Young men and foreigners

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Indy Lifestyle Online
My friend Emily blames our therapist, a single woman who, like us, is in her forties. "Don't you think it's odd that neither you, my sister-in-law, nor I have had a successful affair since we've been going to her?" Emily said, during one of our anorexic lunches off the Portobello Road (Emily has just started a course of experimental, reduced-price face- lifts, a Christmas present from her ex-husband, somewhere off the North Circular. When I said it sounded dangerous, Emily replied: "Why, they can't kill you, can they?")

I told Emily that I didn't think there was anything sinister going on. But then I remembered that my therapist has vetoed every suitor I've ever mentioned. One was a sexaholic, one an alcoholic, one a hysteric, one a co-dependant, one a hypochondriac, one too interested in money, one too young, one didn't like my son, one was after my daughter, one was a narcissist, and the last was a straight old-fashioned bully with suppressed homosexual tendencies. Infuriatingly, she has turned out to be right each time.

Although I know she's not a dating agency, l did complain to her at my session yesterday about the lack of a mate. She told me that I must wait with dignity. How long, I wonder? I decided not to tell her my latest plan, which is to aim for younger men and foreigners.

Apparently, there is a country club outside Cairo full of handsome young Egyptians who have no prejudices against older women. I might get a commission to write a travel article about it. The therapist has voiced her disapproval of liaisons with younger men many times (she herself is foreign). She says I would not find a relationship with an immature man half my age ultimately fulfilling.

At a book launch, I told the young publicity girl what I had in mind. "He's obviously foreign.What about him?" I rushed over and engaged the exotic-looking guest in conversation. He was so macho and moustachioed that he must surely be a Kurdish guerrilla at least. Sadly, he turned out to be a Serbian dog-walker with a very mincing voice who at once started playing hard to get - with my dog, not me - saying, when I asked about his schedule - my dog, like myself, is middle-aged - that he would have to charge extra for an older dog.

I went home and composed a shortlist of young men. One, a friend's nephew, I've already had to strike off. He came round late last night, ostensibly to lend me a book on the Primal Scream. Throughout his visit, my daughter, who is 15, charged in and out, shouting bossily that the pasta she had cooked (without my asking her) was made, although it was nearly midnight and we'd already eaten. She then handed me a cartoon she had drawn of me and the young man standing opposite each other. 1 was overweight and holding a bag labelled "Age Concern".

This morning, I met him again in Planet Organic, our local health food shop, trying to get a refund for his mother's Christmas present. He confided that he was about to leave London for six months, to embark on a long course of primal screaming, adding that he would not be fit to embark on a relationship with the opposite sex until it was over, if ever.

Second on my list was a blond whom I met at a party last summer. We went out to dinner afterwards and exchanged details, at least so I thought, but when I looked for his number, I'd lost it. Last Sunday, six months later, he finally put a message on my answerphone, without leaving a number.

Why do the women in Colette's novels seem to find young men without any difficulty? In those days, perhaps, there was less of a generation gap. Young men now have different priorities from those of my own, pre-Aids generation. We were hedonists, hippie idealists, spontaneous; they are calculating, serious.

I can't help thinking of the young American I met last April on the Eurostar, so clever that he had been offered places at both Yale and Harvard. Before deciding, he had six months of travelling in Europe. I offered him our tiny spare room, on condition that he wasn't there in the day-time when I was working. Too late, I realised how stupid this was. As soon as I got back in the mornings after taking my children to school, the young man politely left, to walk the streets and visit art galleries. When he returned after tea, my children were back.

Then he announced, at a day's notice, that he was going home, five months early. He found Europe too unsettling. I was annoyed. He had failed, dismally, certain important initiation rites. So what if he eventually becomes a top-earning lawyer? He hasn't lived in caves in Crete or slept on a beach. He hasn't hitch-hiked from Naples to Rome and discovered that the lorry is going in the wrong direction - to Sicily. He hasn't been chased by French police with tear-gas, looked silly in velvet trousers, or followed a fat child god who turns out to be a charlatan.

It's hopeless. I'm taking my therapist's advice. It's only possible to have a mature relationship with a man of my own age, who's had similar experiences to me. This is what I shall aim for next week