02 Jun Second Acts: Dating After Divorce
What I Learned From Dating After My Divorce.
When I found myself in the midst of a divorce and having to navigate a new dating world – this time as a single mother – it dawned on me that any experience garnered in my former incarnation as a single woman was now to be thrown out the window. Dating-as-a-divorced-mother was an entirely new game, one whose rules – despite my eagerness to learn them – remained mysterious. There weren’t going to be any short cuts and I didn’t know any single mothers to consult for tips. I would have to learn them in the trenches.
by Tara Ellison
Men and women seem to cope differently with the collapse of a relationship. In my experience, men are often more skilled at getting back in the saddle. I was not in any shape to go out and meet a replacement nor was anyone seeking my company (dour divorcée is hardly on the top of anyone’s desired list). Eventually, after the fog of said miserable divorce started to lift – or perhaps precipitated by my intense desire for it to lift – friends and acquaintances began to set me up on dates.
Early on in the blind date parade there was the attractive young television director I shared a quirky lunch date with. We sat down at a restaurant on Melrose and began the process of inquiring about each other’s lives. He took such lingering pauses before answering anything that I started to think he’d forgotten the question. Then, just as the silence had stretched to the point of becoming awkward, he would reel himself back in from his mental escape hatch and say something witty. He seemed to be toying with me but since I was so out of practice, I couldn’t be certain. Perhaps it was his dazzling smile that made me give him the benefit of the doubt. In a grand gesture he ordered several entrees and two desserts and encouraged me to ‘dig in’. Feeling starved of just about everything in life at that time I did just that and heartily devoured the feast in front of me. He lightened up as the meal progressed and we seemed to have fun but when he walked me to my car he said ‘It was nice to meet you,” in a way that told me he would not be calling me again. I chalked it up to my voracious appetite – which may have been a turn-off for a Hollywood director accustomed to whippet-thin actresses – but I found out later that he already had a girlfriend and was merely ‘shopping around’ while she was out of town. I was really annoyed that I had been set up with someone so obviously unavailable. Lesson number one: Ask more questions before accepting dates.
Then there was a perfectly nice fellow, a body-builder with a sensitive side who shared lavender cupcakes and tea with me one hot summer afternoon. He asked thoughtful questions and was a good listener but we had a distinct lack of chemistry. You don’t have to have set-the-house-on-fire chemistry but there has to be a spark. Lesson number two: If there’s no chemistry, do not pass go.
Next there was the flamboyant dentist who drove like a maniac and deposited his gum into the middle of his olive bread while disclosing that he always falls in love “with a woman’s silhouette”. He also mentioned during dinner that he found these pleasing silhouettes most often in (much) younger women. Lesson number three: Must have reasonable expectations.
A handsome filmmaker cast his net over me, completely bewitching me with his humor and charm (I was in dire need of some laughs). He was such good company that it ensured his popularity with people in far loftier social circles than I. Needless to say the added complication of having a child was not a big attraction, either. Lesson number four: Must like kids.
After a disheartening slog through the dating trenches, I took a break and focused on other areas of my life that were sorely lacking – which happened to be the best thing I could have done. I spent time rediscovering what I liked to do and engaged in passions and hobbies instead of romantic pursuits. When I was ready to resurface, a friend introduced me to a different type of man: a divorced dad, with kids. Dating as a divorced parent demands that you be a grown-up, as the margin for error has diminished considerably and now you have one or more little people depending on you not to screw it up again. Dating a person who has to deal with similar circumstances can be a tremendous comfort.
Lesson Number five: Date someone who gets your life.