Love in the Global Village – journeys end in lovers meeting

One thing about being older is realizing life isn’t going to deliver everything you once hoped, and when you look back at your decisions you regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did. You do get braver.

I’ve done lots of research on second-time-around single life, and there are pitfalls aplenty (follow back the tags on website dating), but whether you want to meet a man for company, or just wish you knew more people, the dating websites are a useful resource. Life isn’t going to drop Mr Right straight into your outstretched hand – Mr Will Do Nicely is the most you can really hope for – but don’t waste your wonderful Indian summer in vague restlessness, sitting lonely at home.

The idea of a singles website, especially for mature singles, is that you look for people near you, read profiles, and if you like the look of someone, shyly indicate interest by whatever means the website provides, or send a cautious message. When you’ve exchanged enough messages to feel fairly confident this is a real person, not a scammer, you might exchange purpose-specific email addresses, phone numbers . . . the usual process towards meeting.

I do know a lovely woman who spotted a man in her own village and cut through all the conventions. She sent a message saying ‘tea at 3.30 tomorrow in the Ivy café?’ She is sixty one, he is sixty four, and they got married seven months later, shining with happiness. Those are the stories that fuel the huge singles market, and although they are the exceptions rather than the rule, they do happen. As often as lottery wins: but like the lottery, got to be in it to win it.

Every older man on a singles website can tell you he gets messages, practically daily, from gorgeous young women far far away, speaking slightly fractured English but so charming that he can’t resist replying. Pretty early on she’ll suggests something like, ‘I come to you. These are my bank details. Send money for flight, I love you long time.’  There are genuine success stories, men a little long in the tooth proudly posing for photographs with their lovely young golden-coloured wives, but most of the time money flies, the girl doesn’t.

However, this blog is for us autumn roses, and that exciting moment when a rather nice bloke is showing a really flattering amount of interest. Trouble is, he’s hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles away. Blast. You really enjoy his messages, he’s funny and interesting, and he looks out eagerly for yours and responds promptly. The attraction is instant, and mutual. Phew. Suddenly the local guys look rather boring. And you do need a holiday . . .

Whoa, Silver, don’t get carried away. There are a lot of conmen out there, and some are very good at their job, and make a nice living from women who are flattered and susceptible. There are also a lot of damaged men a sensible woman wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. An eligible man coming on the market gets fixed up so quickly by his friends’ wives he barely touches ground between the last relationship and the next, never mind having time to sign onto a singles website. The only way this lovely man you’re flirting with hasn’t been snapped up locally will be because either he isn’t actually lovely, or he’s blotted his local copybook.

But the man you found is different – yes, I know he is. Just don’t, to continue the horse metaphor, rush those fences. You like each other’s messages, emails and texts. You’ve exchanged flattering photographs, and you like those too. Stage one is going well. However, some LDR  relationships never move off the launching pad, and I wrote a blog about those. Do you have matching expectations? Not all men want to meet up. Lots of women don’t. Don’t assume, never assume . . .

Stage two: you do need to talk on Skype. Go buy a webcam, if you don’t have one. You’ll look hideous on camera but everyone does.  When you’re over 50, webcams can be downright spiteful. They seek out folds, creases and sags that you never even noticed you had! Experiment with lighting before you go live – sometimes the best is the brightest. Not exactly mood lighting, but at least you won’t look like Deputy Dawg. I’ve said this before, by the way, but never, ever, do anything on Skype you don’t want photographed – the facility is built in, you won’t even know the photo has been taken.

Create a separate Skype account for experimental chats. Use the name (and password) you use on the singles website for maximum convenience.

The webcam really is worth it, even if you go off each other instantly. (Well, especially if you go off each other instantly!) It is impossible to hide during a live conversation. Maybe he can’t meet your eyes, or his mouth hangs restfully open between sentences. Those wonderful flowing speeches in his letters are now halting conversation, with lots of ums and ahs. You sign off after a polite half hour with a sigh of both relief and regret.

What if you don’t go off him, but the mutual attraction increases? If this continues to grow legs and keep moving, you are going to have to consider stage three, and we aren’t talking tea at the Ivy. Because of the distance, this is a weekend. Or a week. Phew!

Others may disagree, but I wouldn’t invite him to your patch. An attractive, available, ideal, man is rarer than hen’s teeth and you are about to learn why this seeming catch is on the market. Don’t assume, never assume . . .He’s definitely flawed. He’s probably dodgy. He could be a full-blown nutter: do you really want him knowing where you live?

You can meet halfway, on neutral territory. The convention for that is that each pay their own flights, and the man pays for the accommodation. You’re both mature adults, and the accommodation is likely to be a double. In your position, I would discreetly contact the hotel and check other rooms are likely to be available at short notice. Just in case. Even if he is otherwise wonderful, he may turn out to snore like a foghorn.

If he lives in a part of the world you particularly want to visit, or you want to be sure he’s not married, going to his is the third option. It is the most alarming: you will be in a country where you know no-one, may not speak the language, and are risking spending time 24/7 with someone who could be truly scary. At least we autumn roses are unlikely to be sold into sordid slavery, but he could drink, do drugs, have dangerous mood swings, be subject to violent rages if thwarted.  Of course that’s true of any older single man you meet, even the guy in the next village, and you’ve talked so much, written so much to each other, that you know him far better, in some ways, than you will ever know the man in the next village. There is something about him, and you could wonder, for the rest of your life, if you should have taken the chance.

Take it.

Tell someone where you are going, who you are meeting, all the safety stuff. Arrange to be in touch with your safety back-up every day. Don’t assume, never assume . . .

By now you’ve been pretty honest with each other. Whatever you’re thinking, he’s definitely hoping there’ll be a little nookie. You’ve discussed your expectations, right? Your preferences, your absolute no-no’s, your maybes? This is important. Even learning that he rises with the lark and likes an early-morning five mile tramp before breakfast, while your holiday preference is to get up around ten, doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker. For a week, you can both compromise, but it is so much better to know in advance. You aren’t giggling, blushing, hopeful teenagers. Talk things through like the mature adults that you are. Don’t assume, never assume . . .

Whatever you say to each other, whatever bright hopes you have, accept that statistically this is not going to last. Don’t pin your hopes on true love, and golden years to follow, or that first holiday will be a terrible disappointment. The chances for a permanent happy ending are miniscule: frankly, about the same odds that you will be brutally murdered. Most LDRs end with the first holiday, although some may limp to a second. Bear that in mind, and set your sights on enjoying your holiday, being good company, and enjoying his.

As always in these blogs, I have done my research, although it was far more thorough than I ever intended: I was as surprised as anyone to find myself actually heading off into the blue, and vividly remember the shock of seeing the man I was about to spend a week with. I had assumed that talking and laughing every night on Skype for three months had been enough preparation. For a moment I nearly bolted back into the airport, as reality kicked in (what was I thinking?). Be prepared for that panic reaction, too!

A few LDRs do thrive on long separations and occasional meetings. We had several increasingly successful holidays as I worked on Thirteen Fourteen Maids a-Courting, which is set there, but a mutually genuine attempt to spend longer together here on home turf proved too much for something as pretty, glittering, and durable, as a soap bubble. We were temperamentally suited to short bursts of togetherness, and anything longer was definitely too real. Whether the underlying friendship will survive the ruffled feelings is anyone’s guess, but I wasn’t his first LDR, and won’t be the last. I have no regrets, put it that way: and some interesting memories!

In Thirteen Fourteen, Olga introduces her long-standing LDR friend, and regular readers learn Donald had an LDR too, which ended abruptly when he found someone closer to home. I don’t research this stuff for fun, you know. It’s all about the books. Nearly all about the books.

Ever researching on your behalf,

Elegsabiff

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Why do we turn our wonderful Indian summer into the age of fears?

I write light-hearted whodunits featuring four characters in late middle age, their autumn years, semi-retired, no longer young but not yet old: I haven’t yet found a description that instantly sums up their age, and if you know one, I wish you would tell me!

Edge, Vivian, William and Donald are in their late fifties, early sixties.  For women, it is definitely the age when the menopause has finally stopped shaking us like a rat between its teeth, and we get a surge of vitality and a sudden renewed interest in life. For both men and women there may have been health glitches, and we are consciously improving our general condition with a little judicious exercise, slightly more cautious diet.

So here we are, feeling better than in years, the offspring are for the most part now independent, the fierce competition of the workplace is less urgent: we’ve risen as far up the corporate ladder as we are likely to go.  Time to ease back a little, and enjoy this unexpected gift, right?

For some reason, no. Things are too good, we can’t get used to that, so we turn this wonderful golden time, this Indian summer, into fears. We could get sick, so every symptom plunges us into gloom. We could lose our jobs, so we stress ourselves into getting sick (whoops. Double whammy). We could lose friends, even people we love, and we start distancing ourselves in preparation. We’ve seen our parents get very elderly, or we have lost them already, and old age is suddenly terrifying.stress

It’s worst when we are alone, but hey, lots of people are alone. The Grasshopper Lawns books are set in a residential village where it’s a condition of acceptance that residents are over fifty-five, and have no family. There are hundreds, thousands, of people who would jump at the chance of meeting others in the same boat. It’s a given that life leaves lumps, bumps, scars, and baggage and no-one you are going to meet will be free of those, any more than you are. It also brings resilience, humour, and experience and people you meet will have those too. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet? Well, maybe not quite that glib. But by reaching out, you will make friends: do it. Have realistic expectations, and have fun. Don’t sit at home and get old before your time. At the very least, look up meetup.com for your area, you’ll be astonished at how much is going on around you.

Quite a few of my blogs are about single life, second time round, and the idea of meeting someone romantically can be alarming.  I won’t kid you. It is. If you go that route, you will meet some very odd people, have some alarming encounters, you will feel your blood fizz and your heart creak, but you will definitely feel alive and stimulated. For some bizarre reason, Society looks askance at older people dating, flirting, having affairs. Goodness me, why? Don’t we all want affection, shared laughter, even passion, for the rest of our lives?

I didn’t set out to write a series of books that celebrate this stage of our lives, but it did turn out that way. In the first book, Edge could be any age between fifty-five and seventy-five, her life is so sedate. By the seventh book, the four friends are fully enjoying their Indian summer, and there is nothing I have written that contemporaries, friends, or I, have not done. Okay, apart from solve actual murders!  I get slightly peeved when I’m told that when I get to that age, I will see things differently. I am that age. I have younger friends who are already starting to fret and worry, and think themselves old. My older friends, on the other hand, are confidently leading the way into what is, despite our gloomy expectations, a totally unexpected gift from life.

Take hold today.  Carpe diem, and step into the sunshine. Enjoy it! And enjoy every day from now on, to the end of your life. Make it a life to remember with pride. Maybe with a breathless laugh or two … wrinklie love

Love in the Global Village – lovers who never meet

The world has become a global village, with Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn and on-line chat rooms connecting friends and strangers everywhere.  Singles of all ages get to chat in all parts of the world. Sometimes you meet someone who resonates, there’s the tiny click of recognition, and – uh-oh. This global village is still an extremely large planet, he’s on the far side, and the teleporter hasn’t been invented yet.

I’ve done a few blogs already on being single, second time round, and how to recognize the types you meet in the over-fifties singles world, but this blog is about those relationships where you never meet – the twilight world of the never-never long distance relationship, the LDR. Some are fun, a what-if that brightens your day. Some, especially for older singles who have been out of the dating game for a while, are a handy way back into learning all over again how to interact with someone who is interested in you as a person, and as a possible lover. Most will flare and die in a few weeks, months at most, and the residual glow should outlast the pang of the ending. I was in one (I take my research responsibilities very seriously) and have felt the tug, and I do know where you are coming from. Mine was pretty conventional in length, very intense and exciting, but there’s a danger they can become part of your life.

It really is a danger. EVERY singles website has hundreds of members of all ages drifting month after month, even year after year, in go-nowhere relationships, feeling comforted because they are loved. Some are first-timers, feeling they are unique in their odd, yet workable, relationship. Others are on their second, third, safe emotional haven. Some run several at once, which is frankly just greedy. They are slightly addictive for people with emotional or physical insecurities, and some singles look only for the never-meet LDR, although they will never admit it, meeting is always the eventual goal. Somehow. Someday. Far in the future . . .

You may be in love with one, who will change, chameleon-like, to be your perfect partner, just to get back into that lovely glow. Most people are going to be puzzled that someone hundreds, or thousands, of miles away could be absorbing your thoughts. Some will tell you sternly that it won’t work, LDRs always fail. Some will tell you that you are being scammed, cheated, played for a sucker. Some will ask when you are going to meet, and look pitying when you say nothing is planned yet.

There must be some successes, I suppose, and anyway yours is different. Not to sound too cynical, but yours is always different.

Fact remains, it is enthralling. You have met someone who is uniquely in tune with you, and because you spend more and more time talking, with no outside interaction, no context, you develop a faster, deeper, more meaningful relationship than you have ever experienced before. Soulmates. Wow.

No, you aren’t soulmates! The grass does look greener over that far fence, but from this distance you can’t smell the fertilizer. It’s there. Believe me. It may be a whiff, it may be a stench, but that grass is not naturally that green!

Reality check: are you yourself really telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Does he know your real age, those extra pounds or bulges you just can’t shake, the little bad habits you conceal from the world? Chances are you are portraying yourself as the person you are in your head, the person you’d like to be. Chances are, so is he. He may be absolutely genuine, not intending to mislead you in any way, but you are looking at him through his eyes. He is seeing you through yours. No wonder it gets intoxicating, eh?  Here, at last, is someone who sees you as you really are!

Of course that sets this forever as a no-meet LDR, because meeting would destroy everything. When you live an hour apart, the LDR dies when one or the other runs out of excuses and abruptly vanishes instead. When you live thousands of miles apart, the illusion isn’t as easily shattered. It can evolve into a corner of your life, radiating gentle warmth, adding to your confidence, but it can also mutate alarmingly and become far too significant.

Normal people can’t live out normal lives when they are obsessed by someone they have never met and will never meet, and the ending can be frighteningly destructive. LDRs DO end. Often there is just sudden silence and you have no idea whether you have been dumped for someone else, or he dropped dead, or any of the many scenarios your panicking mind can summon up. It is almost impossible for the outsider to understand that an intense LDR is, in an odd way, more real than reality.

Here are a few more reality checks.

  • Are you talking on Skype, or is the entire relationship on texts and emails? If you don’t know what he looks or sounds like, especially if he resists the Skype option, there’s something he isn’t telling you. He’s married, he’s in prison, he’s physically unlike the photos he sends, whatever the reason, there is something wrong.
  • If you are the one resisting Skype, why? If he thinks you are younger, better-looking, or more successful than you really are, and you have deliberately fostered that belief, either confess or back off. You are going to become increasingly dissatisfied with your real self.
  • How much time are you giving him – occasional texts and emails, chatting on Skype a couple of times a week, or are you spending hours every day talking to, or thinking of, each other? Throttle back. Half an hour a day, tops. Or a couple of days a week. The more he pushes for more of your time, the more concerned you should be. Love-bombing is not a sign of a normal healthy man with a normal healthy lifestyle.
  • If he usually leads the conversation, introduce a change of subject to something that interests you. If he pulls back to his subject, you are there just as an audience. You’ll be replaced when you’ve heard all the stories.
  • If you think something is off-key, don’t dismiss the thought. It is.
  • If the idea that he could suddenly arrive on your doorstep is terrifying, listen to that thought!
  • If the wish that he would suddenly arrive on your doorstep is all-consuming, yet there is no possibility of ever meeting, throttle back. Way back.
  • If he isn’t always able to respond immediately, if he has unavoidable social commitments, do you know what they are? Do they bother you? If yes, throttle back. Way back.
  • Is he jealous about your time, especially when you can’t respond at the usual times? Have you stopped making outside commitments as a result? Don’t!
  • If either or both of you have been in LDRs before, accept that this is a pattern and either or both of you are copping out of real life. Cop back in! The twilight world of the LDR is like a diet high in sugar, delicious but extremely unhealthy.

If talking about meetings always seems to end nowhere, there’s a test you can do. Be aware it could end the LDR on the spot, and your soulmate might vanish abruptly. That stings, but ends an unreal situation before you get too sucked in. Announce you’ve just learned your cousin will be in his part of the world in 2 days, and suggest a meetup for coffee. If he is unavoidably busy at that time, that’s fine, your cousin will be there for a fortnight.

Of course some serial LDR specialists know this ploy, and will play along. I’m not talking scammers here: anyone who could be caught by a scripted approach, and not notice any woodenness in the next exchanges, wouldn’t be reading this blog anyway. There are some emotionally dysfunctional people who have been shaken off again and again, and have learned the traps and tests. They’ll jump through almost any hoops to keep your attention and love, and will certainly agree to this proxy meeting. Don’t gasp with relief and instantly confess. Arrange a time, arrange a place, and wait. Yes, you are lying, and to your soulmate, but in real life you would have been able to test him in hundreds of ways by now, without even realizing you were testing him. If he is genuine, now you will know. Most ‘soulmates’ will fail it, and that’s better to know, too.

If he comes back to you after the appointment, sounding puzzled and concerned because your cousin failed to turn up, well, now it is time to confess. If the relationship survives your explanation (he should understand, after all, that you have normal fears and concerns), then you are moving beyond this blog, because I never heard of the first, let alone the second. I do know, though, that long term relationships like this are counter-productive. My best advice to you, especially if there were other things on the list that struck warning chords, is to retreat. Normal people don’t live like this, and you want a normal life. Retreat until it really is a gentle warm corner in the room of your life, taking less than ten percent of your waking hours. If he resists, or vanishes, accept that you shouldn’t be living in an emotional twilight, and that it is time to move on.

If you do finally manage a meeting, be aware that few LDRs survive the first encounter: curiosity is satisfied, and there isn’t enough interest left to go back to the cosy comfort.  Ouch. But then do you want to be putting all this time and emotion into a man you wouldn’t much like in person?

Some LDRs, the traditional ones, can thrive on occasional meetings connected by long loops of waiting time, but that is another blog!

Ever researching on your behalf

Elegsabiff