I recently went on a date.
I know, shocking, right? About two years ago, this is how I felt about dating. It was terrifying as a single parent, having been seriously hurt/broken by the last big breakup and who had seen his kiddo hurt by same. I’ve dated some since then, but not seriously. I guess I was doing the work I needed to do to heal those wounds – now four years old.
And, as all wounds which are not fatal eventually do, those wounds did heal. Sure, I may love with a limp for a while still, but I am open to and feel ready and excited to find that love again – and the only way to get there is through dating.
Emma is now old enough to know I am dating. In fact, I think it’s healthy now for her to see that I can have and do want a healthy adult love in my life. I don’t want her to develop an image of her sad and beardy dad sitting home alone out of fear: fear is something she has recently been struggling with in her life, and it’s hard for me to help her conquer hers if she doesn’t see me conquering mine.
So, she knows I date – but she doesn’t know any details. When a relationship progresses to a point that it can not progress further without involving Emma, I’ll figure out the best way to do so. In the meantime, it is sufficient for her to know I’m going on a date, and that it’s a good thing.
Before this recent date, she was mining for information and I was deflecting all of her deft attempts to trick me into telling her what she wanted to know: “Does she have brown hair? You should wear clothes that match her hair.” “Oooh, are you going to kiss? You need chapstick!” So helpful, that one.
“Go to bed,” I replied, drunk on power.
The last admonishment before I left was “Remember to not be a jerk!”
I laughed most of the way to the date, and tried very hard to follow her sage advice. It actually strikes me that dating would be much easier for everyone if we all took those few words to heart. Dating is fraught, especially in the early days, with hidden and unforeseeable pitfalls. It’s easy to unknowingly hurt the feelings of your partner simply by not knowing where the sensitive spots are.
If we go into these ventures with the other person’s feelings foremost in mind, if we pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, if we listen – truly listen to what they have to say, maybe we can avoid being accidental jerks, and maybe we’ll find our way to that rare and promised land of fighting over curtains and waking up together to face the world.
When Emma and I next spoke, she asked me about the date.
“It was really great,” I said.
“I think I remembered to not be a jerk.”
“Now mind your own business.”
She laughed and made kissy faces, and I saw that her wounds had healed as well. Thus, it’s onward, searching for the El Dorado of the heart: over the mountains of the moon.