The last time I went out on a date was as a somewhat naive 22-year-old student. Of course that was 15 years ago, when "You've got mail" was something you heard from
your mom. Now I'm facing the new realities of dating as a 37-year-old recently single mother of three.
After 12 years of marriage, I was sad to discover my generation's hook-up spot had shifted away from the bar scene. A drink accidentally spilled during a get-to-know-you chat will mostly likely end up on your keyboard these days, and don't get me started about the crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Safely ensconced in the confines of what I thought was wedded bliss, I never considered that one day I'd bask in the glow of a monitor while posting my profile on a Jewish dating Web site for all the world to see. Still, I found myself eager to dip my toes back in the dating pool.
But even before I could talk with anyone, I had to engage in an introspective process of defining myself, figuring out what I was looking for and asking myself why I was doing this.
Should I confess that in the privacy of my own home, I sometimes parade around in nothing but my underwear? Heck, when I posted that my body type was "curvy," I got inundated with one question over and over again: "How big are your boobs?"
Finding the delicate balance between honesty and TMI may be the key to meeting someone special online. I learned that lesson when one guy's profile disclosed that he only wanted a woman who would wear fishnet stockings and high heels because that was the way he was "wired." Gross.
Once I was done with my profile, my best friend and I searched for guys online. We separated them into three categories: "Player," "Ax Murderer" and "Potential." We quickly eliminated any smokers and guys who delivered a diatribe about how special and good looking they were.
By the time we were through, we were left with a handful of prospects. And when I say handful, I mean three.
Out of those guys we selected, only two responded. The first guy kept e-mailing me about movies, exotic drinks and soda. If he was going to lust after a Diet Coke more than me, forget it. The e-mail trail went cold after about three days, which is just as well since I couldn't compete with something bubblier than me.
The second guy, John, was very attractive and had a well-written profile. We both loved 1980s pop music and had a passion for vintage arcade games. He was 40 with no kids or ex-wives lurking.
After the fourth e-mail he suggested we meet for coffee. We exchanged phone numbers and he called me on a Sunday morning to set up a date later that afternoon at Barclays in Northridge. He got off the phone pretty quickly, and while the brevity of it felt awkward I figured saving the chitchat for later was part of the online dating experience.
Nervous doesn't begin to describe how I felt as I prepared to leave. I must have changed outfits a dozen times. My anxiety grew as I learned that the new baby sitter I hired had never so much as changed a diaper. Taking myself out of the running for mother of the year, I prayed my 2-year-old wouldn't need to be changed in the two hours I was planning to be out.
As I flew out of the house for my first date since the early 1990s, my main fear was that I might meet John with smeared lipstick. Before I entered Barclays, I checked to make sure my lipstick was in place. Feigning self-assurance and self-confidence, I took a deep breath and entered the coffee house.
And he wasn't even there.
What a way to start a new chapter.
He arrived late, but thankfully he showed up. It helped that he looked exactly like his online photo.
We talked over chai tea and coffee for a couple hours, covering topics from his messed-up childhood to what kind of video games my sons play, since he works in the industry. Toward the end of our two-hour chat, John let drop that he had dated a "Brady Bunch" actress and he even appeared on an episode of the reality series "My Fair Brady."
"The Brady Bunch" and video games? It was painfully obvious I was on a date with the Peter Pan Player, a 40-something kid who never grew up. By the time we hugged goodbye the connection had fallen to pieces, just like Carol Brady's vase did when Peter played ball in the house.
As a single mom in the burbs, I need someone who knows that problems can't be solved in 22-minutes with a laugh track.
Is there a man out there who can find fulfillment in dating a woman with children? He'd have to be self-confident, mature and not afraid of a little disarray. He'd have to be the kind of person who could find humor in such things as spilled chocolate milk, toy cars popping up in odd places or being a guest to a pretend tea party at a moment's notice.
Southern California is the land of blended families, so it seems possible to find love again. I just hope I can find someone whose heart and mind are open to a relationship with a woman who is, first and foremost, the mother of three wonderful kids.
Heather Moss is a corporate communications professional and the mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.