Here we go round the mulberry bush

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Ok, ladies, hold on to your handbags. It’s the post you’ve all been waiting for.

Because sometimes, a girl just needs to get laid.

It had been 18 years with the same guy, for Pete’s sake. And given my Evangelical save-it-for-the-marriage upbringing, the pre-marital sex I’d had wasn’t all that great either. (Except for one, but he died. Which is what the novel’s about.)

Suffice to say, it was more than time.

I didn’t want to ruin it with expectations. Nor did I want to hang around waiting for the perfect man. A one night stand was just fine, as long as he was hot and I was feeling it.

The hunt was on.

There were four possible candidates in the hopper. The first was the government engineer who was safe, polite, had lived in my homeland, looked like his profile pics and whom my Pilates instructor thought was hot. But I was worried he was a bit boring, and would read more into it than I intended. At the completely opposite end of the spectrum was the Russian cougar-seeker with the foot-fetish. But I was worried he was too risky, and while foot-rubs are fine in their own way, I was hoping for a little more. Besides which, to truly check “one night stand” off my bucket list, I needed someone I hadn’t already met.

That whittled it down to two guys in my “mutual likes” list. So I messaged back and forth until they disclosed their real identities, checked them both out on LinkedIn to make sure we didn’t have anyone in common, and then dug deep into OKCupid’s magical algorithms.

Aka, the sex questions.

  • Would you sleep with someone before you married them?

Well that was a no-brainer.

  • Would you sleep with someone on a first date?

This one was a little harder, because I didn’t want the kind of man who would sleep with anyone on a first date; I wanted someone who would sleep with me on a first date. Fortunately, both had added qualifying comments to their “No” responses, which I took to be a good sign.

  • Which pubic hair style do you prefer on your partner?
    Natural/Neatly trimmed/Completely shaved/Don’t care

And herein lay my conundrum. For one liked it neatly trimmed while the other liked it completely shaved. Which meant that timing was everything.

Rather pleased with myself, I arranged to see Neatly Trimmed on a Sunday and Completely Shaved the following Tuesday. All was well and good until Neatly Trimmed cancelled due to flu, rendering my immaculate pruning redundant. When Tuesday morning came, I duly removed the whole shebang, but no sooner had I put the cap back on the razor when Completely Shaved called and cancelled due to snow. Five minutes later, Neatly Trimmed called back to reschedule.


Bristling in more ways than one, I strung along Neatly Trimmed for as long as I possibly could while things softened up a bit. And sure enough, just as they had, Completely Shaved called back and, apologizing for the short notice, asked if I were free that evening.

And so off it came again.

I arrived at the restaurant early. The waitress seated me in the corner by the window, affording me a great view of the goings-on outside. At exactly 7pm, Completely Shaved parallel parked with finesse, stepped his shiny shoes out of his sleek, black Acura SUV and slid his Amex into the meter like a pro.

Be still my burning bush.

Or lack thereof.

Suffice to say, Completely Shaved couldn’t quite believe his luck. Like the consummate gentleman he was, he kept checking to make sure I really meant what I was putting out, and when I assured him I did, swept me up into the most beautiful kiss of my life (which, since most American men have absolutely no idea how to do, must have been courtesy of his French ex-wife. Merci beaucoup, ma prédécesseuse.)

We got the check.

I didn’t get an Uber.

And I never did meet Neatly Trimmed.





















Letter to my therapist

Letter to my therapist

My dear Adeline,

It’s been approximately three months since you left me to fend for myself. I’m hoping that my update isn’t so scandalous as to drag you out of back out of retirement, but I thought you might be interested to know where I’m at.

Just as you predicted, I’m having rather a lot of fun. And that coach I hired in your stead is cheering me on in all things, especially those at which you would likely raise an eyebrow.

According to my trusty notebook, my tally stands at 19 dates with 13 different boys, which for only 8 weeks on the dating scene is quite impressive (or should that be excessive?) It certainly explains why I had to start keeping track.

One of those dates was a little scary, but it woke me up to the need for a fake name, a pay-as-you-go-mobile, a known venue and my best friend Elissa tracking my location with Find My Friends. It also taught me that photos may not depict a true likeness of the date in question and that I should not be seduced by eloquent profiles, because the scary guy was neither athletic nor articulate. In fact, the blithering buffoon could barely string a sentence together and only rode a bike because he’d lost his license. I later learned from another date – a published author, no less – that professional profile writers are available for hire on Upwork. I guess that’s how unemployed copywriters are plying their trade these days, because whoever ghost-wrote this one must have worked for Enron.

There was only one other date where I worried about making it out alive, and that was because death by stultifying boredom was a very real possibility. What made it worse was that the waiters knew me by then and were politely leaving me alone, making me realize we were in desperate need of a code. I later agreed with them that if my purse is on the chair, all is well and they can take their time. If my purse is on the table, however, they need to step it up and get me the hell out of there as soon as inhumanly possible. Fortunately, the code wasn’t required a second time, except for the occasion where I forgot and found myself outside on the sidewalk scratching my head after a mere 40 minutes with what would otherwise have been a very promising candidate.

I have to say, however, that while avoiding kidnapping, boredom or being stood up are perfectly honorable goals for a date, it seems that the Holy Grail is finding intellectual stimulation and chemistry in the same package. The techie who told me all about OKCupid’s algorithm, for example, was engaging but reminded me too much of my geeky cousin for me to feel any attraction. Then there was the gentle giant, who made me weep with longing to be on the receiving end of his tenderness, but conversation was a seriously tough slog. Meanwhile, the PhD student with the Russian accent and the foot-fetish could massage my feet any time but I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. (And he was only 32, but that’s beside the point.)

But the search is a wonderful journey in itself. I’m getting out. I’m meeting new and interesting people. And, I just scheduled my third date with a pilot whose biggest complaint with Minnesota women is that whenever he suggests a last minute getaway to Paris, they have a school reunion to go to. But not me. He can fly me to Paris any time he likes.

So that, my dear therapist, is my update. Life is unexpectedly rich, full and fun, and I’m doing so much better than I ever imagined.

But you knew all along that I would be.

Your erstwhile client,








New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve

It was my first New Year’s Eve without an obligatory partner. Not that my ex and I ever did anything on New Year’s Eve in our 18 years together. Which was probably why people stopped inviting us.

Yet this year, someone had been kind enough to include the newly-single me among their invitees – albeit to a party that was 35 miles away on the diagonally opposite side of town. It was too far to Uber and there was no guarantee of a ride home, which meant I had to drive, which meant I couldn’t drink. But I was determined to start my new year off right. Who knew? Maybe there’d even be a hot man who’d make it worth the trek.

Amazingly, there was. Unfortunately, he was 10 years my junior and married to the hostess. The other guests were all gorgeous, 30-something single women, desperate to find just one decent Christian male who could hold his own in a conversation. One of them had even ditched her Evangelical roots as part of her quest, and was spending Sunday mornings attending Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Unitarian services in the hope of finding someone a little more intellectual and a little less complementarian. Another had been on e-Harmony for a whole year and had netted one solitary date with a recovering alcoholic who’d never had a job. And she was thinking of calling him again! Personally, I’d be calling e-Harmony demanding my money back, but each to her own.

I didn’t make it to midnight, but I did make some resolutions.

The market was weak.

The competition was strong.

Differentiation was key.

Firstly, despite my own Evangelical roots, I was no longer on the hunt for a Christian man. This significantly broadened the playing field and meant I could spend my Sunday mornings doing yoga. Secondly, my biological clock had already tocked, which made the whole thing a lot less frenetic. Thirdly, there was no way I was ready for a serious relationship. Hell, I just needed to get out. Fourthly, I had a cute accent. Admittedly it was somewhat Americanized, but I could work on that (mostly by banishing words like “cute” from my vocabulary). My pièce de résistance, however, was that while I hadn’t dated since the days of AOL dial-up, my clients had. And from them, I had learned a lot.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that all dating sites are not the same. Broadly, if you want to get married, get e-Harmony. If you’re fresh off a messy divorce, haven’t done any therapy and need another relationship right now, you need Match. If you want a hook-up, hook up with Tinder. (And when anyone who’s on Tinder tries to tell you that it’s no longer considered a hook-up site, consider the source). There are a bunch of others, of course, but here’s the secret: 90% of them are owned by Match, featuring the exact same technology with just a different paint job. And not only that, but those sneaky people at Match are also behind 90% of the articles and blog posts about the top dating sites to try, all of which feature, you’ve guessed it, Match-owned sites. All in all, given that most people sign up to more than one site, it’s quite an impressive business model. Or a racket, depending on which way you look at it. (For the record, I am not on the Match payroll. Well not yet, anyway. We’ll see how this blog goes).

But I digress.

My more sobering learning was that despite the amount of cash laid down for the privilege of having a profile on one or more of these Match-owned sites, the majority of them languished, attracting grammatically incorrect (and sometimes crude) messages from sad, lonely people seeking partners way out of their league. Occasionally a disappointing date would result – usually with someone 10 years older than their pictures suggested, the only redeeming factor of which was a dinner-party story for the price of a coffee.

But my most exciting learning was that a site named OKCupid seemed to buck this trend. While I was really bummed to discover that it’s apparently owned by Match too, the good news is that it wasn’t always, and the engine behind it is really pretty unique. And serendipitously, my first OKCupid date was with a techie who told me all about its brilliant algorithms (sexy stuff over a gin and tonic, believe me). Unfortunately the algorithms don’t account for user error, and it was a while until I figured out that I was swiping the wrong way, inadvertently “liking” the shirtless hairy bikers with the dead fish, while “passing” on the dreamboats. Once I got the hang of it, however, his information was gold-dust.

And thus began my new year.








How it all began …

How it all began …

Right. Are you ready? Because before we get going here, I need to make it absolutely clear that none of this was my intention. Not one bit of it.

First of all, I’m supposed to be writing a novel about grief, sex and narcissism, rather than a blog about dating. Although it could be argued that they add up to much the same thing.

More importantly, I wasn’t expecting to be dating at all at this age and stage of life.

Fifteen years ago I had the most beautiful wedding a girl could have, and then I did a ton of therapy, so the odds should have been in my favor. But it turns out that we all marry the one person who will challenge us to grow where we need it most. And I grew – like a buckthorn hedge. Tall, strong and unstoppable; non-native to Minnesota and working hard to protect people’s privacy.

Which is why the names shall be changed.

Including my own.

My name is Annie Bell. It’s a derivative of my real name but different enough to afford me a modicum of privacy in my professional capacity, never mind a fantastic alter-ego. Annie does things that I would never do, like take an Uber to dinner, use a pay-as-you-go-mobile (which I’m reliably informed is called a “burner”), flirt outrageously on a first date and spend Valentine’s Day with a former boss.

In fact, Annie is having rather a lot of fun.

So much so that her girlfriends have begged her to regale them with tales of her experiences, allowing them to live vicariously and to participate voyeuristically through a juicy-detailed blog.

So …. to my stunning community of fabulous, supportive women, and to the tall dark stranger who was the first person to meet Annie over a chocolate cake and two spoons in a sad Embassy Suites wannabe hotel on the wrong side of Scottsdale, this blog is dedicated to you.

You know who you are.