What is there to lose? Why I said yes to a blind date at 75

<span>Deborah Moggach. Hair and makeup: Alice Theobald @ArlingtonArtists using By Terry & Drybar.</span><span>Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer</span>
Deborah Moggach. Hair and makeup: Alice Theobald @ArlingtonArtists using By Terry & Drybar.Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

I realised the years were passing when an internet date cancelled because one of his teeth had fallen out. If it had been me, I would have kept quiet about it. When you’re older and looking for love, rule No 1 is to give the appearance of being hale and hearty. Nobody wants a wreck – keep that for marriage, when you’ve grown older together and have endured those vicissitudes as a couple. But if you’re single, who wants to meet somebody who mirrors back their own mortality?

Nobody looks old when you’ve lived with them for years and years – they’re still the young person you first met. But meeting somebody fresh can be quite a shock. They look so ancient. But (ha!) look in the mirror. They’re thinking exactly the same about you.

So cover it up. If you’re lame, don’t limp. If you’ve had a blood test, wear sleeves, because those bruises are a giveaway that you’ve had health problems. Anyway, ailments are boring. And who wants to be boring when you’ve only just met?

The thing about online dating is that there’s no hinterland. You meet as strangers, which is exciting when you’re young, but a bit disorientating when you’re over 65. Because you know so little about the other person, every thing they say assumes importance – every sentence is a clue to the unknown human being sitting opposite you with their glass of wine.

And there’s so much baggage. All those things to be discovered about a person, welcome and unwelcome, that have been discovered by so very many people before. And the same applies to you. The very thought of it is exhausting.

In fact, most of my female friends have given up. A whole lot of women my age (75) live independent lives and are quite happy not to step into the treacherous swamp of the dating jungle. Besides, the odds are stacked against our sex. By this time, to be honest, possibilities are thin on the ground. The men in question have either copped off with a younger model or become too stuck in their ways. Even the notorious adulterers have hung up their spurs and returned to their longsuffering wives, who’ll see them out. Besides, if they left home they’d miss the grandchildren – the last true love of their lives, who give them joy when the world’s so shit. And they’d miss the dog.

I do feel envious of other grizzled couples walking along hand-in-hand as they pick up their statins together

Of course, it doesn’t apply the other way round. However decrepit a man is, however bald and boring and drunk and incapacitated, he’ll always find a willing woman to take him on. It’s just a fact of life. Nursing is deep in our DNA.

And she’ll probably be younger. That’s the brutal truth. Needless to say, there’s a price to be paid – as one of my characters says: “It must be bloody lonely, to go to bed with somebody who hasn’t heard of Cliff Michelmore.” But that doesn’t put them off.

In fact, blokes are so thin on the ground that in my latest novel, The Black Dress, a woman of 70 who has been dumped by her husband, and is howlingly lonely, cooks up a plan. She has realised that all the good men are snapped up fast. The minute a chap’s wife dies, her girlfriends come crawling out of the woodwork with their casseroles and condolences, and snap him up before his spouse is cold in the grave. So my heroine buys a little black dress and gatecrashes strangers’ funerals so she can get first dibs on the grieving widower. Of course, it’s a novel, so it all goes horribly wrong, but there’s a grain of truth there.

Because it’s tough being on your own. It’s not as if we’re asking for much; after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue, a lot of us just want simple companionship. As one friend put it: “I don’t want to do something with someone, I want to do nothing with someone.” Other friends want somebody to travel with, or to go to the theatre with, but are otherwise quite happy to be on their own: “I’m too selfish to have anybody else around; I just want someone for special occasions and a bit of sex.”

I’ve been on my own for three years now and a lot of it is great. I like leaving parties when I feel like it. I like telling my anecdotes without someone beside me secretly sighing, “Oh, God, not that one again.” I like doing what I want, when I want. I can go to bed at eight if I fancy, or eat cold tortellini from the saucepan for breakfast.

But I do feel envious of other grizzled couples walking along hand-in-hand as they pick up their statins together, or helping each other load up their supermarket trolley for when the grandkids come to stay. I’m tired of being put into the back seat of the car while the couple sit in front (I did the same thing myself when I was married). I miss groaning together when Trump comes on the TV. I miss somebody unscrewing bottle-tops for me and fixing my computer and seeing off rogue plumbers.

And quite honestly, though I’m older, I don’t feel any the wiser. I’m totally up for another crack at it. What is there to lose? And this time round we’re all a lot more forgiving – one of the few advantages of age. We can see the long view. If there’s no spark – one of the most common complaints about internet dating, because it’s all so premeditated – we can give each other the benefit of the doubt and maybe another chance.

Which is how I ended up going on a Guardian Blind date. At least we’ll have a nice lunch, and something to amuse our friends and children, who might have bullied us into it in the first place. So why not give it a whirl? For, as Irma Thomas sings: “Anyone who knows what love is would understand.”

• The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach is published by Tinder at £9.99. To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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