This blog was initially intended to be about me throwing my concerns out of my mind into the pool that is the internet. However, it has gone off in a rather different direction, and tempted by the fact that I note journalists now look for blogged responses to developments in current affairs I have moved from my own life to broader concerns. This has been beneficial as it has got many things that had been milling around in my mind, out of it. Yet, now I feel that as I encounter more crises in my life I should return (briefly) to the more personal function of the blog.
As you will know I have felt under siege recently. The combination of rising utility bills, poor service when trying to get things sorted for my house, the £14,000 bill from Newham Council, the ongoing bullying of three of my work colleagues, all have been weighing heavily on me. There is now an additional factor, though in fact probably one which has been around for a while but I have neglected, so it is time to turn to it.
Some background. I am 39 and until I was 37 I had never lived with anyone. I had had housemates but I had never shared a house just with a 'partner' (in the UK people have tried to get this term to cover anyone you live with on an intimate basis and are not married to, though it retains connotations of a homosexual partner, even though now gays can marry too; in my case, she is a woman). I had been terribly shy throughout school and college made worse by scarring on my body which I feared would put off any potential girlfriends. At university I always seem to be chasing after a woman just after she (unbeknown to me) had just found a boyfriend. So I reached my early 20s with lots of female friends but absolutely no experience of anything; this is not all that uncommon, despite the media hype, 40% of UK students leave universities as virgins. Clearly it was something that made me unhappy, but at the time I did not realise the extent to which I had missed the window of opportunity for good.
Throughout my 20s and 30s I sought relationships with women and especially living in London had quite a few dates and relationships lasting a few months, but nothing too substantial. My opinion of myself was low, so when a rival appeared on the scene I would always bow out leaving the woman to him. Now, too late, I have read all this stuff about how you should be cocky and confident, but I thought I should just be myself and be 'nice'. That was a huge mistake, women do not like or want men like that at all. (I realise now that for the woman I had brief relationships with I was the 'rebound' man, ideal for restoring their confidence after a divorce or some other incident, but once back on their feet they no longer needed or wanted me.) My self-esteem was further dented by women demanding I apologise for asking them out for a drink, as they were so offended that I even considered myself in their league. I did keep bouncing back and kept asking, but with minimal success compared to the number of knock-backs. I assumed that my life would be better if I could only find the right woman and then live with her, I was deluded.
So, with lack of success of finding Ms. Right, I continued living with flatmates or on my own. I thought wrongly that that was a plus because I could keep house, unlike many other men. In the meantime encountered the problem that most men living alone in the UK experience, you are now considered the modern day witches, and a single man in a house in many people's minds simply means a child molestor; particularly an attitude in Milton Keynes which has a birth rate much higher than the UK average and is painfully family orientated.
As I aged, I found that my lack of experience angered women. They assume that by the time you turn 30 you will have lived in a domestic situation with a woman and know exactly what they (not women in general, but that specific woman) want. They also expect you to be very sexually knowledgeable and get angry if you are not. So, my advice to any men aged 16+ is get out there and have sex. Have it with the drunken woman you pick up at closing time in the pub; have it with a long-term female friend even if it means the end of your friendship; have it with any women you can, but make sure you get at least 5-6 partners under your belt before focusing in on the woman you want to live with. Have safe sex, use condoms, but make sure you have sex, certainly before you turn 21, otherwise you will basically have ruled yourself out of having any sex for the rest of your life. Any sexual partner who finds out you have minimal experience will be angry and is liable to dump you instantly (this happened with my first sexual partner). You can lie to her, but she will know and that is it.
The other thing which plagued me was not having lived with a woman. This is almost a lose/lose situation. If you live alone and do as I do, build up experience ironing, doing laundry, cooking reasonable meals, keeping a house clean and tidy, then you are considered either to be gay or simply pathetic. You gain nothing from this expertise. You must live like a slob until the woman in question comes and 'rescues' you. Then when you move in with her, and only then, will you be expected to do all of these chores expertly. Even if, as a single man, you keep your house clean, married couples will assume 'you know nothing about these things' (an actual quote from a married man to me) and no matter how much you protest they will believe you live in a pile of pizza boxes anyway. So, do not bother to be clean and tidy or do chores until the woman you want to impress comes along.
Now, how does all this background impinge on my current situation? Well, back in 2005 via the internet, I met a fellow Goth and we hit it off very quickly, so that within six months of meeting we were living together. She was 32 and I was 37; she had a son of 3 whose father had run off when he was conceived; I had no fear of children having trained as a teacher and worked as a volunteer in a primary school. Now, two years on I realise how I had missed that window of opportunity and made a mistake in still trying to have a relationship. I lack the experience in terms of sexual partners, I lack the experience in how to share a house with a woman and it is too late to gain those skills, the window closed 15-18 years ago.
Relationships do not break down the way they show on television programmes, with lots of screaming, shouting and things being thrown. They rot. The breakdown is made up of silences and small irritations, the increasing inability to resolve anything, the growing resentment, the fact that you no longer do things like wake, eat, go to bed on the same schedule as each other. People ask why do marriages break down so much these days compared to the past. The real answer is because women now will not put up with the rubbish their grandmothers tolerated. It is no better or worse in a modern marriage, it is just there are more options, especially for some, though not all women.
The key problem is what binds us. It is not marriage vows. My partner and I have lacked the money to afford to get marry and all the tax burdens it brings, but like many couples we are locked together by money. Neither of us can afford to pay the rent and the utility bills alone. The financial bonds are far tighter than those that any ceremony could impose. So things will break apart at a time designated by the letting agency rather than ourselves. It is not that we no longer love each other (well I do not think that is the case) it is just that the weariness, the frustration, the anger of struggling through the rubbish that every day throws at you smothers any affection. If I had had the experience in living with someone I could tackle this. If I had the sexual experience I could at least alleviate the gloom at times, but having missed the window of opportunity I lack these things and so cannot retrieve the relationship. I am part of a national trend anyway. At a school I knew, in one class only 2 out of 30 of the children had parents still living together and one of those 2 asked his father why he still lived with his mother. Ironically within the space of the year the man had left his wife and soon emigrated and re-married. Thirty years ago children of divorcees were often ostracised in the playground, now it is the children of married parents who suffer that way.
Anyway, in a round about way, I come to my conclusion. Basically as a man if you have not had multiple sexual partners by the time you are 21 and have not lived with a woman by the time you are 25, you stand no chance whatsoever of doing this successfully in subsequent years. You might think that finding the perfect woman will be the answer you are looking for, but you are wrong. Once you have missed that window of opportunity in which you can learn and in which women are tolerant, there is no chance of recapturing it.
Of course, if you have gained the necessary experiences by the correct age you have no worries then about trying to find a woman right throughout your life, these days even if you are elderly there are available women out there who want to start a relationship in their 70s or 80s. For the rest of us who missed the chance to get the necessary skills, the door is closed for ever more. If you are beyond the age of 25 and have failed to live with a woman yet, give up on the dating websites, give up on the speed dating, you have no hope of success and even if you do succeed it will be brief and even more painful than if you had not bothered. Men who are over 25 and have not co-habited: stick to your beer, your football, your Playstation, women are now a lost world to you. I know I have been there and suffered the consequences and expense - emotional, personal and financial.