A few months back I wrote about attempting to date again. A lot has happened since then.
There were challenges. Finding even the time to date was very difficult. I went on a few dates, though nothing felt right. And then I met Norm.
Norm was a single parent as well. He was very tall and funny and kind and also very busy. He had also gone on several dates with women he had met online as well and nothing ever felt right to him, either. I knew it was difficult being a single mother, but I realized it wasn’t easy being a single father, either.
“The childless women always said how ‘cute’ it was that I was a single dad. That they loved kids and thought it was really ‘great’ that my kids were a big part of my life. That really annoyed me. Why is it ‘cute’ that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do? Why is it ‘great’ that I enjoy being a father to my kids? That was pretty depressing.”
But it was more depressing when the childless women actually started to date Norm. “I tried to tell them, look, this is what it’s like. It’s crazy. They all said, ‘Oh it’s cool, I love kids!’ But then when the saw it, I mean really saw it, they couldn’t handle it. They never lasted long.”
I laughed. I understood. They say parenthood was like cult. The Cult of Motherhood. Before I became a mother, I thought, but not me. But it’s not a choice. It just is. There are those who have kids and those who don’t. There are those who have stayed up all night to hold the hand of a miserably constipated toddler, been humiliated by uncontrollable public tantrums, All Joy and No Fun as They now say, and those who haven’t. There is no judgement, it just is. Such as there are those who have served in active duty in a war zone and those who have not. Those who have lost a loved one to untimely death and those who haven’t. Those to whom cilantro tastes like soap (those poor bastards) and those to whom it doesn’t. One side just cannot fully understand the other’s unique perspective. And an undeniable bond, or at the very least, an understanding, forms between those who do. Well. Maybe not so much with the cilantro thing, but you get the point.
“So I thought,” Norm continued, “that I’d just have to date single moms. Divorced like me. But the ones I went out with, they were all so… deeply bitter. And I get it, I do. A big part of me was bitter too. Disappointed. It was just so… so sad.”
Sad doesn’t make for good dates.
Wait, was I bitter? I don’t think so. Sometimes? I don’t feel that “bitter” was the word that best described me. Perhaps “tired.”
Our first date lasted for three hours. We met at a nice restaurant that he suggested. “I have a coupon,” he said, unknown to me immediately regretting it, unknown to him I immediately perked up. Ooh… fiscally responsible! Sexy.
We dipped into our pasts, but decided, Jerry… let’s not tell our sad stories. We ate and talked and ate and talked and ate and talked. He was cute and very smart. I was cautious.
He had his kids exactly 50% of the time, including every other weekend. I put Kiddo down at 8:00 PM every night. Which meant the only opportunity to go on date number two was every other Saturday, starting after 8:00 PM. I would not budge on that. I would put my daughter to bed each night. If he didn’t get that, well then, he’s not the guy for me.
He understood. There was never even a question. He was patient, he said.
I was tired, but we made it to date number two. We went to see a movie, the late show, and stopped at Chipotle for something fast to eat. I was starving and sat down and ate half of my burrito before he even took his seat next to me. “Woah,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen… anyone… eat a burrito like that.”
I looked at him, slightly embarrassed. “Look,” I said, glob of refried beans falling out of my mouth, “This is it. This is me. I eat burritos like this. This is how it is. This is only the tip of the ice burg. You can get off this train anytime.”
“I know,” he said and smiled.
“Ok,” I said, “Don’t say you haven’t been warned.”
I waited for him to make The Change, for the Best-Foot-Forward phase to wear thin. For the impatience and demands and the I-Can’t-Do-This to begin. It didn’t.
I began to relax. To enjoy it. It was nice. He was so, so wonderful.
After several months, he suggested we have a playdate. His two ducks and my one. I panicked. No, I’m not ready for that, I mean, no. It’s too soon. I don’t want anything to, I mean. I’ve thought about this, and it seem like the right time would be later, right? Maybe the summer? The or before Thanksgiving? My mind raced, I over-analyzed, my anxiety climbed.
“Ok,” he said, smiling. “Whenever you’re ready. I’m patient.”
With time, I got used to the idea and I was ready. We took our three ducks out to the pond and let them play. My fears melted away. It was much easier than I imagined. Children have a way of simplifying things, distilling the jumbled past and present down to the bare essentials of laughter and blades of grass and clips of sky. It was the most natural of things.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen your face in the daylight,” Norm said, smiling.
“Well, it’s about time,” I said. “You’ve been patient.”
Months rolled by. Bi-weekly late night dates became noon play dates, party of five.
He was my friend. He was kind and patient, smart and funny. His family was warm and welcoming, accepting and unquestioning. I trusted him. Kiddo adored him. My heart began to piece back together.
Above all, he was consistent, he was consistent, he was consistent.
I tried my best, too. I wanted to be my best.
I realized today that it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the Dog Days. Yes, it’s still close to the surface, never too far from my mind. But it seems more and more like something that happened in the past instead of something that was right around every corner that I turned. The fear is gone. Only happiness is in front of me. Only excitement for things to come.