Here’s the thing: I hate dating. I’m not a dating kind of person. All of that posturing and fake smiling and hair-tossing. It just isn’t me. I’m a jeans and t-shirt mom with princess band-aids, hair ties, and hand sanitizer at the ready at all times. Need a tissue? I’ve got a whole pack for you right here. Splinter? I can fix that. Monkey-bar blister? No problem. But get dressed up and head out to sit across from some guy and impress him? Not my strong suit. That, and I haven’t been on a date in over a decade. So you might say I’m rusty. Except even back then I wasn’t a good dater. So can you really be rusty at something you never learned to do in the first place? Probably not.
Anyway, all of these things led me to one conclusion in my year of being single: I probably had another few years of being single to come. I mean, when would I even meet someone? I have my kids most of the time. And I’ve noticed that nothing spooks a handsome young guy who has just smiled at you like the two little girls traipsing along behind you calling you “mommy.”
My girls’ dad keeps them for a couple hours on days he can knock off work early, and he has them overnight on Fridays when he’s in town, but he does travel a lot for work, and that means I’m a three-bodied, six-armed, six-legged person most of the time. Which is fine. I adore my kids--probably to a borderline-unhealthy degree. I fully accept and am honored to hold the role of being their mother, solo or not. And honestly, I think I’m pretty good at it, this single motherhood gig.
I didn’t mind being single. I needed that year of solitude. My year alone gave me time to grieve the end of my marriage, to let all the negative stuff go, to get back on my own feet, to push myself harder than I ever have as a writer, and to find a balance that doesn’t just feel like surviving, but like thriving, like moving in the direction I was always meant to go, like pure, unrestrained joy with two adorable little sidekicks cheering me on in the sidelines. But, still, there was a part of me that wondered: is this going to be it, forever?
It’s not that I need a man around to fix stuff. I can fix stuff. I work out. I can lift my own heavy things. I don’t miss cooking for someone else (I don’t even like cooking) or doing someone else’s laundry or tripping over big man shoes in the hallway. But sitting on the couch at night, girls tucked into beds they refused to stay in, watching TV before prepping school lunches, checking homework, folding the endless laundry of two girls who love outfit changes the way I love sleep, I found myself thinking: meeting someone would be nice, right? Someone who saw me as more than just a mom? It seemed unlikely, though. I travel between my house, the kids’ school, and my favorite table at Starbucks where I write and ignore all of the other patrons. My quiet cocoon of an existence doesn’t really invite others in. Especially not single men.
But lo and behold, the universe has a way of listening, even when you aren’t sure you’re really asking. A year after my husband and I set up separate residences, an old acquaintance from high school, a film producer looking for new material, asked to see some of my writing, and a conversation started. After a couple months of exchanging short stories and comments on them, we met for dinner—not a date, so I didn’t dress up or get nervous—to talk shop. And sometime between dinner, the bookstore we visited, the cafe we ended up in, the business meeting started to feel like a date. I didn’t have my kids for the night, and he didn’t have his, which meant hours of uninterrupted conversation about utterly grown-up topics. I had my princess band-aids and pink hair ties and hand sanitizer right there in my purse, but I didn’t feel like a mom for a few precious hours. We didn’t know much about each other, except that we’d passed one another in school hallways twenty years earlier, but he’d read a lot of my writing, so in a way he knew more about me than most people do. The inside of me, the vulnerable parts and sharp edges and restrained anger and hard truth-seeking part that doesn’t posture or hair-flip or tolerate any fakeness whatsoever. And even with all that, he liked me.
I guess you could say we’ve been dating for two months now, except that I hate dating, so I wish I could think of a better name for it. We’re taking it slow, getting to know each other and trying to maintain the balances of our own careers, our own relationships with our kids, our own fears of getting hurt. To call this new territory minimalizes the wonderful oddness of the whole thing. It’s new territory the way an entirely new solar system would be, when someone you barely knew in your past can come back around and help the present you feel, well, more like you. The non-mom part of me is now a bigger part of me, which is strange and scary and, ultimately, good. It makes the mommy moments more special, when they aren’t the only moments I’m having all day. So maybe dating isn’t so bad.