A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about being divorced and not dating. It ran on HuffPost Divorce and has always been one of my favorites.
Just prior to writing it, I'd been on the last, gimpy leg of my on again, off again relationship with the beau I called John McCain. We had taken a trip to Amsterdam and things just kind of fell apart afterwards. After a few dateless months, I declared myself SINGLE AS HELL and wrote about it.
Well, well, well. Here we are, almost exactly two years later. And not much has changed.
Oh, yes, those of you who have read my looney tunes updates know there's been some late night activity here and there. My as-for-now nameless booty call lovah scratched an itch or two or seventy for a nice long length of time. But that ended as 2015 began, so I am once again officially not dating. Climbing the walls? Yes, very much so. But totally not dating.
In the original post, I was quite confident my lack of love was due to prioritizing. Kids first. It was true then, as it is now. I do put my kids first...only now, their needs aren't as time consuming as they were just a couple short years ago. Yeah, I still do 100% of the parenting. They only go to their dad's house for a few hours on certain holidays, and sometimes he provides transportation if I absolutely can't. The parenting ball is always, always in my court. I've been doing it like this for so long it's the only way I know how to function.
The thing about your kids getting older is this: they leave. Charlie and Molly were both gone for the entirety of the school year. The other two, Henry and William, are still here, but more often than not they're busy with jobs, sports, activities and friends. We still have a packed basement on many weekend nights, but again...they don't need me like they used to. They can drive to get their own Taco Bell. Excuse me as I weep softly and also think about how good a 7-layer burrito sounds right now.
So, with the parenting gig winding down, I'm finding myself alone. A lot. The hermit in me is LOVING it. Those of you who fall under the introvert umbrella know exactly what I'm talking about. Before, socializing served two purposes: it was fun, and it got me the hell away from home for a few hours at a time. Now, I don't want to get away from my home. My home is quiet. My home is comfortable. My home has Netflix and my weekend uniform of leggings and sports bra and big sweatshirt.
I've found myself falling into a Loverboy routine of "workin' for the weekend", only everyone's not wondering if I'll come out tonight. They know I'm probably not. (Those of you who are younger than 40 will have to go to YouTube and look that shit up. I can't explain it.)
I still get invited out, thank God, and usually I accept those invitations. It's a tricky timeline, though...if I get an offer too far in advance, it gives me too much time to come up with a reason to not go. Not enough prior warning and I go into what experts call "hermit shock". It's what happens when a recluse imagines not sitting on their couch for two solid days.
I've become a really good napper, too. Were naps always so wonderful? My nap ritual is a thing of beauty: crawl on top of my made bed, pull a fuzzy blanket over me, turn on the fan (the remote control fan I bought for myself at Costco last year was THE BEST purchase ever), slip the eye mask over my baby blue/grays and drift away for an hour or two. Let me know if you hear of any paying sleep studies, okay?
But here's the catch: now that I have all this free time, it kind of feels like I'm supposed to be getting back out there. Sticking my toe back in the big ol' dating pond. I mean, it has been over 8 years. Most women have remarried by this time, if not well before.
Those of us who are still single this late in the game run the risk of becoming that eccentric, unmarried auntie who wears chunky necklaces and drapey Eileen Fisher tunics. "Yay! Aunt Jenny is here! I hope she brought that yummy spinach dip again!"
This is where I pause, and recite all of the self-soothing lines that have consoled me for so long: "It's okay to be alone." "Gurlll...dating takes so much time and effort. You're overbooked!" "If it's meant to be, you will meet Mr. Right." and the one that pops up with ever-increasing frequency: "You know, Jenny...you don't need a man to be happy."
I do believe that last one. Men don't equal happiness. However, lately I'm wondering if I'm not dating because I don't want to, or if I'm really afraid to. I worry that I don't know how to flirt anymore. Did I ever? And I'm scared that I am so rusty, I've forgotten how to tell if a guy really is that into you. What are the signs? For all I know, men are throwin' down the love gauntlet in front of me everywhere I go and I'm blind to it. Not very likely, I know. But still. You never know.
If my dating skills were a cluster of grapes before, they are most certainly a box a raisins by now.
I'm so out of the love loop, I don't remember the rules. How do you tell the difference between someone flirting with you vs. someone just being nice? Are all men without wedding rings fair game? Who is it okay to talk to? Is it alright to be chummy with my friend's husbands, or is that taboo simply because I'm single? Do I really need to join eHarmony again or should I hold out for two more years and check out the one for people over 50? Is it impolite to gently decline when someone says "There's this guy I know, I think you'd like him."?
Of course, since I'm me and I'm the person who compares herself to Hagrid, there's a tiny bit of insecurity involved. After a long stretch of being alone, it's hard to imagine letting someone in. Physically and emotionally. I'm so used to sleeping with a dog. It's one thing when the snoring and Dutch ovens come from a 75 pound Yellow Lab. It's going to be so weird having a guy next to me, doing those same things. The way I feel about putting myself out there again is a lot like the bit Amy Schumer did on her show, about actresses over a certain age. In case you haven't seen it (WARNING!! So, so many swears. Completely not safe to watch at work, on a bus w/ out earbuds or around children of pretty much any age):
Oh, I know! I know that was all about Hollywood's gross attitudes towards women and aging, but it sort of captures how I feel about having to go through the rituals of dating again. Am I still f**kable? Do I care?? (and P.S. what does it mean that as I watched this, I said out loud oooh look at that! Mismatched wine glasses! How cute!)
One other aspect of being divorced and not dating is how to deal with being a singleton in a sea of couples. Up until recently, this part of the single life hasn't really bothered me. There have been a few times here and there when my singleness has been like a big scarlet S on my chest...the most significant ones being "classy" evening events, such as the silent auctions held by the elementary school my kids once attended and where I now work. If ever a girl notices the absence of an arm to hang onto, it's at a party where she's surrounded by well-dressed duos.
Luckily, I don't attend silent auctions or really, any other fancy soirees on the regular. The other gatherings, like plain old parties or holiday things...they're not set up in such a way that being there by myself is a big deal. If I have to be, I can be charming and outgoing and even make small talk. My lady friends are fine sitting next to me around a bonfire while their men chat elsewhere. But...I was recently invited to a friend's birthday bash, which is taking place at another friend's cabin. As my friend explained the weekend to me, I was all "oooh yes! Girl's weekend at the cabin!" in my head. Until my friend said:
"So it's going to be us gals, the husbands, and whichever kids decide to come up as well."
Wait. Back it up, sister. Husbands? A testosterone filled monkey wrench was thrown into my plans.
I pictured all of us up at the cabin. Me, my girlfriends and their men. Everyone laughing and drinking, gathering around the fire, two by two, arms wrapped around shoulders, legs touching. And then me, sitting in a camp chair, probably brushing a kid's hair and checking facebook on my phone.
When did that happen? When did I become afraid to be somewhere sans date? This new development is kind of annoying.
I thought about all the single men I know (haha, all three of them) and wondered how strange/creepy/pushy it would be to ask one of them to come up with me. Not exactly as a date, of course, but with the understanding that we'd probably have to sleep in the same room, or on adjoining couches. I decided it would probably not be a wise thing to do. And so now, I'm considering not going. Who have I become??
All of this is my very long-winded way of saying yes, I'm divorced and still not dating.
Only this time, I can't say for certain why. For a good long while, I could give you a few very strong reasons. My kids. My work. My fear of being hurt again. Now, I seem to have even more reasons. And unlike my kids, these don't appear to be the kind of reasons that will grow up and move on.
Now, about that 7-layer burrito....