests and avoid sinking into a pit of self-pity and despair?
Well-meaning friends came up with various suggestions to launch me back into the land of the living, but I discounted most of them.
The Women’s Institute? Seriously? Calendar Girls may have painted a very lively picture but the reality is more likely to be sitting for hours in a draughty church hall, absorbing vital information on jam making, 50 ways to cook mince and walking holidays in the Peak District.
Politics? I was asked to stand as a local councillor but didn’t feel much enthusiasm in fighting for such worthy causes as free parking in the country park, the size of potholes in local roads and whether wind farms should be allowed.
Evening Classes? Lots to choose from here: cake decorating – shades of the WI; car maintenance – No! I have no interest in what goes on under the bonnet of my car; Life drawing classes – I can’t draw and the thought of trying to draw a naked man would probably reduce me to hysteria.
Dance classes? I tried a Ceroc class which was a disaster. I discovered I really do have two left feet and after half an hour of gamely trying to teach me the simplest of moves, my partner very politely commented that dancing wasn’t for everyone.
Eventually and egged on by a friend, I turned to internet dating. I chose one of the largest sites and spent a wet Sunday afternoon filling in the endless questionnaire. Exhausted I sat back in eager anticipation, wondering what would happen. Half an hour later I was slightly puzzled to find I was receiving messages from women. Checking back through my details I discovered I had clicked on ‘Woman looking for Women’! At this point I wondered whether this was a sign that internet dating was not for me but, undeterred, I altered my details. And after a week wondered why I had bothered. The selection of visitors to my profile looked more like a selection from a rogues’ gallery at the local police station. And their messages! ‘Hi, what’s the weather like today? It’s raining in Ipswich’. ‘Hello, you look nice. I bet you can’t guess what I do for a job’. ‘Hi Trish, what car do you think I drive?’
Were my standards too high? Was I expecting too much? Perhaps, but I quickly realised that men, middle aged and beyond, were dull and not for me. And then I read an article in the Sunday Times. Toyboy Warehouse! Older women and younger men. Did that really happen? Did younger men really go for older women? Despite my curiosity I did nothing until a colleague mentioned seeing the site on ‘The One Show’ and decided it must be fate.
I still couldn’t imagine why younger men would be interested in older women but joined the site without any expectation of success. And was more than pleasantly surprised. Instead of the dreary messages I was used to getting from my first foray into internet dating; here were articulate and attractive young men who seemed genuinely interested in older women. Why? Were Helen Mirren et al responsible for arousing an older woman fantasy amongst young men? Did they feel more intellectually connected to women who could converse on topics other than X Factor or Cheryl Cole’s tortured love life? Whatever the reason, I wasn’t complaining. The boost to my confidence was immense; I felt as though I had come alive again. Old friends were disapproving; ‘what on earth was I thinking’, they asked. Surely there was no future in meeting men much younger than me. I explained that the last thing I was looking for was a soul mate, or someone with whom I could sail off into a rosy sunset. I was having fun, something that had been lacking in my life for a long time. I felt their disapproval was tinged with envy; I was meeting gorgeous young men; they were immured in boring and for the most part, loveless marriages to boring older men.
Of course I’ve had one or two disasters – the Scrap Heap Challenge saga; the Jack Daniels disaster – but they were few and far between. I’ve read comments on the forums from ladies who have been disappointed – messaging that dried up without the hoped for meeting; dates not turning up etc. But I’m certain there are far more successes than failures on Toyboy Warehouse. Julia’s initial concept was a brilliant one and even though there are now similar sites, this one is far and away the best there is. Unsuitable members are soon weeded out and the standard of membership is very high. And the cost is hardly likely to break the bank; Gold membership for 90 days is less than the cost of a visit to the hairdresser! I hope the site never merges, it is unique and should remain so. It has given me, and I imagine many others; confidence and a belief that, older we may be, but we’re not ready for the scrapheap, or one of the other, very inferior sites yet!
Written by Trish