Half My Age Plus Seven

In which The Author puts his foot down

My friend Hannah W. and I share a birthday. In fact, on 18 March 2008 she burst into the Cambrian, accompanied by her mother and her friend Rhiannon, and announced to everyone – that is to say, me and Pam, and whoever was working behind the bar – that it was her twenty-first birthday. It was a fairly quiet Tuesday night (until Hannah arrived, anyway).
I laughed and said, ‘Oh God, Hannah, you’re exactly half my age!’
That was just over seven years ago.
I’ve known Hannah since she became the Sunday afternoon barbint in the Conway, when she was eighteen. We were friends from the word ‘go’. I was the only one of the male regulars who didn’t take the piss out of her, or bully her, or perv over her when she was working. Naturally I found her attractive – she’s tall, shapely, and very pretty, with long dark hair, intelligent and musical – but she was way too young for me. Anyway, she was way out of my league, even at that age. I’d had my fingers burnt a couple of times when I’d been involved with much younger girls. However, as Maurice Chevalier famously sang, little girls get bigger every day.
It was on another of our joint birthday piss-ups, in 2009, that Hannah introduced me to Jenny. That most ill-fated of relationships ended after four dates in twice as many months (I really don’t learn from my mistakes, do I?)
Rather defensively, Hannah insisted the abortive Jenny Thing wasn’t her fault. I didn’t blame her for letting me be led around by my cock (as usual). Even so, we kept our distance for a while.
I was on my way through town on our birthday a fortnight ago and bumped into Hannah. She wanted to go for a drink, but I was skint and full of cold. Instead, we had a couple of drinks last Friday instead. In the grand tradition of buses and job offers, Hannah had waited for ages for one and then four had come along together. She was trying to make up her mind which offer to accept. While she was potching online she’d seen that I was in the Library, and sent me a message on Facebook asking me if I fancied a pint.
We had one in Thereisnospoon and then went to the Lighthouse to catch the end of Happy Hour. We chatted for ages about everything, and then she came up with her craziest suggestion ever.
She wanted me to go to Cardiff with her, for a Speed Dating evening.
I don’t know a lot about this idea, to be honest. What little I do know has been gleaned from TV. Speed Dating features in a very funny episode of NCIS, where Ziva goes undercover to try and solve a kidnapping during a weekend-long singles event. Being new to the American way of life, Ziva is as clueless about the whole thing as you might imagine.
For my part, I have little doubt that I’d be as useless at Speed Dating as Ziva was.
When I told Hannah, point blank, that the idea was a non-starter, she laughed.
‘You’re scared everyone will say “no”,’ she teased me.
I said, ‘On the contrary, I’m scared someone will say “yes”.’
I went on to explain that I’ve been single for so long that I simply don’t know the rules of the dating game any more. I don’t even know whether it’s the same fucking game. Come to think of it, I was never any good at the old game. Fewer than half a dozen girlfriends in a little under fifty years isn’t anything to shout about. When you consider that only one of those relationships lasted more than three months or so, I haven’t got much of a track record.
I’ve become so used to doing whatever I want, whenever I feel like it, that I can’t imagine having to take account of someone else in every decision I make. A friend of mine who’s been single for ages recently(-ish) hooked up with someone. Since then I’ve spent several hours playing Agony Uncle to both of them, separately and together. (Yeah, I know – me! Aberdare’s Acknowledged Expert on Relationship Problems! I’d cry, if only it wasn’t so fucking hilarious!)
I’ve also become so bitter and cynical about the whole ‘relationship’ thing that I could never be part of a couple again. Even when I do meet someone who’s initially friendly and pleasant and attractive, she almost invariably turns out to be either: a) attached already; b) a lesbian; c) dependent on alcohol and/or drugs; d) a raging psychopath or an escaped mental patient; or e) a combination of the above.
Failing that, once in a blue moon I meet a girl who doesn’t seem to fall into any of those categories. She’s usually from Out of Town. She always appears on the scene from nowhere, just when I’m totally skint and can’t even ask her to go for a coffee. Then she vanishes without trace – every time.
That happened about a month ago, when I met a very friendly and attractive German student in Aberdare Library. Because the Monday afternoon Adult Education class had taken over the entire Reference section, we ended up sharing a table near the door. After a while we started chatting about this and that, and I gathered that she was studying fairly locally. She came in for three days in a row, and we shared the same table. I would have invited her to join me for a drink, so that we could have chatted a bit more freely but I didn’t have two ha’pennies to rub together.
On the Thursday I was in London, trying to find my way through Soho (see Missed the Coach). She knew I was going to London, because she told me she liked the city herself. On the Friday, with some cash in my pocket, I’d psyched myself up to ask her to join me for a drink when the Library closed. Needless to say, she didn’t come in that day. In fact, I haven’t seen her at all since. Maybe I just dreamt her. She was almost too good to be true, after all.
According to Matt H. (and Goddess knows where he got this nugget of wisdom from), a man’s perfect woman should be ‘half his age plus seven years’.
In theory, that means my ideal woman is about 31. That’s the biggest age difference yet! Even Hannah herself won’t mesh into that equation for another seven years – by which time we’d be Aberdare’s equivalent of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.
In practice, it means that I don’t give a fuck what my perfect woman should be like. Not any more. Regardless of how light-hearted Hannah’s suggestion might have been, I’m not even interested in playing the game any more. Speed Dating, Internet Dating, Lonely Hearts Ads – they can all go to Hell as far as I’m concerned. Say it loud – I’m single and I’m proud!

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