Fanny for Grabs.

A few weeks ago, I did a deal with my son. My angry, grieving, difficult son. It wasn’t a deal I wanted to do, and – in many ways – it felt like a pact with the devil. I told him that if he would engage with a course of counselling, then I’d do what he’d been asking for, and start to look for a new partner. 

I knew that it would take several weeks to sort out my son’s head, and, through counselling, he’d probably realise that his problems were not going to be easily solved by my acquiring a substitute for his dad. I wasn’t ready for a relationship, and was otherwise muddling along as a double – not single – parent, but at my wits’ end.

Both boys have been desperate to see me happy again – and that, they believe, means for me to be married off as quickly as possible. Even when my husband was still alive – on the day we sat the boys down at nine years old, and told them their Daddy was dying – one of them disappeared with the laptop to look for a dating website so they could find me a new husband as a matter of some urgency. It took a little while to explain the concept of marriage vows, sickness, health, and death us doing part etc., but we got there in the end.

Since my husband died, though, the boys have made several less-than-subtle suggestions. On holiday last year, barely four months after I’d been widowed, they danced around me singing Love Is In the Air while I was having a perfectly genial conversation about table tennis with a 19-year-old member of the Croatian animation team. They’ve come home from school full of optimism every time one of their friends happens to have a set of parents in the throes of divorce. On the holiday we’ve just returned from, I sat in the bar most nights being elbowed in the ribs by an enthusiastic twelve-year-old who had spotted the multi-millionaire Saudi Arabian fortysomething with a penchant for $160 shots of cognac. Although he seemed like a nice guy, and we found commonality in being widowed parents of teenage boys, I couldn’t quite shake off the thought that anyone who could spend $160 on a single shot of cognac was probably more than a bit of a twat. All I wanted was a cuddle and a conversation with my ageing scruffy intellectual, who was usually floored by half a lager – the cheapest one available.

I’ve apparently had sniffs of interest via friends – which has been flattering, but unreciprocated. I’ve just not been ready to even contemplate a relationship with someone other than my husband. Since we interred his ashes in the churchyard a week after my treatment ended, though, I’ve felt an element of closure and optimism that I haven’t felt for a long time. I miss him, terribly. I always will. But he is dead – and burying a box in the ground with his name on it hasn’t brought him back to life, much as we all wish it could have done. Now, with every new hair that appears on my head, I feel a strand of hope; of a future which is new, exciting, and seems to be within my grasp. It’s been such a long time.

A few weeks ago, having returned from another very lonely holiday in which the children mainly made friends and buggered off, just as I’d expected and wanted them to do, I asked my husband’s dearest friends for advice and reassurance about the next tentative step I thought I might want to take. Without exception, they gave me a monumental thumbs up, and later that night, I got myself royally pissed and set up an internet dating profile.

I met my husband at work over 16 years ago, at a time when entire families were sharing a single dial-up internet connection, so online dating is completely new territory for me. As a widowed parent working from home, though, it seemed like the best place to start.

I knew that my husband had wanted me to move on after – and I quote – a “suitable period of mourning,” but my mourning period has been long and difficult, and isn’t over yet. It never will be, completely. Nonetheless, I was nervous as I filled in all the criteria (including an upper age limit of 48 – the age my husband was when I met him,) and selected that any potential suitor must be educated, and that he must have a proper job. There was no option to request that he have no pre-existing medical conditions, or a family history of cancer.

Out of about 25 possibilities, only one face leapt out at me, but I duly went through each profile one by one. As more and more so-called “compatible” matches appeared, and as I read through each one (deleting them with gay abandon) it became clear to me that I had a few more criteria of my own, which couldn’t have been picked up by the website’s algorithms.

– He must have a nice traditional name, but not the one belonging to our dog.

– He must be able to spell and punctuate.  

– He must not be a Tory.

– He must not be topless on his profile picture, although bonus points for removing his anorak.

– He must not be wearing a football shirt.

– He must not still be proud to display one of those Celtic arm tattoos.

– He must use a picture of his face, not his car.

– He must not use “LOL” at any point, especially not as an appendage to an otherwise rather dull statement.

– He must write something to make me smile.

– He must be someone that my husband would have liked. A lot.

Likewise, I tried to answer all the questions as honestly as I could.

– I explained that I liked all types of music, but that I wasn’t allowed to like anything too modern on account of it being embarrassing for the children. I also warned that I’m rather keen on musicals – particularly reenacting certain death scenes at full volume during long car journeys – and that I tend to forget that I am not in fact a member of Little Mix.

– I listed my hobbies, which include refereeing arguments between twin boys, swearing, and being the world’s most unremarkable cook.

– I said I was widowed with pre-teen twins, and looking for someone who, like me, was not in a rush, but who would enjoy intelligent debate, wine, sarcasm, and companionship. I also asked that he should be a dab hand at DIY, an enthusiastic grammar pedant, and enjoy getting up early to let the dog out.

I decided not to mention the missing boob and ghastly post-chemo crop at this point. I expected the search to take several months. I also knew that anyone who could jump unscathed through all the hoops would be a chap worth getting to know better, and if he still managed not to care about how many mammaries I currently possess, then that would say everything I needed to know about him.

I whittled my own shortlist to a grand total of one. A tall, handsome, marathon-running scientist, with an attractive smile and a self-effacing biography, who also happened to live the closest to me – just up the road in the next valley. The one whose picture had stood out in the first place. He was probably way out of my league in intellect and looks, but I’ve learned that life’s too short to not even try. We exchanged messages, and I was relieved to find that he used the correct version of “you’re” in a sentence. He had found my profile to be quirky and interesting, although I’d made the first move – it turns out, if left to his own devices, he wouldn’t have given me a second look as he normally goes for leggy blondes. As did my husband. My husband had not been a health freak – in fact, he got out of breath running a bath – and that was often a stumbling block in our relationship. A whole new outlook on health from a partner would not be unwelcome, but in the long term, I want a man who can stimulate my mind as much as he can stimulate my somewhat imperfect body. A man as imperfect as me. A man as imperfect as – though different from – my husband.

I will report back. Even if nothing long-term comes of this, I’ve had the joy of communicating with another adult, on the same wavelength, whose epic banter (in exquisitely-punctuated messages) has made my heart leap and a smile reach across the full width of my face. Who knows what will happen? We’ve been on a few dates already, and the connection is strong. We miss each other when we’re not together. He knows the score. All of it. He’s had his nose in my Fanny for the last few days (which is absolutely not a euphemism) and still hasn’t been put off by the grief, the booblessness, or the frequently awful children. If all else fails, he knows he could end up as material for the next blog post, so he’s trying his best to not be too much of a twat. And so am I.

I wasn’t expecting to click with anyone so soon. In fact, I realise now that I wasn’t really expecting any kind of life at all. I’ve simply been existing, day to day, for three and a half years. Three months ago, I was quietly planning my own funeral (I was going to have Brimful of Asha as my coffin came in, by the way. I thought it would be funny,) but now I’m planning a future, and it feels wonderful. The boys haven’t met him yet (nor has he endured Trial by Friends,) but they’re delighted that we’re going out on dates and keep asking me why I’m smiling for no reason. And, they’re both still receiving and engaging with counselling. These are still very early days, but they’re good days, and – far from feeling like cheating – being with this man already feels like the most natural thing on earth.

In actual fact, it feels as if somebody, somewhere, has played a very special part in this. He knows that the time is right for the boys and me to smile again after so many years of pain. Maybe, a loving hand from heaven has given things a nudge in the right direction. Time will tell, and I have plenty of that.

Love Fanny x

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17 thoughts on “Fanny for Grabs.

  1. pigletsmum says:

    Go for it Fanny!
    I did the jump following a 20 year marriage. It was scary and heartwarming and there were plenty of idiots. But I met 4 one week and 4 years later I am still seeing one. ❤
    Make yourself happy, this is time purely for you to enjoy, do as you please. X

  2. Liz says:

    I’ve read a few of your blogs via a Facebook link posted by a mutual friend. There are similarities and differences (of course) with our stories – I really appreciate the humour, honesty and direct approach to cancer. I would add an extra caveat to your list of ‘no’s’ (though with the hope you will never need it) – not someone who opens an online conversation with ‘boo!’ and a full frontal photo, genitals adorned with a ribboned bow. I too met a few interesting types when I forayed into online dating after the end of a long term relationship, five years on I’m still with the one who was interesting for all the right reasons.

    • Fanny the Champion of the World says:

      That’s wonderful to know! I must say, I’m glad to have found this guy so quickly and hope it works out… I really hated the idea of being online and getting all these messages from weirdos. Fortunately, I’ve had no dick pics (and I’ve deleted my profile now anyway, so hopefully there never will be!) xx

  3. speak766 says:

    Such a beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss, but your strength and resilience are inspiring. You and your children deserve nothing but happiness and smiles. Wishing you all the best – speak766

  4. margaret21 says:

    Reblogged this on From Pyrenees to Pennines and commented:
    Many of you ask me how my daughter’s getting on. Well, her treatment is over, and her hair is growing apace. She’s decided to prove how well she’s doing by training to do the London Marathon next year, to raise money for Worldwide Cancer Research, and help fund further research into oesophageal cancer.

    And in other news, here’s her latest blog post.

  5. Kiki says:

    Wow wow wow (I hasten NOT to add any lol’s…) – my heart is absolutely jumping a joyful wild dance for you my dear, witty, warm, big-hearted friend – long may it last! I would probably have jumped at your ad too…. just the way you wrote your post made me absolutely giddy with delight.
    I’m over the moon for you and additional joy: This post arrived FOR THE FIRST EVER TIME in my inbox…. Have seen that I still need to read many of your former posts!
    Oh no, I did NOT get it from you, I got it via your mum…. I don’t know what the dickens is wrong, as I do get all the other wordpress stuff. Anyway – it’s here, I’ve read it and I now will have to calm that heart of mine, or I’ll have a breakdown on my way to the kitchen where some sort of cooking blitz will have to take place. And yes, I’m a good cook (so everybody says) and I would not be too pleased with your missing kitchen skills. But hopefully your sunny boy will be a whizzard in the kitchen too and all will be well from now on!
    Love to you and yours, Kiki

  6. claywatkins says:

    What a lovely and thoughtful post – I’ve been married for almost half my entire life – I can’t imagine getting back in ‘the game.’ What brought me to my wife in the first place was that it was fun to talk with her and she made me smile. Enjoy talking and sharing and smiling. My step-mother lost her first husband and married my dad – they were married for 34 years before he passed. He’s been gone 8 years now and I know she grieves and is lost without him. So enjoy the moment, share a laugh, swear, be real.. there is only so much time we have to live life.

  7. thejuicenut says:

    Well, this wasn’t at all what I expected, things have moved on at such a rate of knots and I am so so pleased for you all 👌🏻 It’s wonderful to read you smiling and to picture you with that mysterious happiness playing on your face. I know it’s very early days, but I wish you all the luck the universe can muster 💜

  8. Linda Duffin says:

    Well, crikey, I’d snap you up myself if I wasn’t a) heterosexual and b) happily married. I love the fact that you’ve maintained your GSOH throughout all your sadness and sorrow and I wish your all the best for a long a happy future. Lxx

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