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Divorced or widowed, when women above 40 decide to date, they are criticised. But fear not, here are a few tips on what to do when you date in your 40s!
Normally I churn out articles in moments. I zone in and the words deliver. But this one is somewhat tricky. It’s tricky because although I’ll be speaking of dating and casual connections, it’s not one that I have written frivolously. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
So here I am, in a bar at Novikov in Greenpark, London sipping on a cocktail (Don’t Call Me Baby). The name will probably inspire the title of this piece.
First, let me tell you what specifically about dating I want to address and why.
On my recent visit to India, I met up with Shivani, an old friend who’s now widowed. As for me, I’m divorced.
As we got chatting, I asked how she was getting on. Constantly enduring some of the cultural and social stigmas about dating later in life, I wanted to check in on Shivani.
As we started speaking, we realised that I was more seasoned in a space where she was only just starting out. So very quickly, it turned into a coaching & mentoring chat.
Now here’s the thing. Regardless of culture, gender or anything else, I know (from countless interactions with so many of you) that there are just too many of us living silent exclusions. So my cause here is to help some of you find your voice- or at least know, that you’re not alone.
I also share this because I believe that mindsets about dating need to change. If by sharing a slice of our lives and our vulnerabilities, we can help make a shift, then that’s a chance we are willing to take.
First, Shivani and I level set on our observations of what this life looks like… have a look.
If you’re on your own, you get oodles of pity for being ‘the poor thing who doesn’t have a man looking after her.’
But the moment you’re seen with someone, you get asked, ‘is this your new BF?’ This also opens doors to concerns about the single mother who might fail to care for the children. Or the widow who perhaps didn’t love her husband to begin with!
If you kiss too soon, you must be fast… sex outside of wedlock, hell no! Holiday? Who said single women were entitled to holidays?
Oh yes and only one relationship at a time please. Anything else could mean that you’re somewhat ‘loose.’
So then what do you do?
Sometimes people fade into silent lives. Another option might be to pass the blame. But this is not about shifting blame and feeling victimised. In fact quite the opposite.
This is about accepting that although relationships are often viewed with a gendered lens and moral police slam the same rules and assumptions on us all… people usually mean well.
It is also about being sensitive enough to assess the balance required, and being sensible enough create it because you DO have a choice. We all have a choice.
In my view, tuning out completely is rarely an option because we are social beings. People we love and respect are engulfed in the conversation so more often than not, you will care.
When society asks your parents what’s going on, they feel hurt and you need to figure how you will respond. So let’s keep it real.
As a poster child who loses ground and fame turns to shame, you’ll either be isolated, pitied, envied or even ‘eyed.’ Why, you ask? Because there are many who believe now that you’re a 40 something ‘used piece‘ – everything must be fair game.
For example, as soon as I was single, married men (casual friends) started to surface and offered to help. Not to mention wives who begin to see you as a threat.
So one thing was established. Although mindsets needed shifting, this wasn’t going away any time soon.
Hence we had to acknowledge reality and consider options. Be victims or take charge and help make a dent. We are both done pretending, so it was a no brainer.
As Shivani and I worked through this, we chose to share some key tips that you might find useful – feel free to share with/tag someone else who might.
As I said, the moment you are out with someone, you might be asked if this is your new boyfriend/girlfriend. Also if you are labelled single, you may be pressured to ‘move on’ in some sense almost as though the single label is usually seen as a pit stop at best.
Don’t worry. We all get that. Men included. Let it go.
If you don’t want to label it, leave it as it is. In case dating is not your thing, that is fine too.
Accept the moments for what they are
Formal meetings need outcomes and actions, but when it comes to the meeting of minds, not every beginning has to have an end in mind. There is immense beauty in fluidity.
And again, not everyone will get you. Here’s an example of a chat I had just last week with an acquaintance.
Him: How was the weekend? Did you do anything fun?
Me: Had a date…
Him: So does he meet the selection criteria?
Me: What criteria? There are no boxes to tick and no vacancies to fill.
Him: Oh I assumed that your family arranged for you to meet someone.
Me : …..
That brings me on to my next point.
I have to be true and say it’s not a dimension of your life that most people will comprehend, or want to hear about. This will of course vary by culture and other factors. In my culture, discussing relationships as a divorced woman or a widow, is similar to ‘coming out’.
This is something to accept and perhaps address gradually.
This is connected to the point regarding labelling. There seems to be an assumption that anyone without the label is pretty much worthless. In saying that labels don’t matter, we must also accept that people are precious even without them.
If you consider your life and your time to be precious, then by that logic, people whom you choose to share your time with, must be precious too.
So give each person the attention they truly deserve and revel in moments for what they are. Through my divorced life, I dated several people and with every interaction, I have only grown.
No matter what kind of life you lead, there is one thing you don’t want to forget. You don’t want to forget to live.
It doesn’t matter if you live countless precious memories with a family you love or countless precious moments in a broader circle of friends – what matters only is that you live truly and wholly.
Finally, I’ll pen off saying that the way I see life, there is no such thing as a perfect person, a perfect label or a perfect status.
Instead of spending a lifetime trying to disprove this and gain societal approval at the cost of your own inner peace, you can start with what you have and shape this into a life well-lived.
The choice, as always, is yours to make.
Picture credits: YouTube
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I am Vinita Ramtri and I live in London. You can reach me via
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