Dating as a single mother is nothing short of navigating a minefield. Only, you’re already on fire, dragging a ball and chain, and running through it whilst racing against a timer.
And every day I thank dear Jesus, Mother Mary, and even freaking Joseph that I’m no longer traversing that landscape, because I’m pretty sure I’d just as soon as jump off a cliff than go back to the world that is, specifically, online dating.
Recently, I’ve been hosting virtual mom nights through my Facebook profile and the topic of dating has come up a few times. So, while I’m no longer directly in that scene, I thought we might take a closer look here at the absolute shitshow that is online dating for the modern 30-something plus American woman.
Now, I recognize that a number of my readers are not in the dating scene - kudos to you. Go kiss your significant other in appreciation that you made it out relatively intact. But, also, that doesn’t mean that you can’t sit listen in and offer counsel to the men in your life (i.e. your sons, brothers, nephews, friends, etc.)
When I first split from my ex, I remember thinking, rather confidently, that I’d be remarried within a few years of our separation. Ha! What I didn’t know was that the number of frogs I’d have to kiss in order to find a prince would be enough to fill Lake Erie. I married young - in 2008 at the tender age of 21, to be exact - and had no idea what to expect as an adult in the vast and terrifying dating pool. There was no Hinge, Bumble, or Tinder when I graduated high school. And while I happened to meet my ex on the now long-deceased MySpace, most of my friends found their significant others through mutual friends, in classes, or out at bars. The idea of having thousands of men available to me at my fingertips had me feeling like a sugar-dependent eight-year-old unleashed in a candy store. So many choices!
But what I didn’t quite understand was that because dating had become so streamlined, the men on the other side of the phone had just as many options as I did, hence making me disposable, too. Trying to secure a first date felt akin to qualifying for an Olympic event.
First off, online dating is largely superficial. Your first impression of someone often consists of the photos they’ve chosen to spotlight. The candidates I often came across usually included at least one gym selfie, one group photo, and typically one with a fish. Who knew so many men enjoyed the fine art of fishing? A picture is worth 1,000 words, and I began to dissect them. The majority of your pics consisted of you on a weight lifting bench? Likely you won’t get along with my Cheeto-consuming, one run a month, ice-cream consuming self. Large group photos making it impossible to discern which one is actually you? I took it to mean you lacked confidence in yourself and were trying to blend in - not exactly qualities I was looking to match with. Hats on in every snapshot? You were hiding either a partially bald or completely hairless head. And while I have nothing against bald guys, I need something to hold onto in the bedroom, fellas.
Now, let’s say you happen to measure up physically, then it’s down to your profile. What witty comments can you include to sell yourself? How can you position your hobbies, interests, and qualities in a way that don’t seem arrogant, cocky, or surface-level, but sound intriguing enough to hold his attention? Or my personal favorite, especially prevalent on Tinder, were the lewd and suggestive comments.
Let’s assume you make it past the initial attraction and are marginally interested in their profile, you have to hope they feel the same on their side of the screen. THEN you can finally progress to a conversation. And I use that term in the LOOSEST sense of the word. I can’t tell you how many chats started with “How’s your weekend/day/night going?” or “What do you like to do for fun?” Trying to establish actual banter or interesting conversation was PAINFUL.
And then there were those whose communication styles could best be described as... picturesque. You know, the ones who wanted to give you a sneak peek at the package before you fully unwrapped it yourself? I always managed to open that digital gift at the most inopportune of times, like in the Target check-out line or while out to breakfast with my parents.
Regardless of messaging, many guys wanted to jump right into a date. And I learned early on that moving that quickly usually ended badly. If I couldn’t sustain a conversation via texting and then on an actual phone call, it wouldn’t work long-term and would be a waste of my precious alone time as a single mom. Time was literally more valuable to me than money.
BUT… if sparks seemed to float across the airwaves mutually, a date was agreed upon soon after. Sometimes they were great and others were lackluster. The ones that went well and seemed to be heading toward something more serious were often cut off at the knees, ending as suddenly as they began.
And it wasn’t just me. My friends were having the same problems. There were guys who wanted to deep dive in after a month, throwing out “I love yous” and introducing the kids. I ran from them and their giant red flags as fast as my thick thighs would carry me. There were guys who wanted boyfriend benefits without boyfriend commitment. Men who were more traumatized than I was and were doing little to address their mental health.
And then there were the straight up assholes. The men who felt entitled to all that they wanted and more simply because they’d bought you dinner. The men who led you on for days or weeks, sprinkling in “Can’t wait to see yous” and “You’re so beautiful” comments until finally just ghosting you. Sometimes the vanishing act occurred in person, as you sat waiting for them at a bar or restaurant, honestly hoping at that point they’d been hit by a bus or something equally as tragic so you didn’t have to face the reality that you’d been stood up and now had to deal with whatever lame excuse they were going to spoon feed you two days later. There were the men who claimed to be ready to date and open to something serious, who were still in love with their ex or, even better, still with their “ex.”
Prior to Anthony, my longest “relationship” or “situationship,” as I like to call it, lasted about 3-4 months. And it wasn’t for lack of trying! In fact, it became a longstanding laugh during our lunch conversations between my friends and I. “Tomorrow’s the one month mark, let’s see if we make it past that,” I’d joke. Most of my connections cut short just before or after that milestone. I’d get bored, they’d move onto the greener, more slender, prettier pastures on Tinder or Bumble that had caught their eye, I’d push for more commitment and they’d freak (how DARE I suggest a sleepover or referring to them as a boyfriend!), or we’d figure each other’s true selves out and bolt (I’m sorry, but I just can’t ignore your political beliefs). And I’d be back on the apps, re-entering the electronic levels of Hell to do it all over again.
Imagine my surprise that Anthony and I are sitting here 15 months later, cohabitating and blending a family. And while many of my friends are married or happily paired off, I still have some singles who call me to commiserate.
Which brings me to this discussion point: what in the HELL happened to an entire generation of men? How has dating been reduced to this? I refuse to believe that this is the reality in which women must exist: where potential partners are emotionally unavailable, rude, lewd, or easily dismiss potential partners for trivial things or because someone more appealing comes along. When did disrespect become the norm? When did men forget how to communicate? When did the art of conversation die off? How did dating become synonymous with disposable?
Call me old-fashioned. Call me a romantic. I don’t care. But something’s gotta give. Because as a single woman who was close to this point myself, I KNOW there are many women out there who are more apt to keep going at it alone than put up with the BS that these men are subjecting us to. The drama, tears, roller coaster of emotions, inconsistency, trust issues, and lack of true intimacy are NOT worth it. So fellas, if you want to find yourselves gainfully “employed” in the bedroom and beyond, I suggest you all get your heads right, get into therapy (if needed) and start re-examining how you’re conducting your dating days. Because if you don’t, you’ll find that us women can get everything we need to sustain ourselves from our closest girlfriends and a quality vibrator. Just saying.