friendship

What happens when you're done with love - but go on a blind date.

I didn’t expect to fall in love again.

I’d had a couple of big loves, and lots of kind-of-okay loves, and though I didn’t want to admit it, I thought that might be it for me. And I didn’t want it to be. A big part of me screamed: “NOT YET!!! I don’t care if I’m alone when I’m 80 and admired because I go on cruises solo and people think I’m adventurous, but I’m not ready to be actually alone yet”.

I don’t remember the exact moment I decided to take the plunge. Maybe it was the umpteenth time I was number seven at a dinner party, or another Friday ‘chick’s night’. Or a Sunday with friends where I was told (again) they couldn’t understand why I was single. Because here’s the thing – neither could I. There’s never an answer that feels right when people ask it, and nothing much good comes out of the long, tedious conversations you have about it. I was, I think, Just Over It.

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I wanted to be the me I used to be (or maybe a slightly more sensible version of) – the one who’d skip out the door on a whim, meet new people at the pub and suddenly have new friends and the occasional late night pash with a near-stranger and optimistically believed every night would be a great night, brimming with the possibility of love. But now, I was almost 50. I’d become cautious and careful with my emotions. I eyed new men, if not with suspicion, with something just a few steps to the left of it. Fear?

Maybe it was the umpteenth time I was number seven at a dinner party, or another Friday 'chick's night'. Image: iStock.

But nothing changes if nothing changes. It's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a good reason - if you want to reinvent your life, you've got to get out of your comfort zone. So up went my profile on an online dating site, picture and all. I read my profile, then re-read it. Was this me? I was done with the bollocks of putting forward a fake persona - whoever I met this time would get the real me, warts and all. I was the Julia Gillard of RSVP - the real Elizabeth.

I set myself some rules - the kind of grown-up rules I'd expect someone to apply if they were meeting me. I would not imagine what this person would be like 'if'. I would not listen to the second-hand opinions of others. I would not bend my views to ape theirs in the hope of finding a connection. I would, in short, be myself.

I won't pretend it was the best experience I've been through, even if it did give me some truly fantastic dinner party stories. I've previously chronicled some of the men I met - and the many things I learned about myself.

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Watch the dinner party scene from Bridget Jones below. Post continues after video.

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And then I met him.

For all of those rules, he didn't look like the sort of bloke I'd go out with. He didn't do the things I thought I man I'd go out with would do. Exhibit A: He showed me roughly 200 pictures on his iPhone of a recent trip to Tasmania. And I looked at them - a miracle in itself, since it was clear they involved camping (erk) and hiking (not erk of itself, but combined with camping and a heavy backpack and dehydrated food - definitely erk). We drank a bottle of wine and it was, well, easy.

And then he didn't contact me for two days. I became a 15-year-old. I checked my phone. I checked it again. I checked my email. I berated myself for being so pathetic.

I went to dinner with friends.

'God,' I moaned. 'I can't even get an old bloke who camps and has moobs to go on a second date with me'.

And finally, a text:

"Movie sometime this week?"

And because I was determined not to play games, and for him to see the real me, the one that he'd be with if this went anywhere, I said yes, and gave him a couple of options. And it was easy again.

We took things slowly. I rediscovered the part of me that loved silly word games and daggy dad jokes and weighing up opinions and maybe trying to shoot them down. I flicked my hair around like that 20-something woman dazzling those 20-something blokes at the pub all those years ago, but this time it was so much better. Free-er. Connected.

I got back so much I thought I'd lost. Confidence in love. Honesty. And I finally said goodbye to fear.

Neither of us can remember how we decided, just five months after meeting, to buy a house together, or to renovate it without killing each other over which tiles would suit the bathroom or which colour to paint the feature wall, or to move in together fulltime. But we did.

That was a couple of years ago now. I'm in a place I never thought I'd be in. I'm with a man who, if I hadn't reassessed what I really, truly wanted, without posturing or denial, I would have missed out on. If I hadn't taken a chance, we would never have met.

And you know what? We're both lucky.

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