Recently in Gill Alexander Category
As weeks go, the last one was a turkey of gargantuan proportions, able to trot for miles before laying its enormous egg.
I have often extolled, through the auspices of this blog, the advantages of being single. Never having to hide a ridiculously expensive purchase in the bowels of the wardrobe, for example, to be brought out at a later date and dismissed with a "What, this old thing? Had it for years darling," throw away remark in response to the quizzical face of one's husband. A Twitter friend however has a different method. She buys a new dress that bears a remarkable similarity to the other three in her wardrobe in order to confuse her spouse.
I had a Damascene moment last week, dear readers, (for those of you who haven't had a decent education - look it up) and realised why I have singularly failed in my quest to net a fabulous man.
My moment of revelation? When I was compiling my guest list for Sunday lunch. With the exception of two extremely cute straight boys, every single person I invited was male and gay. In my defence I would point out that all these lovely gentlemen are erudite, witty, attractive and tremendously good company. But let's face it, who cares about them? This column is all about ME and I've just realised the dreadful truth. Yes, dear readers, I am a Fag Hag.
How could I not have realised this? I admit it, I have, on occasion, started wearing false eyelashes and am definitely coming round to the idea that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Cher, but why didn't anyone point it out to me?
Anyone out there read Shane Watson's latest book, catchily entitled "How to Meet A Man After 40"? No? Well folks, you're in for a treat.
When I first read the title, I confess I was puzzled. I mean, after 40 what? Vodka and tonics? Press-ups? Internet visits to Match.com?
Well, no, actually. It seems the delightful Ms Watson, having finally hooked her own bloke three years ago (the poor sod is referred to as The One) is now able to fret in a particularly smug manner at the plight of her single, aged sisters.
My daughter and I are sat at the kitchen table, she doing her homework, me with my laptop in front of me, buying a ticket for this Friday's Euromillions prize draw.
Me: "Right, I've bought the ticket so keep your fingers crossed."
Daughter: "How much is it this week?"
Me: "ÃÂ£50 million. Imagine what you could do with that."
Daughter: "We could pay off the mortgage."
I think I may have over-egged my debt pudding.
Given that I've no dating possibilities on the horizon, I'm sat watching the tellybox night after night and as a result have found myself developing an unhealthy addiction to "I'm A Celebrity... etc", not because I enjoy watching folk eating animal genitalia (something that is presumably a boon to any fetishist whose internet connection has failed) but because of the relationship dynamics.
The other night two WAGs were chatting away to each other about their wonderful relationships, which caused Esther Rantzen to break down in tears about missing her deceased husband Desmond. It was so very sad to witness but in a selfish way made me think of my own single status.
I'm not going to blather on, however, about the downsides of being on one's own, but instead concentrate on the upsides. No-one to ever say sniffily: "Don't you think you've had enough to drink?" or look up from their newspaper as you're heading out the door for a night out with the girls and mutter tetchily: "You're wearing THAT?" No need to hide a ridiculously expensive impulse purchase in the wardrobe. No-one to question the phone bill. My delightful ex-husband once went through our itemised bill line by line and rang a number he didn't recognise to find out who I'd been speaking to for over an hour. Not because he thought I was talking to anyone I shouldn't be (I wasn't) but because he expected me to produce what he felt was an acceptable reason for the time I had spent on the telephone. Mind you, given that he is now immensly wealthy and I, most emphatically, am not, perhaps there was method in his nit-picking financially prudent madness.
Meanwhile, the Madonna and Guy Ritchie divorce is about go through, with Mr Ritchie reportedly not taking a penny of his soon to be ex-wife's money. This sounds terribly noble until you read that he is in possession of a ÃÂ£30 million pound fortune himself. Hardly the breadline, folks.
Anyway, b*llocks to them and back to me. If you haven't got any spare cash, how are you supposed to go out dressed in your best in order to meet someone who with luck will turn out to the man you spend the rest of your life with? My best mate is always telling me that if someone asks me out for dinner I should go whether, on the basis that it's a free meal and more importantly I might enjoy myself. She's a switched on girl and thinking that this was sound advice, I did this once: never again. Don't do it girls. At the end of dinner, after three bottles of outrageously expensive wine and some utterly delicious food (he was paying, so why not), the bill came and he did that patting of all his pockets schtick and then announced he'd left his wallet at home. Yes, it was genuine and yes, he did give me the money the following day but in the meantime my paying the bill put me right up to my overdraft limit and as a result two direct debits bounced. I hadn't the nerve to say to him, "that'll be an extra thirty quid please," so needless to say, I didn't go out with him again.
Perhaps when one is embarking on a date both parties should draw up a document similar to Pre-Nup. You know, with clauses such as a cheque book/credit card/cash must be produced at the beginning of the evening to prove ability to pay; there will be no lunging for a goodnight kiss unless the other party has indicated this is acceptable; a visit to Pizza Hut does not count as "dinner". And so on and so forth.
Although this attitude might count as a reason for my singledom of course.
I've spent most of the past two weeks in and out of hospital with the Son and Heir, who managed to break and dislocate his wrist when playing rugby. The first operation to repair the damage was unsuccessful, and several x-rays, manipulations, plaster casts of varying hues and operations later, it appears to be finally on the mend. When you're sat on a ward waiting for your son to wake up, there's not a huge amount to do, so I watched television.
Although some grasping corporate monster known as Patientline is happy to relieve its "customers" of exhorbitant sums of money so they may be allowed to watch television, on the Paediatrics Ward such a treat is free, so naturally I made full use of it as it offered not only terrestrial channels but also a variety of the, well, extra-terrestrial variety. Now you may already know this, but to me this was a revelation. Daytime television is AWFUL.
For a kick-off, those denizens of the advertising world appear to believe that the only people watching are simultaneously planning their funerals whilst worrying about how to consolidate their multitudinous loans into one easy monthly payment, something one might have imagined was mutually exclusive. These horrors, however, were as nothing to the programmes themselves. Far be it from me to blunder into the territory of my esteemed colleague Ian Robson, but I was absolutely astonished at the plethora of programmes on offer that puported to bring together warring couples and discuss their complex relationships. These programmes were more hypnotic than Harry the Hypnotist who has just won a prize at the Hypnotist College for Hypnotising. (Sorry, I think I must have inhaled a whiff of the general anaesthetic.)
Now we are all familiar, I think, with the habitues of Trisha, Jerry Springer and Jeremy Kyle but some of the couples on the American programmes were astonishing for their complete lack of inhibitions. They will say ANYTHING. A remarkable number of phrases occurred with depressing regularity, such as "he never listens to me," "she doesn't understand me" and "taking it up the butt". DNA results shows were a staple part of this kind of show, the host (or referee, take your pick) of the programme employing the same pause techniques as the judges of the X Factor.
Why don't these couples want to keep their private lives private? Is the lure of total humiliation on television too good an opportunity to miss? Surely not. Yet on they trot, sitting themselves down on a variety of uncomfortable looking chairs, ready to hurl abuse at one another as members of the audience applauds or jeer as the mood takes them. Has the concept of counselling passed these people by? Mind you, I tried relationship counselling once (I went on my own - says it all really) and it was rubbish. The counsellor clearly thought a session wasn't working unless at some point I burst into tears and seemed to believe that my being the middle daughter of three girls was somehow responsible for the breakdown of said relationship. When I ventured the possibility that an affair might have had some contribution to make, she loftily waved it away murmuring something about "not getting bogged down in the details". Pah.
When push comes to shove (I use the phrase advisedly) relationships break down for any number of reasons, top of which is usually either (a) one or both have lost interest in sex with the other, (b) one or both are in the throws of a mid-life crisis, manifesting itself in either wearing leather trousers or the purchase of a red sports car, (c) he won't empty the bin or (d), all of the above. However, much as I hate to say it, on the whole it was the men who didn't make much effort and the women who kept trying to keep things going, often in the face of sometimes insurmountable obstacles.
As my son came round from yet another general anaesthetic and I switched the TV off, I thought of Gloria Allred. I will remind you of her infinite wisdom. "The more I know about men, the more I like dogs."
Single people text a lot. Married people don't. According to recent figures from the National Office of Statistics the number of marriages in 2006 was the lowest number since 1895 when the population was half what it is now. Perhaps they've realised all those free minutes deals means they can afford the phone bills.
The bad thing about singleton texting is that a great deal of it is done late at night and usually when drunk. This is because married people (a) know who they're going home with and (b) don't start the night wondering if there's the possibility of sex later - because there isn't. Texting between married people is used only for pathetically straightforward purposes, such as: "Am in Tesco. Left list in ironing basket. What am I getting?"
Not, of course, that the single woman receives anything more interesting. On any given Saturday night, at around 10.30pm girls around the country will be receiving a text saying from a bloke they once slept with saying: "U out tonight?" By the way, I'd just like to point out that I cannot STAND text speak. There's hardly a mobile phone in the country that doesn't have predictive text, so use it. Please. Anway, back to the text. This is no innocent inquiry, this a blatant attempt to establish that their back-up shag is at least in the vicinity should the sender fail to pull later. It is what's known as the 'fishing text'.
I know I extol the virtues of being single but I will admit, at times it can be hard. Nobody to empty the bin for starters. And there isn't, apparently, any totty left for those of us sad saps the wrong side of, ahem, 40. This directly contradicts my own personal experience, which is, yes there is and I should know because I've had a lot of them, but nonetheless, there is definitely a shortage of suitable date material. Men over 40 can pull from a pool of women aged 25 and upwards. So the competition for anyone eligible is fierce.
In fact it is a rare and beautiful week when a Smug Married (yes I know Helen Fielding (hyperlink www.chicklit.co.uk/authors_helenfielding.asp) aka Bridget Jones coined the term) doesn't pull a regretful face and ask me pityingly: "Oh dear Gill; still not found anyone?" "I'm not even looking, ha ha!" I generally trill back with false bonhomie, "I'm perfectly happy as I am!"
And I am, really. I won't deny that the falling in love bit is wonderful. The tummy flips. The hours spent texting dreamily. The thrill of just being in each other's company. It's the falling out of love bit I can't stand. When it's not just their snoring but their breathing that annoys you. The misery of being left to survive on nothing but an overwhelming feeling of rejection. I don't want to get hurt again, but what do I do? Sit back and wait until the menopause, at which point I can breathe a sigh of relief and grow a beard?
Man alive, Smug Marrieds are boring. I left their world eight years ago and rarely do I dip into it these days. I was never particularly enthralled by the sound of a Boden catalogue plopping through the letterbox, or an Easter break involving four families, two holiday cottages and a mentally scarring journey to Pembrokeshire culminating in sitting on a damp beach pretending I don't mind my hair turning into a carpet-like fuzz in the inevitable drizzle. And I don't want friends known only as "The Hendersons" either.
No, not me, mate. My social life is far much fun. I like kicking around with a bunch of gays who at the drop of a feather boa don wig, wedding dress (don't ask) and war paint in order to belt out the Abba back catalogue in my kitchen. Although I don't think the neighbours share my enthusiasm. Do you like people who refer to wine as "the old vino"? Me neither.
In my opinion, those of my peers who remain married plighted their troth ridiculously young and barely have a few finger marks, let alone notches, on their bedposts. I'm not suggesting you have to sleep around to have a fulfilled life but I do, honestly, believe you shouldn't get married until you've had your sexual fun, because you'll have precious little once you've got that ring on your finger.