Readers of this space for the last couple of decades — well, almost — have received more than enough reminders of the general lack of entries on my dance card, though this is probably not as complete a disaster as I've let on, if only because Actual Dating would have cut into my writing time, especially if it turned out to be, God help us, successful. I have, of course, no actual Muse, and if I did, I'm pretty sure I couldn't lure her into the sack, and if I could, I have to wonder if maybe her power of inspiration would be diminished commensurately, inasmuch as I suspect I may be somewhat less inventive when horizontally oriented. (Very little data exists on this matter; while I can legitimately claim that there have been few complaints, I must concede that the participants, as a class, were neither rude nor vengeful, which may have affected the complaint rate in my favor.)

Still, in this particular subset of Mopers Anonymous, I am rivaled by a woman who writes, or anyway used to write, for The Times, under the name "The Plankton." The Times itself being secreted away behind a paywall, I found out about Ms Plankton from the less-prestigious Daily Mail:

The woman, who is divorced but says she would love to be married again, describes herself as being "on the wrong side of 45 with a brace of kids" and bewails her place in "relationship no-man's land," condemned to be alone for the rest of her days.

She writes under the name "The Plankton", explaining that, like the plankton in the ocean, she is barely visible and "at the bottom of the food chain for love and relationships."

Some of her Times stuff, she ported over to a WordPress blog, from which I excerpt the following:

When I was young, I remember complaining that if I went to a party of, say, 100 people, sixty would be couples, thirty-five single women (including me) and five "available" men. Two of these would be gay or asexual; two commitment-phobes or emotionally incompetent or obsessed with their mothers or thick as pigshit or famously cruel, or some other complex variant which was a nigh-on terminal bar to romantic possibility. The last one, always the most handsome and attractive, would invariably trap me in a corner and look piercingly into my eyes and tell me how madly [in] love he was ... with a woman called Mimi who had the physical attributes of Bardot in her prime, the intellectual ones of Simone de Beauvoir and the heart and soul of a goddess.

The fact that the actual Mimi could not possibly live up to this description is probably irrelevant: the guy was a clod for introducing the topic at all while chatting up someone else. At least I am not quite that rude. (Which is not to say I never have been, though I may well qualify for "emotionally incompetent.")

Still, I think I can match Ms P on the Bleakness of Outlook scale, though neither of us compares to Demi Moore, as quoted in Harper's Bazaar a couple of years ago:

"If I were to answer it, just kind of bold-faced, I would say what scares me is that I'm going to find out at the end of my life that I'm really not lovable, that I'm not worthy of being loved. That there's something fundamentally wrong with me, that I wasn't wanted here in the first place."

Come to think of it, I've pretty much suspected this of myself all along.

Then again, I'm not looking to throw myself either at someone or at a speeding train, if only because of this:

In her book The Woman's Second Guide To Adulthood, former Ms. editor Suzanne Braun Levine writes about the brain changes that occur in people past fifty. Post-fifty brains undergo a growth spurt in the medial temporal lobe, the area associated with emotional learning. This growth, present at no other time apart from during adolescence, was discovered entirely by accident.

Dr Francine Bene was researching schizophrenia at Harvard Medical School, when she discovered two significant increases in myelin growth (the fatty nerve fibre coating that speeds up connection between nerve cells); the first 100% leap happens during teenagehood, with the second 50% ("a huge leap") increase occurs during middle age. Experience becomes wisdom.

There's just one problem with relying on myelin growth spurts: if you're detached (or forever unattached) and withdrawn, won't those speedier nerve-cell connections make you feel more so?

Then again, as I wrote the day I turned fifty:

Something — I'm not sure what — has set up a diversion. Something has changed. And perhaps that's my task for the next five years: to figure out exactly what that something may be.

Ten years later, I'm no closer to answering that question. But I suspect it may be keeping me alive: there's nothing I hate worse than leaving a project unfinished — well, that and TV news.

The Vent

  14 September 2014

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