Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas - Courting controversy?

Dear Virginia, I'm 43 and single. Recently, I met a lovely man of 33 at my tennis club. He broke up with his girlfriend six months ago, confides in me and makes me feel special. We play tennis together and he texts me lots, but he's never attempted to see me alone. Do you think it's because I'm older? My feelings for him are getting stronger. What should I do? Yours sincerely, Anthea

Virginia writes:

In theory, of course, there's nothing against you telling this man right out that you fancy him. If you don't want to be so direct, you could ask him to a party, see to it that you both have masses to drink, throw yourself at him and rejoice if he responds and, if he runs a mile, ring up the next day to apologise, blame your "totally atypical behaviour" (ahem) on alcohol and lie through your teeth. "I don't know what got into me! I don't even fancy you! You're not remotely my type! Thank God you didn't respond! What a gent you are! I must have been mad! Never, ever again! I hope it won't destroy our friendship which I value so much!"

That way, you'd express your feelings without damaging the status quo - though he might think twice about accepting any more party invitations from you in future.

But I think you might be in luck. Because, in my experience, it's rare that a woman feels a sexual frisson about a man without there being some sexual tension going on between them in the first place. In other words, while men can feel sexy when they see a woman who attracts them - a woman who might not fancy them in the least - a woman, to feel genuinely turned on, usually has to be prompted by some kind of sexual response in the other person. It takes two to tingle. So it's likely that your friend is interested in you - and perhaps he's rather daunted by the idea of making a pass at a woman who's a bit older.

Maybe the reason he hasn't made a move is because he's overawed by your maturity and poise. I bet you don't feel mature and full of poise - you probably feel rather over-the-hill and unconfident - but it's amazing, due entirely to the pathological insecurity of most other people, how one can fool them.

However, there is another reason he might not have approached you. And that is simply because you're too old. Not too old to have an affair with, but too old to have children. And if he's after kids, then really there is no point in him starting up a relationship with you, I'm afraid. Oh yes, I know some people do get pregnant after 40, but the chances are low and by the time you'd have got round to thinking about children, you'd be 44, when the chances would be even lower. Perhaps he thinks, sensibly, that it's not even worth starting up something that would be bound at some point to end in tears - tears, perhaps, for both of you.

And when I say both of you, I think you'd probably shed more than him in the long term. It is a terrible feeling to meet and have a relationship with someone you love and then realise that the only reason it can't work is because you can't have children. The feeling of "it might have been" and "if only" is one of the cruellest aspects of being a woman, far worse than having periods, PMT, the menopause, painfully bouncing boobs and the occasional abortion.

If you can cope with an affair that will, inevitably, end at some point, fine. But if not, I really wouldn't risk putting yourself through such agony.

Readers say:

Ask him out on a date

Why not take the initiative? Two years ago, I had a brief relationship with a woman 10 years my senior. I was 30. I quickly became attracted to her, but a sense of propriety and fear that she was out of my league kept me from making a move, until she began dropping hints that she wanted to take things further.

It's possible that your friend is attracted to you but doesn't dare say so, which was how I felt. Your age in itself may not be putting him off, but the fact that you are older may simply mean that he is trying to be considerate and respectful - after all, many of the authority figures in his life may well be around 10 years older than him - and is suppressing his feelings in a way that he might not if you were his age. Why don't you do what my girlfriend did, and take the initiative? Ask him on a real date, even if you don't call it that. Do something outside your tennis-and-texts routine. Invite him to the theatre and go for drinks afterwards. Give the relationship a chance to grow and put him on safer ground where he may feel more confident.

My 30/40 relationship didn't last very long because, in the end, our lives were heading in very different directions. We broke up amicably, and are still good friends today and have no regrets about our time together. May you at least get the same opportunity to see whether you are really compatible with this man.

Jeremy Legg


It doesn't add up

As is well known, a man should aim to marry a woman half his age plus seven years. It follows that your tennis friend will be looking for a woman who is about 23 or 24 years old. The figures just don't add up - sorry.

David Carter

Shaldon, Devon

Just tell him you fancy him

I think you need to have a chat with this man and ask him how a 43-year-old single woman can find a really nice guy, with a good personality, who's fun to be with etc, and see what his answer is. He might think more about it later and realise that perhaps you could become more than just friends, as you will have made your feeling known to him that you are "on the look-out". Or perhaps he will tell you that he himself is not looking to meet anyone at the moment, or indeed that he just likes you as a friend.

If he doesn't pick up on the fact that you fancy him, maybe you should take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and ask him outright.


By email

On the rebound

You could be heading for a broken heart. The first woman he's friendly with after his break-up is probably "on the rebound". It doesn't last. Someone 15 years younger than you may soon catch his eye.

But all is not lost. Anthea, you are a special person who is worthy of a good man's love. He must see you as a fine woman, not just a shoulder to cry on. So your relationship must move on quickly. Invite him for a meal, dress up, be generous with the drinks, and tell him about some man you loved in the past. Make it plain this was no platonic relationship; you had your moments of passion and wept when it was all over.

Next time he sees you at the tennis club, you will be a woman with a past (and therefore much more interesting). You will be more equal, and each has a need for the other. This may or may not end as you want, but at least you have a chance.

Ainslie Walton


Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

When our son was six, we adopted a girl of three. They became a loving brother and sister and she's now a single mum with a son of 13. But our son's married a girl who won't accept our daughter as family and won't let our grandson call her "auntie". My son reluctantly supports his wife (they are childless). How can we maintain a relationship with our son and his wife on this basis? Yours sincerely, Freda

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