Jennifer O’Connell: She’s 44, bright and stubbornly single – why is that a problem?

After 10 years of internet dating, she’s on a hiatus. The internet has killed the spontaneity

Lucy’s dad has spent the wedding fund. Lucy found out when her stepmother invited her round to see their new porch.

He spent the money he’d been saving for your big day, the stepmother said brightly, gesturing at the pristine white pillars and the tasteful shrubs in pots by the front door. “Now you’ve given up,” she said.

Lucy was outraged. She hadn’t said anything about giving up.

“Well, you are, you know . . .”


The stepmother didn’t finish her sentence, but Lucy knew what was coming.

Forty-four. In her stepmother’s eyes, Lucy’s odds of getting hitched at this stage are just below a Trappist monk who lives up the side of a mountain in the remote New Mexican desert. And has halitosis.

She hasn’t given up. Not even if her own family has given up on her. But after 10 years of internet dating, she’s on a hiatus. Being single – or rather, trying not to be single forever – is so much work.

The internet has killed the spontaneity and flirting and sexiness, she says sadly. “It’s all the messaging. I’m typing on my computer at work all day. And then I go home and I’m typing on my phone all night. It’s exhausting.”

If you get matched on a Monday, and agree to meet on the following Saturday, the protocol is that you spend the whole week texting, she explains. And then it never lives up. In her decade of internet dating, she reckons she has had hundreds of such frenzied textual relationships, all ending after the first meeting in polite lovely-to-meet-yous.

Speed dating

But she doesn’t want to be single forever, so keeps doggedly at it. She’s done Tinder, PlentyofFish, MaybeFriends, AnotherFriend, Match and Elite Singles. She’s tried speed dating and a speed dating pub quiz. She’s acquired new hobbies. She toyed with the idea of employing a professional matchmaker. She has been set up on blind dates, one with a colleague’s brother, but he ended up stalking her, “so that didn’t work out brilliantly”.

People keep saying they’re sure they have the perfect man for Lucy. “And then they think for half a second and say, ‘No, sorry, everyone’s married’.”

She has rules about dating separated men: they must have moved on enough that they don’t feel the need to talk about their ex on the first date. If they do, she concludes they’re not ready, they go their separate ways, and the next thing she knows, they’re moving in with someone else.

She has travelled the world by herself. She has a brilliant job. She is happy. So she is baffled that society seems to see her as half a person

It’s not that her efforts have yielded no return at all. There was the mysterious guy she dated for a few weeks. One Sunday afternoon, trying to penetrate his air of studied detachment, she asked him what he’d be doing if they weren’t together. “I’d be on a date with someone else,” he said immediately. That was the end of that.

There was the guy who seemed to be terminally furious, and who emailed her a while afterwards to ask why they hadn’t clicked. Lucy said something polite about a slight personality clash. Sorry, he shot back, I remember now. I don’t suffer stupid people.

Lucy – a scientist – said nothing.

She has come to the conclusion that Irish people may not be constitutionally suited to internet dating. The men still prefer it to be their own idea, she thinks, so they don’t even respond if you choose them first. In 10 years, it has never once gone anywhere when she initiated contact.

But none of that is what annoys her. She honestly wouldn’t mind being single if other people didn’t seem to have such a problem with it. She does her own DIY. She fixes her own car and her own bike, much to the bemusement of her five-year-old neighbour, who keeps asking where her husband is to help her. “Good question,” she told him.

Dinner party

She has travelled the world by herself. She has a brilliant job. She is happy. So she is baffled that society seems to see her as half a person.

There was the wedding for which the B&B owner refused to give her a room, even though she said she’d pay the full rate. There was another wedding, where she was seated at a table with 12 other single women. “I’d have taken her boring uncle Derek any day.”

The fact that Lucy is clever, successful and gorgeous – think Jennifer Garner on a particularly well-groomed day – only serves to intensify people's discomfort at her stubbornly single status.

The last straw was when she was recently invited to a dinner party. The hostess rang back a little while later, and said the party was off. Then she admitted that the party wasn’t off, but said she didn’t think Lucy would enjoy it, so there really wasn’t any need to come. “You’re grand,” she said.

Lucy was bewildered. What did she mean? Eventually the hostess explained, awkwardly, that everyone else at the party would be in a couple, and that she was worried Lucy “would hate it”.

Lucy is grand. She just wishes everyone else was half as grand. Her dad messaged her a while ago to say he was going to replenish the money in the wedding account.

The patio extension is on hold.

Her stepmother is raging.