I’ve only had three girlfriends ever make it past the get-to-know-you phase.
It’s because both my mom and dad had gone through divorce, and both preached “playing the field” and to not be in a hurry to get married.
Spend time with lots of different girls, they said. Figure out what you like. Figure out why.
Not every girl approved of my way of thinking, but I didn’t particularly care. The thinking was: As soon as you know there’s no chance of this ending in marriage, why be in a committed relationship with one another?
I didn’t believe in having a girlfriend simply for the sake of having one.
That was an easy choice to make back then. I was young. With a hard stomach. And constantly surrounded by young, single women.
I’m sure I wasn’t as honest as I should have been. But I also wasn’t a lying, sneaky prick.
As far as I know, I didn’t leave very many hurt feelings in my wake as I navigated my youth.
Everything’s Different Now
It’s a much more-difficult choice to make now. Being discriminatory. But I choose it anyway.
I am no longer the most-important person in my life.
The day my son was born changed everything.
From that moment on, my decision making revolved entirely around the fact that I was his father.
Divorce hasn’t changed that.
But that has also come with a cost. It means I spend a great deal of time sleeping alone, dining alone, watching television alone. It means, for the first time in my life, I do most things alone.
I’m still adjusting to that.
It hasn’t been easy.
When my wife left, it was as if someone hit the reset button in the middle of my game.
I was on high alert. I knew it was possible. But the reaction was still: “WHAT THE… !?!?”
Then, after the dust settled, it hit me: A fresh start.
Kind of a do-over.
There are certainly geographic and financial limitations due to the shared custody of my son. But it’s not as if I’d trade him for anything, so I don’t see the point in lamenting his wonderful existence.
Beggars Can’t Be Choosers
My mom always used to say that.
But, guess what?
I’m not begging.
I wrote a post about an encounter with a girl at a bar on Valentine’s Day. It was a nice moment, I thought, and wanted to write about it.
There were more than a few people who told me both online and offline that they thought I was doing it wrong. There are probably several more who agree with them but didn’t bother to tell me about it.
One lady wrote: “I just happened upon your blog and I sorta agree with elbrookman (who was very disappointed with my choices). I understand not wanting to get involved with someone not geographically close, however, asking for her number is not a marriage proposal!…
“Maybe your inability to connect has more to do with your idea that you don’t measure up vs others thinking that you don’t! And connecting with someone doesn’t mean sleeping with them right out the gate! You have a lot of soul-searching to do my friend!”
She did a pretty good job of summing up my entire life and every word I’ve ever written in one comment.
But I dabble in the honesty business now. More than I ever have. So, let me just come out and say it:
I was pretty annoyed with everyone who suggested they knew better than I did what the best play was while meeting a strange girl at a bar. I was there. I was having the actual conversation. I was minutes away from picking up my five-year-old son to take him home and get him in pajamas and tuck him into bed.
It was suggested I made a mistake not trying to “romance” her. Perhaps a stroll under the full moon.
I’m not opposed to such things, I guess.
When I don’t have a sleeping five-year-old at home.
When it’s not 10 degrees outside with a shit-ton of ice and snow everywhere.
Whatever. Totally beside the point.
Why didn’t I try harder with the pretty stranger at the bar? Let’s discuss.
I only want to date women who live close to me. That stranger in the bar? She lives 2,380 miles away.
That’s a 34-hour drive, if you don’t stop for gas and food and sleep and bathroom breaks.
I only want to date women who live close for the same reasons I didn’t waste a lot of time in committed relationships in my youth I knew to be doomed for failure.
What’s the point?
I don’t want to date a woman I can’t see.
I don’t want to like a woman who I’m going to miss because she lives far away.
I’m really confused about why people don’t see the wisdom in that.
And I don’t care if this makes it hard for me to find people to date. I’m not going to suddenly change all my criteria, just to increase my odds of finding someone who meets my dating criteria.
My standards are my standards. I put thought into formulating them.
If I end up liking someone enough to be in a relationship with them, I want to be able to see them. You know, so we can have dinner and drinks and go to concerts and the movies and make out on the couch. This can’t seem weird to very many people. Right?
I only want to date women who could theoretically be a potential stepmom to my son. Even if this pretty photographer didn’t live in California, I can assure you—beyond all doubt—she wasn’t looking to spend all her time in the Ohio suburbs with a divorced guy and his kid.
She was awesome. Very funny. Very smart. Enjoyed her company immensely and would have had a great time with her for as long as the night allowed had I not been on parenting duty.
But even if my son hadn’t required my care?
There was still no happy ending to that story, from a “dating” or “relationship” standpoint.
So, I fail to see the wisdom in treating the encounter as anything more than it was. A nice moment that made me smile.
If people care enough about my personal life—and I realize I invite this commentary by publishing stories about my personal life—to offer criticism of my conversations with strangers at bars, I’d love for them to get on board with the idea that I actually think about this stuff (probably too much, actually) and have reasons for the choices I make—even the bad ones.
They are not accidents.
They are thoughtful and deliberate.
So, Yeah. I’m Picky.
And I’m not sorry, either. I have all kinds of personal rules about the kind of women I’m willing to hitch my wagon to. And, yes. I’m totally smart enough to realize just how challenging that’s going to make this next chapter of my life from a dating standpoint.
I’ve written about just how frustrating I consider it several times.
But I don’t think the answer to one of the most-important life decisions one can ever make is to all the sudden lower ones standards in the interest of increasing the candidate pool. That’s how the Cleveland Browns hire all of their head coaches, and anyone paying attention to American football can appreciate just how well that works out for them.
I want to meet someone who lives close to me. Period. Because if I like her, I want to see her.
I want to date someone who is mostly on the same philosophical wavelength as me. Because if it were to ever morph into a long-term thing, and she’s going to serve as a part-time parent to my son? I need her to be supportive of the values I want to instill in my child.
I want to date someone in my relative age range.
I want to think she’s beautiful in all the ways I evaluate beauty, both inside and out.
I want her to like me. To want to be here in Ohio where I must live for the next 13 years, minimum, until my son graduates from high school.
And I want the two of us to have lots of common goals and interests. On superficial things, and on all the stuff that really matters in relationships—all the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual components required to make it work.
I do not want to sleep with random strangers in bars.
I would not want to casually hang out with a random stranger in a bar UNLESS I wanted to sleep with her.
I have a million rules. All of them matter. Every single one.
And sure, it makes my life more difficult. More frustrating. More lonely.
But I’m not compromising my values.
And I’m not setting myself up for emotionally devastating long-term failure.
I think back to my first crack at dating. How I would never even start down the path with someone when I knew it couldn’t last.
And in many ways since, everything has changed.
But in some ways?