For the past two years I've been swimming exclusively in the dating pool of divorced dads (DDs). This makes me a Divorced-Dad Dater (DDD).
I love DDs because they will always make sure you've had enough to eat and have gone to the bathroom before long car rides. To me, DDs are more colorful than single men, with greater complexity to their lives, navigating sanity, maturity and alimony coupled with the juggling capabilities of a high-wire performer.
My first date with a DD usually begins with his "last marriage soliloquy" delivered with a frown. Then that face transforms into beaming delight as he shares the names and ages of his kids. I always ask to see a photo, because I can see how proud he really is of his offspring. Also, when I see his children's faces I get an idea of how pretty and/or non-Jewish his ex-wife is. I ask a DD a lot of questions about his kids, because how he treats his children is a lesson in how he'll treat his date -- namely, me. This I learned from my rabbi and Dr. Phil.
Last summer I was seeing two DDs, eager to choose one. Dad A said, "My son came home from summer camp crying because he didn't have his bathing suit today. It was drying at his mom's house, so I sent him without it."
"Why don't you get your son another bathing suit?" I asked.
"I pay enough child support so that she can go out and get him a swimsuit," he groused. I felt sad for Dad A's son.
I called Dad B and said, "How many bathing suits do your kids have?"
"I think they each have five. But today my youngest was pulling at her suit like it was too tight for her. So we ran to the store and got her a new one," he explained. "It took five minutes and 10 bucks."
Dad A was history.
Don't get me wrong, being a DDD is quite complicated, and not for everyone. Many DDs have shared custody of their kids, which includes a major part of every other weekend. That means you'll have dateless nights and weekends without him -- unless you date two DDs who have custody on alternate weekends.
Another downside to DDs is they have other mouths to feed besides yours. Money (and the lack of it) is a frequent topic of conversation, as well as the reason for less-extravagant dates around holidays, birthdays and the back-to-school season. Also, newly DDs often live in small cramped places, where a child may share their bed on custody nights. In the past, when I've slept over at a single guy's house, I've turned the pillow on occasion and found another woman's thong. As a DDD, I've turned the pillow and found their 5-year-old daughter's drool.
Every Sabbath and Jewish holiday that I sit in synagogue with dear friends but without a life partner, I'm reminded that I'm an only child with deceased parents who is alone way too often. What better way to fill those empty places than with the laughter of kids I never diapered?
The allure of DDs for me is that their life experience is more multifaceted than carefree, never-married single men or childless divorced guys. Some of their emotional baggage can walk and talk. I like the thought of getting close to children after they've been toilet trained. Having a relationship with a DD gives me the opportunity to build a loving relationship that could lead to a full family, instantly: a loving husband and children to share nightly dinners, summer vacations, Rosh Hashanah, Passover and everything in between.
Still, DDs have just as much dating anxiety, fear of commitment and intimacy issues as single men. One twice-DD canceled a New Year's Eve date stating, "I can't get too close to anyone while my kids are still young. When I look at you I see alimony in your eyes. Three strikes and I'm out."
Yet DDs work hard, play hard and try to please everyone. At the end of the day DDs need an adult to curl up to. According to my guy's child-care agreement, this Saturday and Sunday is a nonparenting time. I look forward to my visitation weekend.
Arlene Schindler is a writer for numerous national publications and was a relationship expert/guest guru for AOL's Love-on-Line.