A moment that changed me: I’m 58 and single since 1997. A Sex and the City meme transformed my life

<span>‘Heightened emotions were familiar to me from my childhood’ … journalist, writer and broadcaster Bibi Lynch.</span><span>Photograph: Gemma Day</span>
‘Heightened emotions were familiar to me from my childhood’ … journalist, writer and broadcaster Bibi Lynch.Photograph: Gemma Day

Sometimes a meme can change your life. OK, your love life, let’s not get Carrie’d away. It was about 3am; I was in bed with two empty Gü Zillionaire ramekins and my favourite hot-water bottle (yes, I have a favourite), and zombie-scrolling TikTok. A Sex and the City clip appeared. The one that says: “He’s just not that into you.”

I’d obviously seen it before, years ago when the show came out, but I hadn’t seen it since. So I didn’t swipe. I watched – for old times’ sake. And it blew my mind. You remember? Miranda is telling Carrie and Charlotte about her previous night’s almost-encounter: asking for their theories about a date who “didn’t come up” because he said he had an early meeting.

While Carrie and Charlotte suggest he’s still interested “but wants to take it slow”, Carrie’s then-boyfriend, tasty Berger is having none of it: “Not going to sugar-coat it for you: he’s just not that into you.” Carrie squeals. Charlotte gasps. I stopped licking the Gü pot. And just like that … it all made sense.

I knew this line, so why hadn’t I “got” it before? It would’ve made things so much easier, because my personal life has been a disaster. I’m 58 and have only had one boyfriend – for four years from the age of 27 – and that relationship ended the day after Diana, Princess of Wales died. My other dalliances have been one-night stands, three-month collapses and very many infatuations and situationships in between.

There’s been no love affair since 1997, no second date since 2017. My last “potential” romance spent our only rendezvous looking over my shoulder and smiling at the younger, prettier woman behind me – and I was obsessed with him. Well, with my version of him. When you don’t really know someone it’s so easy to project on to and invest in a person. The internet makes it so easy to find out just enough that you can decide who you think they are.

This one was a lovebomber; he would leave me voice notes and send me cute videos, then end up breadcrumbing and ghosting me. Oh, the time I spent, like Miranda, deciphering mixed messages and analysing why we weren’t happening. He was scared of getting hurt, I reasoned; he was overwhelmed by his feelings towards me; he was certain we were soulmates and wanted to make sure he was in the right emotional state for me because he couldn’t mess this one up.

Of course, none of the above was true. He just wasn’t that into me. None of them had been. There was the ex who told me: “I like seeing you but I never feel sad when you leave.” Which my brain interpreted as: “We’re slowly building strong foundations. How fabulous.” And the bloke who informed me: “You know this isn’t a relationship, don’t you?”

I wasted years analysing and making excuses for these men, when I should have spent time analysing myself: because I was the problem here – I was the one attracting men who didn’t want to commit because I didn’t want to commit. Not deep down. It was too dangerous (traumatising relationship role models will do that to you). Not only did I not want to commit, I actually felt safe in that high-octane starting stage of a relationship, because those heightened emotions were familiar to me from my childhood. He’s just not that into me? I’m just not that into me.

But not any more. Now I’m ready: ready to sort out my baggage with my therapist and ready to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to my dates. A man says we must meet but never makes an actual plan? He’s just not that into me. A bloke takes three days to reply to a message, and when he does he hearts it? He can jog on. One crush views all my Insta Stories but that’s the beginning and end of the attention? No more ringing my poor friend Em to ask her if he’s into me. He’s not. I know that now.

This freed-up brain space is a joy. As Miranda says to Carrie and Charlotte: “It is the most liberating thing I’ve ever heard.” Time is running out and if I want to find my person I have to learn how to commit; how to fall in love. I have to unlearn all my adult behaviour. The thought is actually as exciting as it is daunting. I might finally meet someone. Can you imagine? Perhaps I need another TV show meme to help me on my journey. Nothing from EastEnders, please.