Your comments and correspondence have increasingly insisted I should step into the parallel universe of dating that is the Stella Grey Experience. I didn’t want to go there, partly because I don’t want to be accused of picking on easy targets. The other reason is that the woman is just so cringingly embarrassing to read. I have studiously avoided her for weeks, however they say you must respect your readers and my readers have spoken both loudly and at length. Thank you for your astute observations on the car crash that is the Guardian’s Stella Grey column. They make me smile. And then I read the latest columns. I felt like I’d been dropped into a musty, world where the old black stockings and corset have been dragged out of a bin by a woman with tightly pursed lips, hell bent on proving something, anything. God, even writing that made me feel ill. So in response to the mailbag, I’ll take up the subject again. Specifically –
Where did the Guardian get it so wrong?
1. The Guardian had already decided a narrative for middle-aged women.
That narrative played to the women who hate the women who have fun. And don’t like men either. The Guardian narrative of mid-life dating was to be an endless cross-country run over barbed wire, where the woman found herself despairing at immature and capricious men who could not understand her glaringly fine qualities. The subtext was clear from the start. “I’m an intelligent Guardian reading woman and you men just want bimbos.” Given that miserable criteria, it was never going to be a good read.
2. Stella Grey is inherently unhappy and lacks self-awareness.
Where is the fun in that? Dating at any point in life is not for those with the wrong attitude and definitely not for a woman or man who doesn’t see it for what it is: a ridiculous computer game where you’re more likely to go down several levels than up one. But you get some funny stories out of it. Unless you’re Stella Grey. In her exchanges with people who’ve questioned her she immediately resorts to her inferior. Many of you have had the same experience on me as have several on Twitter. If you are online you have to be prepared to deal with the critics. Or do what the clued up kids do and say, “It’s the internet stupid.” Because quite often the internet is just, well, stupid. Again she has no awareness of actually being in this space and what it entails. Heat. Kitchen. (My first blog attracted someone who wanted me to die. Eventually they went away. And hopefully died.)
3. She lacks any womanly charms and she doesn’t like men as people.
She can’t chat. She can’t flirt. And She definitely can’t do phone sex. I’ll leave you to decide whether she’d be fun in the sack or against a wall in an alleyway, however with that kind of emotional tightness, I wouldn’t even recommend her to a prisoner leaving jail after 35 years in solitary. He’d ask to go right back in. Stella Grey’s character does not like men as people or equals. She doesn’t understand the way they think or attempt to empathise. She is looking for A.N. Other to fill in the gap and tick the boxes. And we know that never works. You can’t look for what’s in your head. You have to look at what really exists. First you need to look at yourself.
4. Middle age is not nearly dead. For some of us
If you’re any kind of self-aware and confident woman you’ll have the filthiest, sexiest time in your forties. That should not alter in your early fifties. From the moment I turned forty it just seemed to fall into place. Perhaps it’s because the preceding two decades were wild and turbulent (for me) however by forty-two I found myself tripping over men and, to my bemusement, being chased constantly. But I was enjoying myself to begin with. I was single (39) I’d always been in good shape and knew I had something that worked. Those who are sexual beings, tend to see it in others so they usually find the kind of connection they’re looking for. As for the permanence of relationships well it’s mid-life honey so you just run with it. If it lasts a week, then fine, it lasts a week. At this point in my life I figure I don’t have that many good-looking, sexy years left and I’m not wasting them. If the Guardian had wanted to do a decent mid-life dating column it should have begun with that premise. Because, in the end, dating is mostly about sex. And mid-life dating is the last phase, the last hurrah of you liking the way you look in the mirror and having the energy to fuck yourself stupid. You’ll make friends maybe but that’s not the point of dating, is it?
5. Single and Divorced are not the same thing
Being newly divorced hasn’t helped the Stella Grey column and I don’t think it makes her right for the task. Single is not the same as being divorced: the latter does not make you single and it’s a transitional, highly fluctuating state. It takes time for many people to become properly single post divorce. Single means you’re aware, ready and emotionally and physically up for the adventure. The Guardian should not have put this person into this position.
6. I couldn’t imagine talking about sex with her
The phone sex disaster told us all we needed to know: this person is clueless. Sex is not a decision amongst self-aware adults, it’s a reaction, primal and simple. It’s not always the filthiest most erotic fuck in the world but that’s ok because . But you need to have sex on the brain and I wonder if, like many people, Stella Grey views sex as an add-on attachment, like a clip on mobile phone cover. If you are sexual, it’s reflected in everything you do, the way you cook the way you look people straight in the eye, the way you let them know what you want when you decide the time is right. Perhaps that’s all a bit too European for Stella and those like her (men and women). For them it’s all euphemisms like ‘train’ and ‘volcano’. I know this is the UK where ‘naughty’ is used to describe anything other than missionary but seriously folks.
When you know you both think the same thing and the flirting starts to make you ache, then say it the best way you know how. And don’t disguise it. Whether it’s “I absolutely need you to fuck me right now,” or “I want you. I really want you” or no words and a slow removal of clothes, or just tell him you want to fuck when he asks you in the restaurant if you want dessert and coffee. As for phone sex, well it’s the opportunity to test the waters as well as get hot and sweaty. I’ve always liked being halfway with a man on the phone and then pausing, letting him the door shut and telling him that another man is here and wants to fuck while we’re on the phone. It gives me more body parts to weave into my story.
7. Stella Grey is a Guardian caricature: the ‘intelligent’ woman who can’t get laid
Men don’t give a fuck how intelligent you are when they meet you. They look at your smile, your lack of self-consciousness, your breasts, your legs and they might like your laugh. If they can imagine putting their hands under your shirt or kissing you, they’ll talk to you. It’s how I operate as well. If I can’t imagine abandoning myself to sex with him, then I really don’t care how many books he’s read. In fact it’s only after I’ve had sex the first time, that the books might matter. But Stella loves to shove her talking topics down our throats when really she needs to get her mouth and her brain around the reality of the things.
But that’s the Guardian’s fault too. They’ve given us a narrative that plays to the confirmation bias of the Stellas and Stellos, those men and women who believe they are such a great catch nobody gets it. So all the others must be wrong.