Elly McDonald


For better or for worse (7 February 2014)

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Today I received an email from my online dating site that reads “Congratulations! Your profile generated so much attention that you’ve made it to RSVP’s Top 100!  Not only have you created quite a stir, but you’ve also been polite and responded to your admirers.”

Of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they. Everyone wants reassurance their Profile is doing its job.

I can confirm I am overwhelmed by approaches. And I feel crappy about it.

Some of them are very easy to dismiss: the 27 year old seeking a RED HOT SMOKIN’ COUGAR!!!. Or the ones RSVP fields me with the cover-line “They say opposites attract…”

There are the ones I feel sad for: the 72 year old retired business owner who might have merited a date 20, even 15 years ago. The bloke who works with animals but lives too far away and (heaven help me) can’t spell.

There are a few I am ambivalent about: the community planner who lives too far away and is a bit too old and does not look smokin’, but who writes well and discloses beautifully and shares some values. (After some reflection, I’ve replied suggesting we meet.)

There are some I initially thought sounded interesting but then I backpedalled fast: the law professor who chided me for proposing a way to proceed that didn’t accord with his preferred way of going about it, who came off sounding angry and unhappy. I sent him an email saying “I do appreciate you having made contact. I’m not feeling quite comfortable however so I’d prefer not to take this further.” He replied: “You ass! Thanks for causing me to waste a stamp on an idiot like you. Good luck, because you’re going to need it.”

There are two I’ve actually met. Both are intelligent, decent-seeming people, one is really interesting. I’ll see both again. But it was draining doing two dates back to back, and it did make me ask again: Tell me, why is it I’m doing this? (Cue pic of Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka costume posing the big questions.)

Seriously. Why, after a lifetime of Lone Wolf-dom, am I putting myself out there? Some uncomfortable thoughts occur. Am I doing it because I’ve bought into FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out? Have I actually bought the cultural myth that a person must be coupled to be complete? Am I some down-market version of Jane Fonda, who in her late 70s describes herself as still being on a quest to achieve intimacy within a couple relationship? As if intimacy within a couple relationship is the Holy Grail of life, the Pass/Fail standard, the ultimate aspiration. (Is it?)

Or am I still thrall to some Cinderella myth, some idea that someone else – some man – will magically solve my finances, my social life, determining who I am and what I am worth?

Or is it simply fear of growing old alone? My mother was hospitalized this week. Could it be I’m afraid of being the old lady in the news whose body is found moldering many years after her death, her remains physically missed but her presence in this world – her personality, her companionship – unmissed by all?

I may be temporarily jaded. But at the moment I am thinking it is such as effort, so exhausting, to spend time on dates. I caught myself worrying about how I appear to these strangers (my wrinkles! my skin! my weight!), and I caught myself mentally re-vamping my wardrobe to adjust my image to fit how I perceive these men. If I’m going to be with this person as a couple – Man A or Man B, whichever Man it is – I need to outfit myself to complement them. Don’t I? And I need to tailor my conversation to flatter their interests.

I caught myself apologizing to the gardening buff for riffing on how Islamic gardens are conceptualized as Paradise on earth, as an attempt to recreate the beauty and purity of Paradise here on the material plane. He squinted, and frowned, then allowed me to let him laugh it off as one of my yogic fancies. Silly silly me.


Tell me again how identity is illusion and we’re all indivisible stardust?

Here’s the problem, possibly. I am I. I may countenance the yogic fancy that I blend with the greater Cosmos – but I am constructed to resist blending with any single male entity. I guess I’m just intimacy resistant. For better or for worse.

Author: Elly McDonald

Australian-born, with English mother, has lived in several Australian cities and in London. Travelled widely. Way way back when, published widely as a poet and short story writer. For the first 20 years of my working life I worked as an entertainment journalist, publicist, PR consultant and in advertising and media agencies. In the second 20 years, I worked in marketing roles at non-profit organisations then retrained as a teacher, primarily teaching English to non-English speaking, newly-arrived refugees. Also did miserable McJobs, and a long, happy stint at an art gallery.

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