Happy Valentine’s Day!
Valentine’s Day has always been a day when I've secretly hoped to be acknowledged by a mysterious admirer or (if I have one) my significant other. As a young child, I would furtively check the letterbox hoping a red envelope would land on the doormat addressed to me. The wait ended when I was 18 years old!
I have been single now for about six (maybe eight?) years - I can’t remember how many years exactly but it’s not my fault - seriously, it’s not. I blame my singleness, not entirely but largely, on the men I have in my life.
But before I go into that …
If I was dating someone what would this evening look like? Well, if my "play dates" are anything to go by, there would be no complaints from me.
I know "play dates" are typically what parents of young children arrange with other parents of young children but when I was growing up the very idea of my mum and dad arranging an “appointment” with the parents of any of my friends makes me laugh out loud! Yeah but no. Call it arrested development but now that I’m 50 something and single any, or should I say, every get together with a male friend becomes a "play date".
Eric invited me out for dinner as we hadn’t seen each other in a long while. I have known Eric since I was 13 years old so I have seen the boy evolve into the man and he's like my brother.
Here’s my "play date" itinerary arranged by Eric. A taxi sent to pick me up from home: tick. Chilled champagne at his place before dinner: tick. Great restaurant booked and paid for: tick. A great evening of stimulating conversation and belly laughs: tick. Taxi home: tick. All of this for me AND (because I know what you are all thinking - “is Paulette really that clueless?”) our mutual male friend - it was definitely a play date! I have heard women say "there are no good men out there" - I have to say, that's just not my experience. I know what a good man and/or date looks like as there’s no shortage of exceptional men in my life to spend time with. Which is why I blame my singleness largely on the men in my life and the reason why I am able to set a very high standard for the men I date and the man I will marry.
Allow me to tell you a little about my dad. In October 1960, about three months after my dad started courting my mother, he left Jamaica to join his brother in England who had paid for his trip. My father and the Windrush generation came to England in the hope that they would create a better life for themselves, their family left in Jamaica and the family they hope to have. After about a year my dad had earned enough money (in a job he held down for about 25 years, I hasten to add) to pay his brother back. However, when he tried to give back the money my uncle asked: “Don’t you have a girlfriend in Jamaica?” That he did. My uncle insisted that he use the money he intended to pay him back with to send for his love, my mum. My dad wasn’t a stranger to my mum as his brother was married to my mum’s aunt and in rural Jamaica the community was small. However, three months is still three months and 4,500 miles is a long way! Next month my mum and dad will celebrate 56 years of marriage.
My dad has shaped my expectations for men by showing me what it looks like for a man to be ambitious; be generous; step outside of his comfort zone; be humble and receive help (that’s huge!); work hard for what he wants; pay back what he owes and; be a gentleman.
But the truth is that whilst I’ve had my dad and male friends like Eric (and I can list another 30 men without taking a breath) in my life for a long time, I attracted men who didn’t come close to manifesting any of their noteworthy characteristics. Why? I didn’t believe I could win the attention of a good man (including my ex-husband) and settled for much less than what I really wanted, needed or deserved. However, a couple of things changed my attitude towards men and dating. Time alone. I didn’t press “pause”, I pressed “stop” and “rewind”. I took time out to review, explore and identify why I was so damn needy. Then I spent time affirming and investing the energy I once spent seeking approval from men in myself.
Then there's my role in my daughter’s (aka Mini Me) life. I have a responsibility to be everything I would like her to be and, now that she is a mother, it is even more important for me to be discerning where men are concerned. I don’t, I won’t and I can’t accept for myself anyone I wouldn’t want for my daughter and an example to my grandson.
So, this year I didn't check the post before I left for work and at work, I won't be looking up expectantly every time there's a delivery of flowers (or even an Amazon package!) hoping it's for me. But if you’re reading this from your smartphone on your commute home on a packed train, whilst trying to protect your bouquet of red roses sent by an admirer as if you’re cradling a newborn baby, I hope you're feeling a little smug because God knows I would be!