Niloufar Lamakan

Niloufar Lamakan is an Iranian-born interior designer and artist living in London. Her debut novel, “Swiping at 60”, is a romantic comedy about a spirited woman in her 60s defying ageist expectations by taking on a dating challenge. Niloufar wanted to write a funny and age-positive story about women, dating and sex. Her book is a well-timed portrayal of a sixty-year-old female protagonist in a lead romantic comedy role.
The book follows Sophia Stone who is single, successful and loves her life in London. She intends to grow old disgracefully, determined not to be quiet and invisible. When she decides to go on one date a week for a year, she wants sparkling romance and hot sex, not targeted ads for funeral plans. She embarks with enthusiasm on a series of sexy, unexpected and downright comedic encounters. She has a fling with a cape-clad opera buff, eats sushi off a man’s naked body, and enjoys the perks of dating an orgasm expert. Having vowed never to fall in love again after the last heartbreak, Sophia wishes for mind-blowing sex without emotional entanglement, but her dating journey may lead her in a surprising direction.

Award Category
Screenplay Award Category
Spirited sixty-year-old Sophia wants to grow old disgracefully when she decides to go on one date a week for a year, embarking on a series of sexy, unexpected and downright comedic encounters.
Swiping at 60
My Submission

Tuesday 1 January 2019

10.30am

Good morning 2019 and hello my dear diary. It’s New Year’s Day and time for my seventh decade body audit. I find every time I hit a new decade, it’s like my body relaxes and thinks, I can let myself go a bit more now. Lumps and bumps can be called curves, and wrinkles are a sign of wisdom and character. So how am I looking at sixty, facing a full-length mirror in my neon pink underwear?

Hair on head – Longish and honey coloured because I’m worth it. Au naturel is not for me.

Pubic hair – I like to think of the grey ones as silver highlights. I go for natural in that area. My thinking is, if I’ve got to the stage where a guy is facing my pubes, he’s not likely to stop just because of a few wiry grey hairs.

Chin hairs – Laser removal doesn’t work on white ones. Why not, for God’s sake?

Waistline – Pretty trim after my year of travel and trekking, but there, I can see it in the mirror. Menopause fat is pushing at the inside of my stomach. ‘I missed you,’ it’s saying, ‘let me come back and pad you out again. Have another packet of crisps. Ooh those chocolate biscuits look so good.’

Face wrinkles – Yeah some, but if I look in the mirror without my contact lenses there are no lines at all.

Legs – Maybe I should cover them up and stop putting people off eating oranges. But then again, who gives a shit? I’ll wear what I like.

Boobs – Nipples still pointing ahead. Always a bonus at my age.

Back fat/droop – Who knows? What I can’t see won’t hurt me.

Eyes – Bloodshot from last night’s excesses.

Brain – Still not got the hang of ruling the heart.

Heart – Was shattered into a million pieces but mending nicely now.

Audit result: I’d say not bad. On Instagram, they’d say, looking fabulous at sixty. Will I face Catherine Deneuve’s “Arse v Face” dilemma soon? Possibly quite soon, but I think I’d opt for small ass/wrinkly face. I’ll have the last laugh when I get a wolf whistle from the back and shock when they see the front.

I’m at peace with my body now though it’s taken me forty years to get here. I could cry for my teenage self on that summer holiday in Italy in 1971. Puberty had kicked in and I had puppy fat which was unacceptable to Mum. She was beautiful, glamorous, slim and totally intolerant of ugliness and excess flesh. All the other kids splashed around in the pool, but I was deemed too fat to wear a swimsuit.

‘No darling, you can’t possibly bare all that flesh. Just stay on the sun lounger in your dress. Maybe next year if you manage to lose some weight,’ she’d said to me before diving into the pool in her skimpy bikini. When the tears came, she bought me ice cream to console me. I gobbled it up and got fatter. I still can’t understand that. When I went off to university, she couldn’t control what I did or ate, but her attitude didn’t change. I’d go home to visit and conversation over breakfast often went like this:

‘You look terrible darling. You should put on some make up,’ she’d say.

‘There’s nothing wrong with me. This is my normal face Mum,’ I’d protest.

‘Still, you look ill. Much better to brighten up your face with some colour. It would take the attention away from your bottom. You’re not spending your student grant on chips and pies, are you darling?’

It wasn’t till my late forties when I managed to get myself out of constant dieting and accepted that my identity didn’t depend on the size of my arse. Nor indeed on how I looked in the morning.

But I must not get morbid. It’s all behind me now. Back to the life audit.

My career audit result is simple. I still love my job, and my wonderful clients have been waiting for me to come back and redesign their homes. An interior designer is for life, not just for Christmas.

And now – deep breath – my 2018 love-life audit.

Love interests – Zilch.

Butterflies in tummy – None.

Sex – Twice (practically a born-again virgin).

Dating skills – Rusty as hell.

Heartbreak – one.

Emotions – Contained. Just about.

Soul – Pretending to be ignoring emotions.

Audit results in that area are damned poor. So I’ve decided my love-life needs an overhaul. My exciting New Year’s resolution is to take on a dating challenge. Oh yeah. No more celibacy for me. The plan is to go on one date a week until I meet the man of my dreams. My soulmate. Well, the dream soulmate bit is Leila’s idea but more of that later. The world may think I’m invisible and past it just because I’m sixty, but that couldn’t be further from how I feel. I want passion, laughter, adventure, and of course fabulous sex. Being age-appropriate is way overrated. Much better to grow old disgracefully. I won’t be wearing a nylon housecoat any time soon.

Last night I was excited to hear Leila had invited a few single men to her NYE party, hoping I’d hit it off with one of them. OMG. How could my best friend of fifty years think they were good matches for me? I appreciate your dedication to searching for a man for me, but can you please find someone who makes my cheeks flush and my vagina throb?  The Divorcee was rather attractive until he started telling me he was exhausted by his children, and desperate to find “help”. I thought I was being interviewed for the missionary position until I realised he wanted to fill a nanny position. Then there was Cement Man. How much can one person talk about his cement company? Quite a lot, apparently. When he finished his story about an “absolutely hilarious concrete pouring mix-up”, I thought I might be petrified. And last and least was Dick Pic Man. I tried to ignore him when I saw what he’d texted me, but that didn’t stop him creeping up behind me later and whispering, ‘Would you like to see the real thing?’ Now, I like to look at a penis as much as the next person but not as a calling card. I wish I’d come up with a witty quip like, ‘No, I don’t want to look at your shortcomings,’ but I just said, ‘No, thank you,’ and walked away. I wish I hadn’t been brought up to be so polite.

Anyway, I know I’ve been out of the dating game for a few years, but I don’t need Leila’s help. Though she is particularly good at finding husbands, Jude being her fourth one! How does she do it? I’ve only got one husband under my belt, and he divorced me nearly thirty years ago. But how hard can it be to find willing men? There are millions of them in London, and everyone is doing it online, so it’ll be much easier and more efficient now. I’m quite sure of it.

Mass blind date aside, the party was so much fun, as my vampire eyes will attest. This year’s theme was movie characters, and Leila’s new house in Hampstead, a huge LA style modern house with double height entertaining space and lots of glass (a snooper’s dream if it wasn’t surrounded by trees), was the perfect setting. Three Indiana Joneses were in a manly whip huddle. Forest Gump was dancing with Holly Golightly, and the sight of Hannibal Lecter chatting up Hermione Granger was plain creepy. ‘No way!’ was all anyone could say as Trey, the magician, smashed Marilyn Monroe’s phone with a hammer, then brought it back to life with a gentle rub. And Dragon, the fire eater, nearly set his tiny loin cloth on fire. Leila sure knows how to throw a great party and she looked stunning in her Jessica Rabbit costume, her ample boobs popping out and making eyes pop. Grace and Ajay were Ghostbusting, and I was pretty pleased with my space outfit – bikini top and mini skirt made of tin foil, worn over a gold lurex body suit. Until the foil started crinkling and ripping, that is. I was aiming for groovy Barbarella but ended up a “Pound Shop” hula girl.

Later I did a disappearing act of my own. I couldn’t bear the thought of that awkward moment at midnight when you have to wait for couples to kiss first before they get to you. So I saw in the new year sitting on the loo with a glass of fizz and a few tears. I reappeared when “Auld Lang Syne” was finished, uplifted with that weird, post-crying refreshed feeling, and decided to start the year with a positive attitude. We were still dancing in the early hours when Leila told me about a podcast by a forty-five-year-old woman talking about her project to go on one date a week to find her soulmate, which she did, after 3 months. 

‘Why don’t you try that?’ Leila shouted over the music.

‘I’m perfectly fine as I am. I don’t need a man to make me complete.’ I shouted back. A date a week sounded too much like hard work and I really need to set aside time to sort my wallpaper and fabric samples.

‘You might not need a man, but you do need to open your heart again, Sophia Stone. It’s been over a year since… you know who. You run at 100 miles an hour and pretend you’re not lonely, but I know you better than that. You deserve to be happy and loved.’

‘I am happy and loved. I don’t need a man for that.’

‘I bet you’d like more sex though,’ Leila said and winked.

‘Guilty as charged, your honour,’ I said.

I laughed it off last night but this morning, lying here in my bed wishing I wasn’t alone, I’m wondering if she had a point. I’m happy right now, but have I been avoiding love? Yes, I probably have. It was great to travel for most of last year and be too busy exploring the world to think about love. I’d had my heart ripped into tiny pieces and fed to a fox by The Traitor. I just wanted to dull the pain by using up every minute of every day, so I wouldn’t have time to think about him. Then a few months passed and one day, sitting on a glorious beach in Goa, sipping Sula wine and watching the turquoise ocean lap the golden sand, I started to relax and enjoy myself. To experience the adventure properly. I thought I’d done a Cheryl Strayed and walked my way back to being strong and fearless, but when I came back to London last October, some of the old battered raw feelings resurfaced. Where is he? What is he doing? How could he have betrayed me like that? Aargh. I decided I’d grieved long enough for that relationship and pushed my feelings so far into the recesses of my soul that even Sherlock Holmes would have a job finding clues to their whereabouts. I can’t cope with love. I won’t go there again. Leila is wrong about opening my heart. It’s not worth the risk of feeling broken again.

As for finding a soulmate, I thought I’d found him when I married James all those years ago. In the last century! Oh the optimism of youth. It was going to be happily ever after, but the universe had other ideas. Then I met The Traitor five years ago and thought I had a second chance and look how that turned out. The ones in between were just… well, none of them lasted, no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I tried. I still think of Perry with fondness though. He wanted to break down my walls and make it work between us. It makes me laugh (and a little bit sad) to think that he used to resort to withholding sex if I wouldn’t share my innermost thoughts with him.

‘So what are you most scared of in your life right now?’ he’d ask right after foreplay and just before sex.

I’d try to avoid answering by kissing him, and he’d say, ‘No, no more of that until you tell me.’

I’d make up something like losing my job or losing my parents because I didn’t want to say I feared losing him. I anticipated he would leave me, so I didn’t allow myself to share my deepest feelings. Hell, I rarely admitted them to myself. Unsurprisingly, the prophecy fulfilled itself and we broke up after four years. Did I realise what I was doing then or is it hindsight?

But right now, I’m clear about what I want. My life may be lacking in romantic love, but I have everything else and I’m truly grateful for that. I want to live life to the full and I don’t need a soulmate to do it. Great sex will be enough to nourish my body and soul. I won’t think about love when I’m dating 52 fabulous men. I’ll take on the dating challenge and give it my best shot. I’m going to have a ball(s), and if I’m lucky I’ll meet a few sex machines and focus on having lots of fun. This year I’ll master having marvellous, mind-blowing sex without emotional entanglement. At the end of the year, I will have had the best sex ever and spiced up this year’s diary. Win/win.  Kill two birds with one Sophia Stone.

To check that everything was in working order for my upcoming busy sex life, I dug out my old vibrator from the back of the wardrobe, changed the batteries (dead from lack of use), and gave it a whirl – nothing like morning sex even if it is with a mechanical toy – and I can confirm I am still a sexual being. A sexy goddess. At sixty. No velour slippers and stairlifts for me, thank you very much.

In other non-love-life related news, Mum and Dad have bought an iPad, so I expect I’ll be doing tech support when I see them for our family lunch later. Though respect to Mum, she uses a banking app on her phone and makes video calls to everyone. She’ll approve of my trim figure, so I won’t have to suffer any “observations” about my body. I’m also wondering whether we’ll get sweet Sara or sour Sara today. I can’t cope with a sour sister and a hangover. I hope she doesn’t ruin the day for Mum and Dad with her drip-drip of passive-aggressive comments aimed at me. It’s always me.

‘You look good in that dress Sophia,’ she’ll say sweetly. ‘I don’t understand why you can’t keep a man,’ she’ll sting.

Or if I say anything about how difficult my job can be at times, I’ll get the “you don’t know you’re born” attitude.

‘Messing about with cushions and wallpaper? Yeah, that sounds really stressful,’ she’ll say, rolling her eyes and changing the subject.

I keep my mouth shut to keep the peace, as always, but I hate to see Mum and Dad looking crestfallen when the atmosphere gets unbearable. They’re nearly eighty and who knows how much longer they’ll be with us, so we should cherish our time with them. I wish Sara would get that and stop acting like a malicious child.

I’ll distract them with my travel photos. Surely, even Sara can’t object to pictures of amazing places. Three months have flown since I came back, and I’ve only just sorted them. In Peru at the beginning, I’m on my own, and have droopy shoulders and dead eyes, but by the time I reach Australia, I’m posing with a rowdy group, arms linked and shouting cheese at the camera. More like me again. Spending 9 months running away from heartbreak was definitely a good idea.

11.30pm

Sara was exhausting and yes, a total bitch today. I slept the half hour journey back from Harpenden and only just managed to rush out of the train before it left St Pancras. A 15-minute power walk home blew away the afternoon’s horrible atmosphere. Forget sweet or sour. We got downright nasty Sara today. The insults she threw my way were varied and fierce. She pronounced that the dating challenge was “undignified” for a sixty-year-old, there was no way she could “sit through other people’s dull travel photos”, and that the people I’d met whilst travelling sounded like “wasters”. Is it wrong to want to strangle your sister?

She topped it all by saying, ‘At least you didn’t come back with a new man. I can’t take the drama of another break-up’. Below the belt. What happened to the sweet little sister/daughter who used to save up all her pocket money to buy birthday presents for us? The one who fought off a mugger in Barcelona because he’d tried to grab my bag. I want her back.

I recreated my NYE disappearing act until Mum hunted me out. I had to plead tiredness to explain my red eyes. And true to form she suggested I touch up my make up. At least she thought it’d be fun to date lots of attractive young men (well I do get my adventurous side from her). Dad skipped over the dating bit (bless him, he still sees me as his little girl) but he loved my photos. He wants to go to the Himalayas for his 80th. God help us. I have amazing parents (life-changing body-shaming aside).