What Reaching ‘Middle Age’ Feels Like When You’re Single

Illustration by Assa Ariyoshi
I'm getting older. I can't avoid it and I can't deny it. I tried to dye my hair this week (regulation GMTV blonde) and it now has a sheen of lavender, like a purple rinse. I despaired for a day and then realised that, over a certain age, no one looks at you closely, so it's irrelevant what colour my hair is. I almost felt at ease having a purple rinse; so at ease that I tried to cut my fringe, too. I'm now visibly wonky and purple, like an aunt from a Roald Dahl quip. However much we talk about 40 being the new 20 and 50 being the new 30, it's not. We just wear younger clothes, we just have work done, and we are just given permission to engage with fashion and style a bit longer. Dyeing my hair blonde or purple doesn't stop the clock. Enduring a whole day of skinny jeans that squeeze, pull and pinch doesn't mean I'm 30 – not when I'd rather be in something stretchy that stays up. I've seen a few posts recently from women, like me, who visibly transitioned when they were older, maybe in their 40s or 50s. I say 'visibly transitioned' to try and get away from the old notion that in some way we (trans folk) move from A to B – we don't. Their posts were emotional confessions, often on a Friday or Saturday night, that they were lonely and could use a hug. They crave intimacy, someone to love, caress and maybe even have sex with; a fuck this way or that. When I read these posts I'm horrified that people would express such personal stuff to the world, that they could allow themselves to be so vulnerable, and my first feeling is a little judgemental. But my next feeling is envy. I'm envious that I feel exactly the same as them but I can't voice it, even on social media – that I can't say I'm alone and then get a litany of hugs, kisses and funny symbols that my eyes don't allow me to see properly, so I ignore them. Over-50s can't do emoji, apart from the really simple thumbs-up or smiley faces. I feel just like them, those women expressing their sadness. I am clearly me now, but to the world, however clear I am, I'm middle aged – and middle-aged people don't get a whole lot of interest and attention, not the romantic, desirable, dirty kind. Middle-aged women and men – despite the old (outdated) adage that men improve with age – get ignored. Just look at the number of men on Tinder. Men divorced or men never married, men who pose in front of big cars and next to sharks, men dressed up to climb mountains, or serious, successful men dressed up in suits. Men desperately trying to be the kind of man they still think women want, only now they are the greying, balding version that doesn't quite know how. I want to hug them all, just for a second.

I sincerely did imagine that someone in this world would be interested in exploring me and my body. That someone, somehow would fall in love with me and that Christmas would be a shared experience.

We're no different, us older trans women, we just join that line of people wanting to meet someone special. There is as much chance that a 'someone' will find us attractive but first we have to wade through the singleton equivalent of the Everglades to find them. The same swamp everyone else is in. It's easy to think it's our 'transness' that makes us isolated; it's not, it's more likely our being middle aged, our having nowhere to meet them. A 'trans club' or a 'club for trans folk and their admirers' often equals men or women looking just for you – a trans person – and maybe that's not an issue for some, because it makes sense on many levels, but I want the world at large to be my oyster and my pussy a pearl. Besides, in my very slim experience with men post 'vaginal-landing', they've seemed quite disappointed that I've left some bits of me behind on the cutting-room floor. That's a tough salutatory lesson to take when you receive your beautiful vagina in your 40s, or older. Like a gift, I open my legs for the world and my flower sings, a song for the ready, a chant of anticipation and a psalm for the reality that no one really cares that much about a 40-something (now 50-something)-year-old 'virginal-vagina'. Maybe that could be my Tinder strapline: "All-new pussy longing to roam but never explored. Belongs to 'seen the world' owner with tentative fingers." That line is funny to write but sad to read straight after. I sincerely did imagine that someone in this world would be interested in exploring me and my body. That someone, somehow, would fall in love with me and that Christmas would be a shared experience. That my epic adventure to become me would be met with a storybook happy ending. They lived happily; lovely house, original features; vegetable plot; spaniel; and sex, lots of sex, Saturday night and Sunday morning. I dreamt that dream for 1001 nights. I became my own romantic chain store movie that didn't get made.
Illustration by Assa Ariyoshi
Instead I live alone in the middle of nowhere with two dogs who pull me in different directions, a very old married neighbour who constantly gives me tomatoes in the hope of a quick grope (his words not mine) and now, to cap it all, I have purple hair in homage to the women with whom I grew up in the '70s. Women I vowed I'd never turn into, women I thought I could never be. My granny, my aunts, my neighbours, my teachers. It's easy to think that this loneliness and lack of intimacy is down to me being transgender or even me being transgender and HIV, but it's not. Like those women I grew up with, whom we now see as being much older than us because of the lives they led and the way they dressed, I'm at an age where being single is much more likely to be an ongoing condition, permanent unless there is some wild stroke of luck. Most of the women whom I see posting on social media about their loneliness have careers, nice houses, clothes and often brand-spanking-new vaginas. They are me and I am them and we are alone, regardless of when we became our true selves. We all transition, all of us, we all become authentic and confident at different times, trans or otherwise. But for many of us, when we do, we are beyond the age of simplicity and sexual ease. We are already becoming invisible, even GMTV-blonde invisible. The next time I see one of those posts I won't move on, irked, but I will say that I feel the same and I will offer to call – not virtually hug, but call, talk and laugh. Surely better to be together with our rinses?

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