Single Parent Dating: Scary-Silly Season All Year ‘Round

About 3 months after my divorce I did something scary: I started thinking about dating again. You know, the kind of dating that, in my mind, involved many eligible suitors (read: hot-looking, mentally stable and gainfully employed with 401(k)s) donning eager smiles just for me and lots of candlelit wooing.

About five months after these fantasies started I did something even scarier: I decided to put my thoughts into action and re-entered the dating world.

The problem was, dating this time around was a bit more complicated than I anticipated. I lived in the suburbs. I had two kids. The guys at work were too young, too married or single for too many reasons to count. I didn’t know how or where to meet eligible suitors. So, in spite of the horror stories I had heard, I decided to bravely grab a wooden stake and enter worlds some consider so ghoulish they’ll make a grown man run home to his mummy.

Yep, I’m talking about speed dating and online dating.

Now, regardless of what you think of these newfangled ways of meeting people (and you’re likely to have misconceptions about either or both unless you’ve experienced them firsthand), they are the single parent’s dream: efficient, flexible, no muss, no fuss. Just one night of 6-8 minute “speed dates” while the kids are over at the ex’s can help you sort through a dozen eligible bachelors, screening out the ones you could tolerate for an hour-long lunch date from the ones who make cleaning your toilet look desirable.

Meeting people online is even better for single parents – you don’t have to leave your house! Or get dressed! (Wait, I’m not talking about those online sites, but they exist, too.) I tried a bunch of them over the years – Match, Chemistry, eHarmony, Single Parents Meet, Great Boyfriends – and no matter what I thought about the site itself (and, oh, let me tell you I liked some better than others) I loved that I could check out the scene and communicate with people while the kids were asleep or in the other room. (I promptly discontinued the “other room” browsing when one day my son snuck up behind me while I was on the computer and asked, “Mommy, who’s that man?”)

I went on a lunch date last year with someone I had met through Match. He complained that meeting people these days was so contrived. Well, duh! Letting someone else narrow down the dating pool is both the beauty and the beast of it, in this single mama’s eyes.

But, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, having a chance to date again isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, despite what our married friends, who like to live vicariously through us, might say. We parents are tired. We go on dates with food and toothpaste stuck to our clothes. We hope we won’t run into our ex and the kids while we’re out with a new “friend.” We struggle to find a night when we can go out at all.

We work and work those eager smiles, trying to remember to talk about ourselves and not our kids.

And, yes, there are freaks – the guy I originally met through speed dating who kept eating off my plate during our first (and last) full-length dinner date, the seemingly enthusiastic man I met online who, in person, complained about his online dating experiences the whole time we were out, the one who gave me soul-piercing stares (and the creeps), and let’s not forget the one who expressed his desire to date only supermodel-types, even though he would never be mistaken for Brad Pitt – or Brad Pitt’s third cousin.

Come to think of it, I believe he was also the one who told me he had printed out our compatibility profile so he could compare them side by side. (Cue scary music and hear my best Jamie Lee Curtis scream .)

At times it made me want to embrace my inner witch, but mostly the men I met were fairly normal – and, while not match-material, just like me: looking for someone simply “simpatico,” a true companion.

Modern dating methods didn’t find me the perfect relationship, but they helped me grow and introduced me to interesting individuals I wouldn’t have otherwise met. They got me out of the house on the nights my children were with their dad, and reminded me that I was a woman, not just a mother. I know several people who have gone on to marry the person they first met on a Match or eHarmony kind of site.

Scary how love can find us when – and where – we least expect it.

Susan’s Single Parent Dating Tip:
Ready to meet someone in person after connecting online or during a speed dating event? Start with a short, manageable outing, like going for coffee, in a public setting. Like we tell our kids at Halloween, be alert, be smart and don’t set expectations too high – I mean, c’mon, it’s only coffee and thirty minutes out of your life, right?

Mostly, though, have some fun. After all, that’s what this season is all about!