Dating After Divorce: An Exercise in Relearning

This, I get. This makes sense to me.

This, I get. This makes sense to me.

In the 1860s, despite relatively widespread use of keyboards for writing and professional communication, businessmen investing in typewritten communications were still tinkering with key arrangements.

The father of our current key layout is a guy named Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor from Milwaukee.

His first layout had two rows. Like a piano. In a pretty straightforward alphabetized sequence.

The mechanical functionality of this layout led to many neighboring typebar jams.

For example: Letters “H” and “I” were next to one another on the keyboard as they are in our alphabet.

So if you typed the sentence “This typewriter is a piece of shit” too quickly, the rapid succession of the H and the I hitting the paper while typing “shit” would often cause the H and I typebars to jam, and forcing otherwise well-mannered writers to say bad words.

Sholes kept tweaking.

In 1868, he introduced this layout:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 –

A E I . ? Y U O ,

B C D F G H J K L M

Z X W V T S R Q P N

Then in 1873, we got this:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 – ,

Q W E . T Y I U O P

Z S D F G H J K L M

A X & C V B N ? ; R

Then in 1878 we finally got the iteration we all know now. The modern QWERTY standard, named after the six-letter sequence in the top-left corner.

These keystrokes are now completely done with muscle memory. I’ve put in well over 10,000 hours at the keyboard. It’s as simple and natural for me to communicate this way as it is speaking.

So, it’s painful for me to think about writing in an era where the keyboard was sometimes changing. Getting a new typewriter, or writing from a different location might have meant a total rearrangement of the keys.

Writing may be second nature to me.

But typing 1,000 words on a keyboard where all the letters are rearranged?

It would be a frustrating and painful experience.

The Single Dad Fumbling Through Bachelorhood

That’s what I am now.

After so many years of doing things a certain way, life has forced me to find a new way.

And I’m really bad at it.

A co-worker and I were talking about a woman who works in my building while we were walking in this morning. She’s a single mom. Super pretty. Was nice and funny the one time I ever spoke with her at length.

“She would be an ideal person to ask out,” I said. “I almost did a couple months ago.”

“Oh yeah, single guy! Why don’t you?” my co-worker said.

“You’ve been married a long time. I almost never see her. I’d have to approach her out of nowhere in the parking lot. When’s the last time you had to initiate conversations with women outside a social environment that brought you together naturally?”

“Yeah. Never.”

I got my first crush in third grade.

And from that point on, I was always where girls my age were. Single girls, too.

We had cutesy relationships in grade school.

Borderline serious in high school.

Then we went to college where it was even easier to meet women. We were always surrounded by tons. And everyone was always armed with liquid courage AND social support from nearby friends.

I had a high school girlfriend my senior year. She was my first “serious” relationship. Ages 17-18.

I dated a girl for nearly two years in college my third and fourth years. (Yes, I took five years to graduate. I make bad decisions.) Ages 20-21.

I had met my ex-wife at a party my freshman year. We stayed in contact off and on. And we got together for good in the summer of 2001 through this past April when it crashed and burned.

What’s my point?

I have, literally, never been in a situation where I wasn’t surrounded by copious amounts of like-minded single women OR in a committed relationship.

Until now.

That woman who works here? The cute one on the third floor? I don’t know how to talk to her. I don’t. If I found myself in the same place as her through chance, I’m sure I would say something. I’m not a complete wimp. But to go seek her out? For the sole purpose of expressing interest in seeing her socially outside of work?

I’m just not wired for that. And I’m a little unsure how I’m supposed to be after reflecting on my life up to this point.

All of the keys are rearranged now. Everything’s foreign. I’m being asked to do something I know how to do. But I’m being asked to do it in a way I’ve never faced before. In an environment not particularly conducive to success.

Most women aren’t single anymore. I have a child. I’m older. And I’m almost never in a place where like-minded single people are. Sometimes I’m in bars. But I’ve never been hook-up-with-girl-at-bar guy. And I don’t intend to start now.

I’ve learned to be okay. When it’s quiet. When it’s just me in my head.

I’ve learned to cook for myself. Do housework. And find ways to entertain myself when my son’s not there.

I’m much closer to stable. Much closer to healed. Much closer to ready than I’ve been at any point in this divorce-recovery process.

I’m looking at the keyboard.

But I don’t have to.

I know where every button is. Every keystroke, second-nature.

I can play this game.

But then I look at the world.

That couple over there.

How’d they meet?

That woman over there.

I’m afraid to interrupt her life to talk to her. What if she’s already with someone? What if she thinks I’m stupid? What if she thinks I’m short? What if she thinks I’m ugly?

I’ve always been a fan of asking questions when I’m pretty confident I’ll get a positive response.

I always knew when girls liked me. I still do. You can just tell.

But it’s a brand new keyboard now.

In a lot of ways, I do know what I’m doing.

But when all the rules have changed?

Even knowing what you’re doing can still result in: dmh*cvy4hfjdf%jcbsyeuk;dkdoicud$jaekjazrx,dfofh5.

And you can say that again.

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37 thoughts on “Dating After Divorce: An Exercise in Relearning

  1. There are ways of finding out these things. Do you have any connections with the office on the third floor? A person or a reason to get yourself up there? A company get together that might offer up an opportunity? If you are that interested, you will figure it out. Sure, it will be a little uncomfortable, just like it was when you were in high school or college, but it just might be ok. What is the worst that could happen? You find out she is in a long term relationship or went lesbian?

    I haven’t dated. I have had an off again on again lover, who turns out to be someone I really like hanging out with but have known from the start he is not into commitment. I’m not sure I would date. Not in the sense of going to match.com to meet someone and going through a deck of 52 to find the perfect guy. It has to be organic. If organic means I have to get up the courage to say hi and initiate a connection so I don’t seem to be stalking, well I think I’d do it. Just to see if there is a mutual connection. My opinion of course is mine. If you feel you are ready to date, don’t let her slip away without trying. Start communication with her somehow.

    Natalie

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  2. mewhoami says:

    You’ll never know if you don’t ask. What’s the worst that can happen? She might say no. But, what if she says yes? It can’t hurt to try.

    Like

  3. Well, Matt, I have much ado about this subject, lol, but I will contain myself. Being a single parent and dating is a completely different world than being single and alone. We have our children’s feelings to contemplate, not just our own, if we are any type of decent parent. It’s not about just meeting someone, although casual dating may be some’s preference, and if you have the resources to watch your little one for a night out, then great! But, it’s about meeting someone, finding the time to get to know them, and then deciding if you bring them into not only your world but your child’s. I remember one of the first thoughts on the subject for me-when I was newly separated from my daughter’s dad and the divorce was in process, “Who will want to date a single mom, 30-something years old, knowing that it’s a 2-for-1 package?” Sadly enough, I have to admit, not too many-as here I am 7 years later, having had one long-term relationship that resulted in the “I’m not really ready to commit and be what you need” sentence. For those who are single parents and share 50/50 custody, I imagine it is easier. And, as for taking a chance on the 3rd floor, I agree with the others, go for it! Because, there really isn’t anything to lose in trying, and much to be gained when it’s the right situation. One last little thing…online dating is fabulous for writers (all about the keys) and I like that I can “chat” with men via email before jumping into the face-to-face awkardness of first and blind dates. I met someone on Match back in July, and while we ended up “taking a break” due to a job change of his, recently we were able to re-connect (He read my blog post “All I Want for Christmas”) and I’m HOPE-ful in this moment. You can do it, too; I know you can! XOXO-Kasey

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    • Matt says:

      Thank you Kasey. Back in the beginning of this blogging exercise, I was really interested in dating even though I wasn’t emotionally ready.

      I was on Match for three months. I’ve written about it a fair amount. Go ahead and click that “online dating” tag at the bottom of this post.

      It was an epic failure. AND I hated it.

      Color me old-fashioned. I just like meeting human beings in their natural habitats. And as much as I love the internet, this isn’t it.

      Like

      • I will definitely take a look-see at your experience. I didn’t realize you’d tried it, and certainly people seem to either love it or hate it. I’ve had my ups and downs having tried it twice over the past 5 years (and met someone each time pretty darn quickly after subscribing)….but for now it’s an up, ha, ha. Having the means to meet folks au-natural would be wonderful..I don’t have much of that ability with my work schedule, being a full-time mom, and then also working on the weekends in the evenings at the horse barn (100% women-no cowboys, darnit), and my church is comprised of the elderly….and….the elderly, ha, ha. So, I decided it was either try online or become a nun after Maycee leaves home. Anyhow, I’m sorry you had an epic failure experience, BUT, I know that as more healing occurs for you, more clarity and such, something is going to pan out whatever the environment. You seem like a super fun man and a terrific dad. This I believe, for myself, and the rest of the 50th percentile!

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        • Matt says:

          Rest assured I’m not bad mouthing online dating on the whole. It makes total sense for people like us and maybe I’ll go down that road again someday.

          But for now? I just like meeting people.

          I know I have some redeeming qualities. I don’t like being eliminated upfront because of my son. Or because of my height.

          That’s what happens when people filter your online dating profile.

          When if I had them in a room, things might go differently. :)

          Thank you for saying nice things!

          Like

          • You are definitely right about “if I had them in a room, things might go differently.” So true, so true. I know you have redeeming qualities. This is obvious to me, but again, the fact that you love to write and write about what’s real connects me instantly. I enjoy reading, and I enjoy writing back…one thing I laughed about in reading some of your historical Match info was the lack of spelling ability…I wondered if it was the same on the female side as it is the male side. Most of the profiles I read were either long enough to reach novella status with run-on sentences, or obviously typed from the guy’s smartphone with absolutely NO punctuation. One dude even wrote something to the effect of, “if ur intrested msg me and ill call you forget the email crap i jus want to meet” Wow. And, they pay money just as we do! Anyhow, I could ramble on this topic with you for hours, so I best get back to my nutso desk and attempt to finish working! Have a good night… And, you’re welcome! ;)

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  4. Give me her email. I want to send her a link to this blog. YOU ARE AWESOME!

    Like

  5. knace says:

    As I have mentioned before, I am married to a man I met and dated when I was sixteen so I am probably not high on the list of people who ought to handing out dating advice.(Oh wait I just checked. I am not on the list at all =)) The very idea of having to date again fills me with terror, (I think that must be why I’m in Hufflepuff)(No, I am never going to let it go) (That’s another H-Puff trait, apparently) but I will echo what a couple of readers have already said, and that is if she were to get a chance to read your blog….I don’t see how she or anyone could fail to be charmed by your wit and thoughtful nature. Of course, she might be intimidated at the prospect of being a possible subject of your blog, and then if things didn’t work out….
    Ay, caramba.
    I don’t know what to tell you, Matt. Except when I look at some of the obnoxious, unpleasant, and not particularly attractive people who seem to date and date often- who marry several times even….It just doesn’t make sense that someone as nice as you is going to be single forever!

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  6. David says:

    Yeah, talk to her. If she’s part of your same company or you have offices on her floor, here’s a completely lame strategy: go to the bathroom on her floor. Maybe you just “need a change of scenery” or a “quick stair climbing break”

    I would botch thus but ding be afraid to quickly drop mention of your 50/50 parenting arrangement. That tells her you understand that complexity.

    Whatever, just risk idiocy. You’re probably quite pleasant as an idiot.

    I risked something similar and got invited to a party tomorrow by an attractive close friend of my ex (my ex lives 1000+ miles away). It’s not a date but it’s an opening for something better.

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  7. writerlyone says:

    If she works for the same company, you could email her. If she doesn’t, I think you should find her and ask her out. Finally, and I’m pretty sure I told ya this, match blows. I had much better luck on POF. I have an ex-boyfriend to prove it! Good luck Matt. It will happen. I was separated a year before I went on my first date.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Match does, indeed, blow.

      If I do decide to head back down the online-dating path someday, I’ll be sure to try another site. I appreciate the suggestion.

      Thank you for the encouragement. I hope you’re doing well down there.

      Like

  8. Dawn says:

    Is there a chance you could email her? I mean if you work for the same company AND you just saw her…It could be as simple as, hey it was great seeing you. Was wondering if you wanted to get some coffee?
    After nearly 4 years of this…I still haven’t got clue one what I’m doing. I have asked guys out, rarely are they single. Oh well…Just got to try.

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    • Matt says:

      You’d think with all of my self-depricating characteristics that I would have experienced a lot of failure in my life.

      Truth is, I have a pretty high success rate in most things I set out to do not named marriage.

      Perhaps I’ll get used to this idea that stuff just isn’t going to go my way all the time and steel myself for a lot more rejection.

      But I still, I fear it. As irrational as those fears may be.

      *shrug*

      I’ll get over it sooner or later. My future depends on it.

      Like

      • Dawn says:

        No one really likes failure. I get rejected tons…and I mean tons. Not sure what it is, I’m pretty damn incredible :), yet it still happens.
        I decided to take a slightly different view on it…and started thanking the Universe for letting “that one” go. The way I see it…I build my confidence muscles by putting myself out there, and the Universe protects me from the jerks that aren’t good for me.
        You will never succeed at anything, if you aren’t willing to fail.

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  9. Sandy Sue says:

    Everyone’s touched on the fear aspect and given you lots of great ideas. But it has to come down to you being comfortable with you. As you are. With your fumbling keystrokes. It’s all mental Ninja techniques and a willingness to experiment. You *might* get it wrong this time, but you’ll learn and get better.

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  10. Been there says:

    So you drew me in

    My situation: Divorced at 41 with two small kids. I had a very stable job, nice home etc. That phase lasted 6 years, then I got remarried. I remember my dating days basically fondly.

    Sometimes it may help to start with a different mindset with which to approach the experience of online dating. So I will tell you mine.

    It is a real benefit that everyone is there for the reason you are – to meet people. You don’t have to worry much about offending someone with unappreciated advances. So just do it. Further, most women appreciate an assertive (within reason) man. So the first point in being attractive is – go for it.
    Then – I approached it with the attitude of “it’s just entertainment”. It was massively interesting talking to people about their lives. I knew I didn’t have to buy, so the threat level was real low, but learning how to draw people out and listen was something I needed to do. And I needed practice to do that. So, I got practice.
    My goal was never sex on the first date or third date, it was just, really to be out and be social. (And the sex did come, and it was great. Just kind of arose organically. ) It was incredibly healing to be with someone with whom you had no issues and who wanted to be with you. With all of the negative things that my ex said about me, and that I had come to believe as a requirement for remaining married, just went away. After several two or three date episodes, it was clear that I was not what I was taught and what I had come to believe. This was probably the most important thing in my healing.
    And then I was well, and my ex did not like that at all. At all. My daughter (12 yo) remarked to me in the car one day “wow, dad you are so different now”, and I said -“This is how I really am. The last few years with your mom were so hard, that I was not really myself.”
    Now – there were some odd birds, and I just thought, “well, that was interesting” And there were a few experiences I had by following their leads that I wouldn’t have had without this. I once was invited to the home of the president of the local Gay Alliance for a housewarming. These were people I never interacted with in my usual circles, and it was SO interesting to meet all these very nice people.
    All along, I was thinking: this is your time to really experience life with few restrictions. This time won’t last, do it now.
    I got dumped a few times, and it didn’t bother me because I was developing the capability to understand where the problem was. This is important. And, sad to say, I had to be the dumper a few times, but that was a sign of maturity, that I was able to look at a situation, and realize that although she really wanted it (and the sex was great), that my intellectual analysis was that this relationship would not stand the test of time. (And from time to time, I really wish I could still have some relationship with them, because, I really really liked them as people. But – bad idea.)
    Did I mention that I got to do things that I had wanted to for years, but that my ex wouldn’t do at all – like going out for dancing/music?
    I will pass this along: while there is a need for some transparency, and I think you need to discuss your social situation (ahem), I would not now dwell on it at all, I would just, in 5 minutes, outline the situation as dispassionately as I could. If asked more, I would give more, but I would not be as “open” as I was. “Open” can quickly transform into “obsessed”.

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  11. I love the comparison of the keyboard to dating. You’ll develop the motor skills needed for the latter soon enough.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I actually threw together the dating part BECAUSE I’d learned about the keyboard thing and thought it was so fascinating. :)

      Thank you for liking it!

      Like

  12. FeyGirl says:

    LOVE your wonderful and open writing… It speaks to so many of us who have, for whatever reason, been thrust out into the open waters. I’ve had many male friends, so I love seeing your perspective. I recently (last spring) joined my *first* online venture…ever…for “practice dating,” since I honestly never knew how to date. :) Fun times! That lasted an entire four weeks. So I wish you all the best… And know that you have an incredible amount to offer!! Here’s to your future success.

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  13. Hey sweetpea, you sound like a very grounded, down to earth, genuine guy to me, who accepts people are not perfect, far from it. You will meet someone when the time is right and when you’re ready. If you stay positive and believe that you deserve real happiness you will get it honeybee.

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  14. […] wrote about this recently. How the rules have all changed. How for the first time in my life, I find myself single. Only now I’m almost never with other […]

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  15. […] modern QWERTY standard keyboard has been around since 1878. I once made the keyboard a metaphor for dating after divorce. It totally […]

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