Like all real things, there is a complicated side to ‘uncomplicated’.
Oh, how the lovely romantic entanglements we have can also be heartbreaking. My dream date with Adonis , for example. It was lovely, but also puzzling. Sharing each other’s presence, I got more of a sense of his vulnerability and intimacy than I get from most people ever. (I know, I know, women confuse physical stuff with love all the time. But read about the date . . . the connection was on many levels.) But, he has proved to be also only ’emotionally available’, for fleeting hours of face time, and with no promises. In between dates, we have been practically strangers to each other. He’ll ignore my texts until he wants to talk to me. Much of our lives–such as the part in which we are both single parents with past baggage and future desires and mundane daily activities and other romantic involvements and struggles, are kept sealed away like nuclear waste. Now, part of me is very much ok with this kind of compartmentalization. I actually like it, because of the escape, and the passion. But. . .
There are times when I question whether I have the stomach for all this.
This past Saturday felt like too much with regard to the ‘compartmentalized romance’ thing. I went to a breakfast cafe that happens to be a place Adonis and I had enjoyed together once in the past. I went with Tim for a fun mom-and-kid breakfast–after all, Adonis doesn’t own the place, and I wanted some avocado toast on sourdough, damnit! I made sure I was on my game, beauty-wise, as I usually try to do these days. You never know who you’ll see out and about in my city and I also just enjoy myself better if I feel proud of my appearance. And, in the back of my mind I did consider he might grace the place with his presence. I live in the same neighborhood with Adonis, and considered ahead of time that it could happen that we’d run into each other. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment? Anyways, I wore a cute bare-shouldered top, hair was strangely wavy today and down, and a glossy red lip. Meow. Sure enough, as Tim and I were finishing our trendy plates, in saunters Adonis with a beautiful lady who seemed conspicuously dressed in the previous night’s date-dress. Hm.
Now, that may sound like a nightmare, since I’ve been involved with Adonis recently, but actually, it’s ok. Neither he nor I have spent one fraction of a second together under the impression that our involvement was monogamous–not by a long shot! He’s just a captivating guy I’ve dated with absolutely zero promises, and good for him. This morning, as Tim and I walked by and he waited for a table, he buried his head in some reading material, the brim of his hat jauntily hiding his divine, Greek godly face. No eye contact. No love. I have to be honest. I didn’t love that he didn’t look up. I felt squirmy.
And yet, it’s kind of fair; he couldn’t have been sure I wouldn’t be weird, wouldn’t do something uncouth or dramatic. Maybe it was even unfair for me to pop into ‘his’ cafe on his street on a Saturday morning?
Being ‘uncomplicated’, we hadn’t overtly discussed what we’d do if something like this happened.
I would have loved to have caught his eye. Not to stop and talk and get things tangled up in introductions or conversations–ick, nobody needs quite that level of complication. I just wanted to maybe just to give him a wink, a knowing glance to let him know ‘I see you. Rock on with your sexy self’. It would have been a human and decent thing for him to do, to show recognition to me, as someone he’d been intimate with recently. In my opinion, it is actually not cool or very nice to ignore people you are on good terms with and even less nice if they’re an object of your affections. But, it’s a complicated thing, to show that recognition in public, with other entanglements present. I’m not mad. But I’m a bit squirmy about it.
But what did she know??
As Tim and I stood out front messing with our bicycles, I did what I probably shouldn’t have; I glanced back in the restaurant window to see if I was being seen. I almost turned into a pillar of salt; the lovely lady was gazing over her shoulder at me! I wondered what was going through her mind, and even more, what did she know? I mean, why was she watching me? And–oh, ick. Had he gone through all of the same activities of the dream date he and I had shared, but with her, the night before? Was it all just a routine, not real, and an act? Was I just a passive subject in his self-absorbed Adonis Show?
Ah well, I’ll probably never know. And even if so, god that was fun and I don’t care that much. That still wouldn’t erase my take aways from that dream date. My feelings of inspiration and return-to-self and joy that I’d felt around Adonis. Those were real to me.
I didn’t even exactly feel too jealous. After all, I’m a pretty lovely lady with a delightful son, and I don’t really need all the men’s attention all the time. I thought, jokingly in my mind, about how, later, I’d tease Adonis, saying that I didn’t say ‘hi’ to him because I was just trying to be discreet, knowing Adonis would surely be jealous of my captivating date (Tim). I rode away with Tim feeling both smug and disconcerted.
I know, some of you might say this guy’s a snake. That his weakness is that he is unavailable, uncommitted, unkind. But I’m not so sure. I feel I ‘get’ his behavior, and if it’s inexusable, then I am also inexcusable, for he’s more like me than not.
I know someone who kisses the way a flower opens, but more rapidly. Flowers are sweet. They have short, beatific lives. They offer much pleasure. There is nothing in the world that can be said against them. Sad, isn’t it, that all they can kiss is the air.
Yes, yes! We are the lucky ones.
-Mary Oliver, Felicity
It is an appreciation of beauty, life and pleasure that takes my breath away. Adonis astonishes me. He loves life and makes no promises. Maybe he’s just figured out some secrets. Maybe he’s found his strength, and is playing to it. Maybe, like a gorgeous flower, he’s giving himself and others experiences of pleasure and beauty when he can. Maybe he’s living his life honestly but trying not to overthink. This is a quality I want for myself, more and more. What is the harm? After all, he’s never lied or broken a promise to me. Like a flower, what can I really say against him? All’s fair in love and war.
If I had to choose right now, for all time, whether I wanted a string of enchanting dream dates without attachment, or a stable, serious, long-term, monogamous relationship, I’d chose the former, hands down!
But here’s where I get complicated, Debbie Downer and cerebral: 1) It takes a lot of energy for me to get past that ‘squirm’ at something like what happened today. I had to do a little deep breathing and a little emotional gymnastics and a long phone call with a wise and polyamorous friend. And, 2) What about finding someone to be a stable man-person in Tim’s life? What about having a ‘relationship’ where domestic life can be shared, that is recognized in the public sphere? That gets some respect? Shit, that allows ME to be recognized as someone’s important lady in the public sphere?Aren’t these things aspects of love too? Isn’t that long term relationship the ‘right’ thing to do, that all romance movie plots slide down into in the end? What about going home to someone and talking about your day, or getting to know someone’s flaws and loving them still, the way you do in a committed relationship? I either kind of want those things too, or something, (Hollywood, patriarchy, capitalism, heteronormativity, whiteness, the illuminati?) has convinced me that I should want those things. Do I have to choose, or can I have passion AND stability? Right now, stability sounds so heavy, boring, and oppressive.
I’m just going to let this complicated knot of conflicting ideas just BE
Like I tend to do when I’m at my best. I’m not going to try to make perfect sense of it right this instant. Today, Tim and I left the cafe, went for a beautiful summer bike ride. We got really hot, then found a Mexican grocery with cold beverages and nice guys who shared a spicy tamale with us, bringing me back to my senses and out of my head. We went thrifting and Tim started crafting his nefarious Halloween costume plans with our thrift store booty! I told Tim, as we biked through the city that we were basically living my perfect day–thrifting, biking, good food, and being with a loved one. Yeah, I’ll always have my memory of the perfect date with Adonis, but what’s way more important, I’ll always remember the joy of spending time like this day with Tim. My love and my family. Whether I ever settle down into something stable again some day, or stick with a string of passionate encounters, I’ll always have myself, too. And that is what I call complicated, messy, sexy happiness.
I love the idea of experiencing a reversal of night and day. Illumination in the shadows. Feeling very trippy and emotional. It’s also the first day of seventh grade for Tim. God, I cannot believe how fast time has flown! He’s at the same school he started at when he was three, and it’s crazy to see how all the kids have changed in what feels like literally a FEW years to me.
STRUGGLING to get work done today. Too much excitement in the air.
Also, does it mean something if a man I’ve been casually dating lately with wants to watch the once-in-a-lifetime in our region solar eclipse with me? That feels very heavy and even relationship-y! I’m not sure I’m cool with the conclusions he might draw if I took him up on his invitation–might infringe on my single self. Or am I being a worry wart?
A date with a guy that was not nearly as hot as I’d thought when I’d asked for his number:
Also I am getting over being sick and only out due to boredom. This guy is AWFUL to talk to. When a guy launches into a speech on the first date “I’m almost too nice. . . “: methinks thou dost protest too much? Why are you telling me this? You are either really boring, or you’re a monster! All I can think about is how people in earshot must be so annoyed to have to listen to our attempt to connect–like nails on a blackboard.
It gets better though. As I was leaving the nightmare awkward date, above, I looked right and realized The Centaur had been sitting to my right, the whole time, hearing every word. This was before we’d ever gone out but after I’d met him and asked him for his number. At least it gave me a great excuse to text him and something funny for us to talk about. Just another embarrassing Centaur experience.
Sorry, the role of ‘My Baby Boy’ is already taken:
Then there’s the night where I was hanging out with a guy that I’d pegged as quite confident, cool, and cute. We started to make out a little. . . whoo hoo!! Kissing is fun! But then, something so strange. His face turned away from me, his left hand sliding up to mouth. He’d stopped kissing me to suck his thumb, embracing his cheek with his palm! I mean. . .I’m ok with it, I get it. It’s a tough world out there, and if there’s something that brings you comfort and hurts no one, by all means, you do You! But your thumb?? Right now? Is better than my luscious lips? Even worse – was he showing me you need a mama (It doesn’t help that Mr. Confident was substantially younger than me) Forget it! That place is filled in my life. I don’t need an overground child hanging around, thank you!
Be careful not to feed the rats:
Another very cute guy, I met while out for a walk in my city neighborhood. (In hindsight, red flag, obviously – be careful when somebody picks you up on the street!) We got a drink and got to talking. At first he told me he lived alone. I pressed. I got excited, it seems we had something in common! We were both going through divorces, with kids. But, as I pressed, I realized he was avoiding answering my questions about it his family life. Here’s why: actually after some questioning I learned he was still living with his wife, the mother of his children, and she didn’t know he was out picking up ladies AND he’d just right then lied to me first and told me he lived alone. The divorce wasn’t even fully decided on!!! I got the heck out of there. This dude had NO business talking to me, until he sorted this stuff out with his wife. Infuriating and icky!
–nickname, that is. When you’re trying to help your besties (or blog readers) keep date-people people straight, without the benefit of faces, nicknames help. A couple of weeks ago, ‘Wild Animal Man’ aka, ‘The Centaur’ and I had a funny exchange. It was endearing and revealing to learn what he calls me and to see his reaction to my secret name for him.
Background: When it comes to communicating verbally about matters of the heart, The Centaur is not great. For example, he’s never, ever, said many of the usual sweet nothings to me, such as “I like you a lot” or “I think you’re attractive/pretty.” We just don’t really talk along these lines. This may seem like a bad thing—but bear with me! That quality certainly keeps my walls up, which is kinda just the way I want it right now. And he has many other lovely qualities: he’s extremely fetching, he’s wild and passionate for life, and he’s great with his dog.
I arrived at a music festival knowing I’d see him there. I was looking extremely cute in a whole woodsy-hippie kind of way (lace-up sandals and an amazing thrift store find of a bohemian dress). He looked gorgeous. He is very tall, with broad shoulders and sinewy limbs. Chocolate chip eyes, olive complexion, a mess of dark, long wild hair all over the place. Very untamed, very sexy. I always get a little flustered when I see him and do weird stuff like spilling beer all over him or tripping over my feet like an idiot or accidentally sending him texts about himself meant for my besties. This time, I saw him just as I was rubbing handwash all over my hands with a grossed-out face after leaving the Porta Potty. Very cute indeed.
I flirted. He introduced me to his friends. I didn’t think a lot of it. A little later, he came over to my blanket. Was he. . . gazing at me? That’s the only way I know how to describe the goofy look on his usually distant face. His head was back, and he was half-grinning and looking at me as if he’d never seen me before in his life. Later, I went up to the front of the crowd to enjoy the last band. He popped up beside me and we had fun like we never had– dancing together, goofing off with his friends and loving the music. As the band took a break, and leaned into me. He’s so tall, he has to stoop to talk to me in a crowd. Swoon. The rest of the scene faded out and I was just visually, olfactorily and physically fixated on his undomesticated presence, letting him pull me close. He said something to me along the lines of “My friend wanted to know who I was flirting with and I was like ‘Oh, that’s just Mama Bear’ and she was like, ‘THAT’S Mama Bear? But, she’s really beautiful!’ and I was like. . . ‘DUH!’”
Did a grown man just somehow use ‘DUH’ in an attempt to formulate a compliment to my beauty?
:::::Cool story, bro:::: But also, his friends have had a nickname for me? Meaning he talks about me when we’re apart? My head spun a little with surprise and delight at this unusual, for him, self-revelation and the awkward attempt at a compliment.
But more useful, as a moniker, I LOVE ‘Mama Bear’! I like it so much I almost want to trade out the name Molly Undercover for it! It’s cute, and also fierce. When ‘Wild Animal Man’ moves on, as I’m sure he will sooner or later, I get to keep this nickname. And I love it. Thanks, my hairy and huge Animal Man.
‘The Centaur’ was a nickname that had been coined by a mutual friend one night, after this undomesticated man-person had stomped around for hours at a party in only cowboy boots and sparkly spandex–quite a sight worth seeing. The nickname just fit his oversized, lanky and beautiful presence. And, ‘Wild Animal Man’–another mutual friend started this after one night when he’d curled up right on my porch and fell asleep, snoring like an oversized bear, feet sticking eighteen inches off the porch furniture.
Right then and there, as the rest of the festival crowd seemed to fade away in the bubble of intimacy we’d created , I revealed back to him my secret names for him. He looked left for a moment, trying it on for size in his mind. And then, I could swear I saw his chest puff just a little, he rocked back on his heels, and nodded. Maybe he likes being seen, named, recognized, too.
Soon, of course, Centaur and Mama Bear went back to the no-talk, all-fun situation.
The brief, but cute, verbal interlude ended there. That night, we danced, listened to music and partied with friends in the woods. How totally just right for my newly single self.
A dream date is so unwordly, that afterward I’m left unsure that it really happened. . .
The opposite of nightmare dates; on a dream date, you feel like a million bucks, and your date seems equally delighted. Like the best dreams, it stands alone, carrying no obligation to the future and needing no memory of the past.
This dream date story involves Adonis, the Pilot (that’s what I’ll call him here). Adonis is a dashing, motorcycle-riding, swaggering pilot; a poet, a painter, dancer and musician. He’s downright gorgeous, with a strong jaw, perfect stubble, a confident swagger, luscious lips, multicolored green-blue-brown eyes. He’s a muse, and he inspires me to live an elegant, beautiful, life. Whenever stars align for us to spend a little time together, I’m overjoyed. And, just the way I like it these days, he’s not looking for anything committed or serious. When we are not actually together, we don’t talk or text, (perfect, I have my friends for that!) and there are no promises of future dates. Just the present moment, which is, at least for now, perfect.
This story recounts our second date: the afternoon of planned date, he texted to say that he really felt like flying in his meticulously restored vintage plane – would I like to join? Terrifying, but come on–who says no to an offer like that? Plus, he’d been a legitimate pilot for twenty years. I trusted he’d keep us alive, and if we did crash and die, at least I’d be having an amazing time with a hot guy in the process. There are worse ways to go.
I got ready (always part of the fun) as the anticipation built. I called just before we were to meet, to ask if there were any clothing retirements for flying in a vintage cessna. He said no, and I decided on something vintage-y that matched the lovely old Cessna: dark flared high waisted jeans, a bright colored sleeveless top with a cute peter pan collar, and strappy red sandals. As we chatted he asked for a few more minutes to groom his lovely self. “Just because I’d like to. . .I like to look good even when someone beautiful isn’t coming over to my house,” he joked. Adonis has got game, I’ll give him that.
Driving in his car to the small airport, we talked. The conversation touched on living passionately, and our feelings about death and friendship. (Really, if that conversation had been the whole date, it would have been a dream in itself!) We got there, and first he did a safety inspection, then showed me around the very sexy airplane. I could see his slightly obsessive love for it as he nerded out, explaining how it works and, in a move that I thought was quite considerate, the science behind how tough it would be to crash it.
Then there was the photoshoot. The midwestern sky was full of pink, blue and purple clouds. We did a couple selfies. He snapped about a hundred pictures of me with the airplane on my phone, ‘for your grandchildren to see what a confident and fearless woman their grandmother was’ he said. I felt gorgeous, and like a model.
We went up, and not only did he show off for a bit, but as an instructor, he gave me a chance to take the controls as well. This was thrilling, magical, and perspective-broadening. As I observed him in his element, and got out of my own, I began to learn what an intensely physical, mental and beautiful dance it is to fly a vintage small craft. For me, learning something new and getting out of my own element is my comfort zone. It makes me feel alive! I felt alive. When we landed, I was full of adrenaline.
We went back to his lovely apartment, full of his drawings and paintings, books, musical instruments, and vintage furniture. There was just enough red wine, and good lighting to made me feel like an absolute goddess. We sang folk songs together while he played guitar; at a few points, he’d thrust a harmonica or a violin at me to solo, (both of which–how did he know?–I used to love to play a million years ago when I was in high school. I now play very badly, but he still acted very tickled.) We danced and ordered food in–middle eastern. We had incredible conversations about philosophy, friendship, and more. He serenaded me to candlelight on his guitar. We danced in the pouring rain.
I left many hours after the date began, feeling I’d been swept up in a spell. I was pretty convinced that I was a magical princess witch who can fly and should be treated, toasted and entertained with passion, skill and beauty at all times! And why not? I’m pretty special (wink). I am basically ruined for average dates now–thanks a lot, Adonis! Guys, up your game!
Here’s where I get cerebral again, and a little Debbie Downer: there is a disconnect between a passionate dream date like this and a sustained relationship. Do the two even have anything to do with each other? If not, I might be ok with it. Maybe I never want a relationship again, but just a series of dream dates like this with different wonderful men.
Today, I’m going to have to resist the urge to sort that tangled knot, out and at least savor my memories and photos of the night (I’d show them to you, but then I’d have to kill you). Adonis inspired me so much! I’d like to learn to bring the dream more and more into my waking life, to my own muse, and to increasingly live my single mama life with the elegance and passion I see in him. Anyways, thanks for reading, and letting me tell you my dream date story!
I’m going to need to be complainey here just for a minute, ok? I promise, I’ll get it out of my system so we can get back to interesting and fun things tomorrow. But today, I had that ‘cry in the car’ kind of day, and each of my friends and siblings have done their patient duty of listening to me prattle this already month, and now it’s your turn, dear readers.
Lately I feel like I’ve slid back months in the process of letting go of my marriage.
Today, it’s the process of planning vacations that sets me off (I know, I’m pretty lucky if this is the type of thing that gets me upset).
I’m planning summer trips and adventures. Tim has his two middle-school aged cousins in town this week, and life is good. They are so cute together, cracking each other up all day, developing inside jokes and having fun. It’s early summer and we have tons of plans with family for the Fourth of July. I also have weeks of vacation saved up at work, and only need to make a plan in order to be on the road somewhere. I’m in a great situation.
But for some reason, I am having a terrible time committing to any particular plan for weekend trips or longer vacations. Even for this weekend with the cousins here. On the surface, it’s just indecision, but if I sit with my feelings a little bit I realize I’m feeling alone. This is the kind of stuff I used to get heavy input from Tim’s dad on. My decision-making skills are weakened from years of letting my spouse take the lead. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.
In addition, I worry that every plan I come up with will be inadequate. To me, vacation = family time. And up until recently, family was always the three of us; Tim, his dad, and me. At a time like this, I would have enjoyed sharing the fun of seeing the cousins together with Tim’s Dad. On vacation with just Tim and I, I’m afraid I’m not enough; not interesting enough, not good enough at planning. And I can never make our family go back to what it used to be for Tim, and what if a vacation with me as the only adult is just no fun?
None of these negative feelings change the situation that brought me here though. Vacations with Tim’s dad didn’t make up for a marriage that didn’t work. Yes, vacations were happy experiences, but I tried to use to make up for weeks and months of isolation and lack of support in my relationship.
It’s a good thing that I’m no longer sitting passively by and letting some man make decisions for me all the time, and feeling unhappy. It’s a good thing that I have a choice over how I spend my time, and that I am lucky enough to have vacation time and good friends and family to plan things with. It’s not light. It’s not fun, but it is what it is.
Today at work I went out for a walk. We have a little nature trail you can take that leads to a coffee shop. I walked with stress about whether I could give Tim enough fun this summer running through my mind. Then, I just started to feel like it was all pointless. What’s the point of having fun if families can break up, people get old and die, and everything can go to hell? Some dark shit was running through my mind.
Then I noticed. Some kind of fluffy wildflowers along the path were sending seed puffs waving in the wind and flying up into the sun. The weather was just about exactly 80 degrees, with light streaks of clouds and no humidity. The breeze blew across my face. I got lost in the moment. The words came to my mind, “All we have is Presence,” meaning, the only thing that matters is right now. Suddenly the pressure to create the perfect experiences when Tim and I are together lightened, and I realized that the elegance of every little moment matters so much more.
Especially with how quick he is growing up! My experience on this walk made me want to just hang out with Tim, just let go of any idea that I need to be ultra-fun. I like this super-zen, wise version of me. Maybe this is how I single mom, at my best? Still, I gotta plan a vacation. There’s so many places I want to go, both as a free single lady and with Tim. I’d love to take him on a bunch of weekend trips and a road trip out west. I would love to read comments – have you had any good single mama adventures with your kids?
June has been a single parenting/adult child of dementia patient/dating/work/social whirlwind! The highlights since I’ve last posted are the following:
Tim stayed with his Dad for a week and I used the eerily free time to catch up on my social life–that’s why there have been so few posts! I went to my first music festival, had one of my first parties at my house as a single to host some awesome new work friends, and took a quick flight for a weekend getaway with a girlfriend.
I took Tim camping. First time just the two of us. Tim set up the tent! I was very proud.
Tim met his Dad’s new girlfriend.
The dissolution of our marriage is not yet final but the lawyer’s working on it. This requires equal doses of paperwork and dealing with my sad and angry feelings. We technically hit our seventeen year anniversary this month, ironically on the day before the ex introduced Tim to the new woman in his life. And no, I don’t approve that my ex chose to do that while we are still legally married, but I’m picking my battles.
I went on a few amazing dates myself! Nothing serious, though. In the mix: a very romantic, artistic, and gorgeous pilot; Centaur/Wild Animal Man; and from time to time, Cat Guy, who was looking for a relationship, but he now knows I date some other fellows, and that I’m keeping it light. I got a few asks for dates from people I just didn’t have time to see. The dating life is exhausting and fun.
My sister moved out of her family home and into an apartment by herself, starting her own, difficult single mama journey many hours away. My heart’s breaking for her and I’m concerned for the hurdles she has ahead.
My parents, two hours away, have reached a crisis point due to the onset of dementia – Alzheimers, (likely, dad), and Speech Aphasia, (confirmed and rapidly progessing, mom). They still live on their own, for now, and are pretty stubborn about accepting help. Their situation is terrifying and needs urgent attention. My newly single sister is taking a leave of absence to care for them while she can.
I feel like the true sandwich generation! Single mom, parents need care, and I’m still trying to achieve in my career, make a contribution to this world, and parent my pre-teen single. It feels busy, to say the least.
Of all of these joys and stressors, meeting the ex’s new girlfriend, having Tim meet her, definitely threw me for the biggest loop this month.
I’ve been determined since March 6 of this year to graduate from my grief over the end of my marriage. I don’t want to mope forever! I felt like I lost months of progress the week Tim met his dad’s new woman. I’ve got all kinds of feelings about it. Beforehand, I was just concerned that she might not be cool, or might not be good to my 12-year-old Tim. But she seems like a normal person and Tim really liked her. That brings me to my next worry. What if he likes her too much, and she’s gone in six months or a year? That seems like so much for a kid to deal with. And then, there are the bizarre feelings of jealousy. What do I care if my ex is with someone new? I know completely that he’s not right for me, yet it feels upsetting to think of him being with her. I catch myself in the middle of thoughts I’m not proud of, that their relationship fails spectacularly and that they both end up suffering. Not feelings I want to feel. I guess these tell me that I have more progress I need to make in letting go of the past and of my anger and bitterness.
In her famous Ted talk on vulnerability, Brené Brown says, “vulnerability is. . . the first date after a divorce” I couldn’t agree more. I was terrified before my first date! Three months after my husband and I separated, I wasn’t looking for someone to date yet. I felt repulsed by the idea of being in a relationship again and hopeless that I’d never be able to connect with a man again. But I was also worried that if I passed up dates, I’d calcify and never get back in the game. I did miss romance, for sure. When someone cute but not ‘my type’ asked me out, my fear of becoming a lonely cat lady if I didn’t start dating pushed me to just try it and see what happened.
And then the first post-divorce date finally happened…
Over text messages, I awkwardly informed him that he was a true rebound, meaning: I was just looking for fun and flirtation. He reassured me that we were just going to have fun together, no matter what. Putting me at ease, he stated that he’d probably be a nervous dork and super awkward at first when we met because he thought I was gorgeous! This brought on a little ease and excitement. I arranged for my son to go home with a friend so that I could meet him for a patio happy hour one afternoon.
We met on a lovely spring day at a fun neighborhood bar. I was still nervous that he might expect something I didn’t have to give at the time, like a relationship, or even sex. I just wanted to flirt. I was excited too–to show up and trying something new.
We were the only people there, which amped up the awkward feeling. But contrary to his warning, my date was actually laid back and fun, totally confident, and looked and smelled great. He put me at complete ease.
As we played giant Jenga on the patio, his confidence and masculine presence infused me with my own confidence. He was starting to get a little handsy. Brushing my wrists and finding other ways to make contact as we goofed around and talked. He was making me laugh and dammit, this was fun! At one point he leaned in for a kiss. Nervous and feeling vulnerable, I did the old ‘cheek turn’ trick and let him plant one there. It felt great, so I changed my mind, and we kissed for a little bit. I was kissing a man! I had almost forgotten how fun it felt to kiss.
We enjoyed each other’s company for a little while, then I had to go and pick up my son. I went from feeling closed off and hopeless that I’d ever date again to goofing around with a sexy man on a patio on a sunny June afternoon. If you’re like I was and a little scared to try out dating, know that it can be fun!
Based on what worked well for me about this, here’s my advice for the first date after becoming a single mom:
Be clear with him upfront if you’re on the rebound!
Obviously but worth stating: have your own way there and home and let someone know where you’ll be.
If you’ve been in a relationship for a while: don’t turn someone down because they are not ‘your type’. Someone very different might be just the thing!
Plan to keep it short. Happy hour or coffee when you’ll have to pick up your child is one idea. Your time is so precious as a single mom and realistically, you may not see this person again.
Just be yourself.
Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to meet prince charming on your first time out after marriage and parenting.
Remind yourself to be open and not compare your date to your old relationship. They are two totally different situations for many, many reasons.
Sitting in an arcade for Tim’s birthday party with a bunch of twelve year olds. This is pretty much the last place I want to be right now, since I just had a little bit of a break up conversation with Cat Guy, and now I need to be fun and cheerful. It can hardly be called a break up, because he’s only been around for three weeks. But he had already expressed so much interest in being around longer. I had started to fall for him a little.
“I need to recalibrate,” I told him as he looked at me with his deep eyes. “I’m struggling. I’m working on divorce paperwork and feeling heartbreak, and I don’t think the state I’m in is any kind of foundation for a relationship.”
Cat Guy took this news well, like a real grown man. Just kept looking into my eyes with his deep brown ones. Then he put his head on my shoulder and cursed softly.
Ugh! Why does this have to feel so hard? Cat guy wasn’t my boyfriend yet, but he is the first person to come even close to being a boyfriend, and he would be a ‘good’ one, at least on paper. He plans ahead to hang out, but he’s open to spontaneous fun, too. He has no idea what it’s like to be a parent, but he has shown nothing but enthusiasm to meet Tim. I get the feeling that he would do all that he can to integrate into our lives and seems attracted to me and Tim as a package. These are all things that are important to me if I ever get into a relationship again. Not only that, but he’s attractive. It SUCKS to be passing up on a relationship with this guy. But my gut says I’m just not ready, and that I need to protect my singleness fiercely. Listening to my gut again is one of my single mama superpowers, and I can’t abandon it no matter how much I want a boyfriend.
So, here I am, handling a sleepover party alone. I forgot orange juice and bacon for the morning. If I had a man around, we could divide forces; he could play with the kids while I run to the store. It’s little things like this, not to mention the desire for love and companionship, that make me want a man around, at least sometimes.
Runs to the store and companionship aren’t enough to lure me into a relationship right this moment. Like Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, “happiness isn’t good enough for me. I demand euphoria!” And, I’ve got friends and neighbors who will pick stuff up from the store for me. I will soldier on, single, and keep going in this growth process a little longer, without cat guy.
There are parenting moments for which we feel untrained and unprepared.
Tim is 12, and his dad and I split up a little over a year ago. Granted, this stage is objectively easier than the baby/toddler years. I was a ‘married single mama’ when he was a babe, and that sucked, even with a putative husband. More on that later. Single mamas of infants and toddlers, I have so much respect for what you’re going through! If only I could look into your eyes for a minute and tell you how much easier things will be in a few years. And then I would hold your baby so you could go catch a nap. I miss holding babies anyways!
Now, I’m not needed every moment of the day and night, so it sometimes seems pretty manageable to have it be just the two of us. Talking about puberty with him does challenge me, though. This week he happened to be home from school sick on the day they were showing a birds and bees video.
Tim’s friend video chatted him after school. (Mama Tip: if your kid is a little tight lipped, get them on the phone with a friend. You’ll hear much more than they might volunteer in a 1:1 conversation with you!) His friend lamented, “Tim, you missed the puberty video!” Tim, sarcastically: “oh, DARN! poor me.” (Little does he know, I’ve rented the video and we are going to have his own private screening. Lucky Tim.) As of right now, Tim still acts very little boyish, and completely uninterested in kissing, sex, and girls. He doesn’t have much body odor yet, and I have no idea of the status of his nocturnal emission situation. It seems we have some time before the shit hits the fan.
But it’s coming, and it’s going to be on me to deal with it. Since the split, his dad’s not around that much. I’m the stable parent and the bottom line. If I don’t come through, he’s unsupported. It’s going to be awkward at times for him. I feel a little awkward about it too. I grew up with sisters, and my family was not particularly candid about bodies and sex, so I’m not working with the best ‘tool’ kit (excuse the pun). I could use some resources, like cool books. Please comment!
I do always like to see the good side, though. I see how Tim and I are building a closer relationship where I can support him as he goes through the turbulent teen years.
Case in point, a college friend of mine grew up without her mom around. She told me once about how she had to go to her dad for everything, like if she needed a tampon run or birth control. How tough that must have been! He must have been awesome though–she could talk about anything with him–and still does.
Tim and I have gotten closer, too. For a lot of years before his dad and I split, I was so wrapped up in my own unhappiness. Back then, my priorities weren’t right. I was trying to invest everything in shoring up a sinking marriage. I was trying to change myself all the time and so miserable. There was not that much reserve left over for awesome parenting. Also not much energy for self care, making the world a better place, having adventures, professional achievement–things I now see as vital to a happy life AND a healthy long-term relationship, should I ever have one.
Now that I’m single, my emotional strength and wisdom isn’t always tied up in a losing poker hand. It’s available to lavish on Tim, on myself, and on the world around me, and it’s showing. I’m learning the simple joy of loving and counting on myself, and I’m thriving. I think Tim senses that my roots are deeper, and he’s thriving too. Good stuff to think about if you’re struggling with whether to stay in an unhappy marriage for the sake of your children. I’m proud that Tim and I have a stronger relationship now. I’m going to be there for him in the good moments and the tough ones. . . and the cringingly awkward ones, even the birds and bees conversations, to come!