It's New Year's Eve but it sure doesn't feel like it. I am drinking champagne but that's just because it's what you're supposed to do, isn't it? You're also not supposed to be alone on New Year's Eve either.
As I sip champagne in front of my companion, the television, I am thinking, this is the worst New Year's Eve I can remember. I stay up for the final countdown but as I have no one to kiss I spend half an hour sending messages to all my friends and family, who are no doubt enjoying themselves with their respective partners.
In the morning I reluctantly decide that it's time to go back on the dating site I had left three years ago. It's a horrible scenario - dating. But how else are you going to meet someone at my age? I've had three relationships since my long-term marriage broke up. Each one was good for a short term and then it took me a long time to extricate myself. Years have gone by and I am still alone. I refuse to be with the wrong person. I'd rather be alone, but of course that option is not ideal either.
As I stare at the computer screen I remember how hard it is to come up with a truthful profile that would attract the kind of man I am looking for.
My first attempt is abysmal:
"I want someone who is not depressed, under psychiatric care and who sees some sort of positive future for themselves. I am a half-glass full sort of person and I can't deal with depressives who drain me.
Secondly, I want someone who is educated enough to participate in stimulating conversation. I don't care if you have several degrees or are self-taught but intelligence is mandatory.
Thirdly, I'd like to meet someone who is not so tight that he grieves the loss of $4 to buy me a coffee.
Being interested in travel at least once or twice a year would be a bonus.
And finally, someone who cares about personal hygiene and keeping reasonably fit would be an attractive quality. Oh, and a sense of humour is a must too - it's a sign of intelligence."
I sit back and view my efforts. It's all true. But I know I can't say these things. I sigh. It’s a bit like teachers have the urge to say what is not allowed to be said in report cards, but should. “Little Johnny is a pain in the arse and an abysmal example of your failure at parenting.”
I let it sit there percolating as a draft and a few days later I show it to Felicity, one of my closest girlfriends, who immediately screws up her nose and shakes her head quite vigorously.
"Darling, this makes you sound like a self-centred, first-class bitch. And even if they could fit the bill, what's in it for them? You don't say a thing about you. To be frank it sounds like a job application."
Felicity throws her head back in a fit of laughter that she is prone to do. It is one of her most attractive features. I love her for it.
"Ok. You have a point, Lisy. Mind you, it may be blunt but it's all true. I've had some disastrous relationships with men since I've been in this game." I reflect on these for a moment.
There was a social worker, who was under psychiatric care for clinical depression. It wasn't helping him. Then there was the Alpha male who led an exciting life in espionage, but his true love was his men and adrenalin. At least when I saw him he treated me like a queen and he was the most positive man I'd ever known. Exciting too. Fun to be with. But largely in absentia. Finally, the handsome man in a wheelchair who had enormous anger issues. And who's to blame him? But he needed lots of therapy. And I wasn’t willing to provide it.
It's been a couple of years now since the last one finished, and as I became a little more damaged after each one, I couldn't face the dating scene again for some time.
Felicity extricates me out of my pity party...another one of her redeeming qualities.
"I am not a quitter, Lisy, and I refuse to believe that such a person I am looking for doesn't exist.” I look at her with the threat of tears forming.
"Sure, honey. But focus on your own assets, the things that men might find attractive about you, and then you can sort and sift," Felicity tells me as she strokes my arm.
"Ok. You are right. I'll give it another go. But will you help me?" I look at her with pleading eyes.
"Alright, first let's list your assets, shall we?" Felicity takes a pen out of her bag and an empty notepad that was on the dining table. She writes a long list. I’m astounded.
- great sense of humour - you love to laugh
- intelligent - you enjoy intelligent conversation with your friends
- extremely positive in most situations
- look after your health - you make regular trips to the gym
- hard-working and you love your job
- you love experiencing different cultures and trying different cuisines
- you have the patience of a saint
- your friends love you because you are loyal, caring and generous
- you lead an exciting life, filling it with experiences rather than material possessions
- you are a life-long learner
"How does that sound for a start?" Felicity smiles at me with a smug look on her face.
"Like I am a conceited bitch..." I smile back at her and we both giggle heartily. "What about my looks? Men are shallow, you know, and are interested in the physical appearance initially. I am no beauty, Lisy. And I note you didn't mention my physical appearance in this list of assets. So, you obviously don’t think it’s an asset I have either."
"Oh, sweetie, you have never had any trouble attracting men, because you are sexy, even if you aren't a classic beauty."
"Yes, the wrong men!" I pout.
"Well, that's not exactly true. You have met some lovely men, Cindy. Just because they had a little baggage doesn't mean they were all wrong, now. Does it?" Lisy smiles at me in that way that she can make you seem so small.
"I'm sorry, Felicity, but you are so wrong. It was their neediness that was the issue with two of them. They each drained me. The communication was one-way; me supporting them with all of their troubles and issues and feeling drained the whole time. In some cases, my personality was even changing from a positive person to a negative one. My kids pointed this out to me and they were right." I start to tear up for real this time. "I can't do that again."
Felicity hugs me and tells me that it will all be ok. She has a way of making you believe it.
"You'll find someone wonderful. You just need to put some effort into creating this profile and then be discerning with those men who contact you." She leaves me contemplating the profile further.
Two weeks later. I manage to put up my new profile. It's not offensive anymore and I do say, somewhat reluctantly, some of what Felicity had suggested.
It must have been ok because I have many coffee dates as a result. Some of them even nice men, but not really compatible. I am slowly regaining my confidence. Another friend tells me it takes a hundred coffees to meet the right bloke. So, I persist for a few months.
Then one day, six months after, I started to receive text messages from a guy who has a quick wit and I am instantly smitten.
"So, everyone seems to love walking along a certain beach. Where is this beach that they all speak of? Want to discover it with me?"
I am instantly engaged. I find the art of flirting through text messaging so exciting! Not many men can do it. We exchange lots of flirty texts before we even meet in the flesh. I am worried that once we meet it will all be over. But to my surprise, we have a lovely time over a protracted lunch where the conversation just flows.
He is tall, physically fit and has clever eyes that twinkle as he talks. I decide after a few dates that he is indeed my type. I know it. I can't help thinking that this is too good to be true. I am waiting to learn something horrible about him.
We start to see each other regularly. Could this guy be different from the rest? I must not let my guard down or get my hopes up. I must not have high expectations. But it's going well even after six months.
Craig is a consultant who works for himself, I gather very successfully. He is so grounded I am astounded at how different he is from other men I've been with. His sense of humour means we spend a lot of time laughing and enjoying the lighter side of life and all it has to offer.
New Year's Eve comes around again so quickly, and remembering last year's abysmal solitary event, I accept his offer to have a romantic dinner at his place and then champagne (of course) to see the New Year in. Things are looking up for me, and I am looking forward to it.
Dinner is superb. Craig is an excellent cook and the wine has an effect very early as I smile through the dinner conversation of his escapades in Europe as a young backpacker. Then there is a pause in the conversation as Craig tells me:
"Cindy, I have to tell you something about me, a subject that is hard to approach but I have put it off for too long."
I swallow the lump that has formed in my throat. Here it comes. I knew it was too good to be true. He'll say he's' married, or gay, or with a criminal record. I wait with anticipation of the worst kind.
I know that words can be the weapons of mass seduction but at the same time, they can be weapons of mass destruction just as easily.
He hesitates and takes a big gulp of wine. Then he suggests we charge our glasses first, as the countdown for New Year's Eve is about to commence. He fills our glasses and then slowly begins to speak.
"Cindy, you know that we've had a wonderful six months together and I've grown very fond of you. I hope you have felt the same towards me."
I nod silently, trying to hide the fear that is growing inside me like an avalanche builds before it cascades down a cliff face. I look into his eyes which reveals a sincerity you cannot ignore. How bad could it be? Is he a criminal? Does he have a dark past? I can't imagine what it could be...
He looks into my eyes and he says:
"I am sorry I have not been totally honest with you, Cindy," he pauses. "I am not a consultant.”
I am stunned, stone still.
“It's just too hard to explain what I really do for a living and it seemed to be an easy solution in the meantime. What I do for a living is misunderstood by most and I didn't want to scare you off."
"You see, Cindy I am a private detective and someone hired me to investigate you. I am not at liberty to say who, but I hasten to add that in the process I have fallen for you and cannot continue with this contract. I hope you can forgive me?"
The countdown begins..."10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...." I look at Craig and he looks at me...neither of us moves.