'I'm looking for a boyfriend at 47 – no one could have prepared me for post-divorce dating…

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What a year. I mean, really, where to begin? I’ve separated from my husband, for starters, plus I no longer wear heels higher than 0.5cm (the two are unrelated, I believe). I’ve been dying my grey roots using a weird mix of reds and gingers purchased at Superdrug throughout lockdown. Newly separated with badly dyed hair? Not exactly what I had in mind for my 47th birthday…

It wasn’t always this way. I worked at Elle magazine in the Noughties, prior to which I was just plain naughty (see the whole of the 1990s for details). I’ve travelled the world, interviewing countless celebrities and fashion designers, sometimes ending up in, shall we say, “interesting” scenarios with the kind of people you don’t talk about in the press without legal representation. But after 15 years of high jinks and dance floors, I wanted what lots of people crave when they hit their mid-thirties. As late nights began to lose their sparkle and the thrill of boarding a plane for 24 hours to interview my latest fashion crush wore off, I wanted a family. I wanted to get married.

A decade on, as I navigate life after marriage, this new column is a real-time diary of what’s going on in my life. I won’t mention my ex here, but I will say this: I once loved him so very much and it’s hard to fathom how I got to where I am today, aka in a bit of a pickle. As in, I’ve moved out of a house that’s been my home for a decade, because that’s what we both agreed. It was awful leaving my home, but I wanted a fresh start. We’ve agreed on fifty-fifty custody of our two lovely children. I had to leave my ancient dog behind because I couldn’t take him to a rented house, and I left shoes, books and piles of personal things I couldn’t bear to pack into storage boxes. I left behind part of my soul and it’s still so painful. When my life began tumbling down like dominoes set up on a wonky table, no one could have prepared me for the aching loneliness and gnawing grief that lay ahead. When I lie awake at 2am, there’s one sentence I see hovering above my head like Snoopy: “Stacey, how the hell did you manage to blow up your life so badly?”

What a year it’s been for all of us – and what a year to set up a new home alone. Add home-schooling and working full-time to the mix and, oh boy, what a s—storm. That’s where I found myself in the summer of 2020. After a long time spent sleeping in the spare room of our family home, I decided it was time to move things on. I took a rental property mid-pandemic, having only viewed it via a video call with an estate agent I should have known better to trust. It looked nice enough, well, if you believed the 15-year-old pictures on the agent’s website and find Cormac McCarthy’s The Road a “fluffy” read. In reality, the bathroom tiles were dangerously cracked, the oven looked like it had been used in one of the crack-den scenes in Breaking Bad, and as for the carpet in my daughter’s new bedroom, let’s not go there – ripped, damp, horrendous.

A rationally thinking person might have turned to the estate agent and said: “We are done here, please refund my rent and deposit immediately.” Instead, I allowed myself to believe his too-wide smile, as he ushered me through the gates of hell otherwise known as the door to my new “home”. And so instead of handing back the keys, I entered into an unhealthy, mildly co-dependent relationship with my landlord, a woman living in Yorkshire. I remodelled her kitchen and then her bathroom. I oversaw builders and continued to pay rent, albeit reduced. (Of course I did – I’d lost my mind!) All semblance of control of my life slipping through my fingers, I had no choice but to return to the spare bedroom of my family home. Lying in bed with my ancient dog, surrounded by half-packed boxes, I pondered ordering a s–t sandwich from Deliveroo.

I finally moved into the Breaking Bad rental last September, after overseeing the landlord’s shoddy builders for several weeks. During the eight weeks that followed, I couldn’t eat or sleep and used every ounce of energy to parent and keep the job that was paying my rent. One day, during a particularly bad episode, I had to do a piece to camera for a film, talking about sustainability and fashion. Wearing a see-through protective visor, I remember the room felt suddenly too warm and with no food in my belly and unable to drink water for fear of gagging, I assumed this might be the moment I’d die. Channelling Paloma Picasso in the 1980s with a dash of Eddy from Ab Fab, I remember thinking, head dizzy, people blurring around me, “I’m going to have to call 999.” Glancing down at myself – smart blazer, black tailored trousers, huge heels, a massive gold necklace – I realised if there were ever a time to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance, this would be a great outfit to do it in.

The grief of my marriage ending gripped me so hard, I found it difficult to believe the pain would ever end. But eventually, a few months ago, things started to shift when I moved house again. I started running again; I started eating and sleeping again. And as we all began to feel more settled in our new lives, I started to notice a gentle flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel has been long and winding and there’s still so much of it left to climb through, but I knew I’d turned a corner the other week, when a friend showed me the dating app she’d just downloaded. A date? What might it be like to go on a date, I pondered? I haven’t been on one of those for over a decade and, anyway, it hasn’t exactly been possible during lockdown. (I couldn’t imagine walking around a park with a hip flask full of wine, chatting with a total stranger, hair sticking to lipstick in the wind.) But with the fresh shoots of optimism tickling at my toes (eg the pubs are open), perhaps it’s worth giving the dating thing a go?

And that’s where this diary begins. Dating post-marriage – including what to wear (more on that below), because who talks about that? I may climb inside my wardrobe and scream if I read another working from home fashion edit or anything involving dressing from the waist up and jogging pants. I’m ready for a heel higher than 0.5cm and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point in saving clothes for best. Wear a gown during the day? Tick, been there this past lockdown. Beauty-wise, well, I have some tricks to share. As for fitness, there’s fruit in cocktails, so that’s that covered.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to embrace the second half of my life with the kind of high-level enthusiasm you might find on centre court during the finals. As for where that takes me? You’ll be the first to know – because you’re coming with me. So, buckle up, it’s going to be quite a ride, and there may be a few crashes along the way. Which is totally fine, given I’ve just discovered Gucci sell crash helmets…

Here’s what else is on my mind… 

Saggy neck? A shot of hyaluronic acid could be the answer

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