Does it feel bad to look at it in such a stark "these are the vital statistics" sort of a way? I don't know, but it certainly doesn't make for GOOD reading. Comparing the two periods, there's no question that this one trumps the first, though - the first was pretty awful for the most part, with absolutely no rain at all for over three years of it until right towards the end care of a drunken snog with a friend. I probably went on about three dates the entire time, all of which were awkward, truncated affairs, and I was shot down a LOT, sometimes in excrutiating circumstances by people I cared about, and I had all but given up hope of ..... anything, ever again, by the time something finally popped up.
This time has been different, and there has been a good deal less bone-crunching loneliness, wishing my life was different, "wanting to wake up as a couple of other guys", as the line in the Bernstein musical goes. That's not to say that it's been a picnic from start to finish - the relationship I was in left me pretty emotionally numb for probably at least two years, and there were some pretty dark days - dark days for any number of reasons above and beyond my relationship status, but dark days nonetheless. What has changed however is that there has been a bit more precipitation here and there, a few dalliances with a few different young ladies, even if they only lasted for an evening or a night, in whatever form they happened to take. There has definitely been enough there to tell me that I'm human, in a way that there wasn't the last time around.
And yet, here I am - still single.
If you allow it to, the world has a way of telling you that you're failing for any number of reasons, and it's pretty clear that if you're living a largely sexless life, that's going to be somewhere at the top of the list. We still don't understand this stuff very well, but the nature of attainment, and having a partner, like you might "have" a pair of jeans is one of life's big rubber stamps. Even if you're having a rotten time together, have nothing in common and fight like cats and dogs, being with someone is always seen as better than being alone, and somehow you're a better brand of human being if you can capture someone's attention for long enough to say that they're your partner. Being "taken" trumps being single any day of the week. Even those that are in unhappy relationships and secretly want out will attest to that - it's always a leap of faith to leave someone, because our biology tells us that we're better off with someone than alone. Being single for lengthy periods of time marks you out as suspect, unattractive by definition, unwanted, a pariah - you only need to look at film, television and advertising to see that.
How does that make me feel? Well, not that great, but the key word at the start of that paragraph is "allow". If you "allow" the world to tell you that you're failing at anything, you'll struggle with anything and everything - even if you're doing well, you can always do better, and you can carry that to the point of insanity. My relationship status is just one of any number of things that I could decide that I'm not making the grade on, if I chose to think of things in that way.
..... Which I don't. The last period of singledom (or at least the second half of it) has co-incided with some of the most interesting and successful periods of my career and life to date, and I have plenty to be happy and proud of. And yet! At a time in my life when various of my friends are bringing their second or even third child into the world, or are maybe even into their second marriage, I remain frustratingly alone. It also frustrates me no end that various of my single friends either don't stay that way very long, or enjoy being single in the way that the marketing tells them that they should by having various flings and casual encounters. Even the people that have just ended relationships, the heart-broken, the people that I have literally held the hands of and comforted as they sobbed their way through break-ups, don't seem to have any trouble. I mean Jesus, do I really have that little going for me that I can't attract SOMEONE'S attention?
It doesn't help to get frustrated, of course. And fortunately - perhaps unfortunately - I know my strengths. And they do not include me throwing myself around and asking out everything that moves. Every single time that I have attempted to be some sort of ladies' man, tried to be a little physically ..... available (not the right word, but maybe you can join the dots) at a party or a bar, taken that chance and asked out girl that I thought would probably say no anyway, the results have been the same. A variation on the theme of "no thank you" that ranges from an embarrassed smile right up to complete toe-curling scorn. So, generally speaking, I play a conservative game, and I do my best to "meet" women rather than "pick them up". Which tends to make me any number of friends - or at least people I'm friendly with - and a gives me a front-row ticket to see them go home with some other guy. It's a bit of a vicious cycle, really.
It seems that there's nothing much else to do but wait. Keep smiling, keep going to parties, keep making an effort online, keep being friendly with colleagues and friends of friends, and eventually I will end up in the right room at the right time with the right person who will take a shine to me. It's happened before - just ...... not very often! But it has happened before. And without question, even if I do break my record from above, I know that things are much better than they were back then, anyway.
I just wish it would hurry up, that's all!