Friday, December 2, 2016

Seven Years Single

"If there is no man in your house when you leave for work in the morning, there isn't going to be one there when you get home at night if you don't do something to make it so." - wise counsel from a co-worker

This week marks seven years since my divorce was finalized -- and seven years of being very single. I must admit that I'm somewhat surprised to have found myself in this position for the better part of a decade. I just figured that I would have dated at least a bit in the 2,555 days since I started checking "divorced" on registration forms at the doctor's office. Well, let me be fair. I have been on three dates. In seven years.

Do you remember how easy dating was in your teens and twenties? I mean, not the part where you lock yourself in your room and listen to Sinead O'Connor or The Cure or Indigo Girls for hours during a furiously tragic break up. Instead, I just mean the environment was there. You hung out with a group of people comprised of mostly young and single men and women and went to places where there were other single people. And you would talk to these people. When you really liked one of them, you would make arrangements to hang out without all those other people. Sometimes the other person would show up ten minutes late and then scream obscenities at a very pregnant woman struggling to get out of a cab because she was moving too slow and he didn't want to miss his dinner reservations in Georgetown. and then he would wonder why you didn't want a second date. Or, another time with another person, when you offer to pay for your part of dinner, maybe the other person would say something like, "You can pay me now or you can pay me later, if you know what I mean." And then wonder why you didn't want a second date. But other times, you would laugh and have a lot in common and want to spend more time together . While I didn't have any really serious boyfriends for more than a few months while in my early twenties, I went out on lots of dates. And it was lots of fun.

Maybe I just don't know how dating is supposed to work anymore. After all, the last person I dated was my ex-husband . . . sixteen years ago. This was before Facebook or text messages or smartphones. It was during the waning days of the Clinton administration. I was twenty-five years old. It was a different time and I was a different person. One good thing is . . . I like who I am now a lot more. So I've got that going forward!

Truth is, though, that I'm a smart woman and I probably could figure out how to date in the new millennium and within the context of a social media world. Instead, I believe my chronic singledom can be explained by five "S" words -- selective, sources, sleepy, sitters, and scared. Let's explore, shall we?

Selective -- The more appropriate word choice here is probably "picky," but that doesn't really fit with the whole S theme I'm creating. Between my work schedule and my kids' activities and school stuff, I have very little time for dating. Time is precious to me and I've become very protective of it. More importantly, any person I date could potentially meet my kids someday. Theirs are hearts that I hold much more tenderly than my own. While my daughter tells me on a regular basis that I need to get out more and find a boyfriend (last night she actually said, "get out of your robe once in a while and go meet some people!") and my son wants a dad "who will live with him and play with him" (I can feel my heart break into a million pieces every time he says that), I am wary of anyone stepping into our family unit. We have (on most days) a good thing going.

Sources -- Where do you meet single men when you are in your forties? I know the whole "easier to get killed by a terrorist than find a husband over the age of 40" theory put forth by Newsweek and then Sleepless in Seattle has been debunked. There are single people out there. I've had multiple friends find success with online dating, resulting in great relationships or even new marriages, but it didn't work for me. I've been told I must have done it wrong, which is quite possible. I also know of several relationships between people who knew each other in high school or college and reconnected over social media. I love how Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with friends and former boyfriends from 20-25 years ago, but I don't see romance blossoming through that venue, either. And, I honestly cannot think of too many single men I've met in person over the past seven years, be it at work or church or the kids' schools. I probably could count the number on my hands. But then again, have I really tried?

Sleepy -- I'm worn out by Friday night. After a week of work and school and activities and cleaning (kind of) the house, I'm ready to crash (see the aforementioned robe . . . it's so comfortable!). The idea of gearing myself up for a night out, besides with someone other than my girlfriends I've known for a decade (with whom I must say I'm super fiercely in platonic love), is exhausting. But, as my co-worker shared in my quote to open this post, things aren't going to change if I don't do something different. And that something different just might be giving myself a pep talk, drinking some caffeine, and leaving my home on a Friday or Saturday night.

Sitters -- Sometimes I tell myself that I just wasn't meant to date in this season of life, that I need to focus on raising my kids and bettering our financial security. My kids aren't old enough to leave home in the evenings quite yet, but in a couple of years they will be. Maybe that will be my time. They probably will be happy to have the house to themselves for a few hours at that age. And it's not that I'm opposed to using sitters now. I've left my kids with sitters since they were infants and currently have several high school students who are great babysitters. So, I have no qualms about letting others care for my beloved offspring. But sitter costs can start to add up if needed often and it would be months before I would introduce anyone I date to my kids and have us all spend time together. So, yep, sounds like I'm pretty good at coming up with these excuses.

Scared -- In the end, it may very well be that you can toss all the other reasons aside and park my excuse bus right here. Because, as I look back on what I've written, they really are nothing more than excuses if I really want to making dating a priority (and honestly I'm not sure that I do, so there's that . . . I am friends with several single moms who have little or no interest in dating right now). After all, there is nothing wrong with being selective and I'm sure there are wonderful men out there (right?) who would make the cut, it would do me good to have more nights on which I dress up and go out instead of putting on pajama pants and watching Real Housewives or C-Span (maybe there's a guy out there who would love to watch C-Span with me . . . there's a small niche!), and I know I have friends who would help with watching my kids if the costs of a sitter are prohibitive. And maybe being scared is the hardest issue to admit. I feel like I've worked though my "stuff" but what if I still end up making a poor decision and end up in a bad relationship? What if my kids get attached to someone and it doesn't work out? What if upon actively trying to find someone, I discover there is no one to find?

Please don't let this post leave the impression that I sit at my desk all day lamenting the fact that I don't have a man by my side. My life is filled with amazing friends, a job I find challenging and fulfilling with co-workers who are like family, and two kids who I tell every day that it is such an honor to be their mom. Wanting to date is not something that crosses my mind every day. It's just that this "divorce-a-versary" has prompted some reflection on where I am and where I thought I would be. And I think that having an adult social life would be nice again. Along those lines, I don't think I will be single forever. I believe I'm date-able. I'm smart, independent, and kind of hilarious given the appropriate audience. If I do want to date in 2017, though, I will need to work on getting past some of the excuses above. Because that's all they are. Then maybe, next year, I won't be the reason yet again that we need to make reservations for an odd number of people at the office Christmas dinner!

If you went through a divorce and have young kids, how did you get back into dating? Was it an intentional effort on your part or something that happened unexpectedly? If you aren't dating, is that a choice you made? If you grew up in a single parent home, do you remember your parent dating? What was that like for you? I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Or, maybe you are reading this and thinking, "Sarah, why would I share the answers to any of these questions publicly and what made you think you should write about all of this to begin with?" I get that, too. 

And, if you know a great single guy in his late-thirties to around fifty or so who likes children but doesn't want any more kids, who can appreciate or at least tolerate my obscure historical and pop culture references, who likes to learn from books and people and new places, who lives within 50 miles of the greater Nashville area, and who likes long walks on the beach (I feel like that always should be included, don't you?), let me know!

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