The fact celibacy is now a ‘thing’ makes me want to snog everyone

When it comes to divorce, experts say there are five stages of grief to navigate (and believe me, I’ve met quite a few). As I reflect on the past year, each stage — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — seems inextricably linked to the types of men I’ve dated. When you’re headdeep in sadness, there seems to be no mental space for anything other than parenting, working, sleeping – and, well, dating highly inappropriate men…

Take September 2020. On a blustery evening, I met a man outside his office for a walk, chat and a cup of tea. I ordered mint tea while he drank a double espresso at 8pm, a sure sign of insanity. As a banker, he was a wannabe Jordan Belfort and basically a lunatic. After a cursory “hello,” he let loose as his ex-wife tried to save him from his devilish ex-girlfriend (can you imagine that?). The ex – a model, blonde, young, obviously – had left him heartbroken after he was spotted (damn it Instagram) on a superyacht with a richer wannabe Wolf of Wall Street.

We met on the dating app Hinge when I was in trauma peak. Looking back, it was my “find a financially solvent man and all that shit goes away” phase. Come in, my old friend, denial. Denying that my life was shredded into tiny pieces.

Then there was the “older man” date. As I left the restaurant, he asked, with Donald Trump’s subtlety, if I would like to return to his home. Where to, hop on your Stannah stairlift and ride up to Bedfordshire? Another date to submit under rejection (hello, daddy issues). Then there was Micro Man, smaller than my 10-year-old son, who held an executive position at a global technology company. I met him at Soho House, a private members’ club. I feel safer there on first dates. Even the bartenders know not to raise eyebrows, they just gulp down a decent red wine and time it for how long it lasts. Micro Man was charmless but very, very rich, as he told me at least five or six times.

At the end of the two hours, I offered to foot the bill like I always do on a date instead of sharing, which I find awkward and makes me feel like I “owe” them. “Yes,” he said, “thank you,” which I knew he would, and why not? It was 2020. I was running around Soho, 60 pounds down, angry, vowing to quit all dating apps forever.

I am writing this down to a “find a smart man who will be perfect stepdad material for blended families” phase. Actually, I was just angry. Angry at him, angry at everyone, angry at myself. Later, during the “everything will be alright!” negotiation phase, I dated a very clingy man who hadn’t addressed any of his many issues and put her to me like unwanted poop bags at your feet.

There was the New Yorker who, after three dates, declared he had fallen madly in love, only that he loved himself more. I was on a big slump during this “commercial” and was dying to believe anyone who said they loved me. Ridiculous. The younger Frenchman was lovely but a decade behind me in terms of life experience. Still, he touched a part of my soul that needed rekindling – my inner child. Though never destined to last, this joyful encounter was so positive that I received messages from some of his ex-girlfriends and began to wonder what had angered these women so much that they felt the need to reach out turn to a total stranger and have a moan about him. None of that matters because that dalliance helped me move towards acceptance. Coming out of the grieving phase (five, 15, who’s counting?) I can feel the warmth of better days ahead.

Basking in this glorious phase, I decided to call a friend to let her know about my newfound peace of mind. “I’ll be celibate for at least a year,” I told her. A revelation! The new me! “Oh yeah,” she said, “celibacy is in fashion right now – even the Woman’s Hour did something about it last week.” That’s annoying I thought, the fact that celibacy is now a “thing” and fashionable makes me want to kiss anyone in the same subway car as me. I am not determined to be celibate; Rather, sex can be a tremendous distraction — to think about, to plan for, to seek — and I’ve wondered what the mental health benefits of just not thinking about it for a while. What’s wrong with knowing someone for six months before you decide to have sex with them?

A Muslim friend takes her boyfriend to a dance or to a restaurant, then he drives her home to her parents. She is the zen woman I know. With God by her side, she tells me, she feels cared for and safe. It was their approach to life that made me think that people tend to rush into things too quickly. “We love it when you don’t see anyone,” said a friend. “You’re so much more fun than having a date running in the background.” Normally, this type of comment from a “married” would evoke anger and frustration. Because when “the married ones” start dishing out dating advice at dinner parties, I’ll have to bite my lip or apologize for going to the bathroom. But she was right – I had already come to the same conclusion.

My recent shift in mindset has brought inner peace and I am lighter and happier as a result. The break from grief shows on my face. Which might explain why three guys asked me out in real life this week. One on the street (Covent Garden Tube no less – how retro), one at a dinner party and one met through a friend. “Call me next week,” I told them. Right now I’m high on my own supply of joy. It feels like a great achievement to get through 12 months of turmoil and accept that life will never be the same again. One I want to celebrate alone.

Do you have first date anecdotes? Tell us in the comment section below The fact celibacy is now a ‘thing’ makes me want to snog everyone

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