Love, life and loss

‘Make it short & snappy’

Wilkes McDermid shared a similar ethos to me: “living each day as if its his last…” tragically a few days ago that was the case. This is my response to the news of a highly respected and revered London food writer’s end to his life. I present my views on loneliness, the perpetual search for love in our lives – especially those who haven’t discovered it yet – and death. Especially poignant with Valentine’s Day approaching.

‘Just the facts please’

    • Megan Beech’s poetry here
    • Matthew Hussey’s Get the Guy, I suggest starting with his book and Youtube channel. I’m afraid I’m not aware of the male ‘Get the Girl’ equivalent, but I’m sure s/he’s out there!
    • Free dating websites: Plenty of Fish (know of two successful relationships including mine), OK Cupid
    • Paid for dating websites: Match (know of 3 weddings), E-Harmony

‘I’ve got a cup of tea, tell me all about it…’

I didn’t post anything yesterday as I learnt some very sad news late the night before and took a day to respect and reflect.

Taken at Graffik Gallery, London

Taken at Graffik Gallery, London

The unexpected suicide or as he puts it in his eloquent final note ‘euthanasia’ of a much-loved London food blogger, Wilkes McDermid, hit me much like the news of Robin Williams hit the world. I was alerted through twitter of Wilkes’ fall from a London rooftop as a result of his despair at leading a loveless life in his late 30s.

Disclaimer

I sincerely hope this post doesn’t offend anyone, it is just my way of expressing the emotions it elicited and empathising with anyone out there going through similar dark times. I fully respect the situation and send my condolences to his family and friends.

A lot of the press seems to have focussed on his last meal, as he thought they might, and the security of the rooftop. Much less focus on the reason behind it and how to solve this spreading illness across the country.

I must say that as I didn’t know Wilkes personally, although I followed his work and know mutual friends, importantly, I don’t know his full relationship history. I am making a big assumption that he was “in the club” as I’ll go on to explain, or if he wasn’t, which I hope he wasn’t, it still led me to reflect on my experience. Also I am in no way saying he didn’t have any true friends from my “friends” paragraph, it’s just that so often in life “friends” don’t put in as much effort to be a true friend as they could do, and that’s the same in anyone’s life.

Also, vitally, I am in no way intending through this tragedy to seem callous and commercial by mentioning Megan Beech, Matthew Hussey or dating sites, I mention them purely as ways in which I have found helpful and could help others wanting to find love or feeling less lonely.

My reaction

Shock.

Sadness that he felt so low that there was nothing left to live for, no hope left. I believe there is always hope, but he explained his beliefs clearly.

Warmth towards the twitter community who as soon as the article was published went on a rapid search to try and save him.

Sorrow that his shining light on the London food scene will burn no more. He had a great reputation for his writing, photos and smiling personality.

Empathy. I can really empathise with his situation of a seemingly fruitless search for love.

Desire to write this and raise awareness of a universal plight that doesn’t seem to be spoken about enough: loneliness.

Loneliness in terms of not having enough close friendships, and specifically that of men and women who have never been in a relationship, some never been kissed. I’m not talking about teens, I’m talking about those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and onwards. It is a fundamental right for people to want to form social groups, love and be loved in return, sadly it’s not a guarantee in life.

Friendship

Do you know people and want to get to know them better? Then go and instigate it. A few comments on twitter were from people wishing they knew Wilkes better. It’s all too easy to have acquaintances. Take the plunge to deepen those relationships. See people more, ask them more about their inner most desires and worries. Build relationships where they feel they can express their true highs and lows rather than just having a collection of meaningless chat. 1000s of twitter followers and Facebook friends means nothing if you’re sat at home living vicariously through them and getting depressed through the “facebook effect” of comparing “your behind the scenes to their highlights footage”* Invite others to meet with you. Even if they aren’t inviting you, take the lead. It’s tough, what I write above is great theory, but hard in reality. Building good relationships takes work and often heartbreaking situations where you invest more than someone else and get hurt. True friendship is the basis for a good relationship of any type, romantic or not.

London – a city of millions of lonely souls

Megan Beech, an astoundingly talented young lady I had the pleasure of hearing perform at Listen Softly London (and will write a post about later) kindly gave permission for me to share her poem with the world as a tribute to Wilkes and others out there feeling “Lon(e)don” here, or any other large city. Many I know have experienced it: surrounded by people and yet feeling so alone and desperately sad.

Lon(e)don

Lon(e)don

“The Club”

“The club” as I dubbed it, was what I was in for 24 years. Years having never been in a relationship, a secret shameful social situation to be in. Doesn’t sound much now but when you’re in the club, every day is another one added to your diary of lonely despair having your self-confidence chipped away as you wonder again what separates you from your loved up friends?

Why so secretive?

Why is it not acknowledged or widely spoken about? Those in “the club” may not want to admit to what some see as a failure, something shameful, something indicating they’re doing something wrong, are too picky, are unattractive, or even fundamentally unloveable or something that may make their friends pity them and therefore feel awkward around them. Or in my case, my parents thought I was a lesbian (seemingly an unpopular love less lesbian at that!).

It is in the media: Never Been Kissed, 40 Year Old Virgin, Channel 4’s Virgin School. They all indicate there’s something wrong with these people as to why they’ve been “left on the shelf.”

I want to shout out loud, there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with these people. All anyone really wants is to love someone and be loved by them.

Even to those with social difficulties, terminally shy or have physical attributes that make them less traditionally attractive, as one of my favourite shows, “The Undateables” has shown, there is hope. There are dating sites and others looking for you out there. There is always hope. I had actually given up on the dating site and had stopped actively checking it when I got a message from J pop into my inbox!

Hope is the only shining strand to cling onto when you are in the deepest darkest pit, or in my case, yet another nightclub where you are hoping to meet someone and you sink invisible into the background as you watch the men swoop in on your friend who enjoys yet another fling.

Is there a solution?

Well, no definitive one: no silver bullet, no money can buy deal, no time allocation to wait, no guru can guarantee it, although they can try!

There are some obvious things you can do. Matthew Hussey is one of those ‘guru’s I got to know and work with briefly after I met J, but I still find him fascinating and a great source of informed insight even now. Here are a few of my obvious tips from my experience and a few from his “Get The Guy” book paraphrased (*this is also from Matthew Hussey).

1. If you have a list of attributes you’re looking for in a man/woman, look at yourself and think, do you have anything to give back? As part of this, create a life for yourself: go out, make friends, have fun, create memories – they make interesting date tales.

People have higher expectations now more than ever, don’t get me started on the airbrushed fake ideals children are growing up with! As J said to me in response to me discussing this article:

“People have higher expectations now, in the olden days you got with who your Dad liked!”

True. More people in our village, more choice, more supply and demand. More doesn’t necessarily mean better.

2. Care about your appearance and hygiene, in the obvious sense. Bad breath and body odour can be fixed on the whole. Match.com has a great advert out at the moment talking about how someone will love your imperfections, but if you can remove some you know about already such as poor hygiene that’s a good start!

3. Meet as many men/women as you can. Be friendly to everyone. The more people you know the more likely you are to meet someone. Internet dating is great for this! It ensures you meet people who are interested in your gender and looking for love! I used plentyoffish.com which was free too so even better. I’ve heard good things of OK Cupid, Match (I know of three weddings from this) and eharmony too.

4. Learn the art of flirting. I’m no good at this, but again there are plenty of Youtube clips out there to help. My female friend did give me a marvellous flirting lesson at one point (maybe that’s what started my parents getting worried?!).

5. Knowledge of your own value – this is a big one of Matt’s. About making sure you know your own worth and have the self respect and dignity to not settle for less than you deserve.

But the sad, sad ultimate truth is there is no magic cure, as the song goes “Can’t buy me love”. You can do all you can, be like Wilkes who seems through his blog to be getting out there, meeting people, being charismatic and still not get far.

I can say I believe it’s a case of keeping the faith and keeping going. Putting yourself out there and hoping. I’m not one to talk now as I’ve found someone, but putting myself back in my shoes in 2010, to have a friend who says ‘I know it’s tough, let’s keep going through the frogs until we find a prince together’… the point is I can say all that and know that if I had been going through the tough times for year after year after year, I can truly empathise with Wilkes’ resignation. He even said:

“… when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

— Samuel Johnson

Helping others

From my perspective what you can do if you know someone in this situation, especially if you know someone “in the club” – number one Be Kind. Don’t pester them about why they aren’t with someone, or tease. Instead, help them. Encourage them to join a dating site and get out practising on the dating scene, think of friends that might match them, go out with them and act as their wingman or wingwoman, and yes, go have fun that’s not “catch a partner” related to remind them they are great as they are!

Increasing their confidence is a key factor (and one seen on the Undateables quite a lot). I can’t emphasise enough for girls, do check out Matt Hussey, although getting a little Americanised and infomercial-esque, he is packed full of knowledge and helpful wisdom! Guys, I really do find dating sites a great way to go as you avoid having to put yourself out there in pubs and clubs and feeling vulnerable. Having said that I do have a friend who is a master at chatting up ladies in the most friendly, least sleezy and most effective way in a pub, but I’ll save that for another time.

Wilkes

I won’t comment on his research into what women look for, and presumably this is white western women he’s referring to, as it seemed he was a strong believer in his findings and I only have two examples against his theory. To find out what I’m talking about, this is what Wilkes said to introduce his candid and potentially upsetting account of why he fell.

“The reasons ‘why’ will be upsetting for some and very hard to accept for others, so this is addressed separately here. It is up to you whether you wish to read it, but if you wish to judge, I suggest you actually read it rather than take a summary from someone else.

To follow from this, a short note on his description of “euthanasia” not suicide. I found this a tough concept to get my head around. I think the quote below helped me understand, along with his point about being able to plan his last few months, eat at the best restaurants and have the best experiences.

“But people care about you”
Yes I am grateful for that… but tell me, how does that help? If I was dying of thirst, no-one gave me water but ‘cared’ how does that benefit me?

Also timely, was this story that is doing the rounds on Facebook and appeared to me this morning. I found it consoling to think that the afterlife might not be so scary after all.

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” – Útmutató a Léleknek

In summary, I very much hope Wilkes is in a happier, more peaceful place. I hope others out there feeling the same misery and depression seek help, talk about it and share their experiences to help others. I found it helped me at the time immensely to find others empathising and being there as true friends.

I will end on Wilke’s final sentence, because he has left a lovely legacy and generous parting gift of his London food round up, findings and friendships along the way.

…in the words of Dr Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

 ~ Dedicated to Wilkes McDermid, February 2015.

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One response to “Love, life and loss

  1. Pingback: Full on February Alphabet Challenge – Complete! | MishMashTash·

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