Most divorced men in their 40s haven’t got the memo that the relationship economy has changed. When they got married in their 20s or 30s, their main role was that of a provider. Which meant that they didn’t have to develop personalities or attempt to be fun.
The only singles meet-up I attended after my divorce, in the pristine halls of an apartment in Magnolias, Gurgaon, charged us money and served us warm wine in plastic glasses. It also had a ratio of 10 women to one man.
It was supposed to be a group of older singles with more men than women in the members’ list. But the men did not show up. The few who did made no effort to look good or make conversation. And why would they? Just being male assured them a hit rate of at least five to six women per guy. The older single women were so fun and fabulous that, had I any inclination, I would date them yesterday. But the men that showed up were really like followers of Peter Pan, men who were keen to remain boys. And, yet, the ones who don’t come for such parties, the ones who are hiding behind social networking apps, and prefer the anonymity of WhatsApp, reminded me of scared turtles. Folks who carry a hard shell on their backs, afraid of the battle scars of previous relationships, unable to move on legally, financially, socially, or even emotionally because they cannot believe what has happened to them.
My recent date was with a rather morose gentleman in his late forties, who spent the better part of an hour discussing the most distressing tale of his divorce with me, including cases filed by his children against him. Every moment spent steering the conversation away from his distress was ignored as I struggled through insipid sushi and fish and made polite noises as he went on with his rant. I’m not given to hyperbole, but this was a disaster of epic proportions.
I recall another gentleman who used to only travel by metro, and managed to be 1.5 hours late for the first date. He explained to me in great detail how my dependence on my car – and therefore not taking a metro, or not eating all meals in the state bhawans – was flippant and wasteful.
I think most men who are now divorced, separated or single in their 40s – especially in their 40s – haven’t got the memo that the relationship economy has changed. When they got married in their 20s or 30s, their main role was that of a provider. Which meant that they didn’t have to develop personalities, focus on their looks, or attempt to be fun and engaging. All they had to do was be a doctor, engineer, or hold down a job and the women would flock.
When divorce happened, they were suddenly left to negotiate with an increasingly smart and evolved bunch of newly single women who had learnt survival skills and were definitely not ready to do all the emotional labour in the relationship. The men have not yet sussed this out. They are still lost in their earlier role as providers, where flaunting a big car or paying for a fancy dinner was enough to get them a roll in the hay.
There was this cheesy moment on a date when the guy kept inviting me for a drive, which I found a maniacal thing to do in Delhi traffic. Finally, I realised that the 46-year-old little boy wanted to drive me around in his Mercedes! I didn’t know whether to be offended or amused.
The question in the new relationship economy is: What do you bring to the table? It’s a fair question if you think about it. Women in their forties have got their own cars and can pay for their own dinners so what they’re expecting out of men is no longer functional. We’re looking at companionship, at laughter, and at conversation that does not mansplain choice of transport. Also, even for physical intimacy to happen, women are still looking for that spark. Unfortunately, the hormones no longer rage, and sex is not a plug and play device, it needs some mental and emotional connect, which most men at this age are either ill equipped to do, or too impatient to invest in.
I’ve dated enough 40-year-olds to finally accept that this is not going to happen. Unless, by a very rare chance, I use a willing suspension of disbelief. Also, perhaps as a guy friend recently pointed out, I have become more judgmental with age. What was cute in my thirties in a man, is suddenly cheesy and insipid.
Which is why the fabulous single women I know have trained their eyes on men younger than them. These men have not been reared as providers. They can have a laugh, chug a beer, listen to you vent, and still call you , “Babe!”
Who can argue with that one?
This article was first published on eShe.in