Cindy Yu, Mary Wakefield and Natasha Feroze

18 min listen

This week: Cindy Yu reads her piece ahead of the Taiwanese elections (00:54), Mary Wakefield discusses the US opioid crisis which she fears has come to the UK (07:13), and Natasha Feroze tells us about the rise of relationship contracts (13:26).  Produced and presented by Oscar Edmondson. 

Help! I’m on a dating blacklist

There’s a online blacklist of men you should avoid dating and I’m on it. I discovered this over the summer when a colleague gave me a nudge and showed me a screenshot of my dating profile. ‘That’s you, isn’t it?’ A wave of fear passed through me. I had been posted on a Facebook group named ‘Are we dating the same guy?’. I set out to discover more.  The group itself was easy enough to find. It was started in New York last year to help the city’s single women avoid ‘red flag’ men. The group describes itself as a place where women can ‘warn other women about liars, cheaters,

What my father’s Alzheimer’s taught me

When I tell friends, ‘You never hear people talking about the upside of Alzheimer’s’, they look at me like I’ve said something about Hitler being nice to animals. In general, a mention of dementia will ruin any conversation. People freeze up at the thought. It’s true that having a relative with dementia is hard and the bad far outweighs the good, but that is no reason to ignore the positives completely. In fact, the tiny benefits can help you deal with all the downsides.  I’ve had a lot of time to look for the positives. Growing up, my grandparents had Alzheimer’s so I was aware of the condition, but I hadn’t

Life with Low Life: my happy years with Jeremy Clarke

‘Am I gonna die today, Treen?’ I kissed his cheek. ‘Darling, your oxygen, blood pressure and pulse are fine and you’re a good colour. Since you woke up you’ve had a poached egg on toast, plain Greek yoghurt with berries, granola and maple syrup, a Snickers bar, a piece of fruit cake, a baked fresh mackerel with tomatoes and a Mini Magnum. It’s two o’clock – if you do die it’ll be from gluttony.’ Jeremy was modest, kind, passionate and loving. He was a great laugh and a terrific dancer. We had a blast This was early May. Jeremy, paralysed from the chest down, was attached to three syringe drivers for

Now I’m 64: my tips for a happy old age

On my 20th birthday, I locked myself in the bathroom of my bungalow in­­ Billericay and cried. Having achieved my dream – becoming a published writer – at the tender age of 17, I thought it was all downhill from there. Yes, some of this had to do with marrying the first man I had sex with; the idea that I was only ever meant to do the deed with him alone appalled me beyond words. But there was also a general feeling that my value was in some way intrinsically bound up with my extreme youth. Fast-forward to the day I turned 60, when I woke up in an

Do we still need Pride Month?

With Pride Month beginning tomorrow, how proud are you of your sexuality? As a white cis-gendered male, I am frankly a little embarrassed about mine. I mean, it’s not exactly cool to fancy the opposite sex these days, and many of us hetero-normies have become increasingly wary of appearing ‘inappropriate’ when making a move on someone we like the look of. So don’t expect me to be parading my vanilla-flavoured proclivities through central London any time soon. What would I even wear to signal hetero-pride – baggy cords and a neatly tucked-in shirt? That said, you might well spot me at some of this year’s shenanigans; after all, the organisers certainly know

In defence of public displays of affection

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had a rather awkward moment recently when they were caught on the ‘kiss-cam’ at a basketball game in Los Angeles. The couple, sitting in a private box (but in very public view), were faced with a decision: to kiss or not to kiss.  Harry went in for the kill (his 26th?), leaning over to his wife for a kiss. But Meghan simply laughed and patted his arm. There, there, little prince – not today. The couple haven’t been shy about public displays of affection in the past, and this was somewhat of a departure from her days on camera frolicking in her role as Rachel Zane in Suits.

Will AI make Tinder redundant?

The world is home to 7.8 billion people. Roughly one in 14 of these people (530 million) are on Tinder. Badoo, the second most popular dating app, has ‘only’ 318 million users. Tinder is the most popular dating app in the world, by far. Now, though, a new challenger appears to be emerging. Unlike Badoo and other less robust dating apps, all of whom try to offer a variation of what Tinder provides, this competitor offers something completely different. You see, this new dating app, a next generation dating app, plans to inject artificial intelligence into matchmaking. Boasting a punchy tagline, ‘less talk, more action,’ Teaser AI, due to be released this month,

Rock’n’romance is dead

The alchemy wrought by a young man’s ability to gyrate and croon at the same time is notorious, turning shy mama’s boys from Presley to Rotten into love/hate machines. Something magical happens when someone – however unsightly – sings a song well, allowing him access to a quantity and quality of women undreamt of when he was just walking and talking like a normie. Two words: ‘Mick’ and ‘Hucknall’. The romantic image of the modern musician as tasty but troubled troubadour roving from town to town on his lonesome (except for his bandmates, backing singers, roadies, drug dealer and manager, of course) and taking sensual solace where he may is

The romcom is dead

From bucket hats to Britney Spears, the 1990s and 2000s are back in vogue. Who could have predicted that the cringe-inducing baggy trousers and All Saints-esque crop tops that filled teenage wardrobes 20 years ago would be resurrected with such gusto by Gen Z? But there’s one part of turn-of-the-century culture that remains firmly consigned to the past. Unlike the clothing of the era, the romcom has proved remarkably resistant to modern reinvention – no matter how hard Hollywood tries. Last month, two romantic comedy veterans – Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher – reunited in a stoic effort to woo audiences back to the genre. But their film – Your Place or

Diary of a 42-year-old speed-dater

New experiences are always good. Meeting new people is always good. This is what I tell myself when my friend Rae invites me to go speed dating. At the age of 42. ‘Am I not too old?’ I ask her. She reassures me that I am not, but I have my doubts. A woman old enough to remember landlines is surely not who the eligible young gentlemen of Kent are looking to meet on a night out in a bar. But Rae is running the event as a fundraiser, so if I spend my night talking to a series of youngsters who think Miley Cyrus was the first to sing

My advice to Harry and William

Reading about the latest about the pathetic-sounding scuffle between Prince Harry and his older brother, I think I could tell the pair a thing or two about fraternal enmity. My older brother, another Harry, and I have not spoken to each other in more than 30 years. He was taller, blond and looked Germanic. I was shorter, brown-haired and looked Greek. He never made it at school, whereas I collected lots and lots of sporting trophies. My father named him an executive in his shipping companies, I was the odd man out. Harry had the largest house in the Hamptons and the poshest apartment in New York, whereas I sort of

A diary of divorce

I’m living in the interstices between smokes. I fill the gaps ruminating, on the unretrievable past and the foreclosed future. I can’t concentrate enough for any one of my thousands of books to be a distraction. I wake up and count the hours until I’ll be tired enough to go back to sleep (or, on the weekends, until Match of the Day). My wife is gone. She’s gone for ever. Sometimes I hear the voices of reassurance. Be grateful for the time you had with her. I’m idealising our marriage. There are other fish in the sea. Thoughts which seem momentarily plausible. Until, as C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observed, ‘then comes the sudden

The myth of the career woman

The image of the single, childless ‘career woman’ is drawn so sharply in our minds, so deeply ingrained in culture and overused in media, it obfuscates the real story. Contrary to popular belief, most working women are not putting their careers ahead of love, marriage and motherhood. Never mind that there are no ‘career men’ – no one accuses a single, childless man of prioritising career over love and family just because he’s single and can pay the rent. But women are made to wear this label – though I have yet to meet a woman who has declined a date with a guy she’s interested in because she’d rather

The problem with Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking

On a recent trip from London to New Delhi, I found out that an acquaintance I see once or twice a year had pulled out of her wedding just 24 hours before the ceremony. An almighty row? Infidelity? Good old-fashioned cold feet? No – her family had simply decided they weren’t happy with the groom and decided to pull the plug. Welcome to the world of arranged marriages. As a woman who was born and grew up in India, arranged marriages – those planned and agreed by the families of the couple, rather than due to the romantic inclinations of the couple themselves – have never made sense to me.

Why shouldn’t men date younger women?

Toyboys are back, apparently. Over the past few months there has been a flurry of middle-aged women crowing about the joy of dating younger men. One author in her mid-forties extolled the virtues of having not one but three lovers half her age. In a piece explaining that ‘younger men are having a cultural moment’, a thirty-something writer described a first date apologising for his scruffy appearance because he’d ‘cycled straight from school’. These women claim it’s liberating, empowering, confidence-boosting and a lot of fun, and even brag about younger men being far better in bed than their older counterparts. And presumably all of this works both ways – so why are

The funny truth about life as a diplomat’s wife

In the early 2000s my husband, a diplomat for the EU, was posted to Kazakhstan, a vast empty steppeland next to Siberia. It was winter and the place was covered with thick snow. My family were in England, my husband was mostly in the office; I was 61 and I didn’t know a soul. Our previous posting had been to Damascus and I had occupied myself by writing a book about the old palaces there, but here there were no old buildings as the Kazakhs had been nomads. I had nothing to do. Everyone spoke Russian – I didn’t. As my husband was a senior diplomat we qualified for a

The ancient art of love spells

An Oxford don has raised the prospect of producing a cocktail of hormone pills that would help you to fall in love. What an appalling prospect! You might suddenly find yourself consumed with an irresistible desire for Ian Blackford. The ancients knew what was really required: a means of ensuring that the object of your passion fell in love with you. The ancients regarded an attack of lust as the same sort of experience as falling ill or being afflicted by madness. So a man in love with a woman would write a love spell asking a god or some unpleasant earth spirit to, for example, ‘burn, torch, the soul

Dear Mary: Must I call my new partner my ‘boyfriend’ when we’re in our seventies?

Q. My girlfriend and I have started using a personal trainer for some joint sessions at our local gym; the sessions are generally very good and we are really enjoying them. The issue is that the trainer spends quite a lot of the time on his mobile phone and it often distracts him from what he is meant to be teaching us. Sometimes we have to ask him what we are doing next while he is scrolling on his device. We are paying a lot and expect a better service, but I find it awkward saying anything to him about his phone habits. Any suggestions? – Name and address withheld

Brought me to tears: Tortoise Media’s Sweet Bobby podcast reviewed

Eleven years ago, Kirat Assi received a message on Facebook from a man named Bobby. There was a family connection — he was the elder brother of her second cousin’s boyfriend, who had recently passed away. Bobby wanted a shoulder to cry on, someone to speak to as he processed the grief of losing a sibling. Kirat obliged. They grew closer. When he had work worries, health problems, when his marriage began to break down, he told her everything. Eventually, they became lovers. Except Bobby didn’t really exist. What started as a simple message turned into a decade of deception and coercive control at the hands of a master manipulator.