The algorithm that keeps me up at night

There have been some very unexpected and sometimes unwelcome feelings, experiences and realisations since my divorce was finalised a month ago.

The first was that I felt completely dis-armored. I haven’t felt protected by my marriage for some time. But this wasn’t that feeling — this was something far subtler. This wasn’t the loss of a bodyguard. It was more like suddenly having to walk bare foot for the first time in years.

I didn’t know that my marriage offered me this strange privilege — that because I was someone’s wife, I was ever so slightly protected from some of my deeper and, as it turns out, darker feelings. Those feelings don’t turn away any more — they come straight at me demanding to be felt, talked to, understood and given place in my life.

The other thing that happened is that a strange algorithm booted up. It’s as if the moment of the court appearance alerted the ancient part of my brain that I was in need of a partner and the ‘mate attachment’ program was taking out of storage and launched.

At first I thought I was going a bit mad. I am not looking for a relationship. In fact, if one found me I would probably burst into tears and hide in my room for weeks. I am so incredibly absolutely not ready. I can’t even contemplate making new friends let alone getting into the vulnerable soft squishy space of new relationship. And yet…

That bloody algorithm is there — running day and night — assessing men (and some women) against some primitive, reptilian set of criteria. I can hear it spitting out results and suggestions — mostly to do with how much masculinity appears to be reflected back at me.

A small mercy is that I have children so that part of the algorithm is at least complete. I have spoken with my single, childless friends and their algorithms are a lot noisier, more demanding and making really bad recommendations. This is primitive tech you see and its choosing mates based on a primal desire for big, strong, healthy babies with exceptional gross and fine motor skills that know how to listen to their leaders. These babies will survive long dark winters in caves and not get the tribe killed by having what will be known as ‘an idea.’

My medulla has moved on a bit — but not too much. She is still keen on big men with angry smiles, but is happiest with the older ones. (I think she thinks they are more likely to stick around and keep me warm in winter than the younger, friskier ones in the Tribe of greater Cape Town.)

I was speaking to my friend Dorothy about it. I wanted to make it smaller, quieter, less distracting. Her advice was the total opposite — let it prattle on she suggested. And take note of what it’s telling you. Who knows what you might learn about yourself.

So that is what I am going to do. I am going to let this crazy, reptilian algorithm tell me what it thinks is best. Who knows what it might suggest and who knows what I might think when I finally am ready.

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