Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Undateable

In the wake of yet another guy arranging a date with me and then treating me to radio silence as it draws near, I needed to write this blog post to get things off my (fake) chest. Apologies in advance for the ranty nature of this piece of writing, but to be honest I think it's justified.

People quite often ask me why I bother even trying to date:

'Ah, you don't need to worry about that'.

'Does that really matter in the grand scheme of things?'

'That's the last thing you need right now'.

For some reason, many people feel that I shouldn't want or need the things that 'normal' people do. To look and feel good, to be successful, to have money, to want companionship, love and intimacy. People living with cancer and it's aftermath should just be grateful to be alive and not be concerned about the minutiae of everyday life. Existing should just be enough for us - to want anything more than that is just frivolous and silly. I find that this attitude normally comes from those who go home to their big house, nice cars, loving husbands and cute children..... People who haven't had cancer don't leap out of bed every morning yelling about how glad they are to be alive - why is it that those of us who have had cancer are expected to do so? If anything, we want as much as possible from life, as we know how fragile and precious it is.

And as shocking as it may sound, people who have had cancer can be flirtatious, sexy and fun. We want to feel attractive, date and - shock horror! - have sex (sorry mum!). We don't just sit at home, being all cancery and festering inside our mangled and scarred bodies, thinking about how grateful we are just to be alive.

Believe me, I'm not 'desperate'. I don't 'need' a man. I don't need to date. I don't need or seek validation in being wanted or attractive to other people. I don't suffer fools. I will not allow myself to be mucked about by anyone, particularly men. At the first sign of any nonsense, I'll knock it on the head. I'm too old for game playing and life is too short and my time too precious to be wasted.  

I am fiercely independent. Perhaps sometimes to my detriment. I rarely ask for help, I keep my cards close to my chest and don't often tell people around me how I really feel. 'Oh me? I'm fine' seems to be a staple of my vocabulary at the moment. I'm happy to spend weekends alone, and travel and holiday by myself. My own company does not scare me. I've handled cancer and treatment as a single woman- believe me I do not 'need' to be in a relationship. But, like most people on this planet, I'd like to be. Humans are social animals. We're not meant to spend our entire lives alone. 

I mostly try to date using online dating sites, as soul destroying as they are. I've had a few people ask me why I don't use 'normal' channels to meet someone instead. What are 'normal' ways of meeting potential dates these days? Its highly unlikely I'll meet anyone through work - I just don't work in that kind of environment. When I go out, I do it to spend time with my friends, not to try and 'pull' someone. I'm not 18 anymore. And a guy walking up to you in the street whilst you're just minding your own business is quite frankly, creepy and sometimes unsettling. I've done the whole meeting someone through friends too and that ended badly.  I know that online dating does work, once you sift through the layers of knobheads. I met  someone online who I was with for two years. I have friends who met on internet dating sites and are now married. I'm still clinging on to that shred of hope, however thin it's becoming!

Oh, and the trite 'it'll happen when you least expect it' comments - they are patronising at best, especially when they come from your happily married friends.....

Dating in your mid thirties is an ordeal without out a doubt. Add serious illness, major surgeries and life changing treatment in to the mix and the word 'ordeal' doesn't even touch it. I've alternated between having a reference to cancer on my dating profile and having nothing on there about it. When I first started dating again, I was still having treatment. My hair was just starting to grow back. Bit trickier to explain away the tufty, scalp, wig wearing and frequent hospital visits.

One perceived benefit of alluding to it on my dating profile was that it was there right in the open. Boom. No messing about. Let's separate the men from the boys shall we? Get rid of the timewasters. Sadly, I've discovered this is not what happens at all. When I've mentioned cancer on my profile, I've had men message me to ask me what kind of cancer I've had. That's the first question they ask. Is there a list of cancers that they would find more acceptable than others?? When I've pointed out that that isn't the best way to begin a conversation with someone they've never met before I've been subjected to a barrage of abuse.

When men have found out I've had breast cancer, I've been asked whether I've have had my breasts removed, can I still have sex, do I have big implants? And the old - 'Oh yes my mum's dog's auntie's cousin had that and she died' - yeah thanks for that mate - nothing like a bit of positivity is there?

When I don't put anything on my profile, I feel like I'm hiding something. But then, why should I declare my medical history on my dating profile? Not to mention wanting to avoid the stream of stupid questions about my tits. This then brings up the dilemma of when to drop the C-bomb. Casually mention it on the first date? '

Date: 'What would you like to drink?'

Me: 'Glass of white wine please. Oh, by the way I've had cancer, had both my breasts amputated, I'm in a chemically induced menopause, there's a good chance I can't have children of my own and may die in the next five years. Cheers!'

Do you wait until you've started to have feelings for someone, then risk getting hurt when they decide they can't handle it? Or start a relationship with someone whilst feeling like you're deceiving them?

It's easy to find out whatever you want about people online these days. Believe me, I have it down to a fine art. I've been very open about my diagnosis and treatment, mainly in the hope that my experience will help others. The downside of that means that with a little digging, potential dates can find out more information about me that I would necessarily like them to know at that point. The most recent guy found my Instagram account, proceeded to tell me how 'inspirational' I was and how excited he was to meet me, arrange a date and blank me when I tried to contact him the day before.

I've had so many men arrange dates with me, then disappear closer to the time. I've been stood up several times, once by a guy who 'didn't like the fact I wore a wig'. I've had excuses made - 'I've lost my job' 'I'm getting back with my ex girlfriend' blah, blah, blah. I've had the guys who make out they are 'cool' with it, they can deal with it, it makes no difference - they promise you the world, then disappear at the first sign of trouble. Cancer is scary and people don't know what to say or how to behave. Cancer and sexy are not synonymous. I find that once people know, they no longer see you as a person, but as a disease. It's harder in your mid thirties as it's rare people have ever known anyone their own age undergo treatment for cancer. Most people associate cancer with old people, sickness and death. Not with youth, vibrancy, fun and attraction.

Yes, many of these men may just be flaky immature f*ckboys who can't even commit to a gym membership, never mind anything else, but when you've been rejected over and over again, you start to get a bit of a complex. When did we lose decency and compassion for other human beings? If you decide you don't want to date me, then fine. At least have the decency to tell me and be honest. Unless you've been abducted by aliens or are lying at the bottom of a well somewhere, then you can text and cancel a date. I've been through enough shit over the past 2 years, That girl you arranged a date with then didn't even have the decency to cancel but blanked her instead? She's a real person, with real feelings. She gets sad, she cries. Her already fragile self esteem takes a beating each time this happens but she manages to pick herself up and try over and over again. Think about the fact that person on the screen is not just some image on a website, but is actually a human being who deserves to be treated with respect.

I've even had friends tell me 'well, its a big thing to take on'. One person even said to me 'it'd be good if there were specialist dating sites for this kind of thing'. Ah yes, then we cancer people wouldn't be contaminating all you healthy individuals with our sickly bodies and faulty genes would we? In fact, why not just euthanize us all at diagnosis? It'd save the NHS loads of money as well. I know that wasn't what was meant by that comment, but seriously....

I've been ill, not committed a murder. I haven't been beating up old ladies or drowning kittens. Cancer isn't catching. None of it was my fault. I'm not looking for someone to 'take me on'. I want to meet someone who is adult enough and has enough emotional intelligence to be able to accept that cancer was something that happened to me. It's part of who I am, but it doesn't define me. I want to meet someone who can accept it and deal with it like an grown up. Who doesn't see it as a 'burden', but actually thinks I'm pretty damn special for getting through it. I don't think that's to much to ask, is it?