It’s brutal on the dating scene... even for a Green
Elizabeth Green — sister of Topshop boss Sir Philip — reflects on the pain and pleasure of being single again after her recent divorce
DATING — THAT’S not a word I ever thought would a p p l y t o m e again. But after coming out of a long marriage — I got divorced in May — I find myself once again in that territory. And I don’t think it’s changed much. Or rather, the way it makes me feel hasn’t changed. For the past four years, I have been organising courses on relationships. Does that make me an expert at dating? Not at all. In fact, second time round I am still experiencing teenage-style pangs of love.
I had a first little fling on the way to getting unmarried. But I wasn’t really ready, and pushed him away. When he broke up with me, I couldn’t eat, sleep, do anything. I lost 7lb in two weeks — me a comfort eater. I turned the 7lb to 20 at WeightWatchers, becoming the woman I had always wanted to be
I don’t know if men go through this sort of suffering. I think they just feel bad, then justify themselves. “Well, you know,” they say to themselves, “she treated me very badly, and I got hurt, and so I couldn’t see her any more” — and at the same time, they are already eyeing up the next candidate.
But don’t we women do it to ourselves? No-one hurt me ever; I did it to myself. As proved by my next dating experience. Mike and I were introduced by a mutual friend. We met for dinner at Sketch, a posh London restaurant. I loved his American accent. He was sorting out his marriage State-side, and just wanted to meet people — he only got as far as me. He was young, sexy, with gorgeous eyes, and worked for Disney.
I had learned from the courses that listening is far more important than speaking, so I decided on our first date to listen, and he talked. The one glass of pink champagne, a lot for a non-drinker, was my undoing. Or maybe it was when I kissed him on the way to the loo? He said that what happened next was my fault because I kissed him. “No, you let yourself be kissed,” I retorted.
On our second date, Mike told me he didn’t want to hurt me as he had priorities in the USA to sort out, namely his soon-to-be-ex-wife and kids. But, of course, I fell. After years of neglect and constant criticism, if you shower a girl with attention, she is bound to fall.
So we saw each other for six months. He made me feel young and sexy again. I often wore the Disney Bambi knickers for him which I bought in Topshop (naturally). Now I like younger men.
I had kept my feelings to myself until one night, when I started to speak, and he jumped in and said: “Are you in love with me?” I lied and said: “No.”
The lie sat on me for two days until finally I rang him and we had a bittersweet meeting in Hyde Park. The sun was shining, swans swimming, children playing... it was very hard to concentrate, and not cry. I said: “Sorry, my doing, I fell in love — you said don’t.” I took responsibility and owned up. I’d heard people in the courses do that; I had no idea how hard it would be. As friends, I drove him home. “Let me come in for tea, you can trust me,” I said. “It’s not you I can’t trust,” he said. “It’s me.”
I was able to thank him for the wonderful time we had spent together. I could speak to him from my heart, instead of my head. He knew it and was able to do the same. This creates the best possible kind of relationship.
When he rang to tell me he was leaving soon, I cried. “Don’t cry,” he soothed, “I’ll get upset.” I thanked him again for opening my heart. “Me too,” he said as his voice faltered. Now we email once a week, and he gives me tips on dating on the internet — apparently that’s where I’m going to meet the man of my dreams.
So I put myself on a dating website. I have emailed plenty of men, and although many don’t reply, I always make sure I do, whether it be to “Attila the Hunk” or “A Very Beautiful Man”. My 19-year-old daughter and I have had hysterics in front of the computer at the sight of prospective suitors. One called himself “Chocolate” and, from the photo, looked as if he had a growth on his head. Another, going by the name of Yummyboy12, had long hair, wore a fetching jumper/shirt/tie combination and said he was an ex-social worker, and felt we had much in common.
But it’s compelling. My daughter has had to warn me: “Mother, step away from the JDate. Mother!”
And I have been on dates, sort of. At dinner with “Man from Outer Space”, he proudly told me he had all his own hair, and teeth. One course later, we were saying goodbye outside the restaurant. On my way to another date, I rang to say I was held up in traffic. “How will I recognise you?” I asked. “I’ll be wearing a brown leather coat and a yellow tie.” I wanted to turn round there and then.
And these are the high points. Much of the time, you men make arrangements, then drop out by text, and don’t even phone to make excuses afterwards. If you are reading this, you know who you are.
You see, I, along with every other woman, have read the cheesy magazines, sung the songs and watched the movies, and now am waiting, of course, to walk off into the sunset. But I think I know that I won’t die if I don’t find a man, because, after many, many years, I have realised how great I am, and I will not be waiting for a man to tell me.
But I would like to find someone — and yes, since I probably have the Green gene, I want that someone to be alive, articulate, resourceful, straight and true. Not asking much, am I?
In the relationship courses I put on, you learn to speak from the heart and listen with compassion. The biggest complaint people have is that they do not feel heard. I just listened to Mike, and look what we got.
We all spend our lives giving our judgments and evaluations, safe in the knowledge that we are always right. Do you know what it’s like when you get out of that place — your mind — and into your heart? You become authentic, honest, open and caring. I experienced all that with my American sweetheart, but he’s gone. I’m sad, but ready to have fun and find my heart again. For details of Trusting Love relationship courses, email elizabethgreen01@yahoo. co.uk
Elizabeth Green: “I want someone alive, articulate, resourceful, straight and true. Not asking much, am I?”