A few years back, my relationship with my son’s father was on shaky ground, so I bought a minivan. Unfortunately the transmission failed about the same time as the relationship.
It had been seven years since I was alone, and frankly I didn’t have a clue what to do next. So I dated a 26-year-old. That worked for a while… well at least until a 26-year old female came along, and I decided I should trade the May-December thing in for someone closer to mid-to-late Fall.
Let me back up here for a second and provide a little first-hand advice: if you are coming out of a long term relationship, YOU ARE INSANE. It’s not your fault, but a big part of who you are just ended, so you’re going to be a little crazy as you flail around, trying to regain your bearings. If you are thinking about dating someone just coming out of a long term relationship—YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR STINKING MIND.
One person in a relationship heading for the nuthouse is bad enough, but two—No, no, no. It’s really not dating so much as clinging to a life preserver in the icy Atlantic, watching the butt of the Titanic go up in the air.
Once the novelty of pretending I was 20 wore off, I realized some alone time might be good for the head (and the heart). But all that solitude only made me acutely aware of how much women, (specifically, this woman) hate to be alone. I eventually talked to my girlfriends about this phenomenon, and they, too, struggled with their want of companionship. I had spent almost all of my adult life in some relationship or another. What the hell was alone supposed to look like? It seemed mostly depressing and anxiety driven.
There would be times when my son and I would eat out for dinner, and I was sure people in the restaurant knew I was a single mother. I could imagine asking themselves what was wrong with me, not to have a man by my side. I was a strong, successful business owner… I wasn’t supposed to think this way. I wasn’t supposed to need anyone, yet, I did. The more I fought it, the more I found it was true.
Driving home, I’d see all the blissfully happy families taking their evening walk with their babies in strollers, and I’d get the sudden urge to drive them over with my car. Going to school functions was even more fun, as my ex sat three rows down from me and it seemed as though all the attractive men had wives. (The neighbor’s husband is the one thing that could actually turn out worse than the 26-year-old.)
Occasionally, I would take a trip down to the local watering hole to have a beer and meet up with friends. It’s always fun when there was a mixed group, but when everyone else is a couple? Not so much. The bar scene made me feel from a different era, unless I wanted to date the bartender, the bar scene was really a long time ago and not for me.
So I learned what it was like to be alone.
I hated it.
It turns out, I’m not very good company. I’ve heard all of my stories at least 20 times and I refuse to divulge any of my secrets. And I wasn’t very good at conversation.
Even watching a movie alone was a challenge, and those days I dropped my son off at his father’s house were worse. But I did it. Being nuts sucks.
Eventally, I was ready to get out there again, once I had some time to regain my sanity. I met some nice guys through online dating—once I weeded through the chaff.
It’s amazing how many guys act the same online as they do in a bar. You know the one: the smooth operator with corny pick-up lines that are even less funny in text.
Then, there are those who are terrified of meeting. They email all day long, but suggest you meet in person and they hide in their Star Wars action figure collection. And then there’s the guy who was a doctor, then a lawyer, then a millionaire, forgetting that if he can’t keep track, the email archive can.
Brilliant. And, of course, no one would ever register online if they were married (pshaw!). The good news is, what used to take many bad dates and wasted nights to figure out now only takes a click and a drag to the recycle bin.
Of course, technology also makes it easy to forget that you’re not grocery shopping, where you show up with a list and pick out what you want. I actually had a guy respond to me that he only liked girls with brunette hair. Perhaps that’s because redheads tend to reject them—or was I the exception?
The part I think most people forget about online dating is that it’s precisely that—dating. Matching up all the characteristics in some database doesn’t mean you’re a perfect match.
Every online dating service has tons of forms and questions asking you what you’re looking for, but I think one man said it best: “A date. Isn’t that what we are all really looking for?” That one quote taught me everything I needed to know about dating again. But I didn’t email him (I’m not into bald guys).
After a few years of being on my own, I finally found a way to live with myself. I no longer insist on finding that “perfect” someone, not out of cynicism or bitterness but as a desire to maintain my sanity.
I was finally able to take a much more casual attitude with my dating life. I see if it works, but if it doesn’t? I’m not such bad company. I have my moments. I’ve even made a couple of friends I’ve kept in touch with for years.
And there’s a happy end to this story. I ended up with the best relationship that I ever had, and that was the one I made with myself. Eventually, I did meet someone, and discovered he was not perfect either.
Nor would he ever be.
But I didn’t need him to be my everything.