What My Daughter Taught Me About Dating

I am a hopeless romantic…with a heavy emphasis on the hopeless aspect. I love love. I love cheesy romantic comedies. I love late 90s R&B jams. I am a sucker for poetry. I still believe in the mad, crazy stuff. I want the fairy tale.

BUT, I am also a realist. I have broken hearts. I have had my heart broken. In fact, my divorce shattered my world, and initially, dating was the farthest thing on my mind. But, I am human, right?

I want and deserve love, and I firmly believe that it is of the utmost importance that my daughter has an example of a healthy, loving relationship between a man and a woman. How else will she know what to look for? How else will she know how she deserves to be treated? I taught her the ABCs, how to count, how to write her name, how to do a box jump, how to sing the lyrics to Diana Ross’ “Upside Down,” but how can I teach her what I have failed so miserably at?

It’s quite simple, actually: I do better. I choose better. I view things through her eyes: would I want this for my daughter? Would I want her to hear this? Feel this? Experience this? So far, my limited experience has been NO. H-E-double hockey sticks, NO! This is by far the greatest litmus test for dating.

So, what have I learned? Let me share some of my experiences. Some are hilarious, some are terrifying, and some make me think that I have a better shot at living happily ever after with a bunch of cats (and I hate cats!).

The guy next door

A completely platonic friend sends me a message late one night, asking how I am doing. I naively think, “Oh, how sweet! He is checking on me!” I reply that I am doing great and make some comment about the weather and how I can’t wait for it to finally be hot out. What do I get in return? A mirror selfie of his half-naked body, laughingly captioned, “Here is some hot chocolate to warm you up, baby.”

At first, I die of laughter. But then I am mildly offended. What gave this “friend” the idea that I wanted to see THAT? Yuck. Gross. Vomit. Admittedly, it could be worse. I could have had an eggplant in my inbox! But…why? I can only assume this tactic has worked before because why else? Next…

The best friend

My shoulder, my rock. One of the few people on Earth who knows every single thing about me…the good, the bad, the ugly. We have loved each other for at least 15 years. We know everything about each other. He helps me and supports me through my divorce. There is never anything remotely shady about our relationship. He is simply a good friend. Well, that is until he asks me to have dinner.

I am tired. I need to be with someone who understands me. My best girlfriends are busy tending to their husbands and toddlers. My family is scattered about the country. No one else gets it or me, but he does; I say yes. I don’t think it is a date. He picks me up, and we go to Vincente’s for paella, mojitos, and salsa dancing. It is the first time that I go out after my divorce. It is the first time that I go drinking…I am still nursing, but she won’t be home for two more nights. I let loose, my dress swinging as I spin around. He kisses me, and I am stunned. Pleasantly, but stunned. This is a mistake. I do not want to lose my best friend. Thankfully, I did not.

The obnoxious coworker

A very persistent former colleague asks me to dinner via Facebook messenger. I declare that I am NOT interested, but that I am definitely hungry and would love to catch up as friends. I insist that I will pay for my meal (code: NOT a date). We chit-chat. He is funny. He is intelligent. We are JUST friends.

He messages me an insane amount of times knowing I am traveling with my daughter. To the point that I feel beyond uncomfortable and ask him to please stop. He asks if I am picking up guys. I do not respond. He immediately cancels our “date” that was never a date. What?

The blast from the past

Immediately I hear my girl Cardi B:“I get texts from exes when they want a second chance.” Ugh. This one was tough. He was everything my heart dreamt of (maybe not my heart!): piercing green eyes, dimples, killer smile, could easily bench press me, etc. He was the one, the one who was perfectly right and, yet oh-so-wrong.

We have done this crazy dance for years. I meet up with him, we laugh hysterically like old times. He smells the same. He looks the same. I’m transported back into a simpler time. We go dancing like crazy teenagers. Per usual, he stands there and stares at me in pure awe while I dance away. The place is crowded, and I feel like the only girl on the planet. We run through the streets of Downtown Plymouth. We stop by the fountain. We take a selfie. He grabs my face, kisses my forehead, and says, “I have always loved you. I am so sorry. I know I can never live up to what you deserve. I can’t handle someone like you.” I am speechless. Stunned. We hug goodbye. I never see him again. Facebook posts indicate that he moved in with his girlfriend that week. Bullet dodged! (Again!)

The forever friend zone friend

We meet at my favorite local joint (where I could eat mountains of the guacamole and the margaritas are to die for, and if I close my eyes just so, I feel like I am in Cozumel). He is talented and quick-witted; we met years ago through a mutual friend. He asks if I want to catch up, and I don’t consider this to be a “real” date. We sit down. I order a mango margarita. He is floored that it is $11. I inform him that my morning latte was $6, and he laughingly says, “Of course you would choose something fancy.” Guys, it’s a Mexican restaurant. It is great, but I would not describe it as even remotely “fancy.” I am in jeans.

We are escorted to our table. He proceeds to take my photo while I am perusing the menu. Not with his iPhone. No, with a giant, tourist-style camera. I somehow didn’t notice it. I put my hands over my face, like I am shielding myself from the paparazzi. I gulp my margarita quickly, and he glances at my hands. “Blue nail polish?” he asks. “Hmmm. That is interesting. Who wears blue nail polish?” Ah, yes. I am suddenly reminded why we have never dated. Friend. Zone. For. Life.

The blind(ish) date

Finally feeling like my very best self, I tell one of my beautiful girlfriends that I am ready. I am finally ready. I am happy, and it’s spring, and…let’s do this! She delivers immaculately. He has ocean blue eyes that I fear I might drown in. He is different. He is older. And he is a thinker, and you can see the wheels turning. He is dynamic and brilliant and talented. We are at different stages in our lives, but he is the one who gives me faith and hope in love. It is the first time in a long time that I have felt so incredibly optimistic about the future. Thank you, but next…

The aforementioned guys are not “bad,” but they weren’t good for me for one reason or another. Not good for me, so definitely not good for her. So, what have I learned dating post-divorce? My greatest lesson: I can’t settle ever again; my daughter is watching.


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