I think I am going to open a Finishing School. Not in Switzerland or Paris or Belgravia, all of which have been over-endowed with such establishments for decades. Instead I will open it here in the Northern Home Counties, and it will be aimed not at young women (or more importantly the wallets of the parents of young women) fretting about how to get decorously in and out of sports cars, but at men of middle years (40+ in the most part) who really ought to know better but don't, and yet periodically or perpetually bemoan their lingering single status.
Or maybe I should write The Rules for men. Heterosexual men, who nevertheless seem so mistrustful of and uninterested in women that they hold at arm's length the very girl they are trying to keep in their beds. Or get into their beds. Or even persuade to go on a second date. Because the appalling truth is that they will have ruined the first one by Never Getting Off The Subject Of Themselves.
Has there been something in the water since about 1950? Or was it the availability of The Pill to single women since the early 1970s? Whichever it is something chemical seems to have deleteriously affected a certain type of man I know, or know of, who is living alone, (or, God forfend, still with his parents) well into his forties and fifties. These men have no idea how to WOO.
They had parents who stayed married until death, insofar as i know, so they have witnessed a fully functioning, more or less successful heterosexual partnership at a formative age and yet cannot even get weeks - certainly not months (and years? Forget it!) - into one of their own.
When I look long and hard at these chaps i am left thinking, what IS it with you? Are you part of the growing percentage of fellows on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum or is it just pure unbridled narcissism? Have you become hopelessly self-absorbed because you live alone, or do you live alone because you have always been hopelessly self absorbed?
One of these characters (in his early 40s, never married, but then never lived away from his parents either, reasonably good-looking, employed, solvent) recently asked The Husband and their colleagues how much is reasonable to spend on a woman and on joint activities when one is an established relationship.
The two happily married ones answered him with A Real Poser.
"EVERYTHING," they said. "A real relationship costs us everything we earn, have and are with nothing held back. OK, we might buy bits of kit that only we get full use of, but that is with the leftover spends when every other obligation has been met."
They may as well have been teaching Mandarin accounting with an abacus, I suspect, but we'll see.
That's just money. What about the stuff that costs NOTHING? What is it with these men who, when you ask them how they are, or how work is going, TELL you at endless length and in meticulous detail, to the point of exhaustion? Well, it must be exhaustion because when they eventually run out of steam they have no puff left to ask how we and our careers (or lack of them, in this recent age) or interests are in return...
That applies equally to women who've lived alone for a number of years, but they usually have magazines and friends and maybe even sisters to tell them where they are maybe going wrong in their social interactions. Men as a rule don't intervene and nudge their mates or colleagues in the right direction when they are still wandering around the nursery slopes of the dating game like lost souls twenty or thirty years after they first strapped on skis.
So we need a Finishing School (aka The Last Chance Saloon) before these guys start pulling down their single person's pensions and scratching their grey, bald or thinning pates wondering where it all went wrong and how it was they never got to bestow upon another human all that capacity for joy, and love and sharing.
All those lost opportunities because they simply cannot talk to a girl, or a woman and especially not a lady who values good manners.