Monday, April 23, 2012

Your Dreamed Date ... Doesn't Exist


I remember several years ago, when I first tried online dating, exchanging a couple of e-mails with a woman who was juggling a job, being a single mother, and few other things I can't remember. She seemed really nice, we shared a lot in common, and I started to get excited about meeting her.

This is where the trouble started. I imagined my long relationship drought was about to be over. That I she was going to be the new "One." I was even imagining spending time with her kid already, playing games in her apartment (which I never had seen before).

The day finally comes for the first date and I'm sitting there at a table outside a local coffee shop and she comes up to me, says hi, and then her cell phone rings. It's her ex. They start arguing about something having to do with the kid. I'm listening to her talk to the guy. She sounds a bit like a mother, a forceful mother. Not a good sign, but because of the stories I had already bought into, I tried to ignore what was happening.

Finally, she hangs up and we have coffee together. A nice conversation, but I'm still sort of wary, given what I had witnessed. We part ways, agreeing to go out again.

A week or so later, I meet her for dinner a favorite restaurant of mine. Things are going ok, but I suddenly start to sense that voice she was using with her ex creeping into our conversation. We were talking about the new non-profit I had just co-developed with some friends of mine, and I was getting the sense that she felt I'd be "better off getting a good job" instead of devoting time to that project. Suddenly, my attention started kicking in, and I noticed a pattern emerge. Basically, she was used to being in charge in her relationships, and being something of a caretaker of the men she dated.

She was the one that asked for another date at the end of dinner, and although I was already questioning everything, I ended up meeting her again.

I went because I was less experienced than I am now, and more desperate as well.

However, anyone who knows me well knows that this wasn't going to work. While I tend to be easy to get along with, and am not demanding or terribly picky, I am quite independent and not a pushover.

And so, the third date ended with me basically showing a lack of interest, but I still think she believed we'd keep going out because she was surprised when I e-mailed her the next day saying I didn't want to see her again.

I offer this experience because it probably never would have happened without those initial stories I bought into. If I met her today, I doubt we would make it past the first date. Because I'm much less likely to let myself get too far ahead of what's happening right in front of me.

That's really the best way to begin things. Staying present in the present.

8 comments:

  1. Nathan, she didn't want to take care of another man; she already had a child take care of. But she was looking for a man who could be pleasant and fun without being passive. When you date mothers, you're dating grownups who are in charge of making sure the next generation comes out okay, and that's a hell of a job. We need men who can stand up and be as strong as we are, and who don't squirm when a woman behaves like the mother she is, but can instead play relational racquetball at her level. You might as well ask a lawyer not to think like a lawyer, or a doctor to ignore the rasp in your voice.

    You might want to re-examine your attitudes about mothers. If you know and respect the work that mothers do, you don't find a woman's sounding "like a strong mother" offputting. You say, "Right on. Wotta woman."

    One of the main reasons I don't date much anymore is that I already have a kid, but I'm a responsible parent with a serious job, and I don't want to date someone whose outlook is kind of post-adolescent, and who doesn't see the invisible web of family & its obligations that's always around parents wherever they go. It's a bit of a conundrum, because the guys who get it tend to be single fathers, and I really don't want to be involved with someone else's child or step on another mother's turf. If they're cool with the extracurricular adults-only relationship but aren't looking for marriage, then that's fine, but I find most divorced dads want to get married again pretty fast, set up house.

    (Incidentally -- a smart single mom won't introduce you to her kid for most of a year, until you're clearly okay together and it's looking like marriage. It's bad for children to have "friends" come and go in their lives.)

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  2. Actually, the thing that stopped me in your story was that she (1) took the call at the table during your date; (2) didn't excuse herself to go have the head-to-head with her ex. Those both struck me as kinda rude, esp. when she really didn't know you yet.

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  3. Have to say that I agree with Amy...the part that sounded off-putting was taking a cellphone call right at the start of your first meeting and not either letting it go to voicemail or going somewhere more private. Being a "forceful mother" as a single mother is not a choice, it is a reality.

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  4. "She sounds a bit like a mother, a forceful mother." This was poorly worded, and I can see why the two of you reacted as you did.

    Here are some further details about my experience. On our first date, she told me I'd "look better" with shorter hair. She then commented on my choice of shirts, the color of which didn't quite "match" the shoes I wore that day. (We aren't talking about being that guy who shows up in a t-shirt and beat up jeans on a first date, by the way. On our second date, at dinner, she commented on how I held my fork. I'm left handed, it's not the same as being right handed.) On our last date, after a discussion about politics she said, "you'll grow out of those views when you get more responsibility in your life." There were more examples, but at the end of the day, it felt like she viewed me as a glorified adolescent.

    Now, had this been one date, and she hadn't expressed any further interest, then I would have just chalked it up as another first date that didn't turn into a second. I had been through that enough times, even back then. However, the fact that she was still attracted to me, even after all those comments, plus the fact that I wasn't really pushing back much until she made the comment about my political views on the last date, suggests to me that she wasn't looking for an equal. The way she talked to her ex was the same way she talked with me - for three consecutive dates.

    Let me also set another piece of the record straight. This piece wasn't another one of those single, childless man bashes single mothers article. Since her, I have dated two single mothers who were strong, intelligent parents. Both of them could be fierce when it came to issues with their children, and both of them challenged me at times to see what I was made of. But it always felt like I was treated as an equal. There wasn't this tone that because I am a parent, I know more about being an adult than you do.

    Furthermore, both trusted and respected me enough to introduce them to their children. And their children liked me enough to want to spend time with. In one case, significant time. They would ask to see me, and a good half of the time her and I spent together was with the kids as well.(I still miss those kids to this day, just to be honest.)

    In addition, my mother was a single parent for much of my sister's childhood, and about half of mine. She was quite strong when she needed to be, and continues to be one of the main influences in my life.

    I'm willing to admit I don't really know for sure what the woman in the post really wanted. But I didn't feel like she respected who I actually was, and yet for some reason, still wanted to date me.

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  5. It was really the "Not a good sign" part that was the troublemaker there, Nathan, not the forceful-mother part. You want moms to be forceful, tough. Non-terrific things happen when moms aren't. Maybe dating mothers isn't for you, maybe having children isn't for you. But...yeah, I would go in appreciating the force and toughness of any single mom. That's a lady you can count on, someone who loves and cares and is going to get her kids through. There's no way in hell she'd do all that work and toughen up like that otherwise.

    This:

    "Furthermore, both trusted and respected me enough to introduce them to their children. And their children liked me enough to want to spend time with. In one case, significant time. They would ask to see me, and a good half of the time her and I spent together was with the kids as well.(I still miss those kids to this day, just to be honest.)"

    set off alarms.

    Nathan, I'm sorry, but those women weren't such strong, smart moms. Those kids were bonding with you, and then you disappeared. And the moms were the ones who let it happen, and who put them through it, after they'd already been through a divorce or were getting along without a dad. That's...not good single parenting. It damages children. (If you miss them, imagine how they felt about you.) And unfortunately it happens a lot when you get single moms whose outlook is kinda adolescent, kinda hoping that the kids will be improbably grownup about the whole deal, and indulgent about parental desires. There's this dream, in a certain lefty slice, that kids are actually beautiful small adults, and can pretty much handle whatever goes on in adult lives if it's explained to them. They really can't (and they don't understand the explanations, either). They're kids, they're not there yet -- and because they're kids, their needs come first.

    Please don't get involved with women's kids unless you're going to stick around through their minority. It's not just playdates for them. I'm watching a particularly awful situation right now -- a friend's husband's kids' mom's boyfriend (yep) suddenly left after four years *and started dating the kids' classmate's mom*. Started showing up at school events with her family instead of theirs. The kids are in bad shape. If a single mom's anxious to take you home and have you meet the kids without a longterm thing looking likely -- slow her down. She's either chronically irresponsible or temporarily stupid because desperate, and you should know which it is.

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  6. Amy, you're making some very big judgements of me and the two women I dated based upon a very small amount of writing.

    First off, children go through a lot, no matter what you do to protect them. They can suffer from parents who stay together far too long. They can suffer from divorce. They can suffer from bonding with new partners who end up leaving. They can suffer because they don't get along with step parents. Frankly, I've experienced the first three myself. It wasn't ideal, but I also know that my life growing up was richer in experiences because of the increase in adults around. And by "increase," I'm not talking about a bunch of casual partners floating in and out. I'm talking about a few long term partners over the course of the decade until I was myself an adult.

    Which is why I would never treat casually dating a mother and spending time with her children, despite what you have chosen to think. I gave my all in those relationships, maybe more so than in many other relationships where no children were involved. I really wanted them to "work out," but neither didn't. That's how life goes sometimes. And I stand behind my positive assessment of both of those women because I know them. I know how they are with their kids. I know how they are with bringing people into their lives. Sloppy and casual are the last words I'd apply to either of them. There wasn't any rush to meet the children. It happened naturally, as a result of the deepening connection.

    Again, I apologize for the comment about strong, forceful mothers. That really wasn't what the post was supposed to be about anyway.

    It wasn't that she was strong and forceful as a parent. Or even that she had strong opinions. It was that I didn't feel like she respected me as an adult. That my thinking, decisions, and way of being were equated with that of a basement dwelling video game player dude. Maybe I would see her differently today - this was over 9 years ago after all - but I have met, and dated, a lot of strong, sometimes even fierce women over the years, and didn't feel the same way as I did with her. Whatever it was, we weren't a good match.

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  7. I understand your point. I can't blame you to be excited for meeting her personally because you have been exchanging emails always and of course that leads for both of you to meet. It's natural to be excited specially if you find someone interesting.

    I can say that you did a better decision because If you continue dating with her you will just end up hurting again.
    This post of yours is really interesting.

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