Monday, June 30, 2014

Online Dating: I Did It For the Blog Post

After my divorce was final, I decided to try online dating for two main reasons:  1) curiosity, and 2) my friends made me.

Oh, who am I kidding? I also wanted to write a blog post about it.

Friends warned me that when you first join an online dating site, you’re instantly bombarded with winks and likes and emails. That’s supposed to be exciting. Look at all these guys interested in me! Look at all the possibilities! Look at all the potential boyfriends and date nights and free dinners!

I was indeed instantly overwhelmed with men expressing interest. But I was also instantly underwhelmed by the possibilities.

My first online interaction came several weeks later. And it probably should have been an indication of what little desire I had to pursue this method of dating as well as what my overall online dating experience would be like.

I received an email from a very nice man who had clearly taken the time to read my profile and come up with relevant questions to start a dialogue. He told me about himself, and I liked his combination of confidence and self-deprecating humor. He seemed well established in his career, and we shared similar interests.

So what was wrong with him?

The man was old enough to be my father.

But because it was the most sincere email I had received on Match, I decided to write him back.

“Thank you so much for your thoughtful email. Unfortunately, I’m looking for someone closer to my age. But I wanted to respond and tell you that it was obvious you took the time to read my profile and compose an introduction that reflected both your interests and mine. I encourage you to continue that practice as you go forward with your dating journey. Best of luck. ”

He immediately wrote back.

“Thank you so much for your email. I understand the age difference thing, and I appreciate your effort  to respond. You’re the classiest lady on this site. Best of luck to you too.”

I was celebrating the fact that I was just named the Classiest Lady on Match, when he emailed again.

“By the way, I see you’re a writer. Any chance you could take a look at my profile and give me some pointers?”

And there you have it. My first online dating interaction ended with me editing a man’s profile to help him meet other women.

My experience with online dating was short-lived and laughably unsuccessful, but I did pick up a few things along the way in case I ever decide to give it another go:

1. Usernames are important.

Make an attempt to come up with something unique other than your first name and your zip code. But if you’re not the creative type, don’t force it.

For instance, don’t use fancy words like “quixotic.” I get that you’re trying to make yourself sound smart, but you’ve probably just eliminated most of the women on Match because it’s easier to move on to the next guy than to find a dictionary.

Furthermore, it may be a turn on for some women, but if the word “Navy” is in your username, I’m running far far away.

And for goodness sakes, don’t include the word “lonely” in your username!

2. Profile pictures are your first impressions.

Your profile picture is the reason I either click on you or scroll past you. There are a lot of standard “rules” out there for the photos that generate the most success with online dating (yes, studies have been done!), and most people also have their own rules. One woman I know refuses to view a man if his profile picture is a selfie. Although I totally disagree, she believes this means he doesn’t have enough friends to take a picture of him.

What are my personal rules? I won’t click on you if you include the following in your profile picture:

  • A cigarette.
  • Another woman.
  • Sunglasses. (Eyes reveal a lot. Don’t hide them unless you have something to hide.)
  • A mask.
  • Your tongue.
  • So much distance from the camera that I can’t tell if you’re actually a person.
  • A military uniform. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m over the whole military thing. Blog post to come.)
  • No shirt.
  • No shirt and flexing.
  • No shirt and flexing and my abs are tighter than yours. ***
  • No photo at all.

(***Just for the record, I have nothing against shirtless photos. Just not as your profile picture. Remember, this is a first impression. Would you meet me in a restaurant for a first date without a shirt on? Hopefully not. So don’t present yourself for the first time half-naked.)

3. Read my profile before emailing me.

As flattered as I was by your email that read, “U R HOT,” you clearly missed the part in my profile that let you know my profession. A writer probably wouldn’t be impressed by that gem. Sorry, but that won’t get you so much as a “TY.”

4. Use your words wisely.

Your initial written interactions reveal a lot about the kind of person you are. Keep that in mind before hitting send.

I had a date lined up with a Navy pilot. Although it never happened (thanks to miscommunication and then a 6-month deployment), I was already losing interest because he sounded more and more arrogant with each communication. I’ve had enough arrogance to last me a lifetime. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m also not a fan of weirdness. I recommend asking interesting questions that help you stand out, but not so interesting that they’re borderline creepy. So while the dude who asked me who my favorite Muppet is did make himself stand out, it’s probably not for the reasons he was shooting for.

5. If you’re not ready to date, don’t date.

After my first date with you, I should not know your ex-wife’s name, where she lives, where her family lives, that you exchange emails with her every day, and the reason you got divorced. If you’re sharing these things with a woman you’re supposed to be trying to start a romantic relationship with, you’re probably not ready to date.

I also won’t open your profile if your status is “Currently Separated.” While I understand that men and women cope with divorce differently (namely, men tend to jump right back into the dating scene as soon as legally possible), I do not want to be your rebound person, and I definitely don’t want to be your tool to make your wife (because if you’re “currently separated,” she still is your wife) jealous because you think that’s how you’re going to win her back.

I may have given up on online dating prematurely, but I really don’t think it’s my thing. Maybe one day I’ll try again. Maybe I’ll return as a freelance profile editor. Who knows. But if I got nothing else from online dating, at least I got that blog post.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Moment: Family 5K Training

When I was a kid and into my teen years, I was always involved in an extracurricular activity. Although it was usually swim team, I also gave softball and track a try, and for a while I spent time after school at band practice playing the drums.

That's why I just assumed when I became a parent, my children would naturally gravitate toward the extracurriculars that fit with their interests.

Turns out, my kids are very hard to please when it comes to finding those interests.

My son is 10, and while I had great hope for baseball after several years of his participation on the same team, he ultimately lost interest after his first season of kid-pitch. He tried soccer too, but he was more interested in chit-chatting on the sidelines than kicking the ball. He did enjoy chess club this past school year, but that met only once a week for a few short months.

I've since offered everything I can think of. Basketball. Tennis. Lego Club. Swim team. Guitar lessons. But every suggestion landed me a "no, Mom, I don't want to do that."

So when Big C approached me a couple weeks ago asking me to sign him up for a 5K, I jumped on it. I bought him new running shoes. I got the MapMyRun app on my phone because it's more visual for him than my Garmin watch. And the most important part, I signed us both up for one of my favorite local races on the 4th of July.

I love running, and I'm thrilled Big C has taken an interest in it as well. He even mentioned that he's considering joining the track team in middle school. Of course a lot can change in the next year before middle school starts, but it's the first time since his coach-pitch baseball days that he's expressed even the slightest interest in pursuing a sport.

We're in training now for his first 5K. Not to leave his sister out of the fun, Little C straps on her helmet and coaches us from her bike. 

Happy moments are everywhere...

Happy Moment: Family 5K Training

Monday, June 16, 2014

This is What My Family Looks Like

I’m a worrier. I analyze what others do, say and think. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I’m not very patient when it comes to finding out what that reason is.

Recently my daughter came home from school with this drawing:

I wanted to figure out the reason she drew it. I wanted to analyze what she was trying to express. And I worried.

Little C is 6 years old. She’s energetic. Creative. Smart. Determined. Competitive. Athletic. Anti-princesses and Barbie. Pro-hugs and cuddles. And extremely inquisitive.

While her big brother asks the tough questions only when she’s not around, Little C is loud and proud of her curiosity. Since my divorce, she’s asked me just about everything:

  • Are you going to have another baby?
  • Are you going to marry another man?
  • Is Dad going to marry another woman? 
  • Is Dad going to marry Miss ____ (Dad’s live-in girlfriend)?
  • Is Dad going to have another baby?
  • Are we going to have to switch schools again?
  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • Are you and Dad friends?
  • Did you and Dad have a choice to get divorced?
  • The easiest question (and my all-time favorite): Mom, are you going to marry John Mayer?
  • The toughest question (and the one I dread even though it’s been asked multiple times): Why did you and Dad get divorced? 
I answer the questions the best I can. No, I’m not planning to have another baby. I don’t know if Dad is going to get married again; you'll have to ask him. Sadly, no, I will not be marrying John Mayer.

Knowing how her brain thinks, I try to get ahead of some of her questions by using spontaneous teachable moments. For instance, one evening we stopped at the park during our bike ride, and my kids started playing with two other kids they recognized from school. Little C asked them if they were siblings. The older girl answered, “Kind of. He’s my step-brother.” That night, during her bath, I brought up her new friends, and we had a lovely chat about blended families.

Because the lines of communication are wide open in my home, I was a bit surprised when Little C came home from school with that drawing that she explained was a family portrait.

This was actually the second time she came home with a family portrait that looked like this. The first time was many months ago.  At the time, I was concerned the drawing meant she didn’t understand the change in our family dynamics and that she still saw our family as intact with a mom and a dad who loved each other.  Maybe she thought her father and I would eventually get back together.

On the other hand, maybe it really was as simple as a family portrait because, after all, those are the members of her immediate family. She does have a mom, a dad and a brother. That’s the only family she knows. 

In my mind it meant one of two things: She either didn’t understand the divorce at all or she had the healthiest outlook of all of us.

I asked her to explain her drawing, noting that our family didn’t look the same as it used to. Little C said, “I know. But this is my family. This is what my family looks like. And I put you and Dad on opposite sides of the paper because you aren’t married anymore.”

I looked at the drawing again, and sure enough, her father and I were on the outside with the kids in the middle.

A few days later, I showed it to the kids’ therapists, and they assured me I had nothing to worry about.

Then Little C brought home the family portrait pictured above. This time, her father and I were standing beside each other, and as she explained it, the setting is in the neighborhood we live in, not the neighborhood her father lives in.

The worried over-analyzer in me immediately jumped to the conclusion that she’s regressing, that she placed her parents next to each other as a sign that she still doesn’t get what’s going on after months of answered questions and explanations since her last family portrait.

But then I realized that maybe this was a good thing. Maybe this just meant that she saw her parents as two adults who love her, able to work together to co-parent in a friendly manner.

And if that’s the case, then we’re doing something right.

As time goes on, my daughter will not remember her parents being married, a thought that is both heartbreaking (because she won’t remember seeing her parents when they were happy together) and reassuring (because she won’t remember the end of the marriage). Right now, the divorce is still fresh, not quite 7 months old, and I have to give her the space to process her feelings at the level of comprehension that works for her and try not to project my worries on that process.

So I save these drawings, dating them on the back and showing them to her therapist to discuss with her as necessary. I continue to do my best to answer her questions. And I gladly give her those hugs she loves because she inherited her pro-hug mentality from me.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tell Your Stories

As a writer, I often walk a fine line between what I want to share and what is better left unwritten. And through years of writing from personal experience and putting myself out there publicly, I've learned that everyone in my life -- however casual or intimate -- shoulders the burden of being the potential subject of one of my blog posts.

That's why the writer in me loves the following quote. I'll remember these words the next time I find myself walking that fine line.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Another Divorce First: The Anniversary

Today I stare down another divorce first: my anniversary.

Today would have been my 14th.

So how am I supposed to deal with my first post-divorce anniversary?

Please join me over at Huffington Post as I share my thoughts.

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