In solitude what happiness?

Maggie Fergusson in More Intelligent Life:

LON_93X_inlineNothing about Rebecca’s life looks sad. She’s strikingly attractive and professionally successful. I met her in her comfortable split-level flat in Fulham, just after she had started a new job, another rung up the ladder of career and income. Four years ago, when she was 31, a long-term relationship that she had thought would lead to marriage came to a sudden end. She still looks wistfully over her shoulder, but at the same time desperately wants to settle down and have children before it’s too late. “Lots of people can’t understand why I’m lonely,” she says. “I’ve got a good job, a lovely family and lots of close friends. But most of them now are married and taken up with babies. I try to be happy for them, but there’s no one I can ring if I’ve had a bad day; there’s no one for whom I’m the most important one. Things like filling out forms make me feel acutely lonely. Who’s my next of kin? My dad.”

Rebecca has joined the 7m other people in Britain who are trying to find love through the internet. She reckons she’s been on at least 100 dates so far. Every time, she makes an effort – gets “frocked up” as Australians say – but it’s never yet been successful, and she travels home from each assignation feeling “more lonely than if I’d never tried”. Her distaste for the whole business is palpable. Still, faute de mieux, she bashes on. “How does it feel?” I ask, as she opens her page on the Guardian Soulmates website (which shows that, to date, 1,305 people have viewed her and 356 people liked her). “It feels pragmatic, and sad. I’m admitting, ‘I’m lonely, and I want to have a family’, and there’s a kind of shame in that.”

She takes me through the profiles of men who have recently joined the site, most with cheeky-chappy nick-names: Curbychup, FoodieGeoff, LieutenantGrey. She shows me how she’s built her own profile, presenting herself as a happy-go-lucky woman who’s well read and widely travelled. “There’s a loneliness in having to present yourself in a certain way, definitely. The distance between the image I give and the reality is getting wider and wider. But if I were to write the truth – that I’m lonely and worried I might not have a family – it would be just the most off-putting thing.”

“So people think of loneliness almost as an infectious disease?”

“Yup. Something like that. Most people find it very, very unattractive.”

“Does anyone on the Guardian site ever admit to loneliness in their profile?”


More here.