Single Parent Long Distance Dating. I must say this turned out to be a very interesting experience. But let’s start from the top.
I’m going to just rip this off like a band-aid. How did we meet? Christian Mingle. Yes, that’s right, an online dating website. When you find yourself 30 (ok, near 30 at the time), single, the parent of 4 young children, and realize it’s been a decade since the last time you dated, you get a little skittish. I was a self-proclaimed “Hot Mess” and even had the coffee mug to prove it. When I started feeling ready to move on into something new, I had no idea what to do. At first, it was just do nothing. I had a close friend who had been through something similar to me and she met her new husband at a stop light. A stop light! I go to stop lights! I was sitting at a stop light one day and found myself freaking out at the thought of looking to either side. What if someone DID try to talk to me? What would I say? What would I do? Best not to look. I looked straight ahead at stop lights. I studied the contents of my cart at the grocery store. I became very familiar with all the markings of my shoes. Perhaps meeting someone at a stop light wasn’t the way for me.
I first joined Christian Mingle because I thought it would be easier to talk with someone in the non threatening form of email before rediscovering how to talk face to face with a member of the opposite sex. That was a cute thought I had. The truth is that meeting someone as a single mom of 4 who has been DIVORCED (read that in a menacing voice for effect), is not easy. Now please don’t picture me desperate to rush into a new relationship and joining an online dating website to speed things along. And also don’t interpret my story as being anti-dating websites. I just want to convey that I was there out of fear. I was there to hide behind a screen and be able to say I was moving on (because I was there and not starting at my feet in public) without actually having to start face to face interaction. Are you figuring out the hot mess that I was yet?
Anyway, my plan didn’t go exactly as I thought it would (surprise, surprise). My experience on a dating website was not good. In the online world of labels, there was the majority of men who noted on their profiles that they were only interested in women who had never been married. Even though the “divorced” on my profile was in black and white, I swear it must have looked scarlet. And funny, there was no place next to the word to try to explain; you were either “single,never married” or “divorced”. Can’t someone just be single anymore? Then there were the men who would send messages that always went something like this, “I just wanted to tell you you’re cute, but 4 kids isn’t for me. Good luck!” Ummm….thanks? And then there were the men who sent the really long messages (sometimes more than once. Do I sense copy/paste?) who were, without fail, over 50…or 60. It didn’t take long before my self-worth started take a beating. I did meet up with a few people (always refusing to call it a date) only to realize I was not as ready as I thought. I also learned I highly disliked playing the game. None of this was me and I was done. The way these sites work is through subscription periods so when I decided I was done, I just stopped logging on since my subscription period was still on going.
Meanwhile, David was having a interesting experiences of his own. He told me about a message he received one day after exchanging a few messages with a woman. She asked him if he had the ability to “return the children”. Then there was the meet up he had that ended when the woman asked if he had a problem with pot. This was Christian Mingle so of course she was just making sure he didn’t smoke pot, right? Wrong. When he said he did not have a problem with weed, she said “good because I smoke it like every day!” He was stunned at how casually she just came out and said it, like it was good thing! David meant he DIDN’T SMOKE POT. Needless to say, he had found this whole online dating thing not for him either.
Weeks passed and I decided it was time to go in and shut down the account. I logged in and saw a few messages sat unread and peeked at them before continuing with what I was there to do. There was one message that didn’t start with any of the usual jargon I had grown accustomed to seeing. I clicked farther and kept reading and found it was from a man who seemed normal (shocked face). By this point, that wasn’t enough. He ended the message by saying that 4 kids didn’t scare him…he had 3 girls of his own. This made me chuckle and I thought for a moment about replying, but I didn’t. I had decided I didn’t want to play anymore. Hours passed and I read it again. This time I picked up on the fact that he was in Hawaii on a long vacation. See, Hawaii was safe because Hawaii was far. If I decided to respond, he couldn’t rush into asking me to meet. I almost hit reply. And then I did not. It wasn’t until the next day that I finally decided I’d give it one more shot and then shut down the account for good. Gulp. I felt a bit crazy. I responded. He responded. I responded. He responded. He still seemed pretty normal and possibly safe, but I couldn’t be sure so again I was thankful for the distance.
We switched to text and continued to communicate. He was sweet, and he made me laugh, and he loved his daughters and he loved God. Over a week into talking we decided we should probably share what we each had walked through to bring us to this point. Neither of us were willing to ever live it again so sharing the experiences was important. He asked if he could call me to save our thumbs from the pain of typing it all out in text. Gulp. For me, the phone was back to threatening territory. It was a step forward (tiny I know, but hot mess remember?) I told him I wasn’t ready for that and to my surprise he said, “ok, no problem.” He was going to dinner with his brother and sister-in-law so we agreed to talk about our stories later (he was 6 hours behind me in Hawaii so that meant I may not still be awake when he was done). While he was gone I talked to myself. Yes, you read that right, I talked to myself. I told myself that here was this man who had proven he was normal and was trying to get to know me without being pushy, or inappropriate, or any of the other things I had experienced, yet I was still refusing to even let him call me on the phone because I was scared of not having adequate response time. What was I, 14? I told myself I was going to let him call. I sat on the couch at midnight and waited. When he texted that he was back but understood that I was probably already asleep, I replied “Call me.” He wrote back something about knowing it was so late here and that he wasn’t ready to talk on the phone just yet. I replied. “You have about 10 seconds before I change my mind. You better call now.” He called before I could blink. We talked until 3am. Yes, perhaps I was 14.
For the next week, we talked on the phone a lot and often till the wee hours of the morning (at least for me). While I was ignoring the fact that my body actually needed sleep, David was forgetting the fact that he was closer to the equator where he was. He walked on trails outside while we chatted and earned himself one heck of a sunburn. I was exhausted, he was in pain, but we were both head-in-the-clouds happy. We talked about everything-past, present, dreams, goals, beliefs, our children, our families, likes, dislikes, divorce, remarriage, interests, passions, how hard life was, how good life was. He shared the (sometimes humorous) challenges that came with raising three daughters, one of which was becoming a teen while he was at the single dad stage of life. I shared about the beautiful chaos that was raising four kids under 5, and about how often I escaped to the bathroom with a bag of chocolates for a quick regroup. I was enjoying getting to know him and I liked knowing it couldn’t get away from me and move too fast because he was in Hawaii. That was until the day he told me he would be home in a few days. Wait, what? I had misunderstood how long he would be away. Suddenly (ok not really, but it seemed that way!) he was coming back and, naturally, he wanted to meet me and be able to talk in person. We had been talking for hours, every day, for two weeks. I can’t imagine why he thought we should meet. This is when Hot Mess here started with the excuses: grand opening of the bakery was coming up, we were busy moving the bakery, the twins birthday party that weekend too, party prep was a must. A meeting just wouldn’t fit. David was nice enough to find a time in the busy week that would work. After another talk with myself, I was ready.
We set a time to meet the Tuesday of that crazy week. He drove the 1 hour 40 min from Palm Coast to meet me on Tuesday after work. He came back again on Wednesday after he got out of work and brought dinner to me and my biz partner at work. He stayed late that night to help pull final touches together in the bakery. On Saturday, he returned yet again to be at the grand opening and go to our celebration dinner after. He stayed in a hotel in Melbourne that night so he could go to my church Sunday morning and spend the day with me before driving the hour and 40 min back. And that was all the first week. He clocked 10 hours in driving time by the end of the first week. We were already getting a crash course in long distance dating, and the whole single parent aspect hadn’t even come into play yet because all of our kids had been away this week. It was only about to get more interesting!
The next 6 months of our lives would be some of the best and some of the most trying. SPLDD