My 60th birthday. Almost a year since my partner and best friend died. I was ready to move on. After clearing out my partner’s effects, apart from keeping a few treasured mementos, I had been redecorating the house for the past month in readiness for the new me. I bought a new bedding set with matching curtains from Dunelm, and set about making my bedroom look like a feminine boudoir. It was time to go out again and face the world.
I went on line and typed in “dating sites”. There were loads. I chose the most obvious one, the first one in the list. Filling in the boxes, I wondered if I should lie a little, but decided that I would answer everything truthfully. It would be easier in the long run as my memory wasn’t that good. Satisfied with the accuracy of all my answers, I had created an on-line profile. All I needed was a photo of myself. Apparently one would only get responses if one had a photo.
I didn’t have any recent photos of myself, so it was a question of taking one with my webcam. I would have to look my best, so I applied my makeup very carefully, trying not to look either too tarty or too plain.
I studied myself in the mirror. I was not bad looking for my age. My dark shoulder length hair hardly had any grey in it. My body could do with a bit of toning, but I still had a reasonable figure. I found a simple red silk blouse in the wardrobe to wear for the photo. My partner had always said I looked good in red, and after all, it was my favourite colour. I carefully painted my nails in the bright scarlet varnish that I loved to wear, then applied my matching red lipstick. I was ready to go. Ready to greet the virtual world, ready to put my life on line, so to speak.
I sat resting my chin on one hand, trying to look as natural as possible. The webcam photo turned out well, my wrinkles were not immediately obvious, and my skin looked smooth. I wondered if there was an enhancing tool that was automatically applied to webcam photos.
My profile complete with my photo, I started looking for my ideal partner. Again, I had to be careful that I was true to myself in what I actually wanted. Soon there were pages and pages of likely looking candidates to choose from. One or two that were on-line I tried to contact, but I didn’t get a reply. No-one contacted me either. Maybe I should have lied a little. I adjusted my profile and took five years off my age, changed my description to something more amusing, adjusted my search criteria and pressed search again. This time I had far fewer likely candidates, but most of them looked like they were exactly what I was looking for. All had VGSOH and OHOC on their profiles, as did I now, after having seen what everyone else had written. Those two acronyms were undeniably true at least. I was renowned for my good sense of humour, and my partner’s will had made sure the house and car were mine.
No men showed any interest in my profile, but soon I had several ladies expressing an interest in being my “friend”. I had ticked “looking for friendship with both sexes”, hadn’t ticked that I was looking for romance. I started on-line chatting to several of the ladies, when we chuckled about the experiences that they had in their encounters with some of the men on line. I told them that I was new to it all, and they warned me what and who to beware of. I was horrified at some of the stories they had to tell.
Months later, I still had not managed to get a date with anyone I fancied, although by this time there had been several men that had asked me out. I had rejected them all, for one reason or another. In the meantime I had built a firm on-line friendship with several ladies scattered around the country. We all had a lot in common. Eventually I decided to ask them, one by one, to a gathering where we could meet each other eyeball to eyeball. We set a mutually convenient date in the summer and chose a spa hotel for a “girly” weekend.
I shopped on-line for some new clothes and a swimsuit. I hadn’t bought any clothes in years. There had been no reason to, as we never went anywhere during my partner’s long illness and since then I had been living like a recluse, just going to work in my uniform and relaxing at home in jeans. Apart from on Saturday nights.
Since my partner died I had been pampering myself on a Saturday. After finishing work in the morning I would go to the beauty salon. The girls there would give me a facial, a manicure, sometimes a pedicure, and wash and blow dry my hair. I felt great after that and would get all dressed up before I cooked myself a special Saturday night meal which I would enjoy with a bottle of wine, all alone.
I bought some strappy red high heels and a matching handbag to partner a long red evening dress and a lightweight white suit with a flared skirt, which I could wear with the red silk blouse. I found a flattering leopard print bathing costume, which was supposed to make one look five pounds slimmer, and did. Then I found a pretty floral dress with a powder blue short sleeved jacket. I bought another couple of bright tops to wear with a couple of stylish skirts. Just in case it rained, I bought a long lightweight trench coat and some black boots. With a new red nightie and negligee, I was all set for any eventuality during our weekend, I thought. I booked a late evening appointment in the salon for the Friday before our girly weekend. Although I was feeling very nervous, I couldn’t wait to meet them all.
Saturday morning on the girly weekend I got up early and prepared myself carefully, ready to meet my new found friends. With my new hairdo still looking good, but trying not to look too glamorous, wearing a pair of jeans and a loose blouse under my trench coat, I took a train. No-one looked at me, no-one spoke to me. I booked in at the hotel a little after eleven and went to my room to unpack. We were all meeting at noon in the bar. I was getting very excited. I freshened up my makeup and changed into my white suit. I felt like a million dollars.
“Right, knock ’em dead!” I said to myself as I pirouetted in front of the mirrored walls of the lift, then I sashayed out into the reception area as the lift doors closed behind me.
“Hello, Michelle, you look great!”
“Thanks Andrea, so do you.”
I had recognised Andrea standing at the bar immediately. She looked just like her photo, very elegant yet understated, wearing a light brown calf length dress that clung to her hips, with matching brown snakeskin patterned stilettos and handbag. Unsurprisingly, we gelled immediately. We had become pretty close on line, and had revealed a lot of our secrets to each other.
Soon we were joined by Jenny and Jackie, two friends who actually shared an apartment together. They looked remarkably similar, although one had long blonde hair, and one was a short haired brunette. Both were wearing tight tops over black leather mini skirts, with fish net tights and thigh length leather boots. Admittedly they had nice legs but they looked a bit sixties and a bit tarty, I thought. Never mind, it takes all sorts.
Soon we were all gathered. Davina, the tallest of us, must have been at least six foot, but she carried it well and looked stunning with her long black hair. Wearing a loose black and white top with her long willowy legs, emphasised by her tight white trousers tucked into her long black boots, she looked like a model.
Last to arrive, all flustered, was Georgia. She was a big girl. She looked a little frumpy I thought, wearing a loose, paisley patterned knee-length shift dress and pink cardigan. With her short curly mousy hair, she reminded me of Mrs Brown.
I thought the six of us together looked a motley crew. I wondered how the rest of the world would see us.
The waiter politely showed us to our table and we ordered lunch. We had so much to chat about, the time just flashed by and very soon it was time to go back to our rooms to change for the evening that we were spending in a nightclub nearby. I took a bath, applied more make-up and donned my glamorous red evening gown, wondering if any of us girls would be lucky enough to pull tonight. I bet Davina would, she was a stunner.
We walked the half mile to the nightclub in a jovial mood. The mood continued through the evening as the drag-queen comedian toured the room, picking on one table at a time, to banter with us. He thankfully didn’t pick on me but just joked with Davina, who gave him as good as she got.
Halfway through the evening, I went to the loo to find Georgia in tears.
“Whatever is the matter?” I asked, putting my arm around her.
“Oh, it’s the same old story, Michelle,” she said tearfully. “I’m wondering why I still do it. There are so many bigoted people around. I’ve just had a mouthful from the guys at table 24. They were so rude. Why can’t they leave us alone and let us get on with our lives?”
I looked worried. After all, I was new to all this and had all these prejudices still to face. Was I doing the right thing? But surely, I had to be true to myself, didn’t I? I had probably lived a lie for the last sixty years. It was time for a change.
The rest of the weekend went according to plan. We all had a great time indulging ourselves in the spa hotel facilities, and vowed to do it again more often. “After all, we girls need to stick together,” said Andrea.
Reluctantly we left each other early on Sunday evening. I caught the train home feeling far more confident than I had done on the journey there. I got a few looks from some of the men in the carriage, but no-one actually spoke to me. I sat reflecting how easy it had been. All my fears that I would be regarded as an oddity were shelved for the time being. Manchester had accepted me. But would my home town? I thought not.
Monday morning. Back to normal, back to the real world, back to work. I put on my uniform and drove there feeling very apprehensive.
“Hello mate, did you have a good weekend?” asked Frank, my manager, looking at me a little curiously.
“Yes thanks, Frank. I met some nice people. We had a great time.”
“Good,” said Frank. “It’s about time you started getting out again. Meet any girls?” He winked.
“Yes, several,” I replied, smiling smugly.
“Well, it has certainly put a smile on your face for a change, mate. Now Mick, can you get out on your round and try to be a cheerful postie again please.”
As I picked up my bag Frank spotted my hands. “Well at least your nail varnish matches your uniform now. Mick, do we still call you Mick?” he chortled. “We’ve all noticed you wearing a clear varnish, and wondered what you got up to when you are at home. You’ve got nice nails for a bloke.”
“Thanks, Frank.” I smiled. “You could still call me Mick, or Micky if you like, but my new friends call me Michelle.”
Maybe this wasn’t going to be as hard as I had anticipated. I was hoping I would be as easily accepted by my workmates, but I was ready for any ribbing that I might get..
Creative Writing Homework January 2016. Write between 1000 and 5000 word story about someone who has had some major change in their life.