In my quest for freedom, ironically, I thought it was a good idea to start dating again. The honest answer is that, when in pain, the last thing anyone wants to do is be alone. I was no exception. I also did not want to deal with the hard emotional issues that I quite frankly have needed to face.
But, more than that, I was eager to meet people, to have new experiences, and to feel young again in the little time I have away from my children. Gracious, have I been educated! Here are some of my general thoughts based on the past six months of single life.
- I am Southern Baptist. Finding a middle-aged single man in a Southern Baptist church just is not happening short of a God-sized miracle. The church does not generally condone divorce, and divorcees are not eager to be in the hot seat on Sunday mornings.
- Everyone meets online in some form or fashion. Swipe left, swipe right, you get what you pay for… Dating is electronically at your fingertips.
- Do not trust the geographic parameters. Two of the nicest gentlemen I have met live in other states. We have no idea how we connected, because we were out of range, but I am glad, as they both have become friends.
- I have no concept of age. Or of my age, more specifically. I have always been attracted to and dated older men. The oldest of these was 12 years my senior. That means that my age range would be anywhere from about 40-53. However, the vision in my mind of a man that is attractive is almost always quite certainly a young 35 year old, who happens to look like Prince Harry or Tim Tebow. I am kidding, of course, but you get the idea. It is like seeing pictures of your grade school friends and not recognizing them, because age has transformed them and you realize for the first time that it has transformed you, too.
- Gentlemen my age and older typically have much older children than mine or, if they are similar to my two, almost always, we are on different parenting schedules. Different parenting schedules mean that they may as well live in Alaska or Hawaii, because it just is not going to work.
- All women are competing in the dating market place with 20-somethings. I cannot compare on many levels, but I can carry a mean, witty, philosophical conversation.
My main goal has been to meet new friends. I have always been a girl who favors the company of men, and I have missed that in my life. I have been blessed to have connected with some great ones, including another, S, who sat me down and gave me dating pointers.
- Always meet in public for safety reasons. Let your friends know where you are going and with whom you are meeting.
- Always start with a quick coffee or tea meet-up to ensure that you like the person. Longer encounters, like dinner, come later.
- Never assume that he is going to pay. Be prepared, just in case.
- Never involve kids with your significant other for at least six months.
- Everything is done through texting and messaging. This allows for more aggressive behavior because it is less personal and it is fast-paced. Strict boundaries must be set and followed.
The latter has been most disconcerting and disappointing to me. S was right. Everything is done through texting, which allows people to create their own persona and speed up the dating process exponentially. The problem is that it is often more aggressive and, frankly, impersonal, because people can hide behind their keyboards and carry on numerous texting “relationships” at once. But these so-called relationships are a façade. Real interaction is somehow skewed by this flawed communication and then the relationship can be manipulated or ended abruptly, because there is no personal accountability. Leaving the person “on read” or not texting at all is easy to do, because there is no real investment.
My friends have literally threatened to take my phone and lock it away, because I get bombarded with texts at all hours of the day and night. My surrogate Mother did just that over Thanksgiving weekend when she was here for a visit. On the other hand, I have had my ego crushed on several occasions when these passionate texters drop off the face of the planet for days at a time. I have seen girlfriends sob for the same reason. If this bizarre concept is foreign to you, I challenge you to google “why has he stopped texting” to see the angst that women of all ages face in the modern dating world.
I think what has made me most sad and concerned, because I teach social psychology, is the lack of interpersonal interactions that actually occur. Courtship as I knew it before my marriage seems like a dying art. No one picks up the phone and calls anymore or takes their time slowly getting to know you. I have never been a phone person, but I miss looking forward to and receiving calls from suitors. There is just something about hearing someone’s voice on the end of the line that is so soothing, and some of my favorite memories are of talking for hours to old boyfriends until one or both of us were on the verge of falling asleep while connected.
And, finally, there is the double-edged sword of social media. I get that it is safe to meet in public; however, I also miss the idea of being picked up for dates from my house. My best friend and I have had serious debates about this, because she is pragmatic and I’m a romantic. She is right, of course, as S taught me above. But I also have pointed out to her that one quick search and your personal information is readily available for all to see. It’s terrifying!
On the other hand, most of my friends do intensive online “stalking” before dates even take place. While also good for safety purposes, it kills the romance, in my opinion, because it allows for a preconceived notion of who the person is. Reality can be skewed, assumptions made, and opinions formed, and that is not only unfair but sad because, again, something is lost in the courtship.
My answer to all of this is to take a break and disconnect. I am going to be married to God for now, stop looking for that special person, and have faith that, when the time is right, he will be provided. Hopefully, when that happens, he will actually pick up the phone and date me the way I was raised.