She knows what she’s on about, that Simone

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‘Why has Philippe always gone for women of that kind – smooth, standoffish, pretentious? To prove to himself that he could attract them, no doubt. He was not fond of them.’

That’s a quote from Simone De Beauvior’s short story The Age of Discretion (which I am reading now at a sun-strewn table in a coffee shop near Harvard, because my life is just endless glamour and intellectual feminist discourse). It’s not just Philippe with that problem. We’ve all done it, babe.

Simone, you nailed it again.

Part 165: Going Digital

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I’ve written a few things about online dating since I started this blog (nearly four years ago, if you can believe it). I was adamant it wasn’t for me. No, no – too depressing, I always said. Too bleak, try-hard and ultimately unhopeful. The cynical capitalist co-option of our base needs. It wasn’t that I didn’t dabble, now and then, but I treated online dating like I treated recreational drugs – meh, if there’s nothing better to do – but I wasn’t going to give my life over to it. (And much like recreational drugs, the first time I tried taking online dating seriously I had a traumatic experience that put me off for several years. You can read about that here, if you’re bored enough.) But that was then. I had unexplored romantic options in the flesh world (friends, neighbours, acquaintances). I was 28, lithe and, while I was neither clear skinned nor sober, my nails were professionally groomed and there were no hairs growing from chin or nipple.

I’m 32 now. I am at least a stone heavier than I was four years ago, and I’ve stopped having my nails done in beauty salons. Long black hairs keep sprouting from once-smooth body parts. My chin is still covered in spots. I’ve exhausted my romance options with friends, neighbours and acquaintances. All the men I ever wanted to sleep with keep proposing to women who are better looking than me (though I strongly doubt any of their soon-to-be wives have a firmer arse, or a more comprehensive collection of the literary works of Kate Atkinson than I do. So who’s really losing?) I’m 32. I haven’t ever participated in anything resembling a functional relationship and I’d quite like to, now that I’ve more or less sorted my shit out.

Quick, someone, love me before my womb shrivels up and I grow a full beard, or die.*

What I’m trying to tell you reader, is that I’ve rethought my stance on online dating and thrown myself in headfirst – albeit bearing in mind the advice of my new friend Michael, who told me that I was going to have to be far less discriminating (it doesn’t matter if they have a beard, wear sunglasses indoors, or are called Gareth), and, paradoxically, less promiscuous than I might usually be with regards sex and relationships.

It’s going alright. In that it’s going terribly, obviously, but I’m ok with that. One of the good things about spending a long time single is that you become intimately acquainted with the bad and baffling behaviour of the opposite sex, so that it no longer has the power to hurt you for more than a fortnight, and then only if they were really hot/facilitated an orgasm.

There are the ones who text too much (almost always when you’re not bothered), or not at all (when you are). The ones who tell you how beautiful their ex girlfriend was, or about the hot Brazilian they fucked last week and are quite keen to hook up with again (‘I’m only being honest’). The ones who don’t turn up. The ones who went out with your sister for five years, and then try to start a sexually charged correspondence at 6am on a Sunday morning. The ones with Chinese tattoos they’ve forgotten the meaning of. The ones who say, ‘come on Kate. You can want to sleep with someone and nothing more, let’s get real about our situation’ even though you’ve been fucking them on and off for eight years, and they once told you they loved you and wanted your babies. The ones who call the mother of their children a ‘twat’, when you ask how they’ve managed to stay civil post-breakup. The ones who sleep with you and then leave it five months before sending a Facebook message asking ‘what’s up?’ The ones who don’t know what a gif is. The ones who borrow £60 and never give it back. The ones who threaten to stab a bloke on the street when he stares at you for a beat too long. The ones who play the tuba at you when there’s a post-coital lull. The ones who won’t massage your feet, even when you tell them you’re really into that. The ones who are, in fact, married. The ones who say ‘you’d love my cousin, I can’t wait for you to get to know her,’ even though you only met them 15 minutes ago, and they have no back teeth.

I’ve seen too much. And online dating cannot defeat me.

Most people are basically nice, but profoundly fucked up. They just want to be loved and accepted for who they are inside, and the universe has, thus far, been indifferent to their needs – which leads them to do terrible and inconsiderate things**. And that’s ok, just so long as you acknowledge that you can’t fix them all, babe. You are gonna have to kiss a lot of frogs and, anyway, princes are overrated (cf. Prince William’s hairline).

When I say it’s going alright, what I mean is that I’m a brilliant first date. Not to boast or anything (and if you’ve seen me in person over the last couple of months I will have already told you all this, so feel free to skip this paragraph) – but I am. The fundamentals of my personality mean I make a great first impression: I’m funny and fun and interested in other people’s lives. I’m weirdly knowledgable on wide range of topics, so I am never conversationally phased. I’m extroverted, but laid back enough in social situations that I put men at ease when they’re visibly nervous. I’m hot, so that men want to see me naked, but not so hot it intimidates them. I am non-judgemental (at least to their face), and most of the time I don’t fancy them, which is clearly the world’s most potent aphrodisiac.

The only thing is, I keep taking all my dates to the same pub and the other day the barman gave me a look that indicated he suspects I’m a sex worker.

Unfortunately, my dating-charisma fails somewhere around the end of the second date and the beginning of the third. I’m like one of those race horses that leads until about 100 yards from the finish line, where they slow to a crippling halt. I simply don’t live up to whatever expectations I set early on – because it soon transpires that behind all the wit and leopard print is a woman who just wants to eat cured meats in her underwear (no that’s not an innuendo), re-read Harry Potter and find a landlord willing to accept dogs.

And that will not fly with your average 21st Century lothario. Even online.

*It doesn’t say that on my online dating profile. It says ‘I’d like my next boyfriend to be good with gifs.’

** I too have done terrible and indifferent things in the face of rejection and fear.

Part 164: Not Giving a Shit

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The problem with not giving a shit is that it’s very hard to do publicly. By which I mean, people who tell you they don’t give a shit are, invariably, lying.

If you genuinely couldn’t care less about a given person, place or subject then you don’t mention it at all. The non-mentioning reflects your state of mind, which is: blank to the point of emptiness. You are definitely not thinking about the thing, because you don’t care about the thing.

For example, I am trying to think of stuff I couldn’t give a shit about and I am finding it very difficult to do. Caber tossing, maybe? But there again, I’m not one hundred percent sure what caber tossing is. (UPDATE: Turns out caber tossing is inhumanly beefy men (and women I presume, although not in the first few google images, which is as far as this research went) – think Incredible Hulk, but grey-skinned from the long Scottish winters – wearing kilts while lifting and then throwing giant logs. It looks quite fun. You see my point? As soon as you start to consider a thing, you have an opinion and, therefore, by definition, you give a shit.) This is why it is so much more painful not to receive a reply to a text message than it is to be told flat-out that you are no longer required on the sex and companionship front. The radio silence communicates, in a volume louder than words, that not a shit is given – and that feels horrid, because you’d rather be thought of negatively than not at all.

We all would rather be the anecdote about that crazy bitch with the hair, than never mentioned again and evaporate into obscurity. It’s basic human nature; we are all terrified of the abyss.

What people mean, when they say they don’t give a shit, is that something they actively dislike or are annoyed by is being forced upon them (see me and: football, liquorice, John Simm, overcooked meat, details about your forthcoming wedding plans, post-2004 Ricky Gervais, arguments for the privatisation of the NHS), or, when aimed at person or statement, that they feel slighted but don’t want those around them to notice, and so have chosen to front with aggressive bravado.

‘I don’t give a shit,’ always indicates a lack of emotional intelligence. It is a transparent device, concealing a profound inability to tell it how it is. (see: ‘Do you like my new dress?’ ‘That colour makes your skin look pasty,’ ‘I don’t give a shit what you think,’ and ‘My ex called’, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘Yeah, course. I couldn’t give a shit.’ ) This is why I have removed ‘I don’t give a shit’ from my vocabulary and started using it as a litmus test for friends and potential lovers.

Damaged people are everywhere. Stalking the streets, like apparitions in soiled leisure wear; sending messages to women they’ve met online about how much they enjoy having their ‘hairy balls slapped hard’ (no, really); sucking up narcotics through their veins and their noses, so that they become numb to the searing void pain has eaten into their souls. They are marrying your friend, swearing at your mum when she takes too long to pull away at the traffic lights and some of them are running the country. And all the time they pretend that they don’t care, while their barely suppressed agony seeps out and poisons the world.

I want my friends and lovers to give a shit and know how to express it. I want them to tell me when I’ve hurt them, made them angry, happy, horny, crazy, sad. I want a life that has sincerity (although not one without sarcasm and bitching behind people’s backs, obviously), one where what matters is that you know how you feel and how to deal with it (see: ‘Do you like my new dress?’ ‘That colour makes your skin look pasty,’ ‘I didn’t need to hear that. Next time I ask you about my clothes choices, you have to lie, unless we are near a wardrobe so I can avoid disaster before I leave the house,’ and ‘My ex called’, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘I’m not sure. I got this sharp pang in my stomach, a bit like when you veer too close to the edge of a cliff. I don’t miss her, day-to-day, but I do feel regret and sadness about how it ended.’)

*I realise the header image is somewhat out of whack with the overall tone of this post. But you know what, babe? I don’t give a shit.

Part 163: The Art of War

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It struck me recently that I have been doing life all wrong. You’ll probably have noticed as much if you read this blog on a semi-regular basis. For it example, it turns out that spending 70% of every day alone, in your pajamas, leaving the bed only to fetch cheese strings from the fridge and, occasionally, to quench your thirst by swigging orange juice straight from the carton, is not great for your mental health. See also: continuing relationships with men who have stood you up more than twice – especially if you suspect they’re concealing an opiate addiction – and watching Dance Moms to the point where you understand what a ‘sickled foot’ is and feel actual, physical pain when Abby Lee resigns.

On that note, have you ever read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War? It’s a military strategy written by a Chinese general in the 5th Century BC, broken down into easy-to-digest sections such as ‘Waging War’, ‘Attack by Fire’ and ‘The Use of Spies’. It remains popular with army types, business strategists and, if The Sopranos is to be believed, Italian American Mafiosi, all of whom are engaged in physical and psychological battles, where strategy and overcoming the enemy is paramount to survival, or profit.

What it is not, I have come to understand, is a dating guide. The Art of War, is not, in any sense whatsoever, a self-help book in the tradition of The Rules, Men are From Mars Women Are From Venus, Keeping the Love You Find, or similar – none of which, I should probably point out, I have read. The Art of War is, in fact, the only relationship self-help guide I have ever read, except that it isn’t, as I’ve just pointed out (despite the efforts of several men with tiny penises to make it so – FYI, I’ve not read any of these either). It was only this week, on discussing my dating tactics with a therapist, that I realized why my romances I have tended to go spectacularly amiss.

I’ve been selecting lovers, and subsequently treating them, as though they were opponents in ancient warfare, rather than equal partners whom to trust, nurture and one day, perhaps, make tiny fat babies with. For example:

• ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’

As any of my ex-lovers will tell you, I very much enjoy a great explosive row that allows one to expunge negative thoughts and feelings in a tirade of insults and objects blindly flung across a domestic space. However, I also know that if one really wants one’s own way, this is a risky strategy for success. Better to subdue him and slowly manipulate him into doing what you want without fighting. I find blow jobs are often quite effective in this regard. Also, asking in front of his mother when you want him to do stuff you know he won’t want to do. Alcohol can be quite useful in both situations, for tranquilization purposes, so long as you aren’t dating a bloke that gets wound up and aggressive, or impotent on it.

• ‘Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.’

Remember that ‘39 questions to make someone fall in love with you’ quiz that was circulating online last year? I have long used a version of this to ensnare men and make them susceptible to manipulation. For example, if he tearfully describes how his Dad walked out on him the week before his 12th birthday, I have tended to realize he will likely have a deep fear of abandonment, which is one of the easier fears to exploit, and, when necessary, have threatened to withdraw my company and labour until such a time as he does what I want.

• ‘Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.’

Mostly, he’s my enemy, but every now and then – usually after he has delivered a particularly intense orgasm – I consider him my soldier and therefore attempt mother-figure type behaviors, such as cooking him dinner, stroking his poorly shoulder and sending him texts asking where the fuck he is at 3o’clock in the morning.

• ‘Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.’

A taxi driver once told me that men don’t want a woman more educated than them. Thus, at the wooing stages, it is very important to pretend to be a little bit stupider than you actually are. I find this is easily done by a) giggling a lot, b) asking basic questions about subjects on which he feels he is an expert (snooker, Mortal Kombat, the molecular impact of environmental pollutants on the atmosphere, whatever) and c) emphasizing that your PhD is in an expressive arts subject and, therefore, non-threatening.

• ‘Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.’

You won’t always be pissed off because he borrowed £56 and never gave it back – one day it might even make an amusing anecdote for a blog post. But, once it’s over, it’s done babe. If the relationship ends you have to go no contact and sign up for an extreme sports event, such as a half-marathon or Iron Man challenge, to take your mind off him and replace the endorphins you’re no longer getting from sex. Otherwise you’ll end up in a decade-long on-again-off-again nightmare that will severely impinge on your ability to form functional romances long into the future.

Actually, that last one is quite good advice – although you’ll be unsurprised to learn it is the only one I have failed to implement. The rest are, obviously, terrible, terrible strategies for establishing a stable, satisfying romance. And while most relationships are shambolic, painful and dysfunctional, you probably want to avoid following my example, if you can help it.

Don’t do as I do, is the moral of this story.

*Image is ‘Art of War’, by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net.

**Shout out to Trish from work, who told me – after I published my last post – that the way to keep your whites white is to dry them in the sun. This will bleach them naturally, removing unsightly faded stains and other evidence of debauchery.

Part 162: Broderie Anglaise

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I used to have this boyfriend who was obsessed with the colour white. More specifically, he was obsessed with women dressed in white – possibly because he’d absorbed lingering cultural tropes about purity, chastity, virginity etc. and tediously allowed them to fuel his fetishes. Or maybe he just liked the clean brightness of bleached cotton; how it reflects the light, so that the wearer appears bathed in an ethereal glow. I can see how that would have turned him on. He was quite pretentious.

Obviously I was a massive disappointment to this particular boyfriend (and all the subsequent ones, but let’s not go there. Too depressing), because within seconds of my donning any white garment it became immediately smeared with bike grease, ketchup, lipstick or some other substance (fag ash, Ribena, coffee and, most often, let’s face it, wine) that I don’t remember spilling, but there it was, memorialised in a faded brown stain (every stain turns brown eventually, no matter its original colour. No one knows why) on the breast-pocket of my linen blazer. And it doesn’t matter how fine you are, a big brown stain is a turn-off, signifying, as it does, filth and lazy hygienic habits and minimal hand-eye-coordination. Not hot. Not erotic. Not the grist for anyone’s sexual mill.

No wonder he dumped me.

(Before we move on, can I just ask: how are you supposed to wash white clothes? Even if I put Daz in, after four or five washes they inevitably become grey and floppy and sad and wearing them in public is just too much like failure. I know it’s possible to keep your whites pristine because I lived with this girl for a while and her whites were always sparkling, though she could never fully explain how she managed it – and we’ve fallen out so I can’t ask again. Help me.)

I’m not sure if it is a result of my ex-boyfriend’s fetish, or a symptom of my escalating mental illness, but for the last decade or so I have been increasingly preoccupied with broderie anglaise. When I’m not worrying about work, men who don’t love me, or the prospect of dying all alone with no babies, I am googling broderie anglaise and imagining myself living some other life. Calmer, more wholesome. A life where I know what cheesecloth is, and how to sew. I’m wealthy and bohemian and I carry my firstborn about in a hemp sling that I bought at a craft market. I accessorise my wardrobe of whiteworked frocks with hooped gold earrings. I drink red wine without spilling it, I spend my weekends at a second home in the country and I can smoke marijuana without triggering an existential crisis. On Sundays I do not sit in my flat main-lining Carpool Karaoke in my pyjamas, eating an out-of-date cheese string and tweeting Deliveroo to discover the whereabouts of my takeaway, I bike to the local market and buy organic chicken for a wholesome family stew.

You might be wondering how all of this would manifest through clothes. And I don’t know how to explain it to you other than to say: Hello? How much better would my life be if I were invited to functions where this was an appropriate outfit:

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Because the tragedy of it is, I don’t own any broderie anglaise, despite it being my favourite fabric, by some margin. (I did used to have a dress and couple of tops, but they pulled taut over my bosom in a most unflattering way and see above with regards my ability washing and wearing whites.) Even though I am 100% sure that a wardrobe of broderie anglaise would improve my life tenfold, I just carry on buying everything in leopard print and accessorising with a black wicker shopper I got free from a winery because I can’t afford the bag I want. It’s sort of like how I can’t be arsed to do online dating, or flirt with anyone, or engage in any serious way with the idea of sperm donation, even though I really want to get pregnant at some point in the not too distant future.

I suppose if it does anything useful, broderie anglaise serves as a reminder that it doesn’t take much to move towards happiness. You can embrace the ideal version of yourself very easily, if you are just brave, drink only clear liquids such as vodka and water and don’t let the internet distract you from your ultimate purpose. That is why I have ordered a cropped linen broderie anglaise polo-neck off net-a-porter, and am about to buy some gold hoop earrings. It’s never too late to have what you want, darlings.

I’ll see you in the autumn, with my baby wrapped in hemp*.

*I’ll actually be back next week with another nonsensical essay on my non-existent love life. But you know what I mean. Also, if you’ve had sex with me recently (yes, you. I know you read this even though you don’t answer my text messages) don’t panic. I’m not pregnant, that I know of. It’s just jokes.

Part 161: Exit Strategy (or, Simone de Beauvoir as a Vessel for my Self-Pity)

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‘Your life’s great,’ my brother enthused, unconvincingly, the other night. He was visiting me in my new, provincial hometown, having taken the fast train from London Paddington because I had called on New Year’s Day and told him, between sobs, that there was no way I would survive through January and the way things were going the chances of my making it to the other side of the weekend were also slim.

‘I mean it,’ he said. ‘You’re living Simone de Beauvoir’s dream right now.’

I responded with a puzzled, ‘?’ – but only because ‘fuck off’ seemed overly aggressive after he’d shelled out almost £100 to travel halfway across the country to make sure I didn’t throw myself under a bus.

‘Independent woman,’ he said. ‘Totally self sufficient and successful.’ (Read, also: single and sexless).

I am not 100% sure that my brother has read Simone de Beauvoir, and my memory of her work is patchy due to my only reading it in fervid chunks, under the influence of whisky and heartbreak (dense French feminism is not really my bag when happy and sober, what with Legally Blonde being much more straightforward and easy to digest), but I don’t particularly remember that being her message. And if it was her message then she was a total hypocrite who knew nothing of the pain I am feeling, what with never having had Jean-Paul Sartre shag her on and off for months on end and then just ignore all her text messages, even the funny ones peppered with crying sad face emojis.

Simone de Beauvoir never had to make an Apple Music playlist called ‘Hurty Heart’ to help her cope with rejection and email it to herself because she doesn’t know how to transfer a playlist from her laptop to her iPhone. Simone de Beauvoir never had to watch Bridget Jones’s Diary with her BFF and his family on the night before Christmas Eve and have her life refracted back at her as a dated cultural cliché. Simone de Beauvoir never had her mother tell her that she should research dating websites because if she didn’t meet someone online, how else was it going to happen for her.

Simone de Beauvoir had her novels and memoirs published by other people in books with pages and covers, and did not have to post them online, herself, so people could read them for free and then accuse her of attention seeking, punctuation misuse and immaturity. Simone de Beauvoir probably didn’t date men who told her that they’d been reading her writing and it was quite good but they probably wouldn’t be reading anything she wrote again because she used ‘too many long words.’

Frankly, if the life I am living right now seemed hypothetically attractive to Simone, back in the last century, when she was alive and could think about possible futures, she didn’t know what she was talking about.

If she had known, she might have advised me to work harder on my exit strategy – because she was a clever woman and she would likely have realised (as my brother and I – who almost certainly have a lower collective IQ than the lovely Ms de Beauvoir once did – when we watched Easy A in a failed attempt to lift my spirits on Sunday night) that the exit is my downfall. The exit is the point at which it all starts to crumble away, like stale biscuits, dusty to the touch, except that stale biscuits don’t send desperate, pleading text messages to men they’ve slept with because they are scared of dying all alone and never having any babies.

I have never known how to get out of anything with dignity, in a timely, appropriate fashion. I always want a nightcap after dinner, even if it’s really late and we all have work in the morning. I am the last person to leave any party I am ever invited to, either drunk with my dress tucked into my knickers and mascara smudged all down my face, or the next morning, in a similar state, only with the host irritably cleaning sick I might well be responsible for out of her carpet. It wasn’t cute when I was 16. It definitely is not cute now that I am 32. And in relationships I similarly cling on to the bitter, twisted end, rather than backing away gracefully when his indifference first becomes apparent. I just lose control and hold on and on, and it never has positive results in terms of either my mental health, or the relationships in question.

But what is the best way to exit before it gets out of hand? Ghosting is vile and borderline evil (and the only time I have done it myself it prompted two years of guilt and an eventual apology to the baffled ghostee, who had, by that point, moved on). I will not indulge in such behaviour. As the ghostee you are without power, but surely there is one last sniper move that might leave you with the upper hand? And if you leave it nicely, with one or the other of you saying you had a lovely time but maybe this is not a thing with a future – then what? How do you live with the possibility that you might have closed the door on the last chance you’ll ever have to be loved, even if he is a complete dickhead who just keeps making you cry?

Is this 2016 for me? Will my self-esteem finally dissolve to the point that it evaporates out of my skin, like a vapour?

It’s January and (as everyone keeps reminding me) perhaps not the best time to pose, or, indeed, answer, such questions. But stay tuned, babies, because, as a motivational quote I read on instagram just now reminded me: when God closes a door, He opens a window.

Happy New Year.

Part 160: Second Wives

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I’m very tedious on the subject of weddings. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been somewhat cynical about love in general these past few years, and wont to tarnish the sheen on other people’s happiness by penning cutting observations and (my favourite) thinly veiled digs at former mates who have committed the terrible crime of marrying and having babies. (In case you were wondering, I have especially resented the PR-career girls, using their marketing expertise to splash news of their happiness all over the internet, thereby rubbing my face in what should remain private contentment, and causing me to target Bad Vibes right in their direction.) (The truth is, I just can’t cope with anyone being more successful and contented than I am. At least in the romance/domestic arena.)

I laugh with a cold, hollow bark – like a knowing, icy wind – at the sad, open desperation of wannabe princesses on Don’t Tell the Bride, who sing the praises of their mediocre grooms and grimace weakly at the cameras when they realise he has blown half the budget on a stag do in Poland, and that they will, therefore, be married in the conference centre of a budget motorway hotel on the A2, wearing a second-hand dress that cost £90 off eBay and doesn’t quite fit. My all-time favourite was the one with the groom who spent the entire three-week planning period in Vegas with his mate, flying his bride out last-minute to marry in a gaudy chapel, far away from the friends and loved ones she had dreamed of spending her ‘special day’ with. Closely followed by that episode with the ginger wide-boy who made his soon-to-be wife to jump out of a plane in full wedding make-up, despite her fear of heights, minutes before the ceremony.

Imagine spending your life with someone who cares for you so little. This is what relentless exposure to heteronormative dating culture has done to us. We just want to be loved by a man. We don’t even care if cares about us, so long as he’s vaguely handsome, in a certain light.

‘Fucking weddings!’ I always say if the subject ever comes up – by way of you inviting me to yours, for example, or telling me about a beautiful one you attended last weekend, up in Scotland – ‘they’re a load of old conformist bullshit and I wouldn’t be seen dead participating as anything other than sexy, drunken bridesmaid or morose guest, begrudging you a gift because it cost me £400 to get here and, more to the point, you asked for cash, which isn’t a gift, it’s greed.’ (Whatever you do, my darlings, please realise that sending me – who will very likely be sat on alone on my yellow sofa, in an under-heated flat, receiving a non-committal text message – ‘Wot u up to?x’ – from my latest squeeze, mourning the decline of my fertility and really trying not to smoke another fag in case this cough turns out to be lung cancer – a thank you card from the Maldives, or an email note with a photo of your new kitchen, which my donation has kindly enabled. This is what the Americans would call a ‘dick move’. It is the kind of smug, cuntish behaviour that, if there were any divine justice in this world, would precipitate your immediate, public downfall. You can blow £25k on wedding? Babe, you really don’t need £50 from your guests. (What? I never said I was a nice person)).

From now on, however, you’re best advised to ignore anything I say about weddings. Because the truth is that I want a wedding as much as the salivating sad-sacks on Don’t Tell the Bride, as much as all the vapid PR professionals of my acquaintance, as much as those little girls dragging dusty net curtains behind them in a makeshift veil. I am not immune to the lure of contentment. The other day I saw a cartoon where fat little animated people in stripy pyjamas cuddled up on a sofa and loved each other and I cried. Also, I would really like to wear a massive red skin-tight dress while I’m still young and hot enough to pull that off, and to have a good man stand up in public and tell people he loves me – and then take me home to indulge in unspeakable acts that will result legitimate, fat-faced babies. I want it now, before it’s too late. I have only been pretending otherwise as a kind of prolonged sarcasm, prompted by a couple of heinous relationships and a fear that True Love might not exist.

I’m starting to think that I might have been foolish.

The problem is that the good men are all married off now, more or less. The ones with the ability to show up on time, display passion for anything other than Fifa and commit consistently, for the long-term. The ones who really believe in love, who you could take home to meet your parents and invite to dinner with your very best friends – they’ve already found a bright-eyed peer to pair off with – or else they’re waiting for someone younger and better looking than you.

If I wanted a happy marriage, I should have agreed to one a long time ago. (Nobody was remotely interested in marrying me when I was in my 20s, or indeed, now. But let’s not let that get in the way of my regret.)

The good news is that I recently remembered about second marriages and they’ve made me feel quite optimistic about love again, just when I was on the verge of chucking myself out the nearest window.

If you are here because you are similarly forlorn and hopeless I would like to remind you of the following: the chances are at least some of those kind, eligible young men who you fucked off a couple of years ago, because you were too scared to love anybody then, are in empty sham marriages that will not last.

It is a statistical certainty.

I don’t want to fuel the paranoia of all the wives who already mistrust us single ladies and – because we are funnier and better company (if only due to novelty) – remain on guard, whenever we are in the vicinity of their men, but I can’t but help admit, we are looking at your husband and wondering how he’ll fare between our bed sheets. He is not off-limits, in our febrile imagination.

I mean, like, we aren’t going to seduce him now. But nothing lasts forever and one must have one’s bases covered. Especially when one is on a straight, direct path to dying alone in one’s flat and silently decomposing in a puddle by the radiator.

I quite like the idea of being a second wife (second mind. Anyone who agrees to being a third wife is involving herself in a cycle of shit from which there is no escape). Second wives don’t need conventional good-looks, because, the second time around, men are likely to realise that funny and clever lasts longer. And, having been through the trauma of a divorce (or bereavement), he is likely to understand that a functional relationship needs work. Best of all, we won’t be expected to form shallow friendships with the wives and girlfriends of his mates, because they’ll likely still be invested in wife number one.

What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m facing the New Year with cautious optimism. Just as soon as I finish this mince-pie*.

*Just jokes, I hate mince-pies I am eating Walker’s cheese and onion crisps, as per every other day of the year.

**The header image is of a Vera Wang wedding dress, circa 2012. This is how I will look at my wedding, should it ever occur.