Alas poor Stella Grey

“Edgy,” said the Editors.

“Groundbreaking,” they all agreed. And then, having decided to commission a dating column by yet another divorced journalist who could not understand why a man would leave her, they went to the pub.

To make it all seem, zeitgeisty,  they gave her a pseudonym. Stella Grey. Oh I see. like Christian Grey. Racy huh? Her female following eulogise her on a daily basis as a cheerleader for the cause, while male Guardianistas (the kind of men who really, really understand periods and stuff) men who have probably not seen their cock in years, declare themselves her servants and admirers. All good so far.

I didn’t go looking for Stella. She read my blog here and she came back to tell me to look her up again.

Screenshot 2015-06-07 18.27.56


She has since denied knowing my blog exists so I sent her these screen shots yesterday. This was after she told me to shut up. Actually that’s unfair: she said “Oh do shut up.” All I did was say she was being  little dramatic by saying she’d been ‘dumped’. In my view she’d gone on some dates, had some average sex and it had fizzled out. That’s all. I said it was no great drama.  Her view to me seemed a particularly British one: the one where instant coupling results from minimal dates and everything gets too big before it actually is anything. A man gave her ‘shut up’ comment a big star. This is what passes for wit amongst Guardian readers these days. Meanwhile her army of female sympathisers (Stella has admitted she favourites sympathy tweets) whom I imagine clad in those awful jersey wrap dresses, with strategic slim-you-down-ruching  (hence the collective noun, a ruche of women), were angry I was giving advice to the Grey Goddess.  This was clearly a we situation for them. Furthermore, a tweet informed me, I was obviously a hater of women. 

I pointed out it wasn’t advice per se, however I had a view and my view was different from hers. While it’s true I have always preferred my threesomes with two men, I suggested I was not so much a hater of women, as a woman with her own opinion. The ruche decided this was the same thing because there is no individual opinion, only the view of we, which in this instance was Stella’s narrative. She was suffering for all of us. One of her issues with me, was my apparent presumption that I knew enough about her to have an opinion. (Kind of what I do for a living).  This in itself was very telling, indicating perhaps Stella is a process woman (You do the Myers-Briggs) and may not understand others’ intuition (though she reads lots of books and likes them to pack out the shelves in a man’s house.) Anyway the clear message was that any dissent was not on. This was how it was, ok?

I rang my travel agent to make sure I hadn’t gone to China,  and was reading dating stories in middle-aged Mandarin. Commenting on those would land me in trouble for sure. But no, I was in the UK and was commenting on something in the public domain. Today I noticed that Stella had explained away the lack of comment provision on the articles themselves because they would make her less anonymous. Believe me, Stella, you are a pretty anonymous kind of woman. My own guess is that “Oh do shut up” would be exposed for the dull, charmless response it is.

Obviously being ‘dumped’ (her word remember) has left Stella’s nerves slightly raw, but there is definitely something else here. Self-entitlement, a certain uppityness and a belief that she is pretty much right: you get the sense she won’t make much room for the world, it’s the world that needs to understand her.

I’d previously formed a view that Stella’s writing indicates how inadequate and ill-prepared she feels for this dating caper.  Again she took this as a nasty, calling it  ‘pop psychology’ when I was saying online dating is going to expose you to a lot of judgement: is this what someone with your current mindset needs to do?. Having found online dating to be totally unnatural and quite cruel, I believe unless you play it for laughs and treat it like a fairground game, you are doomed to misery, frustration and a lot of time-wasting. This article was taken the wrong way, and I’ve since concluded that Stella is not so much a cheerleader for the middle-aged female online dater as a victim, a fully paid up representative of that ruche of women who refuse to think they should even try to understand men.  Unfortunately they can’t be bothered understanding their own needs and who they really are, so the chances of tuning in to men are nil.

The other thing to remember about the statistical possibilities of online dating, is  while there appear to be hundreds of men waiting to find you, very few are in your subset, or in Stella’s case, in your cosy lounge-room mindset. Of those, the chances of making a connection slim down even further. In all my experiences meeting men from a standing start in the real world, I have met less than ten who blew me away and I felt something could be there. Of those only two-thirds were really in the market. (Doesn’t include the trampy stuff but that doesn’t count). When you think about what you really want or need, there will only be a tiny pool of men to choose from. If, like Stella, you probably want someone who reads books and drinks Rioja from the non-touristy part of Spain but who can have ‘laughing, chatty sex’ AND likes ruched dresses (Ok I did make an assumption there but it’s fair, with a mid-heel, no?) the numbers diminish.

And so, as Stella retreats into the role of victim – and amnesiac too- I’m not surprised they didn’t put comments on her piece. I suspect she may be fibbing about the reasons for not doing so. On Twitter she says it would compromise her anonymity, however this is utter tosh as anonymous writers have had commenters plenty of times. The truth is that it would expose her even more and my pop psychology 101 (learned from a podcast while I was waiting for a bus) tells me that she’s not coping with that, even under cover.

39 comments for “Alas poor Stella Grey

  1. David
    June 9, 2015 at 17:43

    I think woe has it on points

    You have my vote

    You offer good advice agrees riposte is odd

  2. woe
    June 9, 2015 at 19:24

    Well her reply is not really a riposte. That would imply some flair with words, David.

  3. Paula
    June 12, 2015 at 18:57

    Yes. I liked the column at first, but as happens in many relationships I eventually began to realize that she’s a bit of a whiner and plays the victim. She didn’t really even like Mark that much, she just liked the thought of him liking her. She thinks she’s a catch and maybe she is for the right man, but not for every man. She’s missing that piece – everyone has the right to pick and choose as they like and she should do the same. And lose the big shirt.

    • Richard
      August 30, 2015 at 02:38

      I feel the precisely the same way. Not too sure where the column will end up at this point – a happy ending seems unlikely and I doubt there’s a large readership for a prolonged alternative.

      • woe
        August 30, 2015 at 06:21

        Very succinct and spot on Richard.There is far too much desperation here and no fun: She hasn’t approached it in the right spirit but rather like a woman who is determined to catch someone. The latest is just pathetic. I think readership is dropping off. I would happily offer them my adventures but Guardian is too po-faced these days.

        • Richard
          September 6, 2015 at 02:57

          Thanks woe! Must say I relished her column at the beginning – it read like juicy fiction. And for that very reason I expected a story arc in which she developed self-awareness and her ‘character’ grew and changed on the way to a triumphal climax (either by herself or with somebody new, but happy either way). But that’s not happening. She’s stuck in Act 1. I actually think she prefers it there.

          FWIW I would read the shit out of any column you would write for The Graun. Please do it!

  4. woe
    June 13, 2015 at 03:53

    And if you ventured to suggest that to her, she’d block you or tell you to shut up. Yet it’s very good advice.

  5. woe
    June 13, 2015 at 06:26

    Paula: Check out the last line of column today: 13/6. Pure snobbery.

    • Paula
      September 9, 2015 at 02:19

      I just saw your comment today, and yes, I remember thinking something similar when I read it. She reminds me of an acquaintance of mine who likes to tell me what a free spirited person she is, but in her many (long and rambling) stories I just don’t see it. In any good story, it’s better to show not tell, and let the reader draw her own conclusions. Anyway, none of her matches seem to be that much more of a stretch than her own parents’ happy pairing!!

  6. Beulah
    June 13, 2015 at 09:05

    I don’t understand today’s column – starts off saying that her parents were fundamentally different people but got on wonderfully and then isn’t prepared to accept that there might be someone out there who isn’t ‘ lefty and bookish’ who she would get on well with. She’s as entitled as the next person to be as choosy as she wishes, and online dating IS a minefield for the older woman ( been there…) but for some reason this column winds me up something chronic Every Single Week. Its something to do with the ‘ poor me’ tone coupled with the ‘ but I’m such a catch’ subtext that drives me insane. Its a shame they haven’t enabled comments because I think the BTL community would have a field day.

  7. woe
    June 13, 2015 at 09:42

    Of course everyone can be choosy. I am choosy and I hope you are too. However the subtext here seems to be “I’m such a catch, and I don’t need to compromise.”

    Look at the women who agree with her and feel the self-entitlement flowing. Charmless and Humourless. And lacking female strength.

  8. woe
    June 15, 2015 at 09:00

    UPDATE: Because Ms Grey left comments, she left an email so I sent her a note, suggesting that what she saw as nasty was disagreement and it was after all she who insulted me. Most people don’t know this started with my innocent tweet: “You were not dumped: you went on some dates and it fizzled out.” And she told me to shut up…etc.

    I don’t like being misconstrued. Yes I can be sarcastic but I think any intelligent person can see there is no malice about me. So I have wished her Good Luck. Genuinely.

  9. June 28, 2015 at 14:27

    You can’t have laughing chatty sex with someone who is too inhibited to walk naked from the bed to the bathroom after sex but must put a shirt on. Stella wonders why men don’t seem to like her but can’t imagine that it could be because she seems to have a lack of enthusiasm for sex and gives off a negative vibe of neurotic insecurity and physical self loathing.

  10. woe
    June 28, 2015 at 14:41

    Fitzroyalty: I am not sure you can have sex with a woman like that. I sense increasing bitter self-entitlement, much of it based on her assessment of herself as ‘intellectual’. But we both know that’s not the first thing men are attracted to. Even if it is true.

  11. Dom
    July 19, 2015 at 13:21

    I have read the column every week because it is oddly compelling in terms of the gap between what she thinks men should be attracted to and what they really are.
    Making the assumption that the column isn’t entirely fiction or is based loosely on real experience one thing stands out particularly. Namely I don’t have any opinion other than hers on her body size and shape but given her issues with her body image maybe positively addressing this with diet and exercise might help her self-image.

    • woe
      July 19, 2015 at 13:30

      Besides her own self-proclaimed desire (she said it early on) that she doesn’t need to change – implying the men do – I wonder if she’s shored up by married girlfriends who say things like “You’re fine as you are. You’re gorgeous.” There are more women who lie to each other than are honest you know. I reckon Stella hangs with those.

      I think it’s now quite pathetic as a column. She’s clutching at anything. But ultimately it demonstrates you are right: she has no understanding of men, of sexuality and ultimately of the lack of complication that most men need and want.

      • Jay
        August 9, 2015 at 08:12

        Thanks woe – have been reading the ‘Stella Grey’ saga for some time and with each instalment, find her story gets more incredulous. Starting to think the whole thing is pure fiction….. no can be that delusional, can they?

        Am waiting for the obligatory ‘Yay!! I’ve found Mr Right” instalment…. can’t be that far away, or will the ‘story’ just quietly fade away…..

        Again, many thanks for comments (kinda thought was alone in my opinion….)

        • woe
          August 22, 2015 at 09:12

          I think it doesn’t help if you’re an anxious and neurotic person.

  12. Aurelia
    August 16, 2015 at 09:12

    I too thought my reactions must be one of a kind to reading that column, but being a foreigner, and after watching Very British Problems I put everything down to some British repression and oddity. Glad that this not the case, and that other people see her how I see her: snob while being clingy, a peculiar combination. What I can’t really understand is how she can have been previously married and not have learnt anything from that. And also whatfor she is looking for a man. A dog or a cat would do, but I am afraid she needs to perform to an audience. And she marvels not finding the suitable one, but who would want to be cast in that role?

    • woe
      August 22, 2015 at 09:10

      I think the fusion of online dating and the British character is the perfect storm. People who have no idea how to tune into people are let loose in a digital landscape where nobody knows who is real. Then we add a desperate divorcee who probably wouldn’t know what to do with a man. I find it all super dull and I think it’s run its course. Now if they’d let me loose…

      • Aurelia
        September 7, 2015 at 05:36

        WOE, what do you mean “if they’d let me loose”? Surely you won’t wait for them do take things in your hands sooner, uh? A column, a book, whatever, but I’d love to see you getting out of this fine, secure, neat blog where only the like-minded or likely-inclined comment. Stella tweeted back some days ago to somebody proposing to her as her bookagent (the only proposal she got), and she politely turned it down saying something about the whole plan for a book of hers having already started to roll. Can’t remember the exact words and can’t be bothered to check, but doesn’t it sound awful already? What I fear most is that sort of vapid half self-deprecatory, half self-righteous odd sort of British mixture that they consider humour around here. It always fills the display tables in every bookshop. There’s space for a different narrative from a different kind of woman, go ahead WOE!

  13. Charlene
    September 6, 2015 at 02:48

    Woe, can you please have a column in the Guardian??

    Stella is in SO over her own head that it isn’t even funny. (If the column is even real). It’s like watching a train crash. What kills me is the column is subtitled as her “adventures” in online dating. These aren’t exactly adventures…more like humiliations. Which as you point out, is pretty much 90% of online dating anyway. But she takes it so self-righteously.

    On another note. I dated online for 4 years and found it incredibly traumatic, it almost crushed me emotionally. I admit I was in a Stella-like emotional state and that I dismissed some very good men because they didn’t meet my “list”. Not blaming anyone else, it was me and my expectations not being familiar with the reality of the process.

    Now married and I was his FIRST AND ONLY online date. Can’t believe I got to him first. He thinks online dating is this truly magical and easy process (not that wa heven’t had our growing pains…but he lets go of conflict easily…). So, I even found a happy ending online. Not sure Stella will, but maybe not out of the question. She needs to grow though, which is NOT happening as per her column.

    • woe
      September 6, 2015 at 07:16

      I tweeted @Guardianfamily to say could I do the real adventures. But I do wonder if Guardian has lost it in terms of columnists. There are no adventures with Stella, only a desperation that is getting worse every week. Maybe I need a petition to get a column. But thank you for reading. Now I feel I should write something new so thanks for making me write on a day when I wondered why I was trying to write a book. x

  14. Spinny
    September 17, 2015 at 20:51

    Given how experienced, worldly and confidently sexual and self assured you claim to be, I’m surprised you get in such a tizz about being told to shut up on the internet. Stella’s the one with a regular Guardian column, which seems to be what’s truly pissing you off.

    • woe
      September 17, 2015 at 22:25

      Oh great, I was waiting for one of these bitter and twisted comments from another writer’s groupie. It’s a shame you are too stupid to understand the way I write and my motivation but look I’ll try to explain. I am not pissed off nor am I upset about being told to shut up. Stella (who I think hasn’t maximised her column and should) visited my blog and wanted my approval. I have never told her to ‘shut up; nor been as rude as you are to me. All I suggested was that she stand back and look at herself and perhaps she might come across as wanting it too much and that can be a turnoff. I said it in a civil manner as I would to a friend and she spat venom just as she does with absolutely any criticism – most of it is legitimate. Then on her Twitter feed she denied visiting my column (but I showed the proof). So it got me thinking she wasn’t too stable and that seems to be the case. Her writing has become quite desperate since which proves my point.

      As for me being sexual, why thank you yes it’s going well. But then that is your problem, not mine.

      Meanwhile, you have resorted to a default position, somewhat ad hominem, that if someone is critical (please refer back to above to see how Stella’s reaction initiated this trivial exchange), they are envious. I have had blogs since 2006 and am known for being edgy and coruscating when I write about anything. That could include politics, prostitution and Toblerones. I have written about all of them. I write in a vitriolic, humourous style so there is no reason to write like a middle aged housewife. It is a naturally critical style and I choose my subjects.

      Some people like it and they tell me I should have a column. As we know a column is no sign of good writing (just look all around you) I recognise what the Guardian wants is a particular narrative on women over forty, though I think there is room for multiple perspectives on dating etc. Stella’s is only one and a very limited one, an increasingly miserable one. That is my point. So I was addressing my readers. Not some gutless wonder who can’t be bothered to give their real name and email address (though you show up on my stat metrics so I know a fair bit about you).

      • Aurelia
        September 18, 2015 at 08:52

        LOL! (love you, girl!)
        I’ve been wondering myself about what the Guardian wants and why it wants THAT particular narrative on women over forty. The only answer I’m able to come up with is: because there are readers, probably lots of them, who can identify with her (her struggles, her cluelessness, her insecurities, which are not just bodily ones, her inability to make rational choices, her inability to give up, her inability to respect herself, etc.). Then there are those who cannot identify with her, but still find the weekly piece ridiculous enough to go and read it (me, and you, and lots of others, I am sure). I read it for anthropological purpose. I think it’s such a great portrait of the British passive-aggressive type of woman. It would be nice to know that there’s a different type out there. It would make for an invigorating read. But it could never have that self-deprecating nonsensical tone that her readers must adore. I, for one, adore it and find it so very comical. I am always relieved at the thought of not being anywhere near that kind of woman. So, it seems to me, that column can have many side collateral effects.

    • Charlene
      September 24, 2015 at 20:31

      “Spinny”….are you really not Stella in disguise? Your comment reflects her general (poor) level of discourse.

      • woe
        September 24, 2015 at 21:30

        Spinny is the kind of person who wears a high vis vest to wash the car.

  15. woe
    September 18, 2015 at 22:41

    Aurelia, you could have written that last comment on my behalf. I think you have summed it up perfectly, especially with your ‘I’m always relieved…” sentence. And your assessment of the passive-aggressive British woman is utterly perfect. Low self-esteem makes for a dull dating column. And a dull date.

  16. Donnie Mountjoy
    October 11, 2015 at 03:07

    Yep, been there, done that, got blocked!

    As a late forties divorcee, I offered an observation on one of her earlier posts, and was told I was “fucking patronising”. That was enough for me. Her insecurities and ego read like a 16-year old, not a 50+ woman.

    • woe
      October 11, 2015 at 08:10

      We all got blocked. And still she never listens…

      • Aurelia
        October 24, 2015 at 08:06

        I got to the conclusion that that column is totally fake: she wants her character to be that way, totally without any hope of ever meeting an even half-decent sort of man. She must know that such a column appeals to all the self-deprecating women out there, while making an entertaining read for all those that aren’t and feel more and more blessed and relieved just by reading it.

  17. Suzy
    November 16, 2015 at 18:50

    I’m not convinced that the whole column isn’t fiction. Can anybody really be that un self-aware and downright dull? She comes across as so mumsy too. How old is she supposed to be? Her attitudes and whole demeanour suggest a woman in her 70s. And about as sexual as yesterday’s cold leftovers. In her latest column and the previous one she talks about having phone sex but relates the story of it in such a cold and uninspiring way, I really can’t imagine she’s capable of being passionate at all, let alone down a phone line.

    • woe
      November 16, 2015 at 20:26


      You’ve stated it perfectly. It feels like fiction to me as well. The fact that she doesn’t really get any dates, everything is just out of reach and yes, my mum who is 85 would show her up as dowdy and mumsy. She sounds like a woman ill prepared for this column, be it fact or fiction. I think I will write about phone sex, just to spite her followers (The Dowdies). She hasn’t got an ounce of sex in her. The Guardian is the culprit here, however, commissioning such dullness and allowing this to stand as a narrative on ‘mid-life dating.’

  18. Lizzy
    November 21, 2015 at 23:59

    So pleased to find a conversation I can relate to. Read SG every week and get so infuriated but still cannot help reading it! Saying that last two weeks shocking.

    My opinion is this is all made up. And if not this woman does not deserve a lovely decent man. Her description of Andrew to me was one of looks over substance and whilst I have to work 40 hrs a week she does lots of sitting and dreaming in coffee shops.

    I was recently single and nearly 50. There are no shortage of lovely decent men to date. Ou just need to get rid of tick list. Where are the real people?

    • Jay
      November 24, 2015 at 07:58

      Lizzy – agree with you about getting infuriated when reading SG – I keep thinking it CANNOT get any worse, but it does!! The ‘phone sex’ columns are beyond belief – total fiction is how they appear. Her clumsy metaphors (‘I am a train and he’s a volcano”) toot fckn toot – seriously, is this the best she can come up with?

      Please Woe, I’m begging, save us from this shite.

      I have emailed The Guardian and, aside from expressing my incredulity at SG’s writing, have recommended you as a way better read.

      Cheers! Jay

  19. Helen
    April 9, 2016 at 09:30

    I’m in the minority here because I really enjoyed the column. Perhaps enjoyment isn’t quite the right word because I often found it frustrating and sad. But it resonated with me I was invested in it and very pleased that it had a happy ending. I quite agree that there is space for a different kind of mid life dating narrative. probably for several, but I will miss SG.

  20. April 11, 2016 at 19:39

    WOE. I remember you wrote a supportive and very kind post for SG initially, SG seemed a bit harsh with you but… maybe now your going a bit to far the other way? Whoever SG I hope that she is happy and has met a decent geezer and they are giving it a go. The riding into the sunset tag from the editor was a false narrative. I love my partner dearly, but death will part us if nothing else # nosunsets. SG + Edward might last five weeks, but hopefully as long SG wants. SG, the Plankton blog (v good), Woe’s blog just hold up a mirror to our own hopes and fears and we all start projecting things onto one another.

    • woe
      April 11, 2016 at 20:05

      I am not terribly sure what you are saying: your writing is a little unclear. If you project that is your problem, however in general my commenters seem to understand I come from a point of optimistic reality. Some call it tough love but unlike Stella and co I have lived and I’m calling it as I see it whether it’s good or bad, men or women. I don’t write to take sides: Stella Grey was utterly juvenile with me however I never thought the column showed how much fun mid life can be. My group of female friends are not desperate and needy, utterly comfortable taking their clothes off, not prudish about sex and know how to say “Fuck my brains out.” And I think the Guardian wanted a dull narrative. If you liked it, I am happy for you. I am not a serial monogamist so I don’t reflect that neediness perhaps.

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