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Treading Water in the Dating Pool

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Not once in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be back in the dating pool in my 30s.  If someone had predicted 5 years ago that I’d be looking for a new relationship I would have said there was a better chance that I’ll be trampled to death by elephants in my own home than contemplating my profile on Match.com.

But that’s where I am.  In the dating pool.  The deep end.

Now, I realize that there are a lot of single parents out there who are like me…looking for love at the McDonald’s playground on a Friday night.  Or maybe glancing over at a naked ring finger at Wal-Mart and then trying to look as fetching as possible in your worn out college sweats.  Seeing someone out of the corner of your eye at the park who has three kids in tow, thinking about the fact that you have three little angels at home…and wondering if you have it in you to raise a six pack.

It’s exhausting.

I also realize that there are people out there who are looking at their own current relationship status, wondering if it’s time to move on.  I know that you’re reading this, looking at dirty underwear on the floor just shy of the laundry basket, putting off tackling that “yellow jello” in the bathroom, and thinking, “Can’t I do better than this?”

There is always a little part of us that wonders if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

But I’m here to tell you from personal experience:  That grass is balding, working out a custody agreement that won’t be finalized for another 10 years, and has no appreciation for stretch marks.

When I decided to start dating a little while after my husband passed away, I think I grossly underestimated how hard it was going to be.  At the time…I just wanted to see if I still “had it.”  After not dating for 9 of the 11 years I was married (that was a joke) and then suddenly finding myself widowed with three kids…I felt like it was time to see if the old girl still had it in her to turn a new pair of jeans into some free drinks.

That’s right fellas.  My baggage is about to become your bar tab.

It’s hard to get back into the swing of things after not dating for a long time.  To go from wearing sweats on a Saturday night to wearing shoes that will not allow you to have more than 2 glasses of wine (or you’ll hit the pavement)…is hard to get used to.  Walking into a restaurant and biting your tongue before you blurt out, “Hey!  Kids eat free on Tuesdays!  We should come back!” is a whole new world.  And sitting there listening to someone complain about their ex (and starting to feel sorry for her) sometimes makes you want to become the first wine-drinking nun.

Don’t get me wrong…dating can be fun.  I’m a people person and I think my next career will be as a professional mingler.  I try to keep things as light and cheerful as possible when I’m sitting across from someone at dinner, hoping that he’ll let me pay my part of the bill so I won’t “owe” him another date.  And as I always remind my single friends: Your date may not be the man of your dreams, but his best friend could be and he’s sitting right over there.

It’s all about networking.

Internet dating has completely changed how we operate, too.  I remember (back in the day) when online dating was something the “undateable” did to meet each other.  It seemed so taboo and “uncool” and if you met online, together you would come up with a new story about how your relationship began:  Some fictitious mutual friend that no one knows but who was able to change both of your lives in a single introduction at an event no one else was invited to.

When, in reality, your love connection started with an email that just said, “Hola.”

I am actually one of those rare people who thinks that internet dating is pure genius and I wish someone would come up with something similar “off-line.”  It would be such a time saver if you could walk into a bar and glance at someone’s personal resume (which has been conveniently stamped to their forehead) and know immediately if you had a shot at making this work before you even said, “Nice tattoo.”

For example:  If his stamp says that he has “4+ kids” and is excited to have more…you would know right away to down that Mojito and bolt.

My favorite thing about online dating is the ability to people watch from the comfort of your own home.  Think about it.  Years ago we would have to go to the airport for that kind of entertainment and now we don’t even have to leave the house.  There is nothing better than getting into your p.j.s, grabbing a glass of wine, and turning on the computer to see what the world has to offer in the way of available men.  Or, as the case may be, unavailable men who just forgot they were attached for a minute while they took that shirtless picture of themselves with their webcam.

(Just a side note:  Please don’t do that.  It makes you look green and creepy and like you should be posting a profile on SerialKillers.com instead of EHarmony.)

The weird thing is that it seems like every dating site has the same inventory.  It’s like the men out there are part of some secret club where you upload a profile and it gets distributed to 50 different websites.  And it can be very discouraging when you start emailing back and forth with someone on one site and really think you have a connection…and then he starts hitting on you on another one.

C’mon, buddy.  I’m signed up under the same username.  Can’t you make an Excel spreadsheet or something so you can keep track?

My internet dating experience has been a huge source of entertainment not only for me…but for all of my married friends as well.  In fact, my sister has made me promise that even if I should find the man of my dreams, I will never give up my membership.

All of my buddies look forward to their daily email updates.  You know…the guy with the username “DUIOffender” who is out there looking for his soulmate.  Or the one who forwarded his picture and, much to my dismay, had a nice set of bangs to go with his mullet.  The email I received with words that I didn’t understand, but I think the upshot was that he was offering to make me a princess in a country I’d never heard of.  And then, my personal favorite…the one who was “climbing the corporate ladder” but couldn’t spell “am.”  He spelled it “aim.”  Three times.  In one paragraph.

Hope he’s in accounting.

The good news for me is that, in my case, if I ever start dating someone and I feel like it’s not working out…I can always pull the “widow card” and back out because I’m finding myself “not quite emotionally ready yet.”  Or, “I’m widowed and can’t find anyone to watch my kids so I probably shouldn’t be dating.”  And then there’s my personal favorite:  “I’m widowed and if you don’t leave me alone, you may find out what really happened to my first husband.”

Works every time.

Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow and mother of three.  She is the founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick.  Along with being published in several books on grief and renewal, Catherine is also a humorous motivational speaker who focuses on ” finding joy in a life you weren’t expecting.”  She is also a volunteer speaker with the Donor Alliance of Colorado.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson May 5, 2011

    LOL–should we call you the Black Widow? 🙂

    Navigating the world of online dating is a tricky one but it worked for me eight years ago when I met my husband. But I didn’t have kids and a busy life to juggle. That said, I really, really liked online dating. I always emailed or talked to the guys for several weeks prior to meeting them and I was fortunate I never had any bad experiences (though I did have some funny ones).

    Too bad we didn’t have blogs back then!

  • comment avatar Robin May 5, 2011

    Wonderful article! I just joined an online dating site a couple weeks ago. My friends have been encouraging me for months and as soon as I started receiving my first messages and retelling these to them I knew why they asked me to join!! I have now made best friends with the delete button and wished they had a “not even in your dreams” button! Good luck and and thank you for sharing your story!

  • comment avatar Catherine T May 5, 2011

    LOL! Don’t get too discouraged, Robin. As long as you go into it with the attitude that it’s entertaining (which is what dating should be anyway)…it can be a lot of fun!

    And Amber…I haven’t gotten the Black Widow tattoo yet…but I’ve been thinking about it…. :>)

  • comment avatar Catherine T May 5, 2011

    LOL! Robin…they really should have those buttons! But the bottom line is that if you go into it with a sense of “fun” (which is what dating should be anyway), you’ll have a great time. If anything you’ll have many entertaining stories for your friends. I’m the life of the party now! :>)

    Amber…I’ve been debating about getting a Black Widow tattoo….:>)

  • comment avatar Suzanne Bastien May 5, 2011

    I took a year and a half off from dating while I was trying to redefine myself.

    I was terrified when I stepped into the arena….

    I went on 1 date with 1 man after talking on the phone for a week 3+ hours a night.

    We are getting married in 2012… we will have been together for 4 years. It’s possible, it’s not a fairy tale (though, most fairy tales don’t start with She had 6 kids, he had 1.) but close enough for me!

    Good luck, hold on to those stories.. they are hysterical! Oh.. and follow your gut!

  • comment avatar Trisha May 5, 2011

    My husband died 14 months ago and I do not see dating as an option. I looked (but did not join) an on line Catholic dating site and found the guys to be old and creepy. One was the dad of a friend of mine. I also live in a small community where there is a poor selection; about 10 guys all named Bubba. There ate groups through meetup.com close to here, but once again…older, divorced men. I am starting to think I’m good the way things are.

  • comment avatar Jaime Swartzendruber May 5, 2011

    Crack me up! I haven’t actually experienced the world of online dating…because I met my hubby back in the stone age – when email seemed epic – lol! I believe in fate/destiny/a plan, so I do think that the right person will come along when and where they are meant to – and online seems as good a place as any – esp if you can date in your sweats on Saturday night! Don’t let the creepers discourage your fun 😉

  • comment avatar Catherine T May 5, 2011

    You know…I think the best time to date is actually when you’ve taken the time to know who you are. So…good for you Suzanne! And Trisha…you’re on the right path. If we’re forced to do this the second time around…why not be in a place where we’re not looking for someone to complete us…but to add to what we already have?

    Life was good once. Since we allowed that it means that we have it in us to make life good again. The pieces are there…we just have to put them together (with someone or without).

    And Jaime…I didn’t even know how to use email when my husband and I met! I would be ashamed that that would tell everyone how old I am…but I’m so technologically challenged…that could’ve been last year!

  • comment avatar LoveWithLogic January 8, 2012

    I had so many broken relationships, each one repeating the same basic issues, that I tried to commit suicide. I believe relationships that are authentic and honest can be achieved through logical thinking and doing.
    When we divorce oftentimes our past remembered emotions surface at the most inopportune times. It is imperative that we rid ourselves of the destructive patterns of our past before we can hope to have a lasting new relationship.
    By learning to see emotional issues logically, I finally freed my life from disappointments and failed relationships.

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