Tag Archives: Single

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.

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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.

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The Human Experience

(Image courtesy of sacredspacevillage.org)

(Image courtesy of sacredspacevillage.org)

I want to have sex with her. But I’m also afraid she’ll think I’m no good at it and tell all her friends. Or that I’ll get performance anxiety and FML. Or that we’ll do it and it will be great, but my Catholic guilt will set in because maybe God doesn’t want me doing this and now I’m a bad person.

I want to look and feel really good and be healthy. But I’m so tired and I’ll never feel good without adequate sleep, so I’ll skip this morning’s workout. And I don’t have time to go to the store right now for fresh produce, so I’ll just order a pizza. And Easter candy tastes good. And a couple beers can’t hurt.

I want to never stress about money again and I want to maximize my personal income. But I don’t have time to budget right now. And it’s fine that I eat out all the time because I’m spending less money at the grocery store. And I can always work on that thing that might make me more money tomorrow.

There’s always an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

There’s always a yin and a yang.

There’s always a tradeoff or compromise that needs made.

I was an only child.

I was really good at entertaining myself. I always enjoyed books and movies and video games, and I had a great imagination and could have fun alone.

I also loved going to play with my friends. There’s nothing I enjoyed more than laughing and playing and having fun with other kids.

But sometimes, I had to compromise because I was at their house and needed to go along to get along. Sometimes, all of my friends didn’t do what I wanted to do, and maybe we had fun anyway, but maybe sometimes I didn’t because their idea might have been crappier than mine.

Sometimes friends would be at my house and it would be great, but then at some point, they were infringing on my time and space and I didn’t really mind when they left because then I could do whatever I wanted again.

Of course, at some point, I always missed them and wanted them to come back.

I got laid off from my job on Jan. 1, 2010 somewhat unexpectedly, and prior to my divorce, that was easily the most difficult thing that ever happened to me.

Not having a job when you want one is hard. You lose self-confidence. Your shame level increases. Your wife starts thinking you’re pathetic. Your friends probably do, too, but they never say so because they’re your friends.

I’ve always liked my jobs in the context of “having to go to work.” Some people have to stand in front of machines or do really hard manual labor or clean up poop and pee all day.

I’ve always been paid to write stories. Regardless, going to work is a drag when you don’t really want to. I like writing stories, but I don’t always like writing stories in this specific location at this specific time and about this specific subject. I don’t always like doing what other people tell me to do.

But then one day, I was 30 and unemployed, and it lasted 18 months and I was totally miserable, not counting the valuable time I had with my son at home.

I will NEVER take my job for granted again!, I vowed.

But four years later, I pretty much take my job for granted and wish I didn’t have to sit in a cubicle all day.

Being single again and not in constant emotional agony has been an interesting experience.

Like with pretty much everything in life, there are things about it that are good, and parts that aren’t so good.

I’m a little bit like that only child again. I have a lot of freedom to do what I want, when I want.

And that’s good! I still have a good imagination, and I’m still capable of entertaining myself.

But you get lonely, too.

And I don’t mean Boo-freaking-hoo, I’m lonely and crying on the couch. I’m not doing that. But sometimes, you’re watching a ball game or a movie or reading a book while your son is asleep upstairs at 9:15 p.m. on Friday, and you think: Hmm. Life sure would be better right now if I had someone to spend this time with.

Do I crave conversation? Yes.

Physical intimacy? Of course.

Shared experiences? Best way to build connections.

But then I wonder if maybe she is around whether I’ll secretly wish she would just go home sometimes like I did back when a friend maybe annoyed me while playing in the backyard or on my bedroom floor.

I loved my wife very much. I was a lousy husband when I declined invitations to go to bed, or ignored her in favor of online poker or 24 marathons on Netflix, or because I was more interested in Monday Night Football. But I did love the woman in the same way I feel love about my family members and close friends.

And I was still capable of making her sad and miserable by intentionally choosing to do things that I wanted to do.

We’re capable of terrible things.

It’s okay to be selfish when you’re single. I need to be unselfish for my son, of course, but in the context of adult romantic relationships, I can do whatever I want and needn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.

And I guess that’s nice.

But we’re humans and we crave connection. I don’t mean crave like I really want it!

I mean crave, like we really need it.

We all want to be a part of something. To connect mentally, emotionally, spiritually with like-minded people and groups to achieve some end.

It’s why you buy the products you do. It’s why you live in the neighborhood you live in. It’s why you work where you do. It’s why you’re involved in your various hobbies and social groups and team sports and churches and relationships.

But it’s not okay to be selfish when you’re a couple. When you’re part of something greater than yourself. I know this as well as or better than most.

What if I’m always that selfish only child who doesn’t always like to share?

Of course I crave it now.

I don’t have it.

We always want what we don’t or can’t have.

But I’ll probably have it someday.

And what then? When the shiny newness is gone? When I think a quiet Friday night with my son sleeping upstairs and a book or movie alone is sounding pretty good?

I want her.

But I’m afraid of her.

I want it.

But what if I don’t always?

I want everything that I don’t have because that’s what’s missing! and if we fill the voids then we can finally be happy!!!

I think maybe we’re all a little bit broken on the inside. And I think that brokenness keeps us constantly filling “voids” only to discover that something’s missing feeling never actually goes away.

I am selfish.

I want, want, want.

Me, me, me.

“It’s always about what Matt wants,” she often said. The truth hurts.

The common denominator in all of my life pursuits that never ultimately brought me satisfaction is that I wanted things, acquired them, and still felt dissatisfied.

The common thread was selfishness. I want more.

Over and over again. Rinse, wash, repeat. I want. I need. Give me.

And it hasn’t worked yet. Not one time in 36 years.

Hmm.

What if we tried giving?

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Must Be This Old To Ride

Is she 19? Is she 35? Who can tell!?!?

Is she 19? Is she 35? Who can tell!?!?

I wasn’t particularly confident or unconfident when I was a kid.

But something changed mid-high school, and whatever social fears people sometimes feel mostly melted away for me. I was nice. I was smart. I was in excellent physical condition. And I had plenty of friends.

The only thing to be afraid of was bigger, tougher kids beating me up, but since I treated everyone pretty well, I never had to worry about stuff like that.

I was friendly and flirty with girls. Some liked me. But that’s not the important part of this story.

“What’s the important part of the story, Matt!?!?”

I never had a problem knowing how old a girl was.

When I was 16 or 17? I was never accidentally attracted to a 13-year-old or made the mistake of thinking a 26-year-old was my age.

You could just tell! You looked at a girl, and you knew whether it was age-appropriate to be interested in them.

That was an under-appreciated skill. 

Now? Not So Much        

And I’m a little confused about why.

In virtually every area of my life, with running fast for long periods of time being the notable exception, I am INFINITELY better now than I was 20 or so years ago. At what? Everything.

But you know what I’m not better at? Identifying a woman’s age.

This isn’t very important most of the time, but now that I’m a single guy again, this has been coming up.

I spent a while talking to a totally cute waitress at my favorite lunch spot today. One of my friends and I met her about a week ago, speculating early to mid-20s.

I just came out and asked her today how old she was because I’m a curious person.

You know what she said? Of course you don’t. She said: “I’m 19.”

Nineteen.

NINETEEN, people.

19!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This isn’t the first time this has happened.

And honestly? That’s scary. Frightening, even. Twenty years ago I could nail the age within a year or two every single time. Appropriateness was never in question.

But now? Holy shit. I repeat: holy shit. I can’t be chatting with teenagers(!!!) and thinking they might be of appropriate dating age.

CAN’T HAPPEN.

EVER.

I’m embarrassed. I’m so embarrassed I didn’t want to write about this. But then I remembered that if I’m experiencing something, then thousands of other people are, or have, too.

What’s my dating window? As a 35-year-old. It’s 25-42ish, right? That’s a 17-year margin for error!!!

I find this unsettling. And I feel a little dirty. And I’d like to know how this could happen.

Are female humans evolving whereby younger women look older than they did 20, 30, 40 years ago? Can that be part of it?

Or as we age, do we have a youthful image in our minds that makes us think or feel as if we’re younger than we are?

There is nothing about a 19-year-old girl that interests me. (No, not even THAT, gross person.) I hope you believe that because it’s true.

But I’d really like to know what’s wrong with my brain that I don’t just instinctively know how old someone is like I was able to in my youth.

I told my buddy this story over a text. He laughed at me, shared my surprise at her age, and said: “Must be this old to ride.”

Then I laughed. “Great headline. But I’m too embarrassed to write about this.”

“Just write it,” he said.

Fine. Dick.

*Publish*

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I Hope There Are Aliens

Wouldn't it be a sad story if we had all this to ourselves?

Wouldn’t it be a sad story if we had all this to ourselves?

On an April Fools’ Day long before the one my wife chose to vacate our home, the local newspaper ran a large photo of alien spacecraft hovering in the night sky.

The headline indicated UFOs had visited our small Ohio town.

I was captivated.

Enchanted.

Bewitched.

Just a young boy.

I had never seen or heard “War of the Worlds.”

We were still years away from Will Smith very believably punching a large alien trying to emerge from its wrecked aircraft with a sharp-witted “Welcome to Earth” in “Independence Day.”

Even further away was M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.” You know the movie. It’s the one with aliens that will die if they get too much water on them. They are smart enough to conquer the physics of interstellar travel but are not smart enough NOT to invade a planet with a surface covered 71 percent by water, which regularly experiences rainfall and has microscopic water droplets suspended in the breathable air in most geographic locations.

Anyway.

I wasn’t scared of aliens. I didn’t know better.

All I knew was that I was fascinated with the unknown outside our planet. Outside our solar system. Outside our galaxy.

I’ve spent countless nights staring into the night sky.

Every single star representing a solar system. Every solar system representing an opportunity for more life to exist.

Maybe there’s someone out there seeing our sun in the night sky. Maybe there’s someone out there wondering whether we’re here. Maybe there are more people like us.

The newspaper story was a joke, of course. But I didn’t want it to be.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.

I’ve met people who have been inside Area 51. There are MANY secret things there, they say. Things they won’t talk about. But there are no extraterrestrials or wrecked alien spaceships inside, they say.

Of course, that’s EXACTLY what people protecting the secret would say.

But, still.

In my experience, things that sound like far-fetched nonsense typically prove out to be exactly that.

But I do believe in math. Math is the most-provable thing I know of. Pure truth.

And here’s an elementary breakdown of the math.

Why There Might Be Aliens

The nearest thing to Earth besides our moon is the planet Mars. Mars is 34.2 million miles away. Depending on how much fuel we’re willing to burn we can get an unmanned spacecraft to Mars in anywhere from 150-300 days.

We cannot figure out how to safely send humans to and from Mars. It hasn’t been tried.

We cannot get to the next-closest thing in our solar system.

This is where I need you to stay with me.

Earth is in a solar system. The thing with nine planets orbiting the sun. (Eat shit, science! Pluto is STILL a planet in my universe! My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas!)

This is where brains start exploding…

There are an estimated 100 BILLION solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy.

The Hubble Space Telescope, combined with the best computer models in the world, estimate 500 BILLION galaxies.

There’s no point in even typing out 50 trillion. Our brains can barely process a number as large as one billion.

Hopefully, you see my point. Even if we eliminate 99 percent of those solar systems due to inhospitable living conditions, we’re still left with (if my lousy math skills are correct) about 500 billion opportunities for life to exist.

And we can’t even get to Mars.

A Table For One

I had breakfast at one of my favorite little mom-and-pop breakfast diners this morning.

“Just one?” they ask.

“Yeah. Just me.”

That’s always embarrassing.

There was a wife or girlfriend on the other side of the table from every guy in the small eatery.

I always wonder how many women are out there like me. Maybe wondering whether some guy just like me is eating alone somewhere. Maybe wondering whether they’re the only single person staying in on a Saturday night and wishing they weren’t—or at least not doing so alone.

We crave connection. Maybe not all of us. But most of us.

I hope you believe that I believe I’m not just going to be this cooped-up single guy forever. I have every confidence there will be someone on the other side of the breakfast table from me someday.

I think about that girl sometimes.

Where is she now?

Does she live close?

Do I already know her?

That connection, however long or short, will change my life.

That’s scary in a way. To invite more change into a life where change has been my worst enemy.

I don’t like whining here about being alone. And I hope it doesn’t seem like whining.

Especially after being on my soapbox yesterday about choosing ourselves and taking personal responsibility for the state of our lives.

It’s just another lonesome benediction. Can I get a witness? Written to some bluesy, soulful southern tunes being belted by the magnificent Kristy Lee who I finally got to meet and hear live last night.

Not so different really than those late summer nights in my youth staring into the majesty of our sky.

Into the universe. I can see for miles.

Just hoping there’s someone like me out there. Believing in my existence. Hoping I’m here, too.

I hope that person exists.

And I hope there are aliens.

You know. Nice ones.

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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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