Tag Archives: Online Dating

Bad News: You Two Probably Shouldn’t Be Dating

caution you're doing it wrong

(Image/amaninthegap.blogspot.com)

Your relationship is probably doomed.

I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’m just playing the percentages.

Half of all marriages will fall apart. It’s a huge bummer but it’s been true for so long that unless a critical mass of people in the future take to heart some of the ideas here, there’s every reason to assume that will continue.

Additionally, what percentage of pre-marriage/unmarried relationships won’t work out? Maybe 80, or even 90 percent? Who knows? A damn lot.

So. Like I said: Your relationship is probably doomed.

Maybe I’m Not Doing It Wrong After All

Tiffany asked:

My question is less about the marriage part and more about the singlehood part. I epically failed at the dating game in my younger years long before epic fail was even a phrase. I am oh so much better at it now, NOT! I have no game or swagger, I’m just me. I’m just real but I guess being real is a complete turn off in this reality-tv, instant gratification society. So my question is, now what? Now what are we divorcee’s supposed to do? Online dating did not exist the last time I was single and neither did texting. We thought our cell phones were smart until Apple raised the IQ bar. Now, there seem to be dating rules that no one has shared with me and once I become privy to what they might be, they change. It seems the sea of fishes are now depleted of sea horses but teaming with sharks. If nice guys finish last, WHERE ARE THEY? In my experience, the divorced, single men in our age bracket are either reliving their 20 something frat boy days or trying to experience that lifestyle they never had. It’s exhaustingly frustrating! I feel as if the first line of the online dating profile I don’t have should read “Hi, I am a strong woman of character, value and self-respect. I’m sorry but I will not be selling my body or soul to the lowest bidder with cheesy lines, free cocktails, Netflix and a ‘chill’.”

I feel like when I go on a first date with someone (which has not happened in over a year because I gave up) I should introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Tiffany. I’m a real person with thoughts, ideas and feelings not just a pin cushion. It’s nice to meet you.” The guy would turn around and run I’m sure lol. I also have two kids which translates to leprosy I’m finding out. Refer back to the previous statement of reliving one’s 20s and the idea of being a grown man that doesn’t shy away from responsibility is just gone. Maybe they are just too overwhelmed with their own responsibility to think about any more…..Maybe they just don’t know how to tread down this road just like me….Maybe I’m giving them too much benefit of the doubt…Maybe they’ve always been irresponsible and that’s why they’re divorced….Maybe I should stop driving myself crazy with all the maybe’s.
BUT I JUST DON’T GET IT!!!
So please, if you have any thoughts as to why divorced men seem to only want friends with benefits or casual, please clue me in.
Also, the separate problem of divorced men who may be looking for something real, but not seeing me, only the fact that I have kids.

I used to think I was horrible at dating (post-divorce, specifically), and even felt a little bit ashamed of it. But that’s because I was comparing the QUANTITY of my dates to what I perceived to be others’ experiences, and now I’ve come to believe it’s actually the low-boundary, unfiltered attitude toward dating that is causing most of these problems in the first place.

I now think I was accidentally awesome, and believe today that I’m a competent dater in a very deliberate way.

There are two reasons people date:

1. Because they desire companionship and/or sex, casually or otherwise.

2. Because they’re looking for a suitable partner for a long-term relationship and/or marriage.

If casual relationships are the goal, then I think a relaxed attitude about dating is an appropriate disposition.

But if you’re genuinely looking for a compatible long-term partner with the intention of spending FOREVER with them, then I think getting hardcore with your intentions, your boundaries, and your stated expectations are CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to your success and emotional wellbeing.

An intentionally casual dater can date another intentionally casual dater, and have a positive experience.

An intentionally casual dater dating someone looking for love can lead to a lot of bad things happening if neither are honest with one another.

A person looking for love and long-term commitment can date someone else looking for love and long-term commitment, and it can go a million different ways. A lot of people believe if they end up married, that the meeting and dating exercise was a success. But that’s not true. It’s only a success if they actually make it to forever.

This is where most of us get it wrong.

Because I write here and some people pay attention, people in my personal life sometimes irrationally believe that makes me the go-to person for relationship questions. Ignoring how flawed that thinking is, I do my best to listen and provide the honest feedback they seek.

One of my friends liked a guy. He was the first guy she really liked in a long time. They met on an online dating site. They started seeing each other regularly. But to her displeasure, he was non-committal. He remained engaged in online-dating activities and was presumably seeing other people.

She wanted my advice. I didn’t think the solution was complicated.

“What should I do?” she asked.

“Only you can decide what you’re willing to tolerate,” I said. “The first thing I would do is decide exactly what you want and what your intentions are. Do you want him to be your committed boyfriend, or don’t you? Are you okay with him logging onto online dating sites and dating other people, or aren’t you? Once you know what you want, those are your boundaries. Then you clearly and honestly communicate those boundaries to him. Then—the hardest part—you ENFORCE those boundaries. You need to be willing to walk away if he doesn’t respect them,” I said.

“Isn’t it too soon for that?” she said. She didn’t want to seem “crazy” or “possessive,” she said.

She was afraid that being honest would cause him to reject her.

“I don’t want to seem insensitive about this, but if your relationship is going to fail, you WANT it to fail fast. Be honest about what you want. If he’s unwilling to give you what you want, or honor your feelings, or he runs away, isn’t that all you really need to know about him in terms of your long-term compatibility?” I said.

Maybe she thought really wanting him to be a certain kind of guy would magically transform him into that person. Like The Secret.

She never had the conversation with him. A couple weeks later, he cancelled plans with her for the third or fourth time, then she ended it, and they haven’t talked to one another since.

The entire scene felt insane to me. THIS is a major reason so many people end up divorced, I thought.

Why Does Dating Suck?

Because people don’t establish strong-enough boundaries for who they date.

Because people aren’t willing to be vulnerable and choose honesty when expressing who they really are on the inside, and what they really want.

And then sooner or later, it all crashes and burns because two people with different values and different expectations and different goals tried to force it using rainbow wishes and unicorn dreams, blaming culture, circumstances and everything but the person standing in the mirror for willingly participating in the madness.

Being a victim of con-artistry is the ONLY honest excuse for crushing heartache in the dating game.

Sure, rejection hurts, when one honest person doesn’t reciprocate the same emotional investment as another honest person. But, A. Don’t you WANT to be with someone who wants you back?, and B. How is that not an infinitely better result than investing years and/or marriage with someone who ultimately rejects you because you never really knew each other in the first place?

I can’t emphasize this belief enough: Every failure-to-launch relationship is a GREAT thing that eliminates wasted time, gives us critical life experience, and ultimately opens the door for people to find legitimately awesome and compatible romantic partners.

I know everyone’s in a big hurry all the time. But as mom always said: Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.

This is how dating goes when you’re from a small Midwestern town in the United States (maybe it’s a lot different in big cities and other cultures): You go to school in kindergarten, and for the next 13 years, you’re almost exclusively surrounded by “people like you,” which I’m loosely defining as single people with similar values, similar life experiences, similar educational opportunities, similar financial prospects, and similar long-term goals and expectations.

There’s no such thing as classmates or even two random students at the same school who don’t share several common interests and cultural similarities, relative to how varied our experiences and worldviews can be as single—divorced, widowed, or never-married—adults.

Unless you’re someone who moved around a lot during your school years (which must come with its own social-development issues and challenges), you’re typically 18 at the earliest before you meet a potential romantic interest with a radically divergent cultural background or value system.

I think exposure to other beliefs, cultures and customs is extremely important for people to figure out who we are. Diversity is critical for us to be able to ask the right questions during our formative and explorative years.

But I’m not sure I believe diversity to be particularly useful in marriage or committed long-term relationships (especially those involving children—more on that in a minute).

How Dating is Like Business

As an internet marketing professional, my job is, in a very generic sense, to generate as much web traffic as possible to pages containing products or services I hope to sell to as many visitors as possible.

Let’s pretend I own a company that sells exclusively men’s t-shirts which read: “Donald Trump Has Very Specific and Credible Plans for America, Excellent Hair, and Should Be President of the World.” And now my job is to sell as many of these stylish and in-demand shirts as possible.

quizzical baby

(Image/mums-corner.com)

Let’s pretend I’m going to try to sell these shirts using targeted online advertising and email marketing (because I magically have access to everyone’s email address), and I have to decide how to wisely spend my email marketing and advertising budget.

And finally, let’s pretend I decide to target the following groups of people for my men’s Trump shirt sales initiative: Registered Democrats who voted for President Obama in the 2012 election, Women who live in Poland, and everyone on Hillary Clinton’s F.B.I.-seized private email server.

I probably wouldn’t have much luck selling Trump shirts to those groups.

There is something in business called a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). A shirtless man carrying a 12-pack of Natural Light at a Trump rally might be an MQL for one of these Trump shirts. A Hispanic Los Angeles resident with a Bernie Sanders yard sign would not be.

I think many daters look for love and marriage using the I’m Trying to Sell Trump Shirts to Sanders Supporters strategy.

Online Dating Can Actually Help With This

Online dating sites allow you to establish parameters to weed out people with incompatible or unattractive traits. This is really helpful for women who receive more attention on dating sites than they can handle and for men with strong boundaries, selective tastes and specific preferences.

It’s probably bad for all of the low-boundary people who care more about feeling liked and accepted than they do about actually having healthy and successful relationships.

Maybe people are lonely and afraid they’ll be alone forever. I remember feeling that way.

Maybe people are worried about what friends and coworkers think. Maybe they want to “keep up” with their ex who has already moved on with someone new. Maybe people are trying to have sex more often than never. Maybe they’re trying to find a financial partner, or just someone to binge-watch Netflix with them.

I don’t know.

I just know that a frightening amount of people voluntarily enter relationships with people who don’t share their values, and subject themselves to all kinds of abuse or dysfunction afterward, and it often seems as if it’s because they’re more afraid of being alone than they are of being mistreated or suffering a horrible break-up.

Single Parents Must Use Stringent Filters to Find MQLs

I don’t think people are discriminating enough, and I think that’s why dating is so frustrating for people, and why so many relationships fail. I think vigilant discernment while dating is extremely critical for single or divorced parents, and any young people who intend to have children someday.

People who look different can have great relationships.

People with differing interests can have great relationships.

People with diverse life experiences can have great relationships.

People from different places can have great relationships.

People with varying personality types can have great relationships.

But, people with DIFFERENT VALUES? I have yet to see evidence that two people with conflicting core values can succeed, particularly when they share children, or are raising them together.

Dating often sucks because people aren’t honest with themselves, and then they make it worse by not being honest with those they date.

If you don’t know who you are and what your values are, YOU HAVE NO CHANCE.

If you haven’t identified your personal boundaries, or aren’t willing to vigilantly enforce them, you’re going to experience a heavy dose of frustration and heartache.

If you do it my way, you’re not going to go out on many dates, and you may often feel frustrated by what seems like a frightening lack of options. The temptation can be great to go out with people simply because you find them attractive and they’re interested.

But I implore people to be deliberate with their intentions, and be courageous enough to share their honest expectations, values and feelings with the people they’re getting to know.

Divorce is A LOT scarier than a relative stranger deciding not to date us anymore.

It bears repeating: If we’re evaluating whether that person across from us is an appropriate choice for a long-term or lifetime commitment, should we REALLY be afraid of how they might react to something honest and true about us?

Can we achieve forever with someone who doesn’t want the real us?

It’s not fun or easy. It won’t always feel good. It’s the furthest thing from sexy.

But it’s the first real step on the path to reducing divorce.

Or, more appropriately, the first real step on the journey to Forever.

SIDE NOTE: I finally have a Facebook page for this blog. It would be awesome to connect with you there. I’ll understand if you don’t want to, because mehhhhhhh.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

They Don’t Love Your Kids, and They Shouldn’t Have To

Dating with kids

The closest thing to a girlfriend I’ve had since getting divorced was someone I met in the first 10 months.

And that might sound like a long time to regular, non-divorced people, but I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you it took two years to stop feeling super-fragile and waking up in the morning without feeling like the universe had just spent the night brain-raping me.

She was throwing a birthday party for her kindergarten-aged son and I attended because my little guy was friends and classmates with the birthday boy. Totally pretty. Totally single. I asked her out. She said yes. We had a four- or five-month thing.

She is a very busy mother of three, working full time and running her kids around constantly to little league games, Girl Scouts, and whatever else. Because the father of her children is a substandard human being, she received ZERO amounts of help from him. Like, couldn’t even count on him to keep their children overnight once in a while. She had also lost her parents, making her the grand prize winner of the Least-Supported Mother I’ve Ever Met contest.

Even though she only lives a few blocks away, we were lucky to get together once a week for a few hours. Her children are her highest priority (as kids are with most parents), and in the end, the math worked against us.

That experience taught me two things:

  1. Dating school moms is a HORRIBLE idea because if it were to somehow end badly you’d be stuck seeing them for several years. (It worked out fine for me, but still. Single dads: Don’t date school moms.)
  2. Dating after divorce with children is very hard and complicated.

The Plight of the Dating Parent

I was afraid it would be hard to find people willing to date a divorced father. And it’s actually much worse and more difficult than I expected. The good news is that I was all emo about it during the initial divorce period. I was worried about it hurting. Divorced people are tired of hurting.

I didn’t know how I was going to feel nearly three years later, where I now sit emotionally steady and sharper mentally than I’ve ever been.

So, it doesn’t hurt. Not now. And that’s key. But it is somewhat frustrating and annoying because I’m good at recognizing data samples and long-term trends, and it’s super easy to see that having one almost-girlfriend for four-ish months two years ago doesn’t extrapolate to anything hope-inspiring looking forward.

If the goal is cheap sex and casual dating, children would only serve as a hindrance in logistical ways (only being available when the children are with the other parent, or making sure there’s a trusted sitter available), though I’ve heard of plenty of parents who don’t insulate their kids from their dating and/or sex activities, which I consider unwise and disgusting, but I don’t pretend to know everything.

Cheap doesn’t appeal to me, which is particularly inconvenient since celibacy also doesn’t.

Children present challenges for people who are dating with an eye on the future—those open to long-term relationships and possible marriage.

When you view dating through that prism, your children become the ultimate filter, with the parent asking: Would this person be a positive influence on my child? Would they make me a better or worse parent? And if the answers to those questions aren’t the right ones, the potential relationship is dead on arrival.

The other person (who may also have kids) asks: Am I willing to take on a stepparent role to this person’s children and love them as my own? Can I be unselfish enough to respect the existing parent-child relationship as well as understand that I can never replace the children’s biological father (or mother)?

I’m terrified any time I meet women with several children (which I define as three or more). When I imagine a life with them, I imagine never having any money, ever, and even less time, and it gives me anxiety and makes me feel even more selfish than I usually do. I’m not saying I won’t do it. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I just know it scares me.

Which is the perfect segue to…

People Want What They Want, and It’s Often Not Others’ Children, and That Needs to be Okay

I didn’t think it was fair. Don’t they want the best possible partner? Isn’t that the most important thing?

Not dating me because I’m a father seemed shortsighted to me because they were never going to meet my son anyway unless it got to full-fledged boyfriend-girlfriend status at which time I assumed they’d lovingly accept my charming son as a valued addition to their life.

But really, I was the one being shortsighted. They weren’t making a choice for right now. They were making a personal choice about forever, and I wasn’t respecting it.

 

From a human value standpoint, I am not better than anyone. But in the context of the dating pool (of the non-cheap-sex variety)? I’m not better than the best men. But I like my chances of ranking in the top half, making me “better” than most men.

So, what the shit!? Why does it feel like I never meet anyone?

For the same reason most thirtysomething divorced parents feel that way.

Last time we were all single, we were high school or college-aged, and for the most part, we were almost exclusively surrounded by A. Single people, B. People our age, and C. People like us. I mean that culturally and demographically, which allows people to more easily discover common interests, participate in the same activities and feel comfortable with each other.

Fast forward 5-15 years to being divorced with children.

Now, we live somewhere else, or most of our friends have either married or moved out of town. We are not typically in social situations surrounded by single people, and while diversity is a great thing in the work place and in our friendships, the reality is too much cultural diversity in an intimate relationship–especially with kids (and philosophical disagreements on how to raise them)–can cause a ton of problems in marriage.

I swiped the previous three paragraphs from an obscenely long comment I left yesterday on Lisa Arends’ excellent and enlightening post “Dating After Divorce: What About the Kids?” at Lessons From the End of a Marriage.

Lisa’s explanation of her choice to avoid dating single dads following her divorce helped me better see things through the prism of women who choose to not be mothers.

I used to believe it was practical to meet people the old-fashioned way. I’ve never been shy about saying online dating is horrible and unnatural and that I hate it more than cabbage which is subpar raw, and shitty and indefensible when cooked.

I also used to believe it was possible I’d end up dating someone younger than me who had never been married and didn’t have kids.

I’m not saying I prefer someone like that. That’s not how I think about dating.

I simply look for someone I feel drawn to, which tends to begin with physical attraction, after which interest grows or recedes relative to all of our conscious and subconscious filters and biases: Ugh. She’s not very interesting. Or. Wow. We have nothing in common. Or. Damn. She’s intolerably bitchy. Or. Whoa. This woman has a brilliant and sexy mind. Or. Sigh. She has the kind of heart I want pushing me to be a better man. Or. Uh-oh. This girl is amazing and it’s going to hurt if she doesn’t like me back.

But dating after divorce got scarier still when I realized the never-married/no-kids crowd wasn’t the option I thought it was. It’s a numbers game. The largest percentage of single people fall into that category, so when you take them off the board, things start to feel even more bleak.

I’ve never set out to meet someone of a certain age nor particularly cared whether someone had been married or had children prior to me meeting them. Of course, that’s really easy for me to think and feel as a now-divorced parent.

Parents with four kids don’t think having four kids is scary. They can’t imagine NOT having four kids. Yet, I can be scared of it.

Similarly, it’s not scary to have my 7-year-old at home half the time. In fact it’s logistically about as easy as single parenting gets. Yet, single women are often scared of it. Or more importantly, per Lisa Arends’ post, may deliberately choose not to get involved.

And it’s not because they’re busy or judgy or shallow or selfish.

In some cases, it’s because they respect us enough to not mess with our hearts and minds, and they’re thoughtful enough to not subject our children who we love above all things to any more loss or potential feelings of abandonment by that partner.

No matter how much we love our children, or how much it doesn’t feel like a difficult choice to put them first because it’s our default position as parents once they enter our lives, we still sacrifice an insane amount of time, resources, and personal interests on their behalf.

Imagine purposefully volunteering for all those same sacrifices when you have baggage-free options available to you. That would be akin to getting two job offers from different companies to perform the same job, only to learn that one of the jobs has a 90-minute-longer commute, more stressful hours, more complex problems, a crappy vacation policy and 30-percent less pay, and then choosing it over the other.

Both my parents remarried when I was young, so I grew up seeing and experiencing what stable, loving stepparents accepting and loving a child they didn’t produce looks like. It’s probably as easy for me to imagine loving another’s kids as it would be for anyone.

Not everyone had that experience. Hopefully because their parents stayed together.

But maybe because their parents didn’t, and then they had a bunch of negative or traumatic experiences with the strange men and women forced into their lives.

I can’t imagine how hard that might have been and how much worse my life might have gotten had that been my experience.

And maybe now they’re going to trust their instincts and do all they can to give themselves the best chance for a life of happiness and contentment.

I’ve never been able to see it that way until now. But then I read something that challenged my assumptions and made me grow up a little more.

That always feels good.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Hypocrisy, Dating & God Hating Me

This_happened_LOGO_S

(Image/thishappened.podbean.com)

So, I met a girl.

She seems to like me.

It’s weird, because that never happens. (Yes, that’s hyperbole.)

But it’s also not weird because when it DOES happen, there’s always some obstacle, major inconvenience or unusual challenge attached to it. Always.

It’s The Matt Way®. Things can never just be normal and easy. Not with me. Luck might have something to do with it. Maybe ADHD, too. But all signs seem to point to this unfortunate probability: God must totally hate me.

I’m an asshole. Let me put that out there. I don’t mean that I’m mean and treat people poorly. I just mean, in a 50-percent-serious, self-deprecating sort of way, I’m an asshole.

Why am I an asshole, you ask?

Because I met her on an online dating site, which you might consider strange, if not impossible, since I swore off online dating more than two years ago and have constantly railed against it as shitty and horrible and unnatural and couldn’t POSSIBLY have an online dating account! And that makes total sense that you’d think that.

If it’s any consolation, I promise I’m really embarrassed about it, and that it’s not my first time being kind of a hypocrite.

A few weeks ago, because I’m a shitty planner, I let a weekend sneak up on me without making plans. One of my friends and I were going to go out for a few drinks. But then he got sick and needed to stay home. And then, because all my local friends are married and/or have children and don’t live in Asshole Single Guy World where smart planning has forsaken these lands, everyone already had full calendars and I ended up spending most of the weekend alone in my house, and that was that. I’d had enough.

Some people like being alone. I’m one of them, sometimes. I was an only child, and I love writing, reading, and poker—all things best accomplished alone or among strangers you don’t really want to talk to. Creeping up on three years removed from my marriage, I’m totally fine being alone.

The flipside? I’m ridiculously social. If I could ONLY choose company or solitude for the rest of my life, I would choose company for sure. Maybe even a lot of people. A lot of people is good. I like energy and connectedness and togetherness and all that shit. Very much. It’s life-giving to me. I’m at my very best in a room full of 40 people I know and love who brought along 10 strangers for me to befriend.

But there I was, watching HBO and football, and writing from my couch two weekend nights in a row, and I was done.

This is bullshit, I thought.

Match—the online dating site I used for a few months when I wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating two and a half years ago—had sent me one of their crap emails telling me someone had winked at me, or whatever.

I texted my friend: “Remind me again that I hate online dating and don’t want to do it.”

Huge mistake. He’s super-smart and I usually listen to him. Even worse? He is more than a year in with a new girlfriend (an excellent one) he met through Match.

I don’t remember what he said, but it felt like a two-handed shove toward the vortex of suck, and I fell in.

Also, I want to deflect some of the blame.

I used to whine here that no girls liked me on Match.

But then I read my profile that was still live from spring/summer 2013. It sounded EXACTLY like an insane, insecure, whiny, crying mess of non-sexy loserness had written it.

Good God, this is bad. No wonder that shit didn’t work.

I rewrote it.

I can’t be certain it’s the best-written Match profile of all time, but there’s a fair chance it’s the best in my 50-mile radius. Girls liked me. I talked to some of them, but there was nothing there. Even though it wasn’t a rejection festival to the degree it was more than two years ago, it still sucked ass.

I’ve said it a hundred times: I’m either someone who passes your primal attractiveness test, or I’m not. And if I do? You’re probably going to like me because, cocky as it may sound, I don’t make it hard. I’m not the smartest, funniest, wittiest, sexiest or most charming, but I have enough of all that stuff to make it work in real life.

But not so much on Match. And that’s what I hate about online dating. It takes away the one thing I tend to excel at: one-on-one interaction.

Even though I’m kind of a hypocrite about online dating, I’m not a hypocrite WHILE online dating. I try hard to be fair. And it’s perfectly fair for women to want to date tall, never-married, childless men. Those aren’t unreasonable preferences. I have preferences, too.

Match would be amazing for casual dating. If it was all about dating simply for the sake of having something to do. And I’d be all for that if I thought legitimate platonic friendships might result from doing so. But it doesn’t work like that. And if something can’t end well, I have a hard time investing in it. Even when I really like the other person and believe it could go somewhere if things were different.

People hear me say that and assume I’m wife hunting.

Not true.

I don’t crave marriage. It’s scary. I don’t even crave a committed, monogamous relationship. That has never been my objective, or even my hope.

My only hope?

To meet someone so amazing that I would want those things with her.

I’ve met some great people since becoming single. Under other circumstances, things could have gone differently.

But no previous encounter had a viable happy ending. Single parents put their children first. And when your loyalties are (appropriately) with your children, it often makes single adulthood more challenging.

Not that this thing now is less challenging.

She lives three hours away, even though she used to live in my town, because God’s hilarious.

Some people don’t think that’s a big deal, but I intentionally don’t date people who live even an hour away. Want to know why? Because that’s three hours, roundtrip on a wintry Tuesday night for dinner and a movie, and that’s some serious bullshit.

I don’t do it because I’m selfish and I want to actually see and spend time with the person I like.

I don’t do it because I think, fundamentally, long-distance relationships are unsustainable.

So, here’s the deal: I’m breaking a ton of my dating rules on this thing. But I’m not compromising ANY values. Not one.

Whether it was radical differences in life philosophy or personality, insurmountable geography, or a bunch of really bad timing, a fatal flaw in any potential relationship tended to rear its head immediately.

But not this time. Even with all the rule breakage. Not this time.

She lives three hours away.

She’s an insanely busy person, personally and professionally, which keeps communication comparatively infrequent.

She’s a mother of three. (I had a no-more-than-two-kids rule, because I already have enough trouble with time- and money-management.)

She might be a fraction of an inch taller than me. (Classic, right?)

Any of those four things would filter you out of my online dating preferences if these hadn’t been particularly unique and unusual circumstances, quite possibly orchestrated by a God intent on smiting me. “Hey guys, check out this dude, Matt. I kind of hate him. Watch this!”

And then, fa-la-la-la-la-la! Alakazam!

This thing.

And it’s way too early to know what “This thing” is, but I insta-turned off my Match account after meeting her and that felt like something.

And it’s way too early to be scared, but it still feels scary.

And it’s way too early to make judgments or predictions about anything, because really? Who knows anything, ever?

I only know that it’s different.

No matter what happens next, this time’s a little bit different. Because I’m still single. But I’m not still available. And that feels like something, too.

Wow, two and a half years feels like a lifetime ago.

Wow, this is crazy and different.

Wow, I’m going to hit Publish.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Why Online Dating Might Not Be For You

farmersonlymeme

Maybe I was just doing it wrong. Totally possible. I’m good at several things, but there’s no reason to believe online dating is one of them.

I tried it pretty soon after my wife left. It was a very bad idea.

The first girl I met from Match.com liked me for real and actually got a little upset when she realized during our date that I wasn’t emotionally available. She politely explained to me how thoughtless and unfair that was. She was right.

The second girl I met ended up being the sister of a guy I happen to work with and we figured it out while chatting in an Irish pub. Bad idea!, we agreed.

The third girl was a very attractive hearing-specialist medical doctor who had just moved back to her Ohio hometown from Chicago. And even though she was a pretty doctor, she was the least-interesting conversationalist I’d ever met. Worse still? When the waitress at the Mexican restaurant asked us how we wanted our tableside guacamole made, I let her decide, and she chose to DOUBLE the amount of jalapeño, onion and garlic from how much they normally use. There wasn’t enough tequila in the restaurant to help me forgive that offense.

So, even when girls “liked” me online, meeting them was always mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

But mostly girls didn’t “like” me.

Which is okay. I’m certainly not for everyone. However, as time marched on, and I heard others’ experiences, and I watched from the front row as one of my best friends navigated the online-dating landscape at the same time, dealing with many of the same things, I found myself souring on the process.

‘You Seem Like You’d Be Really Good at It’

The girl who cuts my hair asks about my dating life every time I see her. She likes to know who I’m talking to and whether there’s girlfriend potential.

A couple days ago, she asked “Are you online dating?”

I said no.

She asked why.

I said it’s not a good idea for guys like me.

She said: “What!? You seem like you’d be really good at it!”

Married women always think I’m swell.

“There are certain kinds of dudes who I imagine have a great time dating online,” I said. “You’ll just have to take my word for it that 36-year-old single fathers who look like me aren’t among them.”

“You’re an attractive guy. Plenty of single women would want to date you.”

“Thank you, but it doesn’t work that way on the internet.”

“I’ve been married a while and have never dated online. What do you mean?”

Glad you asked.

The Internet vs. Real Life

I’m not hideous to look at. My self-awareness extends to my self-perception. I’ll never be mistaken for a dashing billionaire playboy or movie star, but history suggests the general female population finds me more attractive than my spotty-at-best dating life might indicate.

And here’s why:

The experience of standing in front of someone and talking to them and watching them move around and interact with you and others is, historically, how people decide to whom they are attracted.

And I do pretty well with that.

People don’t often think of it this way, but sexual attraction (from a purely physical standpoint) is a simple pass-or-fail test. We either find a person attractive enough to get naked with, or we don’t. One or the other.

What determines whether we actually get naked with that person are the 90% of things that actually matter to us. How they make us feel. How they treat us and others. How their personalities mesh with ours. Whether we enjoy talking to them and want to do more of it. Whether we discover common interests and build intimacy. Whether they are safe and trustworthy, however we define that.

That’s how people become attracted to one another.

I’m decent-looking enough to pass the pass-or-fail attractiveness test most of the time, and I’m smart and friendly and kind enough, and occasionally charming and engaging and funny enough, that the person I’m standing in front of will sometimes want more.

But, if your Dating Résumé is like your Employment one, I have a few things working against me.

I’m 5’9”. Women tend to prefer tall men. But since the average female height in the United States is 5’5”, and the vast majority of women I meet are shorter than me, it tends to not be much of an issue in-person.

I’m graying. I have no idea how that plays in the minds of women either online or in-person, but my best guess is that it makes me more attractive to older women than it does to anyone my age or younger. I won’t pretend to know.

I’m divorced. To someone who has never been married, it means I come with baggage. And to divorced women who got screwed over by their exes, it could trigger feelings in them that maybe I’m like their ex-husband.

I’m a father. I have a 7-year-old son. Single women with no children aren’t always keen on becoming a stepmother to a child they’ve never met, or competing with that child’s mother. I imagine childless women frequently rule out fathers because of that. Single mothers are more likely to appreciate what a father brings to the table, but depending on her individual circumstances and experiences, may also be unwilling to take on a parenting role to another child.

When you meet someone in person, these things are often overlooked. After all, my son is never with me in adult social settings, and dating activities only occur when he isn’t home. Should the relationship ever graduate to “love,” I imagine parental status would be something of a non-issue.

But the Internet, Though…

Imagine being a single woman establishing your preference filters on an online-dating site.

As soon as you make your profile live, you have virtually unlimited options because of all the men vying for your attention. Whether you’re on Match or OKCupid or Tinder or FarmersOnly.com, you flip it on, and the requests start pouring in.

When you have your choice of anyone you want, are you really going to pay attention to divorced 36-year-old gray-haired guys with kids, when you’re 31, never married, no kids, and prefer tall men? When that’s all you know about them?

Of course not. I can’t say I blame them.

If you’re a divorced, single mother also attracted to tall men, are you going to? Possibly at a slightly higher rate, but single moms get plenty of interest online, too. It’s something of a numbers game, and even when they filter down to their favorite preferences, they STILL have virtually unlimited requests for their attention.

I’m a digital marketing strategist who is pretty good at understanding data and percentages. Shy, lonely guys with so-so social lives due to circumstances somewhat outside their control? It’s easy for them to want to sit safely in their homes and scroll through online-dating profiles where they don’t have to make eye contact and try to say something smart and attractive to a pretty stranger in public while simultaneously shitting themselves.

I get it.

But I’ve grown to believe there are a lot of people who probably shouldn’t subject themselves to this losing formula.

And nearly three years ago, I was one of them.

Broken and empty. I was desperate to fill the void. Desperate to feel liked by someone again. Desperate to feel wanted by someone again.

I turned to the computer screen because it was easy and low-risk. Just as millions of others do.

Be Brave

You know which camp you fall in.

You’re either someone who dates online because it’s fun and works for you, or you’re someone who ATTEMPTS to date online because it’s a low barrier to entry and feels safer than trying to do it the old-fashioned and scary way.

I wouldn’t waste ONE SECOND of my life on a woman who would choose her life-long partner based on height, or who would view my beautiful son as some kind of annoying handicap.

Do you know how many dipshit moron 6’2” assholes with lots of tattoos and no kids there are? Good luck, sweetheart! Hope you like Hot Pockets and pro wrestling! (Point of clarification: There are brilliant 6’2” tattooed guys with no kids that I’m sure are really awesome and infinitely smarter than I’ll ever be. And even if they like Hot Pockets and pro wrestling, it doesn’t make me better than them. Probably.)

So I hope people out there—particularly the guys in situations like I was—aren’t losing sleep over people with personal values so different from their own. (Hint: It was never going to be Happily Ever After. So look forward to meeting the person with whom you can achieve that.)

It’s a funny little thing, but in my experience, there is no place with more pretty girls walking around by themselves than the grocery store. It’s uncanny, really.

Sometimes they have kids. Sometimes they’re wearing rings. And many times, even without those things, you can be sure there’s a boyfriend waiting for them somewhere.

And even though I don’t often do it, because it’s the scariest shit ever, I really want to encourage guys to be brave enough to say hi to these women when they want to.

With confident eye contact, even if you have to fake the bravery.

The next time I see a woman respond to a guy brave enough to say hi to her with cold-shoulder bitchiness meant to shame him will be the first time. And EVEN IF that were to happen, I think it’s safe to assume you two didn’t have a bright future anyway. Because she sucks big-time.

Keep grinding away at the computer, if you must. I do know people who have met wonderful partners that way.

But don’t forget there’s a real world, too, and in it you’re worth much more than strangers on the internet might suggest.

Make bold moves with people you see and want to meet.

Because the worst-possible result is simply more of what’s already happening.

Nothing.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Our Fake Lives

This post is totally not about the Manosphere. You're welcome.

This post is totally not about the Manosphere. You’re welcome.

I don’t know how much of my life is real.

Less than half, maybe.

Sometimes you just have to stop and shut the fuck up for a minute. Just stop. And every ounce of focus and energy you possess is dedicated to being still. Just breathing. For a moment, there is nothing else. Because you’re not thinking about yesterday. You’re not worried about tomorrow. A total investment in that next breath.

In, then out.

The faintest hint of a smile on your face.

And again: In. Through the nose. Hold it. Just a moment. Then, out. Through the mouth.

That’s one of the few times you can know it when no one else is around: This is real. I’m alive.

Different things make people feel alive.

Not everyone would feel it sitting at a Las Vegas poker table the way I do. Check. Bet. Raise. Re-raise. That’s right. Ship those chips, sucka.

Not everyone would feel it sitting at a keyboard. Tap-tap-tapping until things I think and feel morph into words.

But I hope most people feel it when I feel it most. In a crowd of good people, a bunch of friends, laughing, sharing. Connected.

Less than half my life is real.

It’s not real because I spend a lot of time mentally in the past. A place that no longer exists and where pain and sadness sometimes live.

It’s not real because I spend a lot of time dreaming or worrying about the future. A complete fantasy impossible to predict because we have no idea what’s going to happen five minutes from now.

It’s not real because I watch TV and movies more than I should.

It’s not real because of books and video games.

It’s not real because so much interaction with others happens via a digital device or on an internet platform.

I’ve always wanted this to be me. These words right here. But the truth is: They’re not, and can never be. Because however many hundreds or thousands of people ever read this stuff… they don’t (and can’t) see me as I am. They fill in the blanks like all of us do when we read books and stories. Our brains plug the holes with guesses, and we invent something that isn’t real.

I’ve been divorced more than two years now. In that time, I haven’t met or dated even one person locally who could conceivably be a serious girlfriend or potential stepmother for my son. That fact comes up in conversation sometimes.

“Do you want to have more kids?”

The mathematical logistics suggest it’s not happening anyway.

“Women who read your blog love you, Matt!”

I hear that sometimes, too.

I always answer it the same way: “Yeah, but it’s total bullshit. They don’t like the real me. They don’t know me. They like the version of me they invented in their head.”

And then I remind them what I just told you. Even though I’m pretty nice, reasonably funny, semi-attractive, passably competent, gainfully employed, and open to meeting people, the net result of two years of being alive as a single mid-thirties dad is: zero potential girlfriends. I wish I was kidding.

Maybe you should try online dating!’

A bunch of people know this already, but this blog was intended to be a dating blog when I first launched it. I thought it would be hilarious to be this emotionally wrecked, ticking time bomb, cliché, middle-aged divorced guy doing all the things those guys do, and then tell the stories along the way.

Edgy! Hilarious!

And I was trying to online date, but I was shitty at it in large part because I hated myself and wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating anyone, anyway, and was stupid for trying. Instead of owning that, I blamed my height since so many girls who online date only want to date tall guys, even if they’re only 5’1”, themselves.

That always annoyed me. Hence the name, Must Be This Tall To Ride.

Even though my motives for quitting were wrong (pride), I think I was right to not use online dating in an effort to fill the companionship void after my divorce.

It’s another part of this Fake Life problem I feel like so many of us have.

It got me thinking about this Culture of Disconnection we live in, DESPITE living in the most-technically (and technologically) connected time in human history.

It’s almost as if the more fiber-optic lines we lay, and servers we build, and devices we create, and online communities we join, the less-connected we feel in our actual, physical and spiritual, real lives.

The ones that are true and real when we first wake up in the morning.

The ones that are true and real when we’re standing in the shower shaking out the cobwebs or contemplating whatever today’s top concern is.

The ones that are true and real when we’re with all the people who really know us. When all the digital image management programs aren’t running. And it’s just us, live and in color, being a God’s honest human being with other people.

I don’t mean to disparage the Internet or social media. I am a happy and willing participant, particularly in the blogosphere. (Is that still a word?) And it’s a bona fide MIRACLE that grandparents living far away can FaceTime and Skype with their grandchildren, and that we can more easily than ever before stay in touch with people far away who mean so much to us. It’s so much better than no contact at all, and I’m grateful to be alive when these things are possible.

But when I take an honest, no-bullshit look at my own life?

I lean so heavily on you. I do. Like. Comment. Like. Like. Like. Comment. Like. Comment. Like.

I lean so heavily on escapism. A show I’m binge-watching on Netflix, or some new-ish movie on HBO GO.

And my biggest crutch? This phone. But not to speak. Not much.

Many days and nights, I didn’t feel lonely because I had people there, typing back to me in those little gray text bubbles.

And thank God. This is not a BAD thing. It’s not bad that we can stay in touch with people and not feel lonely for a moment.

But it’s a Band-Aid solution, and not even a particularly good one. Like a shitty, generic drugstore-brand band-aid.

Because sometimes our faraway friends get busy.

And even that little gray text bubble isn’t talking back anymore.

We get afraid. I’m not even sure of what.

But if you’re divorced or perpetually single and don’t live by a bunch of friends and family, you don’t need an explanation. You just get it.

And so the Magic Internet Elves invent all these tools for people. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Where people can paint whatever picture of their lives they want to.

Awesome. Great. Fine. But is it real?

And they invent online dating. Where people can Swipe Right and Swipe Left and send winks and messages to strangers based on a few strategically selected photos and their best sales pitch.

Awesome. Great. Fine. Now it’s really easy for single people to find each other. But is it real?

And they invent mobile devices to keep us “connected.” Where people can do all the Magic Internet Things no matter where they are with other “connected” people no matter where they are. But is that living?

I don’t know.

But I know that none of us have as much time as we’d like. I know that time goes so fast, even when I’m just sitting at home alone. And I know I don’t want to spend my life dead.

I’m not sure what it looks like. The life where I always smile and know I’m all the way alive again, connected and whole.

But I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen watching that movie or liking that Facebook post.

Whenever I find myself unsure of what the next move should be, there’s only one thing left to do.

In, then out.

The faintest hint of a smile on my face.

And again: In. Through the nose. Hold it. Just a moment. Then, out. Through the mouth.

Because it always comes to me.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Waiting for Next Time

New-Chapter

One of the hardest parts of divorce is coping with the realization that you have to start over.

Aside from the internal brokenness and misery it causes, we must wake up and deal with the ugly truth: I have no idea what tomorrow is going to look like, and I’m sad, angry and afraid.

And then you pee your pants and maybe cry a little, too.

Divorce isn’t just a marriage ending and family breaking apart. It’s the total dismantling of every dream you’ve ever had. Every hope, every goal, every plan—vaporized.

It feels like you lost everything because your brain and body can’t tell the difference. It’s really hard, but we all have to do it sooner or later: We have to pick ourselves up off the floor and start building new hopes, new goals and new plans from scratch.

Waiting for that next time.

On Dating

Despite meeting some really exceptional women during the past two years I’ve been single and writing here, I have yet to meet even ONE girl with whom I wanted to pursue a long-term relationship and lives close enough where we could see one another and build something.

The primary reason for that is that I’ve been a massive chickenshit about introducing myself to people I want to meet. Something about walking up to a pretty girl and introducing myself has proven a terrifying proposition. Historically, I always imagine her being really annoyed that I’m bothering her and thinking I’m a fat and ugly loser.

Learning about, and coming to mental grips with my ADHD diagnosis (and mind-focusing meds that help quell most of the little self-doubting voices) combined with a more-vigorous fitness plan that has me looking and feeling better, will help me overcome a lot of these mostly irrational fears.

I’m not really a fat and ugly loser. In fact, if you can get past my height, you probably want to make out with me. And I think 100-percent of the girls I would ever be interested in dating would be kind, flattered and appreciative of me saying hi and introducing myself.

Because so many people are scared to do this, most people resort to online dating where it feels safer and less scary to start conversations because they get to do so from the safety of the keyboard. But if you’ve ever participated in online dating, you know how sucky and unnatural it is.

Online dating strips me of everything I value about myself. I’m not going to let internet chicks decide how dateable I am based on my height, a few photos (which are always uglier than the real me), and a 100-word sales pitch.

It made me feel shitty in the early days of being single and I’m glad I haven’t reneged on my pledge to never do it again.

But let’s face it: Dating is critical. It has to happen. I’m not going to be single forever. That sounds terrible. I can have cheap flings, I guess. Some people do that. Like online dating, that also makes me feel shitty, so I’d rather not.

I don’t think there’s any getting around it: Sooner or later, I’m going to have a girlfriend, and possibly a wife. I figure I better try to meet her before some tall guy with a ridiculously huge package scoops her up.

My friend visited me from Florida a couple weeks ago, and he’s 36 and single like me. He likes to keep dating superficial because of how hard it is for him to deal with restarting from scratch each time he emotionally invests. Every relationship is the same, he says. They meet and have fun, and start seeing one another regularly and building some semblance of an almost-boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, then BAM, it’s over. She runs away or whatever.

And it crushes him. And it’s happened so many times now, that he doesn’t want to put himself through it anymore. It’s not so much the loss. It’s the agony of waiting for next time.

I was unemployed for 18 months about five or six years ago. That exact same thing happens with potential job opportunities, and it guts you and saps your will to live every time you go through a close-but-no-cigar scenario.

You build these dreams of this great new job, and feeling self-respect and your wife being proud of you again, and then someone else gets the job, and setting yourself on fire doesn’t sound so bad.

You have to start from scratch again. Pick yourself up off the floor and try again.

My favorite basketball team is one loss away from losing the NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to have a hard time winning the next two games required to win the championship. Should that unfortunate situation arise tomorrow or Thursday, it’s not just the loss that will sting. I’m not even sure it will be the worst part.

It’s the Waiting for Next Year. Ugh.

The guy I hang out with the most, an awesome girl I know in Chicago, my son’s mother, a local platonic girlfriend and probably a bunch of other people who manage adulthood better than I do, are in relationships now.

It magnifies the challenge before me. This mission I have to create an extraordinary life of contentment for myself, my son and whoever ends up coming along for the ride.

There’s no going back. Only forward.

First, you get up.

Dust yourself off.

Choose a direction.

Walk.

Then run.

The running feels good. Not away from something. Toward something. We just don’t know what yet.

What comes next?

Maybe we fly.

I have no idea what tomorrow looks like.

Only that I’m not sad. I’m not angry. I’m not afraid.

Because everything’s going to be okay. Maybe it already is.

Tagged , , , , ,

Ageism, Dating and More Ageism

No. Just... no.

No. Just… no.

I’m an ageist.

There, I said it. I didn’t know I was an ageist until last week because, outside of professional sports, I had never previously discriminated against the elderly.

But now I am.

And the real beauty is that almost EVERYONE qualifies, so basically, depending on the situation, I now potentially discriminate against every single person on Earth. Except babies. They’re cool.

One of my oldest friends (not in an age sense; in a friendship-length sense) is female. We talk about everything.

And I just found out recently that one of her best friends who is our age (35-ish) is married to a guy who is 50-plus.

And my gut reaction was: “That’s gross.”

Then she told me about how all her girlfriends will get together and sleep over at their house, where this wealthy older man “spoils” all these attractive women, 15 or more years younger than him.

Shocker.

“He’s yummy,” she said, just before explaining that he goes to bed before 9 p.m. every night, and spends all his mornings reading the paper in bathrobes that cut off mid-thigh.

My natural, instinctive reaction was revulsion. I don’t know that I can adequately explain or defend it. It’s simply how I feel.

When this wife was born, the husband was a sophomore in high school.

When the husband graduated college, the wife was in first grade.

Chew on that, outraged people who might feel like debating this.

It’s totally gross. Like this, but less awesome:

The Dating Math (Pre-Marriage Edition)

In school, your “dating” options are limited.

In grade school, you’re mostly stuck with boys and girls in your class and a few randoms you meet through other channels.

In high school, the girls’ options open up to all four grades (and later, college guys), while the boys generally are limited to just one grade up and back.

While our college years represent the closest thing to “real life” any of us experience throughout our schooling, the age thing tends to play about the same as in high school, though women tend to have more upward mobility—age-wise—than guys.

For example, it’s not unheard of for a 19-year-old sophomore girl to date a young professional man who is 23 or 24 (and I’d even recommend it for those looking for stability—more on that in a minute), but you almost never see a 19- or 20-year-old guy with a woman much older than he is.

In the Department of Overgeneralizations, you’ll discover a few laws of human nature (that I’m totally making up on the fly because I believe them to be generally true and the furthest thing from actual law.)

Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted. Which is often several.

Girls and young women are constantly hoping to find someone who will fall in love with and marry them, frequently misinterpreting sexual interest as potential love interest and ultimately spawning the “Boys are Mean™” and “Men are Pigs™” movements.

I don’t believe there to be many males who spot a female from across the room and say: “Ooooooohhhhh! I want to marry THAT one!”

It tends to be more like: “Oooooooohhhhhh! I want to nail that one!” and so the male tries to court the female hoping to get laid. And what sometimes happens in that courting process is that the male will decide the pain of losing that female is greater than the “benefit” of his independence and will eventually choose her to settle down with.

So you end up with a lot of girls who are obsessed with Disney princess movies and romantic comedies marrying men who know jack shit about what real love is. They just know they’ve agreed to stop having sex with other women and to give up most of the weekend keg parties and other bro-hobbies for the rest of their lives. Five to 10 years later, half of them divorce.

It’s a sad story.

Now, please allow me to slightly contradict myself.

The Older Guy Contradiction

So. Ladies. New rule. Unless you’re absolutely sure you have an exception to the rule (and there are always those, too), then you should never be dating anyone who isn’t about five years older than you if you’re between the ages of 20-30, because almost every under-30 male you know is still similar to a child from an emotional-maturity standpoint.

From about third grade on, girls have a five-year emotional maturity advantage over boys.

Many girls are so eager to “fall in love” and get married in their early 20s, so they accidentally con young men who don’t know how unprepared they are into agreeing to marriage.

The girl thinks she’s getting a husband just like her father or the men (who aren’t real) she sees on TV.

The guy thinks he’s signing up for a permanent girlfriend like he currently has. He thinks: “Life’s pretty good! We have fun with our friends and we hang out all the time, and the sex is great! Sure, I can do this forever!”

Neither side is being disingenuous. It’s just that no one teaches us how completely insane and outside reality that type of thinking is, and I’m not sure we would have listened even if they’d tried.

If you’re a 25-year-old female, you need a 30-year-old male to even have a chance to be on the same emotional-maturity level as you. It’s a gap that pretty much closes after age 30. Many guys figure out in their early to mid-30s (whether married or single), that the lifestyle we lived in our youth doesn’t bring sustainable happiness, and that “freedom” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I wish girls weren’t in such a hurry to get married. I wish young men were smart enough to communicate why it’s too soon. They simply don’t know they’re still apes, because we all lie to ourselves.

The Dating Math (Post-Divorce Edition)

I was online dating for a short time right after my wife left because I’m a stupid moron.

You can filter out online-dating profiles based on a variety of criteria. For example, every single woman with no children filters out guys my size (5’9”) and/or guys with children (I have a young son).

Whatever. People are allowed to date whoever they want. The moral of that story is simply that online dating is bullshit. Write that down.

I’m 35.

I’m at a funny age, even though I suspect there are literally millions of people just like me out there (thirtysomethings with kids who don’t like being single very much). We just have a hard time finding one another, so we online date and then wish we could set ourselves on fire afterward.

The dating math for guys my age and with circumstances similar to mine is sort of interesting.

Under the right circumstances, I could meet a 28-year-old who has never married and wants to have children. Whoa. Or I could meet someone with a couple kids who has two or three years on me.

If I decided I wanted more children, something would have to happen pretty damn fast for it to be mathematically feasible, considering I’m not dating anyone, nor do I even really know any single people.

I remember being 21 and thinking that 21 year olds would ALWAYS be attractive.

And I guess, physically, maybe they always will be.

But years have a way of morphing you on the inside. And now it just sounds wrong and unpleasant.

There isn’t a 21-year-old on the planet I can see myself wanting to talk to for any great length of time (and that’s just 14 years’ difference!), and even if there was, there aren’t any 21-year-olds trying to get with Graying, Thirtysomething Guy with Kid™. Just not happening.

Which is totally fine. I’m merely walking through the mental exercise of dating someone about 15 years younger than me.

I feel like we all need to agree to keep it within a 10-year window throughout our adult dating years. Seriously.

Can we agree on that? I feel certain we can’t.

I’m sorry, ladies. I don’t care that he buys you Porsches and unlimited spa days. At some point, this is just going to get awkward. I can’t quite put my finger on when, but I’m pretty sure I’ll know it when I see it.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

One Year Later

It's remarkable how one year can seem so long and so fast all at the same time.

It’s remarkable how one year can seem so long and so fast all at the same time.

A year ago, I was crying at least once a week.

Drinking all the time, because distracted fun was the only way I knew how to not think about it.

Terrified, because I was online dating (even though I wasn’t ready) and no one was interested, confirming my worst fears of dying sad and alone.

Everything had been going according to plan for nearly 30 years.

Grade school.

High school.

College.

Gainful employment.

Engagement.

Marriage.

A child.

Then 30.

Then fuck you, Matt, now you’re going to see how good you really had it.

I lost a job.

We lost her father.

Our marriage fell apart.

We spent more than a year sleeping in separate bedrooms.

She left.

And then everything inside me just broke.

Despite my parents’ divorce at a young age and being 500 miles away from one or the other every waking moment, and despite never having any money, it turns out I lived a VERY charmed life for my first three decades.

I had never experienced misery. True misery. You hear about broken hearts in books and movies and in whiny Facebook posts, but you don’t really know what that means until your insides break.

It’s spiritual, almost. And it pierces the soul. And there’s no medicine for the unreachable wound. You just sit there and bleed without the benefit of a merciful death. You simply hurt until you don’t anymore.

Everything in life had been going according to plan. Everything had happened, for the most part, exactly as I had mentally prepared for. I never knew failure until the job loss. And that’s a pleasure cruise compared to what happens when the person you love and trust the most checks out and decides life with someone else, or alone (doesn’t matter, so long as it’s not with you!) looks better than what they have now.

Life becomes a book full of empty pages needing written but you’re all out of ink.

I am so afraid of all the things I don’t know or understand. I am so afraid of all the questions I don’t have answers for. I used to believe that everything would always be okay, because for most of my life, everything always ended up okay.

But then something didn’t. Something didn’t end up okay. The most-important thing.

And now I don’t know that everything is going to be okay anymore.

And sooner or later, I need to learn that THAT’s going to have to be okay. That NO ONE knows how things will turn out.

And then maybe I can start filling those blank pages again instead of just rummaging around for ink.

A Year of Blogging

So far, the best thing to come out of my failed marriage is this.

That won’t seem silly to all of you who are writers, but may seem so to everyone else. Writers need to write. But I was never interested in writing for the sake of writing. I always believed it was important to have something to say.

Must Be This Tall To Ride gave me a platform for writing about things that mattered to me. A place to divulge all that human-being stuff stirring around inside. Stuff that had to come out because it was killing me all bottled up.

When you start writing stories about real-life stuff, things start to happen. People get it.

Not everyone.

But enough.

And then they realize they’re not alone. And they say “Thank you.”

And then you realize you’re not alone. And you thank them.

Then people are grateful.

And people feel connected.

And so much good can come from those things that the process bears repeating over and over and over again.

On June 21, 2013, I was drinking vodka, or tequila, or beer, or all three, and hit publish on a weird, rambling post. It was a process (minus the drinking, for the most part!) that would, for many months, become an addiction.

Writing about the things I was thinking and feeling and experiencing became more than just important for me. It became therapy. And I needed every bit of it. I probably need more.

People feel like me.

We’re not alone.

There aren’t a lot of feelings more helpful during difficult moments than the realization that other people know and understand your particular brand of misery.

We’re now one year in, and despite hitting that blue Publish button more than 300 times, I’m not sure I’ve found a groove. I’m not sure I know who I am or even who I want to be as a writer.

I want to help, but people don’t want to be preached to.

I want to be funny, but I’m sort of sad and borderline-pathetic half the time, and afraid you won’t laugh the other.

I want to document the journey because I think it’s important for people going through similar life events to see what happens and doesn’t happen to me because sometimes that helps people in their own lives, and I’m pretty sure it helps me.

I want to organize my thoughts and feelings and experiences as I try to make sense of this unexpected life.

Everything was going along as it was supposed to.

Right up until it wasn’t anymore.

I suspect that’s how everyone’s life is, and you just don’t know it until life starts firing shots your way for the first time.

Run for your life.

One year later, I still hurt and I’m still sad. But not nearly as much.

One year later, I’m still hopeful and I still believe good things are coming for me. I just don’t know what that might look or feel like or how to get there.

One year later, I still love writing. And now I have a place for that to happen.

I’m 35 years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I’m divorced.

I’m a father to a six-year-old boy.

I’m afraid of all the uncertainty. I’m afraid because of money. I’m afraid because I don’t know what tomorrow looks like on every conceivable level.

But I’m a little bit strong, too.

Because I took the punch and got back up.

Because only shitty things seem to happen and I still have hope.

Because I look around and see a whole bunch of darkness.

And I intend to be a light.

Be one, too.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hey, Match Girls: Piss Off. You Had Your Chance.

Hey Match.com! Stop sending me email. I already broke up with you.

Hey Match.com! Stop sending me email. I already broke up with you.

Now that I no longer have an active Match.com account, women are emailing and “winking” at me, left and right.

It’s total bullshit.

The decision to discontinue online dating was a thoughtful and deliberate one.

First, I considered my options and was leaning toward re-upping my membership for another three months.

Then, I thought: Screw it. And decided to move forward with just Two Poles in the Pond.

Match to Customer: We’ll Be Watching You

I canceled my membership. And I unsubscribed from Match’s email list.

I work in email marketing. When someone unsubscribes, you’re supposed to take them off your send list.

Those cocks at Match are geniuses, though. They have, like, 14 different lists. Oh, you unsubscribed from one of our lists? Don’t worry! We’ll still send you dozens of DIFFERENT kinds of emails!

For three months, they let my profile ride. The results were poor. It made me sad to realize just how undateable I was online.

I always imagine two single girlfriends checking out different guys’ online dating profiles together.

Ewwwwww! Look at this one! He’s got a kid and he’s only 5’9”. Lets masturbate and then make fun of this guy some more!

<10 minutes later>

This stupid guy, again! How much do you want to bet his wife left him for a tall, rich guy? I bet he doesn’t even have couches in his living room! Bwahahaha!

This blog got its name because of the tendency of every woman on the planet to prefer men who are at least 6’0” tall.

They don’t care about personality. Or intelligence. Or employment status.

They don’t care about kindness. Or sense of humor. Or anything like that.

Just be six-feet tall and maybe have a bunch of tattoos! And for the love of God, don’t have any children.

Must. Be. This. Tall. To. Ride.

Eat shit, Match.

My Online Dating Experience

I had an active Match account for three months.

If I logged in at all, this is how each experience went down:

  1. Did anyone email me? Nope.
  2. Did anyone wink at me? Oooh! One. Cool. Let’s check her out! Let’s see, she has three kids, four dogs, weighs 40 pounds more than I do, has a glass eye and spelled 67 percent of all her words correctly. Oh, she’s not fat! She’s just pregnant again! Good God.
  3. Maybe I’ll peruse some profiles and reach out to them! This one’s pretty! Cool, she’s only 5’2”! Prefers men who are: 6’2” or taller. Fuck! Oh look, this one’s outstanding, and she lives close! Prefers men who earn: $150,000+ annually. Fuck! Oh look, this girl’s fantastic. Prefers men who: Worship Satan and have a clubfoot fetish. Fuck!

Almost no one wrote. Almost no one winked at me. Almost no one would return an email I’d send them.

This is the kind of rejection I could have done without every single night alone in my bed while another man stuck his penis in my wife.

Match to Customer: You Can Check Out Anytime You Like, But You Can Never Leave

Fine. I don’t need this shit! Piss off, Match! I’ll meet someone the old-fashioned way when I’m good and ready!

Boom. Done. Canceled.

If you’re a guy under six feet who has cancelled a Match account before, I bet you know what happens next!

I get INUNDATED with emails from Match telling me every time someone sends me an email or a wink.

It happens all the time! Right now, I have a big pile of winks and messages from mystery women floating out there in Matchland.

It’s a communist plot to get me to renew my membership. I know it. Match has a bunch of chicks they pay $4 an hour to write notes to and wink at all the guys who try to walk away.

And every other day, we get these little notifications.

“Hey Customer! All these girls are TOTALLY interested in you! They love that you’re 5’9”! They love that you have a kid! They are DYING to come to your house and camp out on your living room floor and give you back massages and run their fingers through your hair! Don’t give up! You’re really not a loser! And for a limited-time, you can find out we’re not lying to you for just $19.95 for three months!”

There will probably come a day where these tempting emails will get the best of me.

“Dear Matt, you have 26 unread emails in your inbox! Sign up now to see who’s interested in you!”

And I’ll break down and give them some more money.

Most of the girls will be felons, or have a dozen children, or live in other states, or have clubfoot, or try to convert me to Satanism.

But there will be one, I bet. One who’s an absolute angel.

My heart will pitter-patter. And I’ll respond.

“Hey! I’m really sorry. I had to quit online dating for a while because Match is soulless and evil. I’m really flattered by your note. That’s cool that we live so close to one another and enjoy all of the same things. If and when you feel like it, please write back, let me know whether you’re still single and whether you’re still interested. I’d love to talk you. Please take care in the meantime!” I’ll write.

Two days later, she’ll respond.

“Hey. Thank you for writing back. That was so nice of you. I’m really sorry to tell you this, but I’m dating someone now.

“And the truth is, I didn’t see before that you were a father. I hope this doesn’t sound mean, but I just don’t date guys with kids.

“Oh, wait! You’re only 5’9”?!?! Bwahahahahaha!!!”

I hate you, Match.

Tagged , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: