Several years ago, I interviewed Dale Winton. I liked his naughty charm immediately and we got on well. After the tape recorder was switched off, he asked me if I was single. “Always!” I laughed. He said he was, too – did I know anyone who might be interested in him? Maybe he could find someone for me as well?
Of course, we both failed to do what his great friend Cilla Black did on Blind Date and find a bit of romantic fun for one another. I thought about my meeting with Dale when reading about his loneliness, with friends saying that all he was looking for was a loving relationship. In his 2002 autobiography, he’d written: “My ideal remains to be in a happy relationship with one person, and my passion is fuelled just by the thought that one day this might happen."
I was thinking about that kind of thing before his sad death, though. This coming May Day Bank Holiday marks a decade since I last had sex.
I’d fallen incredibly hard for a man. We went to a May Bank Holiday festivally thing, had a bit too much to drink and ended up having a bit of adult fun at his place. Then he said he just wanted to be friends, despite me being “one of the best people I’ve ever met”.
And since then, nothing. Not a snog, not a furtive grope. Not one iota of requited desire or intimacy.
He said he just wanted to be friends, despite me being 'one of the best people I’ve ever met'. And since then, nothing. Not one iota of requited desire or intimacy
I’d like to ask those of you in relationships that are reasonably good how it would feel to go home by yourself every night to an empty house. To have nobody to pick up a bottle of wine on their way from work and talk about the nitwits at work and let off a bit of steam. To have nobody to do nothing with. And never to have had anyone touch you in a meaningful way for a decade.
In that decade, I feel that lack of any physical intimacy has made me withdraw from the world. My confidence with men, and long-standing issue with depression, wasn’t helped by the rejection by that man, and I entered my forties with the knowledge that, statistically, it would be very difficult to meet another man who would be interested in being with a woman my age, even if he was my age.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now, wouldn’t you? But there’s so much out there on the web that you look up on a lonely night that tells you not to give up, miracles do happen blah blah blah. And that’s what they are – mathematical miracles that happen against the odds when two people in their fifties manage to have a relationship that works, where the man isn’t after that 32-year-old he feels he’s entitled to after his marriage breaks up, and the woman realises Pierce Brosnan isn’t going to get divorced any time soon.
A tiny flame of hope still burns in my heart for that, but it’s damned hard to keep it alive when a total lack of intimacy has made me feel quite removed from humanity. Science tells us that touch releases oxytocin, the hormone which activates a feeling of wellbeing and relieves stress. Touch makes the emotional receptors of our brain light up; some scientists believe it can make people trust each other more.
I can’t remember when anyone touched me in any more than a friendly or professional way; a hug from family or friends, or a going over from my handsome, funny and kind osteopath Cameron.
After an appointment with him, I go away and have A Big Cry. That’s not because I have visions of him tearing off my clothes and us having very careful sex on his narrow clinic table with the hole at the end, but because someone has touched me and it’s released all the feelings I don’t usually have any more.
It’s the only time I feel that I can be affected by the ‘cuddle chemical’ and I think the lack of it has made me hard. I don’t keep in touch with people so much any more and have given up on ever meeting anyone.
Touch makes the emotional receptors of our brain light up. I can’t remember when anyone touched me in any more than a friendly or professional way
In a weak moment, I wrote on Twitter that being alone for a long time was incredibly painful. The next morning, I got a Direct Message from a man I’d followed for ages, but whose personal circumstances I wasn’t aware of.
“I have bent the ears of friends recently about how shit it is to live a life without intimacy, comfort and affection,” he wrote, revealing that he’d been divorced by his wife, out of the blue, two years ago. “Since then, the simple things like a kiss goodnight, a hug when you wake up in the morning or an arm round the shoulder when times are tough have become distant memories, alas, and it really gets me down on a frequent basis.”
We debated the idea of the ‘virtual hug’. A lovely thought, we both agreed, but while it’s delivered with the best of intentions, not delivering the benefits of a real one. My friend added: “Hearing someone speak, like you did, to the core truth of it just made me feel like somebody else knows how it feels.”
We’re not the only ones. I’ve always felt hugely embarrassed by people on the street with signs offering “FREE HUGS”, and the idea of ‘cuddle parties’, where adults pay money to lie around in pyjamas and ask if they can touch you turn my stomach. Yet it’s a sign that many people are prepared to act on the human need for being touched.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a good relationship, and wonder why your single friend is a bit miserable, consider when they last had any physical intimacy – not necessarily sexual.
This is why I was so sad to read about the loneliness and longing of Dale Winton, a man who seemed to have it all, but as so many of us know, if there’s nobody to share it with, what’s the point?