After my husband left…after I started eating again and the panic attacks slowed down…I started thinking about dating again.
Which brought on more panic attacks.
I was absolutely certain of 4 things.
1) Nobody will want to date a 43-year-old mother of two young children. No way.
2) I do not want to date anyone with children. I don’t want to be saddled with anyone else’s jerky kids and I don’t want my kids to be forced to hang with a kid they don’t like. No kids.
3) Even if someone WANTS to date me, it will be impossible. My children are with me most nights and I refuse to have a revolving door of men waltzing through their lives (or even a revolving door wherein one man comes and goes and isn't a permanent, reliable part of their lives.)
4) I will never trust another man as long as I live.
Absolutely CERTAIN about those things. And kinda bummed.
For a period of about 6 months or so, I only dated men who lived on the other side of the country. I dated them on Facebook or my phone or email. It was safe. I was able to dip my toe in the water without having to be in the same room with him.
Kinda makes sex difficult, though. I mean, I’m not knocking cybersex and, if you haven’t tried it, you really should. But eventually it ends up not quite being enough.
Still, the thought of dating someone in my own time zone was terrifying.
I went to dating sites a couple times but I wasn’t ever able to register. I’m not against it. The world has changed. It makes sense that meeting people has become computerized. I just was never able to get past the “user name” blank. I couldn’t think of anything clever. Then I thought of a few things that were too clever. Then I gave up.
And then, in August of 2012, I spoke at a fundraising event for the children’s hospital. As Pip and I sat with the fundraising staff, a man stopped by the table to say hi and my heart skipped a beat. I don’t know why. I mean…no…that sounds awful. There are plenty of reasons why. I met a lot of people that day and this one stuck with me. Because chemistry and whatnot, I guess.
(Actually, every one of my friends who has met him has said, "I liked him instantly - there's just something about him that makes you instantly feel comfortable." So maybe it wasn't a special connection so much as him just being really friendly...but I'm gonna stick with the chemistry idea.)
He spoke to me later and told me where he works. Repeatedly. He asked me to come by. I said that was not actually in my town and he asked me to come by again.
And then he was gone.
A few months later, I realized that as I was lamenting my aloneness and the impossibility of meeting someone without coming up with a perfect username, I kept thinking of him. What if….
So, you guys! Check. Me. Out. I sent him a letter at work. Snail mail. And I was funny and self-deprecating and charming the way I can be if I really extend some effort and I wrote in handwriting that looked neat and slightly artsy-yet-casual (yeah….I practiced for a minute. So? Stop looking at me!) and I invited him for coffee.
And because of our schedules and, you know, stuff that comes up, it took 3 months for the first coffee date to happen. And because we have a strict policy (that never had to be spoken aloud) that we don’t share a bed if any of our children are in the home and one or both of us have children in the home 26 - 28 nights out of the month, we see each other 2 to 4 times per month. Sometimes we can grab a lunch or a dinner real quick when a hole opens up in the schedule.
When things get really busy, we go days without even talking on the phone.
And it seems like that would be frustrating and impossible…but it’s not.
You know what it is?
It's old fashioned and romantic.
In my 20’s, I once spent an evening reading Pride and Prejudice cover to cover – even though I was in a youth hostel in Ireland and had been invited to see a live band and drink Guinness at a pub with a bunch of Canadians. Because I couldn’t put it down. It made my heart race - all that slow, halting courtship. There’s a reason we love those books. (You do love those books, right?) Those books are filled with longing and wondering and chance meetings and delicious stuff like that. And in this world of sleeping together on the first date and rushing in and out of commitments, that type of romance is lost. Which is too bad. Because that is good stuff, ya’ll.
This has been the slowest courtship EVER for me. Possibly the slowest in the history of mankind….except for Elizabeth and Darcy. Oh, Mr. Darcy…..
We were 8 months in before I found out that he likes butter on his popcorn. Know why? Because we had only ever been to two movies together at that point and the first time he was too shy to say anything about butter on the popcorn.
I don't know what will happen. Technically, we've been dating for a year but in our time, in divorced dating time, it's been, like, maybe 90 days. I suppose that eventually we'll need to figure out how to be together more often or decide that it never really becomes more than this.
I don’t know where this will go but I know one thing for certain. I will not go back to the old pace.
Maybe the reason relationships burn out faster than ever now is that we run into them and through them and go hurtling out the other side before we can stop ourselves. Sleep together on the first date, move in together in the first year, get married and start a family - hurry hurry hurry. My goodness. Our life expectancies are longer than they have ever been in the history of human kind. Slow the fuck down.
You gotta figure Elizabeth and Darcy were pretty lucky because by the time they spent months figuring out if they liked each other and finally married and then slept together and made discoveries about each other and had children together, they were 40. And back then that was super old. Even if he eventually got really tired of the way she always drank too much punch and “accidentally” showed her ankles at the annual holiday ball...even if she was fed up with his insistence upon speeding in the baroosh...one of them was likely to drop dead any second anyway so why bother with a break-up? I mean, hell, everyone who accidentally gets caught in a cold rain in those books ends up at death's door.
That's the perfect way to do it. I mean, not the dying early in some chilly precipitation part. I mean the slow part. (Always carry an umbrella and an extra jacket.)
If you hurry through and do it all in the blink of an eye, what’s left for the next 20 or 40 or 60 years? And is the foundation really strong or is it something you just quickly slapped together?
I don’t know. I’m asking. I don’t have the answers.
But here’s what I DO know now, in response to my own fears expressed at the beginning of this blog:
1) Yes they will. They totally will.
2) Never say never. You could meet someone whose kids are really neat. Like, maybe one of them makes you laugh out loud the first time you meet her. And maybe you find out they are super nice to your kids. That can happen, too. But the most important thing is that you know what kind of man he is when you see him with his kids. I can never be the top priority in his life and that is FANTASTIC because he will never be the top priority in mine. And we both think that’s exactly how it should be. And watching that play out is really attractive – even though I am most likely watching from two suburbs over.
3) It’s true. There's no time to date. Not the way everyone is doing it now. But maybe slower is better. If you’ve been through a divorce, why in the world would you want to leap into something else? There’s time.
4) I don’t know, ya’ll. This is the toughest one. And it’s another reason why I’m glad this divorced dating moves so slowly. Since I struggle with doubt and fear and distrust at fairly regular intervals, it’s a pretty good thing to be able to do it alone and not spill it all over some poor unsuspecting chap. I have been (mostly) able to rein it in and work it out amongst myselves rather than burden him with it because I have the time and the space to do so. He’s super grateful. Probably. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I haven’t seen him in awhile.
OK. That’s it. Good luck out there.
ps: You kinda want to read Pride and Prejudice again right now, don’t you? Do it. It stands the test of time.
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