I - and coincidentally like many of my clients - have my birthday at the beginning of May. We are the products of hot August nights in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t have kids, but my godson and his little sister, provide me with a more than adequate kiddie fix. When the little sister announced that for her sixth birthday she wanted an intimate “Yoga and Smoothie” party with five of her closest friends it got me thinking about my impending nameday.
NB for my sixth birthday I had measles and a Wimpy.
I lost my mum a few years ago and since she passed away I haven’t really celebrated. My birthdays were always big occasions - it falls on May the 4th, International Star Wars Day - I loved gathering everyone together and feeling the love, but for the past few years I’ve been a bit of damp squib.
I now know that this withdrawal and unwillingness to socialise was part of my grieving process. So difficult to recognise the signs and acknowledge your behaviour when you are deep in it. With so many of my friends and clients sadly starting to lose their parents, grief, and how to cope with it, is becoming an all too common conversation over a haircut and a cuppa.
One thing I learnt is that there are no rules to grief and that it affects us all, mentally and physically, in very different ways. At the beginning I lost my hearing for a few weeks, everything sounded to me like I was underwater and being in large crowds of people was unbearable. Was it my body’s way of drowning out the world and the desperate sadness that just wouldn’t go away? But one of the positives that comes out of such dark times is the discovery of your true friends. They are the ones who cut you some slack no matter how withdrawn you become, and who will welcome you back into the real world with open arms when you are finally ready to make your re-entry.
And so it was for my birthday that myself and a very special friend, one who never gave up on me - and I know I gave her good reason to at times - hopped on a plane to Amsterdam for the day. We arrived in time for coffee and pancakes and were home in time for dinner. It was a decadent day and very special. I then gathered together all those other wonderful friends who had been there for me over the past few years, for an evening of too much food, too much fun and too much fizz. It felt great to celebrate again and a major corner on the road of grief had been turned.
I didn’t have a date for my birthday, but that was OK. I had recently read a great article by Julie Birchall which put my crazy mind to rest. She has never been single and has never tried online dating. She has always met men whilst doing the things she loves. Her theory on internet dating is that you are just swimming in a pool of other lonely people, the common denominator being that you are all desperate to not be lonely anymore.
I used to refer to Tinder for some dating, but I got tired of the soullessness of looking at pictures of men in football shirts with a fag in their hands, topless selfies in front of the bathroom mirror, or proudly posing with an extraordinarily large, dead fish - that is not a euphemism, but yes, I was tired of looking at pics of those too.
My love affair with Tinder came to an abrupt end whilst ordering an Americano from a handsome and very flirty young Barista. He cheekily said he had seen me on Tinder and the flattery I felt was soon crushed when in the same breath he decided to tell me how much fun his mum was having with it. I quickly drank my coffee, deleted the app and decided to take a leaf out of Julie Birchall’s book. I will spend my time pursuing the things I love, writing, travelling, comedy, yoga and drinking coffee - slowly. The list is endless and most certainly does not include swiping left or right.
I know of many wonderful internet dates that have ended in long lasting relationships, but I am ever hopeful of an old fashioned, organic meeting. Perhaps locking eyes with a Jedi Knight drinking coffee in an airport lounge, a yoga mat under his arm, laughing at the book he has just had published, might be a step too far, but it would be the perfect ending.