Once upon a time I went out on dates looking for Mr. Right. Then I found someone, I stayed with him, I walked down the aisle, and I got ready for your happily ever after. And then, some time later, things all fell apart.
So now, here I am, plenty of years and a couple babies later, right back where I started. Single and ready to date. I’ve found myself full of apprehension and insecurity.
And it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not about the kids. They are not my baggage. And it’s not the other women out there, the skinny and child-free ones who’ve spent their last few years accomplishing things instead of staying home.
My baggage is me. That old single version of me. It complicates my love life in ways I didn’t expect.
The first problem is simple: the old me was hotter. She had time to go to the gym. She could pig out on a cheeseburger without gaining an ounce. She wore a ridiculously small size and owned several bikinis. The old me had body image issues the way most girls do, but now I look back at her and want to laugh at her woes of skyrocketing up to a size 6.
Because the new me has stretch marks. And an extra 20 pounds. And nipples that have been sucked on excessively in a very not-sexy way. Getting naked in front of someone is not exactly an enticing prospect. I don’t worry about me compared to a woman on a magazine cover, I have enough trouble worrying about me compared to what I was ten years ago. No matter how nice a guy is, I know how I used to look. I can’t help sometimes feeling like I’m shortchanging someone, giving them the less-optimal, second-hand version of myself.
Speaking of sex, that can get tricky, too. Taking someone new to bed can be exciting after you’ve had the same old for a really long time. But the excitement can wear off when you realize how much you don’t know about your new companion. What do they like? What don’t they like? Plus new person sex requires so. much. energy. Remember how you weren’t having sex hardly at all and it just seemed like such a chore to get in 10 minutes after a long day? That was nothing. Now if you bring a guy home you’re going to have a few hours, including foreplay. Some nights you may not have the energy. Perhaps you ought to consider having coffee at dinner instead of a glass of wine.
And then, well, there’s the kids. I have strict rules not to introduce them to anyone I’m not ridiculously committed to, they’re going to be a factor. If I go out with someone who doesn’t have kids, I either feel like I’m talking about them constantly or wonder if I’m not mentioning them enough. And when I go out with someone who has kids, then good luck. Sure, we have more in common and feel like we’re in the same place in life. The bad news is we never see each other. Between custody agreements, work hours, and parenting schedules it’s hard to get both of you in the same place at the same time. And you thought planning date night was hard when you were married.
The thing is, though, despite the fact that I’m self-conscious and scared and vulnerable, despite the fact that some of the guys I go out with are losers or boring or terrible in bed, despite the creepy internet dating messages from older married men, I have actually really enjoyed it. Among all the other parts of myself I’m trying to reclaim after splitting up, now I get to tap back into that confidence in myself when I went on a date that I used to have.
I don’t let that younger, hotter me scare me away. I’m smarter than that girl. I’m no longer scared you’ll be alone forever. I’m no longer convinced no one will want you. I know about commitment. I know about love.
I am a catch. I’m ready to own it.