Stella Grey: The Guardian got it wrong

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.

37 comments for “Stella Grey: The Guardian got it wrong

  1. Jay
    November 25, 2015 at 11:13

    woe – thanks for this – so much insight here, if only SG was in possession of one quarter of it, things might go better for her, but even then………

    Will attempt to get this on SG’s twitter feed but may prove difficult as I have been blocked.

    • woe
      November 25, 2015 at 22:44

      Oh she blocks everyone who offers a view. She could use ‘fuck you’ far more effectively, with her dates for example.

      • caroline
        February 13, 2016 at 15:28

        Baffled as to why the Guardian don’t allow comments on Stella’s column. They have defined the narrative of the middle aged female dater as you say, and for strange reasons won’t be challenged – so they find Stella- an irritable, immature 50 year old who doesn’t look after herself physically- who can’t flirt, as you say and portray her foray into dating as hellish. I have written to the Guardian twice asking why they don’t show a polar experience – another female columnist who likes men and is having great dating encounters to show balanced reporting. Naturally they didn’t publish my letters.
        The question remains –
        Why do they terrorise readers with the frustratingly inept sex life of a sad, unsexy woman who chases men and let it go unchallenged?

        • woe
          February 13, 2016 at 23:59

          I think it’s ill-conceived by people who have an agenda. She gets worse and as you say portrays dating and life in general as hellish. YOu are among several of my readers who have written to them. I think we should petition them…it’s actually my mate Suzanne’s idea. Basically “Give this girl a column and tell the real midlife narrative of women”

  2. November 27, 2015 at 07:10

    I haven’t ever read the column but, from what you’ve described, I don’t appear to be missing anything. I do think, from the sound of it, the Guardian are as much to blame as Stells for trying to have as all believe that it’s crap out there for 40+ ‘single’ women. It was, without a doubt, the most sexual decade of my life! Sure, if you’re stuck on Guardian Soulmates, it’s probably no fun at all, esp with all those tree hugging vegans but I could have had all my meals paid for and more besides back then if I so wanted. i think we need a petition to give you the column instead!!

    • Aurelia
      December 15, 2015 at 16:48

      I agree, it looks like you have outgrown the Guardian.

  3. Charlene
    November 28, 2015 at 22:08

    Hell yes the Guardian got it wrong. The column got so awful that I can’t even begin to explain how awful it is. Trust WOE to come up with an itemized list. Yes the awfulness is multidimensional and spreads in many directions. And still I’m asking is it even real? It’s gotten so bad lately that I think any self-respecting person would just have had to cut it short and not go on, if it were real.

    Initially she captured what might be typical experiences of online dating post divorce: the rush, the promise, the crashed hopes. But she missed the part where one is supposed to learn and grow. Nothing ever improves and she keeps spiraling down into more hellish circles. Now she can’t even get a real life date and has phone sex with people she has never met and will never meet? Not that there is anything wrong with that (haha) but it is clearly not she wants and it seems quite debasing for her.

    Speaking of cutting it short, wasn’t the column supposed to last for a year only? Hasn’t this time passed? And I too will email the Guardian asking for WOE to have a year to represent middle-aged dating.

    It makes my day when you post. Please continue 🙂 Love..

  4. Charlene
    December 5, 2015 at 15:14

    Woe! Hello! Another bleak Stella column today but complaining about Stella is not my reason for posting. To her credit she brought up an interesting point that I have struggled with and I wondered what your opinion was.

    If you are in the market for a relationship, do you screen based on politics or religion? I mean up to a point I would (neo-Nazis, racists, etc)but if I were to insist on finding a man as liberal as I am with secular values that I am physically attracted to (and attractive to..I’m almost 50) I think it reduces the chances to nil.

    Yet this is not a problem-free approach. Aside from differences in our politics, deep into the relationship, I’ve found him to deny climate change and also he may not accept evolution (I’m afraid to probe it too deeply haha). Note this is a multi-degreed gentleman who has been very successful in a science-related field (though not a scientist) and is also a lawyer. I’m an engineer.

    Amazingly this really doesn’t cause problems. We both know that the other person differs, and have argued a bit over these topics (politics, climate change, evolution) initially but in general we just let the other person have their say, if these topics come up, then let it drop. But still, these are pretty big differences and honestly I would have never predicted that I would wind up with someone who has such a different worldview. We both may have made a big compromise.

    What do you think? Screen based upon politics/religion?

    Also, hope all is as well as possible in your world and that you are safe warm and loved.

    • woe
      December 6, 2015 at 07:21

      Charlene I think list making is no good to any of us. I have often been attracted to men who hold different political views and I actually welcome that (providing the person is intelligent enough to have a good discussion). Given that there are only a few right people for each of us in this world, it’s not terribly clever to start dictating what they should think or do. The only issue with religion is that you know what you want to do if you have kids. Without kids, it doesn’t matter. If I look back and do some hasty research to find out what I’m attracted to it’s usually tall blonde, blue eyed men. My physical opposite. That’s the visual. In character terms they’re very self-contained and calm sorts (perhaps why I work well with Englishmen) to offset my excitable Mediterranean moments. After that it’s anyone’s guess. The men I’ve had relationships with have not had the same hobbies as me, nor read the same books. And I wouldn’t dream of reading some of their list. I quite like that as it can be very stimulating. I don’t think you should initially screen for things like religion and political views unless those are the things that matter to you most in life. It pays to go in and see what you can learn.

      • Charlene
        December 12, 2015 at 14:48

        Hi WOE, thanks for your perspective.

        I agree with your point about listening and learning. Politics in particular, not so much on evolution and climate change given the facts. However, it still offers the opportunity to learn about him and how he thinks and feels.

        However its an imperfect process and still leads to frustration or hurt feelings sometimes…neither of us is perfectly mature (duh!)

  5. Portneys Complaint
    December 5, 2015 at 20:44

    I don’t think the Guardian likes women anymore unless they have beards and are called Jeremy.

    • woe
      December 14, 2015 at 06:35

      Well that’s everyone then: the Guardian tends to blame men for everything that happens to women. Hang on, they do love transgender folk right now…

  6. Jennie
    December 6, 2015 at 16:08

    I’m glad to find this little corner of the Internet. I read Stella’s column every week then usually have a nose at her twitter, having been thwarted by the inability to comment on the website.

    I loved her column to start with, it mirrored my own experiences – but recently it has left me feeling quite grubby. She has been on the verge of stalking that cafe chap (I can’t believe she bought a new bike to impress him and he doesn’t even know her name!). Then all the phone sex with the jumper fetish man. Eww.

    This week on twitter she is appalled that the man she turned down nearly a year ago, then got back on touch with, told her to bog off she’d missed her chance. As if, if the tables were turned, she would be flattered to be treated like sloppy seconds months down the line.

    She seems to get worse, not better. Who in their right mind wouldn’t run screaming from her quickfire text game? I felt a lot of empathy for Stella to start with, but now that saying, about trying the same thing but expecting something different to happen, springs to mind.

    • woe
      December 6, 2015 at 23:19

      Hi Jennie,
      Really good to have a reader who has had similar experiences but chooses to see them in a different light. One thing I know is that it’s not easy for divorced people to be single. I am in the same age group but I’m a natural single with a few live in relationships and so while I can see how she is turning herself into a car crash, I am not a mum or wife who has been out of the game and has to tip-toe back in. “Grubby” is a good word and perhaps is all we need for the past few columns. There was always an air of desperation however her phone sex (which sounds like it would be painful to listen to) and the lengths she goes to to engage are ridiculous. I understand that as a woman who has been divorced there is a need to get some sort of validation that you belong in the outside world but you don’t get by agitating, nagging and pressing. If she had taken online dating as lightly as it should be taken (by anyone young or old) I suspect she would be happier.

    • Jay
      December 7, 2015 at 05:03

      Jennie – I was thinking exactly the same thing about this week’s column. It appears SG trawled through her file of ‘rejects’ and pulled one out from months ago and messaged that person, apologising for turning down his earlier offer of dinner. Apparently his rejection of her renewed contact caused SG some angst… and yes, if the tables were turned I’m sure she wouldn’t have welcomed the contact!!

      But Saint Stella can do no wrong! Not for a moment does there appear to be any reflection on why she is in the place she is. Her conservatism, and that of her Twitter followers, is vomit inducing. A little part of me thinks the whole thing is a wind-up – or at least dramatised fiction.

      I really enjoy the comments here (I have been blocked on SG’s Twitter Feed, twice!!) Why is she so hostile about the idea of engaging with her readers in a robust discussion about the subject?

      And thanks for the comments Woe, much appreciated!


  7. woe
    December 7, 2015 at 08:00

    You’re welcome Jay. Who would track down a bloke from a year ago and assume the invitation is there? I agree with you re fabrication. At this point, none of this feels real: it feels like some crappy journo fabricating a dating life so we can see the raw deal she’s getting.

  8. Charlene
    December 12, 2015 at 14:53

    Me again. Just read the column. She finally ran out of material and now she’s reaching deep into her past and revealing that it was just as terrible as her present, and in pretty much the same ways (only wanting the men out of her league, rudely dismissing other men who like her, humiliating gambits to strangers, unsatisfying sex). Hilarious that she doesn’t see that she is really the common denominator. At least she didn’t have phone sex.

    • woe
      December 14, 2015 at 06:33

      You are going to have bad dreams if you keep reading it. I stopped and get my information second hand from you. I think I feel a piece about women who never think they are part of the problem coming on….

  9. Aurelia
    December 13, 2015 at 11:46

    If Stella Grey were a fictional character, her author could at least make her disappear. She is lost in unpleasant recollections now, and nothing could salvage her, so why am I dreading that she might just be preparing a coup de théatre?

    • woe
      December 14, 2015 at 06:32

      You are giving me a feeling of great unease Aurelia. A ‘coup de théatre’ is an alarming thought. If you were going to create someone fictional you’d aim a little higher with your imagination surely? (But then I remember her version of phone sex, the equivalent of a white bra from Marks and Spencers that’s been washed too many times and is now, of course, grey.

      • Aurelia
        December 15, 2015 at 16:47

        At this point I just don’t know what I’d find more repulsive or embarassing: her going on and on in circles to demonstrate that there’s just nobody out there at her level (so proving herself right, but leaving her feeling wronged), or her thinking of going somewhere with somebody at last (so proving herself wrong but trying to demonstrate that it feels so right). This is why I am dreading what’s next. Nobody writing with a faint notion of a sense of timing and rhythm can imagine of dragging this for much longer without a coup de théatre that makes it all end in a laugh & comedy. Maybe I’m just plain wrong assuming that she does know what she is doing with her writing. True, she might just not have a clue at all about writing as she doesn’t have about men.

  10. Jennie
    December 14, 2015 at 16:28

    The Guardian were having a teenage special in that part of the paper at the weekend, so I’m sure Stella’s teenage kicks were part of that, and that normal middle aged angst will soon be resumed.

    • woe
      December 14, 2015 at 21:00

      The Guardian always drag out a teenage special. They think it makes them look cool.

  11. Sophie
    December 14, 2015 at 19:55

    Initially I really enjoyed Stella’s columns, but lately I’m coming round to your way of thinking, WOE. That said, I don’t feel she’s trying to pull guys who are out of her league; in fact, many of the blokes she likes seem to be physically unattractive (Martin, who she played that silly Q&A game with, looked like “a potato” if I remember rightly).

    But she does seem prissy and pernickety, and also oddly old for her age. When she visited that younger guy who didn’t have any books or CDs, she mused. “I just thought EVERYONE would have Norwegian jazz albums.” She seems to have settled into a middle-aged rut during her marriage and has lost touch with the world outside her middle-class social set.

    • woe
      December 14, 2015 at 20:59

      Sophie, I realise that I am someone who calls it as I see it immediately and that can be disarming to some people and even hit you like a cricket ball at full force. As a writer and creator of other people’s voices I suppose I am tuned in to every nuance of what is written and her tone from the beginning was that of entitlement and yes she’s ‘prissy and pernickety’. I am just over the fifty mark and cannot reconcile who I am (or even some of my more conventional friends) with who she is at this point in life. I just don’t think this is a person who can tell us anything about dating in mid-life. Perhaps she can tell us about Norwegian jazz…

  12. SaltyPickles
    December 19, 2015 at 14:40

    I hate the column, but not because she’s not sexual enough or has older tastes – people want different things out of life, lots of people want relationships and romantic companionship without being very sexual people. I think its fair enough that they get to write from that perspective.

    I’m just horrified by how gullible and confused about what she wants after all this time. She’s continually talking to men who are clearly just after attention, aren’t interested at all in the people they are talking to, and are never going to meet up with her. She spends months talking to people without ever meeting them in person – thats not dating, thats fantasising. In todays column some guy sends her an unsolicited dick pick – which she makes clear she is not at all into, upon which he sends her more, and instead of blocking him she starts talking to him about why he does it and how unhappy he is. She criticises his behaviour, but never explains why she engages with it.

    If she really wanted a new relationship she wouldn’t be wasting so much time on the time wasters by now. And she wouldn’t get so upset when people she has little to no interest in feel the same way about her. This has nothing to do with wanting a new relationship, its all about trying to validate her attractiveness to men in a needy and pathetic way.

    • woe
      December 19, 2015 at 20:18

      Rather a brilliant analysis SaltyPickles. But being so needy, pathetic and bitter she will never listen.

    • Jennie
      December 20, 2015 at 17:40

      I thought her response, something like ‘Woah was that meant for me?’ wasn’t exactly discouraging. And two dicks later instead of blocking him she gave him her phone number! She’s either lying, a complete tool, or being deliberately stupid for material.

      • woe
        December 20, 2015 at 20:15

        ‘Two dicks later’ I think that has to be phrase of the week.

      • jay
        January 18, 2016 at 07:39

        Hi Jennie – I think the fact that she is writing a book impinges on everything she does / the dick pics thing was a complete joke – you can almost she her ticking off the chapters – ie – Phone Sex, Dick pics, Erectile Dysfunction etc etc . She finally admitted to blocking the dick pic guy but only because she was getting grief from her acolytes asking her why she was engaging him in conversation.

        The latest installment nearly made me gag – the ‘date’ sounded incredibly dull….more like meeting a long lost old relative. Sexual attraction, according to SG, is not to be found on the first date, apparently…..

        Looking forward to more of your glorious work Woe!

  13. NewDawn
    January 4, 2016 at 21:16

    50 shades of Stella is so pre Corbyn. Happy 2016. What is the next instalment?

    • woe
      January 5, 2016 at 00:10

      Time to return to my own adventures. I shall post shortly.

  14. Liana
    February 14, 2016 at 15:22

    The latest column is woeful. The woman is on another planet. People on Twitter have challenged some of her hypocritical words and actions and anyone who doesn’t fawn over her gets blocked. Perfect example of a middle-class British fifty-something with an overblown sense of entitlement. At this point in time, I think she’s actually trolling us because nobody can possibly be this clueless.

    • woe
      February 14, 2016 at 15:30

      I love this comment. You captured a certain type of British woman perfectly! They purse their lips a lot, think they are a good catch, make no effort, have no idea how to flirt or understand men.

    • Jennie
      February 14, 2016 at 20:16

      I love how anybody who points out she has said something horrible (she has) or is a hypocrite (she is) is branded a troll and a bully.

      Her column continues to head downhill. A couple of weeks ago she was in touch with a shy man who said he wanted to build up an email rapport first because he was nervous about meeting. So what does our brave heroine do? Visits her mum who ‘happens’ to live near to the man, and pings him a text saying ‘surprise! I’m down the road, let’s do lunch’. This less than a week after they were first in touch. What goes on in her head?

  15. Helen
    April 9, 2016 at 09:42

    The SG columnn appealed to me. I said similar on another post. Apologies if duplicating ideas isn’t on. However, it’s good to read other perspectives on her. To me, she seemed very real and the criticism of her is probably what people would say about me. Can’t flirt, doesn’t understand men, lacks self-esteem. I think there are lots of us out there. I’d definitely like to read a more upbeat column about being middle aged and divorced and hoping/trying to find a man. I totally agree that there is room for more and varied narratives about this life stage.

  16. August 25, 2020 at 19:46

    Bonne continuation pour ton blog que je continue à suivre réguliérement. Dorelia Alphonse Mattie

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