I became a single mom at 22. I quickly learned that the dating world I had just entered was light years away my teenage years, when I had last been single. I decided I needed some sort of guidelines to follow; a sort of roadmap, which of course didn’t exist in the Geography section (or self-help section) of Barnes & Noble. So I charted my own course, starting with two general rules:
No relationships for 6 months, and
Dates only on the nights I didn’t have my son
There have been more rules added to the list as the years have gone by. There are many that any woman entering the dating scene will figure out on her own: meet a blind date in public, a man that respects you won’t try to sleep with you on the first date, and never introduce your children to a man you aren’t sure you will have a future with.
Laugh at Yourself
What you won’t read in dating advice columns are the hard lessons to learn, the ones you are embarrassed to share with others. I live with the belief that if you can’t laugh at your past, then it is hard to have hope for the future. In light of that, I will share with you the embarrassing lessons I have learned as a dating, single mama.
Never Date a Male Stripper
Go ahead and laugh. In hindsight, it seems so silly that I thought even casually dating this man would not end badly. But as a 22 year old who was still uncomfortable with her mom-body and fresh on the dating scene, I was easy prey. All it took was one pass of his hand across my shoulders and a compliment about what great hair I had, and I was giving him my number. I should have known that drinks we had in clubs before his shows were not actual dates, and that putting me on the VIP list for the All Male Revue was not romance. I should have realized that if a man is living with his ex-girlfriend because they are still really good friends, then she probably isn’t an “ex” just yet. Thankfully his girlfriend was a bit of a snoop and alerted me of her girlfriend status before things got anywhere close to serious. But lesson learned…a man that shaves his chest and stuffs his Speedo is probably incredibly comfortable lying about other things.
The Package Does Matter
Not that package, the whole package. The attitude, the smile, the hair, the clothes, the shoes – the package. Specifically the shoes. Out with some friends on a New Year’s Eve, I had met a cute boy and we shared a sweet midnight kiss. We exchanged numbers that night, and as promised, he called the next day. He offered to pick me up and take me out to dinner. Things were starting off as they should, I was very pleased! Imagine my surprise when he walked through my front door with duct tape wrapped around his shoes. Silver, belongs-in-the-garage, duct tape! I was perplexed. I had to ask about it, of course I did. They were his favorite shoes, yes they were still in production, and he just didn’t want to spend the money on a new pair of shoes. I couldn’t go out with a man who had duct tape holding his shoes together! If he couldn’t spring for a hole-free pair of shoes, what kind of restaurant was in store for me? I offered him a drink to buy some time while I figured out how to get out of this. While drinking his beer, he got gassy. There was no apologizing and excusing himself, he just kept talking through it, like I wasn’t even noticing it! I was mortified. Thankfully Mother Nature came to my rescue and the power went out. I told him that I was so sorry, but I had to go keep a friend company during the outage.
Moral of the Story
Moral of the story, ladies: If a man like Duct Tape Jeff doesn’t care enough about the whole package, then he is not going to be the kind of man who has the courtesy to step into the bathroom to excuse himself when flatulence hits! He is definitely not the kind of man you want as an influence on your children!
Single Moms Scare Off Family-Focused Men
I will preface this with saying that there are some exceptions to this rule. But I found that nine times out of ten men thought that since I already had a child that I didn’t want more. Wonderful men, who would make great husbands and fathers to future children, would fail to ask if I wanted more children and would go on their merry way looking for a great woman whose womb had never carried a child. Men wouldn’t approach the subject with me, but instead just stop calling. Weeks later I would inevitably find out through the grapevine that the “kid issue” is what scared them off.
Men are Not Simple
I used to think that the fact that I had a child is what it was, but it was the thought that I didn’t want more. But they won’t just come out and ask you. Men aren’t that simple. Single moms have to find a way to tell a man, without sounding like a needy, psychotic, baby machine, that they are open to having more children some day. It isn’t always easy, and at time seems utterly impossible, but if you have found a good man, the conversation will happen in a way that makes you sound completely sane and not like Octomom.
Sometimes You Have to Say It
One of the first men I dated after leaving my son’s father was a guy who worked in the same office building as I did. It was a pretty casual thing, but he was a great guy. We had a lot of fun together, he respected that I had a child I was devoted to, and he had his own life as well. We dated off and on for a few months, and then things kind of just tapered off as they sometimes naturally do. One night I was out with a girlfriend, and ran into this man and a friend of his at a bar. He and I went to grab a drink together and while talking I realized that this man obviously liked me. Not necessarily in a be-with-you-forever way, but there was a bit of something there. I got angry that he had let things sizzle out if he liked me. And I told him as much. My exact words were, “You know, the next time you like a girl, you really should let her know!” To which he came right back at me with, “And the next time you like a guy, you really should let him know!”
He was Right!
He was completely right, and I was completely mortified. Somehow it had never occurred to me that we live in the 21st Century, and I am a smart woman who is certainly capable of telling a man that I like him. I have never forgotten that lesson. I know that there are still a lot of women out there who want to be swept off of their feet and romanced. I love that too. But men have egos and pride and if they went around sweeping every woman they liked off of her feet, they would surely end up embarrassed a lot. Help him out a little. Let the guy you like know that you like him. Encourage him to sweep you off of your feet.
A few closing reminders:
If a man says he can understand why his dad cheated on his own mom, run.
If a man has a shrine in his living room to his late wife, he is not ready to date.
If one of the first texts you get from a man is a picture of a body part that isn’t his face, then the only direction he sees the relationship going is horizontal.
And just to reiterate, never, ever trust a man who takes off his clothes for living!
Brooke Billings is a single mom of an awesome 9 year old boy navigating the worlds of parenthood, dating and writing. Brooke is the editor of Single Parent magazine, and co-founder of ModernSingleParents.net, a revolutionary new social network for single parents. Brooke is also a featured expert writer on multiple single parent websites. As a child raised mostly by a single parent, Brooke is passionate about supporting single parents and helping single parents realize their potential. Brooke has been co-parenting her 9 year old son with his father since 2002, and is happy to be in a place where the relationships are enjoyable for everyone involved. Brooke and her son enjoy the blessings of living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, as well as urban adventures and entertaining friends and family.
You can contact Brooke at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and follower her on twitter @brookeb4