Something joyful has happened to my weekends, and it’s as unexpected as it is welcome. Suddenly I’m juggling invitations again, lots of them, to dinner, to meet friends for jazz, to weekends in the Cotswolds and the coast, and even the South of France.
I have to admit, as a fifty-something, I thought the diner scene was gone, perhaps another victim of fast culture, or Covid.
So I resigned myself to Fridays in front of the TV, quiet Saturdays catching up on work, Sundays wandering alone or occasionally with the family.
So, what has changed?, you ask. Is it a fancy new wardrobe that has turned me into a social catnip? Have I taken a YouTube course on exciting small talk? No, it seems that it has nothing to do with me per se: it is my ‘plus one’.
Because the only thing that’s different about me is that I’ve attached myself. And, apparently, hand in hand with a new boyfriend comes an upgrade from weekday-only friend to social butterfly.
This week, British writer Sudi Pigott talks about how her relationship with Stephen changed her. both in the photo
But while I’m delighted to be back in the fold, I’m still sad and angry that single women are so excluded from the social scene of those with permanent partners.
In my many years in the single wilderness, it never occurred to my couple of friends to make plans with me as a single woman on the weekend, even if they were having a group of mutual friends over for dinner.
It was really painful. Also, I ruminate, I can make conversation lively enough for two, I am often a good source of gossip, and I bring good desserts.
However, the weekends seemed sacrosanct for couples. As a single woman, she was relegated to weeknight get-togethers where they complained about couples, while entertaining themselves with my dating mishaps.
I didn’t want to catch up on a Tuesday; I longed for Saturday night dinners for six.
I met Stephen, 59, a charming and deep-thinking writer, after more than a decade of on-and-off Internet dating and relationships that ended after several months at best.
We’ve now been together for a good 18 months after he wowed me with his kindness, quirky humor, and love of the arts. And it’s surely no coincidence that this year he’s received more invitations than I care to remember. Both from friends who have been together for a long time and, perhaps even more exciting, from new couples we’ve met.
I got promoted from weekday friend only to social butterfly
He had criticized my lowly status as a friend on weekdays when I was at my lowest point and was convinced that I would never meet anyone.
I found myself walking along with Mom and Dad to garden open days to come up with a plan, and luckily I enjoyed their company. However, my mother must have gotten bored with my complaints about how the weekends left them dry and high.
Single friends from London, of course, were happy to meet up on a Friday or Saturday night, but she didn’t have that many and they tended to make their plans weeks in advance to save themselves from probable solitary confinement. I even challenged some of my couple friends about my sad state. They were convinced that the weekend ban was not yet a deliberate policy, most of all, they mysteriously always seemed to be busy if I suggested anything.
They started meeting during the week, when he often had many work commitments at night. It made me feel second-rate and underappreciated.
I never quite understood if he was born simply because I liked the even numbers at the table, feeling embarrassed to have an outcast single friend, or maybe his partners didn’t like my company.
Did they think it might expose your anxieties about your relationship or make the single life seem too tempting? Were they convinced that he would take me off with one of his associates? Whatever their reasons, it all made me feel horribly abandoned.
And, apparently, hand in hand with a new boyfriend comes an upgrade from weekday-only friend to social butterfly. Stock image used
You may be wondering why I didn’t host my own soirees, well I did. Couples were, for the most part, happy to accept invites to mine and I was happy entertaining alone, even though it was hard work doing everything from shopping and prepping to doing the dishes alone.
However, the worst thing was the feeling of desolation I experienced when my guests did not invite me back to their homes.
One of the worst offenders was someone who met his partner at one of my parties ten years ago. She had accompanied him as the almost ex of another friend. Although I had met my friend frequently before they got together, she never asked me to join them once they were a couple.
Eventually, when I asked her why, she said she was embarrassed to meet up because I was friends with her ex.
I found this completely pathetic and said so. Now I rarely see her. A friend told me about her informal club to go out to dinner with a group of her friends and her husbands, and they even shamelessly used me to advise them on where they should go, but never asked me to join them.
That left me feeling really hung up like a spinster with little to add to a fun night out.
However, now that I have been in a relationship for a year and a half, I have seen it from the other side.
Of course, there is the curiosity factor among my old friends. I had only introduced another boyfriend to a couple of my friends and none of them took a liking to him.
Possibly because I’ve been single for so long that everyone has wanted to meet Stephen. Absurdly, we are now booking through mid-August. Better yet, everyone likes him: he’s charming, funny, cultured, cultured, and kind; we are palpably happy together.
Then there is the unimaginable advantage of making new friends as a couple, which is exhilarating. Frankly, I’m quite amazed to find that my friend group is experiencing new growth.
I felt like a spinster with little to add to a fun evening.
A lovely neighbor mentioned one of her clients to me, who generously sent me a message to invite me to her supper club.
Hilariously, and perhaps what sealed our friendship, Stephen and I arrived a week early at the supper club and accidentally crashed their drinks with friends.
Ever hospitable, they insisted we join them and a spirited hour later we sheepishly said our goodbyes. A week later, at the royal supper club, we sat down with two couples who, like us, were also very into wine and food.
I was surprised when Stephen received a message the next day from one of the guys, an IT businessman, inviting us to dinner as he had enjoyed the evening so much.
I admit that it was quite different with my ex-husband. She liked him a lot, but he was shy and seemed quite aloof. Our friends tended to be my friends and he was bad at keeping up with his old friends, let alone forging new ones.
I now have a pact with myself that when we invite our captivating new friends (and my old friends) over, there will always be room for some interesting and sociable solos around the table.
I am convinced that I will never put my single friends in the same box of forbidden weekends that I experienced so painfully. Although, I could jokingly invite a single friend of Stephen’s too!