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August 7, 2011

Dear Abby don't play that, homie.

Got this email in the box:

I am SO happy - and unhappy to hear that you have found a way to date again.....I know that sounds horrible...but let me explain. I have been divorced for 6 years (and separated for way longer than that) and have yet to be able to get myself back into the dating game. I do have a child - so for years, I have been using that as an excuse....YES it is TOTALLY an excuse. Over the last few months a few of my other single Mom friends have started dating and then I visited your site to see that you also were taking the plunge. So - I hated it only because I felt like more of a loser that I haven't been able to do it. All of this on top of the fact that I think my ex-husband will be getting remarried within the next year. With all that said -- HOW DID YOU GET YOURSELF TO REENGAGE? I did have the guy at the liquor store ask for my phone # a couple of weeks ago ... but he hasn't called -- and truth be known - I'm kinda relieved. I SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO need therapy--- or ALOTTA wine.

Love you,

So this is the portion of our program where I say, "Oh you know I try so hard not to give advice..." then proceed to spend 1200 words giving advice. Damn, I love you, internet. Let's advice it up, people!

The most important thing I can tell you, if you take nothing else from what is sure to be a bunch of navel-gazing helpy hoohaw, is that you're not a loser or a lost cause or behind on your lady timeline, or failing as a blahblahblah. I've dated, not dated, been in a relationship, there's all kinds of things I don't tell the internet (I know, hard to believe.) So I am not your yardstick -- you are your yardstick.

Having said that, I'm just going to break it down for you. You simply cannot sit alone in your home and hide from the world and expect to get a different result from the one you've got.

You already know that, though, and the real question here is about re-engaging and the logistics of making a change. So let's whip out some bullet points:

• Readiness
How do you know when you're ready to date? When you start sending emails to people asking about dating, you're nearing ready. When you begin the tentative steps -- like giving your number to the dude at the liquor store -- you're just about there my friend. How do I know? Totally done those same things! I quizzed my friend Jennifer about her every dating experience for the past year. And I totally gave my number to a dude lane-splitting on a motorcycle on Santa Monica Blvd. one day. Oh yes I DID. Well, he asked. And he never called either but that wasn't the point, the point was the mojo was beginning to flow and that is all you need.

Which brings me to:

• Detach from the outcome
Mojo isn't attached to the outcome. Who cares if the guy never called? There are 6.7 billion people on the planet. Somebody's going to call. I can tell you right up that dating now (at my rather advanced age, thank you, awesome) is so much better than dating at age 22. I've already been married so I'm not on a quest for fire, I know myself better, I'm more laid back, and I don't desperately need a man or a plan to be happy so I'm much more fun to be with. Can you imagine how hard it must be for dudes when every date is like a job interview for Future Husband, Future Provider, Future Father? Yikes. No wonder guys bail out. I would bail out. The point here is that your frame of mind is really important when you're re-emerging. Don't go out there on a perilous journey to middle earth to find THE ONE. Start with something a little more achievable, like looking for a nice person to go to a movie with.

• You don't have to get it perfect the first time
I started dating after my divorce as I am sure you know if you have read book #2 which I highly recommend purchasing so that me and the cats can afford rent. ANYWAY, I was still a big ol' trainwreck back then and I knew it, so instead of going out looking for The Next Serious Relationship Of My Life, I just picked fun guys to go out with who were terrible relationship material.

This is a totally acceptable strategy!! And no one ever tells you about it! Instead people say stuff like, "Oh, don't worry, one day you'll meet the one..." or "Just have hope, you're such a nice girl, and after my divorce I met the perfect man and now we're happily married with 2.5 kids and a beautiful home with hardwood floors and one of those kitchens you see in Nora Ephron movies." And you will hear these things and secretly want to stab the person saying them. Because there is a time for many divorced women when the idea of remarrying sounds like the worst thing you have ever heard since they invented butt waxing.

Want real advice? Go on some dates with a few hot, completely inappropriate men. The men you never dated before you got married because they weren't husband material. How do you think I ended up at dinner circa 2007 with the 24-year-old Jamaican cricket player? And it was fun. Would I want to walk down the aisle with him and share finances? No. You don't have to be on a marriage mission. It is actually completely healthy to just want to have fun when you re-emerge back into dating. I did that for a good solid while and it was a relief.

• You get to define fun
You don't have to sleep with every dude you go out with. It is perfectly OK to go out, laugh, hold hands, whatever, and not fling your panties off on the first date. I know I make jokes about all this stuff (Hi, twitter) but deep down I'm a full Southern girl and all which that entails. Meaning I don't do anything I don't want to do with anyone I don't want to do it with. People make too much of all of this. There's no date police out there who are going to cite you for going to slow or too fast. Relax.

Enough with all that, let's talk details now...

• Logistics
You have to do some things to make yourself feel good about yourself. This is different for every female. For me, I had to get physically healthier. I always feel better about myself when I'm exercising (totally psychological) so I now work out or walk or do some kind of activity every day and that makes me feel good. Also, a nice haircut never hurts. Have a solid date outfit you feel great in. And I like little girly things, too: nail polish, painting my toenails, using self-tanner on my legs even though you know I never wear shorts lest the sun explode, all that good stuff. You will have a different list of things that make you feel pretty and happy and self-confident. I fully believe that it's your job to make yourself happy and so you have to figure out what does it for you. Make a list. Then do it.

• And finally...
It's not brain surgery, this dating business. No one will just die if a date goes poorly or if you talk too much or if he's four inches shorter than you. The world will keep spinning on its axis.

I have met some genuinely great guys (both during the Inappropriate Guy time post-divorce and the more Appropriate Guy time of present day). I think people are endlessly fascinating, and I love that it's so much easier to meet people now with the internet -- not just dating sites, but think of hiking meetups, social meetups, any meetups. Church. My old standby the grocery store. And you get to text now instead of talking on the phone! This is technology gone right. No waiting around for the phone to ring, just send a text and be done with it.

Socializing is very hard for me. I'm naturally introverted and I get all nervous and dorky and speedtalk when I'm anxious. But while my natural inclination is to pull a full Emily (Dickenson, in case you were wondering) I find that when I push myself and force myself to get out of my shell, I often have a really great time. I hope you do as well.

Yeah, way over 1200 words.

Posted by laurie at August 7, 2011 10:46 AM