Relationships: The View At Midlife

As my life starts to get into some semblance of orderliness and my son slowly outgrows his attachment to mommy, my mind starts to wander and think about relationships and whether I am ready for a new one in my life.

Since my divorce I have put myself completely out of that market-place, and Cape Town is notorious for being the wrong place to put yourself on the singles market if you were a straight woman. A straight man meanwhile will have lots on offer for his person, my ex can testify to this as he had started “seeing someone” before I even left. I remember asking him very offhand about another woman a week or so before I was pushed into leaving, and he went ballistic.  His rage was so animated and full of pointed fingers, it shocked me into noncommittal silence, and told me more than I really wanted to know.

My ex is perhaps the strongest factor putting me off a relationship, because in all honesty there nothing that I miss about that marriage. For me it was a short step away from a wasteland in every way, and every year that passes gives me more reasons to celebrate rather than regret my divorced status. Celibacy is fine once you get used to it, and Arab women are well-designed to cope with and accept frustration on that front, so I have no reason to complain like many of my female friends do when they spend a long period of drought in relationships and sex.

An Arabic saying goes: Solitude is better than the unworthy companion, and I spend my evenings living this wisdom. My days are filled with my son and life is good, so far. Still sometimes I wonder, should I ever venture into this territory of relationships, what is there for me to find? What do I have to offer? After all, I have half of my life behind me.

Sometimes I feel sad when I contemplate all the things I have missed. I have had a childhood love, a first love, and a committed love and they have all failed for me, and in this failure I have become more cautious, afraid and cynical. I believe that I will never have the same capacity for giving in a relationship as I had in the past, and I fear that I will never really know the next man in my life. After all, it took me nine years and a divorce to truly know my ex.

A friend of mine has been with the man who is now her husband almost forever. She knows this man’s feelings and quirks like she knows herself, it must be such a great comfort to sleep next to a man who you can trust, whose history you know, who was your best friend’s brother or just the guy next door whose mother is your mom’s friend. You might have gone to school with the first girl he dated, or you might have giggled and gossiped about him with your girlfriends long before he wriggled his way into your heart and your life. The circumstances of my life did not allow for such a relationship. I grew up away from my birth country and the summers were fertile times for fantasy and short infatuations but these do not survive over long distances and do not outlive the volatility of teenage feelings. Another impediment in my character is that I am not easily impressed by the guys I meet, and even in my younger years I gravitated towards older men rather than boys of my age.  In forty years of life, my heart fluttered for no more than half a dozen men. Some of my loves were platonic and childish, others were merely one-sided crushes whose only product was love-lorn sighs and a heightened sensitivity to love songs. Ironically, my lack of experience in relationship dynamics were often brought up by my ex as one of my key failures.

I don’t know how anyone can condemn such a thing as the lack of history, especially when it is such a transient state in anybody’s life. I have missed out on meeting the man whose history I would become, I was just a station in the life of my husband, he came to me from a history of another marriage and went on -I presume- to his future as a brooding single man, whose mysterious sadness and misfortune in marriage would intrigue and touch the hearts of many unsuspecting women as it did mine.

Please do not get me wrong, dear blog. I am not actively seeking to complicate my life with a relationship. At the moment I am content to put my head to the grindstone. I work to pay the bills and forge a decent future for my son. The joy I have in life almost exclusively revolves around him. Occasionally, however, I do catch the passing interest of a person, from the straight male variety, but they mostly spell TROUBLE in red capital letters for me. There is the balding middle-aged guy who greets me every morning as I make my daily trip to Robert’s school. He must be well off I tell myself because he has his breakfast every day at that fancy coffee shop cum deli in Green Point. Perhaps he does have a wife, or a couple of ex wives who are glad to be rid of him, who knows. There is the journalist and media specialist I met on one of my assignments, I went out with him for coffee once, and he makes no secret that he has a family somewhere out-of-town. I exchange friendly chats with him every once in a while but I do not see this going anywhere past amicable friendship. There is also the businessman I met on my flight to Geneva, he is getting a boat built here in Cape Town, and he will sail it one day towards Europe. He is smart and wealthy but he reminds me too much of my ex, someone who can tell a thousand and one stories about the world but is uncomfortable divulging information about his private life. This man also has an ex-wife, with grown children, and a two-year-old daughter by another woman. He did not say whether she was also an ex or a current partner; I am more than familiar with this type of omission.

These poor possibilities of relationship may seem sad to anyone else but I am a realist. Also since I was raised in the Arab misogynist society I am less likely to question the fairness of partnership equations when it comes to long-term relationships between men and women. In my culture as long as a man can financially provide and can function in the bedroom then he can marry any woman he sets his mind on; age and compatibility in minor things such as education are not a consideration.  Rich men in oil kingdoms are well-known for fathering dozens of kids by teenage wives well into their sixties and seventies. This was before the age of Viagra and co, and I am sure modern Arab men can continue to break records in the next few generations. My birth country is not one of those rich oil fiefdoms and people generally have a hard time providing for one family, and this is perhaps the only reason Syrian men stick to one wife, although many of them can and will be unfaithful at some stage.

I left my birth country at 28 to go and work in the United Arab Emirates. While I was at home I still got offers of marriage from reasonably aged and decently educated men. Things changed when I went to the playground of the wealthy and would-be wealthy. An octogenarian with whom I had a professional conversation while I was working as a secretary started hinting at marriage, and a colleague of my father’s whom I know to have a wife and family in rural Egypt also tried to make me consider relocating with him to the land of the Nile. Thinking back at how depressed these encounters made me, I feel lucky that I said yes to my ex husband. At least he was younger, better-looking and more educated and intelligent than my other suitors. So if this was my lot at 28/29 years, what can I expect as a single mother of 40? Not much.

I cannot rewrite my history or unlearn what I have learned over the past decade, so the next man in my life will have a woman who cannot love as freely as she did before, which is really a shame, and my previous experience makes me shy away from any man with a past, and the only solution I find is to look for a younger partner. I don’t know why this is such a bad idea, especially in my society. History tells us that Mohammad’s first wife was a woman with history and many previous husbands. She was rich and perhaps offered stability and comfort to the younger man. Early Arabs did not have qualms about a woman marrying a younger man, it is only modernity that made such a partnership unacceptable.

Of course this is only fantasy at this stage. I cannot think of one good reason to venture again into the uncertainty of partner search. We all know that the good ones are already raising their children with their blissfully happy wives. The good-looking widower who is a single father to a child? This is a figment of the imagination or something that we saw on Sleepless in Seattle and even then he would go for the single woman who never married.

Not even escape literature has a willing partner for the 40-something single mom. All heroines of romance novels seems to be blushing virgins (not the case for the males of course). That said, perhaps there is a niche market for me, writing trashy escape novels for desperate middle-aged females.. My first novel will feature a 40-something single mom and the 30-something single hunk who falls for her; dreams are free.

It’s My Party

Robert went to bed early as rehearsed, and I had enough time to get this party on track.

First I had to get dressed for the guests, then I set the table. The guests arrived immediately.

Here is what we had :

The Table
The Table

The Guests
The Guests

It was all  very informal, obviously. I mean you can still spot the beach ball under the table and all that but I know my guests did not mind.  Before I popped the bottle of sparkling wine I phoned my next door neighbour. Her boyfriend was out working at the restaurant and I thought she would appreciate the company but she was not feeling well, so it was up to me and my guests to drink up that sparkling wine.

We had quite a ball, surfing the internet as we downed our drinks.  Sometime in the middle of the this festive mood, my mostly silent land-line phone rang, and a hesitant woman’s voice asked whether this was Sea Point Police Station. I hope her business with them was not too serious because she got a rather giggly response from me. Two glasses or so short of a bottle, and two hours or so short of a New Year. We all felt sleepy and thought we’d catch a quick nap before the fireworks start. I do not think any of my guests noticed the fireworks, but my cat must have because when I woke up twenty minutes past midnight he was snuggled up on the bed with us.  My guests and I finished the rest of the sparkling wine, and before we turned in for the night I spotted a text message from my ex sent just after midnight, it said : 2008 was not great but 2009 will be just fine. Happy New Year.

November Is Here

A new months already, and I can’t believe that I have been in Cape Town already two months and a half. Time really flies.
Good news: I have got an ADSL line at my flat now; it seems that Telkom does get around to installing them after all. It took them long enough.

This morning started with me, on the payphone, holding for a long time for the ADSL helpline, mercifully on a Tollfree number. I registered a complaint and went through the motions, thinking of the exercise as another dead end. As it happened, I got a call in the afternoon. The technician said he will be there between four and five. At five two guys arrived, at five thirty it was all done!
I was impressed with the technicians but not that much with Telkom.
Another peg in MY grounds. All I need now is an ADSL modem, then I will be at large on the net.

The ex hasn’t emailed today. He is probably stuck up to his neck in trouble, with month end and all that. Petrol price is coming down this month as well, and this adds a little bit more spice to his pot.

I tried to get some errands done in Town today. It turned out that I need a roadworthy test for the car before it is registered in my name, and since my friend Derek is using the car from 7:30 until late at night, it will be difficult to arrange the roadworthy for this week.
Maybe next week, when Husband is here?

I walked from Town to the traffic department in Green Point. On the way I passed by a furniture shop and browsed for couches and other stuff. I need almost everything for my flat still. A guy at the reception came up to me and claimed that my face looks familiar, and didn’t I go to the Belville Branch. I said to him, no, I never went to Belville at all.
He insisted – of course it is the least imaginative pickup line in the world, but he killed it with trying. He wanted my cell phone number, but I asked for his (my famous counter-strategy ) – When I took my phone out to store his number, his brain-dead comment was: “oh, that’s like my mother’s phone” – great man, I already thought I was old enough to be your mom.
In any case, just in case a cape Town chick is reading this
His name is Wesley and his number is : 072 4625978. He lives in Belville. He is not bad looking but unfortunately I am looking for somebody a little older, who can make better use of his grey cells.

I spent the evening with Jackie and her cat. We watched reality TV, and gossiping during ad breaks. She cooked a lovely meal for us. Details in the food chart.

Food Chart:

Breakfast :
Nectarine, orange, Oaties and Milk, a toasted sandwich ( two pieces of whole-wheat bread, cheese, tomato and onion ) – Cup of coffee, which I did not finish because I was in a hurry to go out and complain about Telkom.

Lunch :
New York Deli day-old ( R 7.00 = 1 Eur ) : Bagel-Sandwich: Smoked salmon and cream cheese, with salad and pickles. Two glasses of sangria ( passion fruit ) .

Snacking :
Decaf coffee in a 500ml plunge, with two chococchino coconut biscuits, and three marshmallows. I also had an apple and a pear during the day.

Supper:
Which I enjoyed at my friend’s Jackie’s: Spaghetti Bolognaise (divine) followed by tea with milk and sugar.

Work Chart:
Received correspondence from Cape Town agency – they will only pay today.
Follow up on car registration – horribly overdue.

Play Chart:
Visiting Jackie and watching survivor Palau ? – Intriguing
A couple of games of Kaiodai.

Music feed:
Radio 2000
Song choice: Look Away – by Big Country ( A one hit wonder – you will not remember that unless you were a teenager in the eighties ) This is the second reference to my age in this blog oops.
Or: Two out of three aint bad by Meatloaf.

Useful item of the day:
An ADSL modem – because I don’t have one yet.
My flat comfortable shoes I bought years ago in Sharjah, because I walked a long way today, and did not pay in blisters.

Selected chores:
A load of bathtub washing, which is now waiting for a wink from Cape Town’s stingy sunshine. The wind will probably dry the washing first.

Useless information of the day:
In Cape Town you pay for your car registration more than double what you pay in other provinces. It cost here R 279.00 versus only R 129.00 in the Eastern Cape.