Even though I’ve turned in my notice at work, I’m still putting in a ton of hours. Not as much as before, but a few extra hours at night. Last night was no exception. Laptop fired up, I settled into the couch to draft a meeting recap. The kids and my mom were in bed, and the TV was on as background noise to drowned out the sound of Ethan’s rock tumbler outside. (He’s making me some sort of jewelry for my birthday.)
I was only half listening as the narrator of the TV show introduced the new innovative dating show concept. “Yeah, right,” I thought, “This will be like the scads of other dating shows.” It would be the perfect mindless background to my evening of boring memo writing.
Some blonde chic was introduced. She was a bubbly, 20-something, and all she wanted in life was to be a wife and have babies. A random gal from California was introduced next. No mention of wife and babies, but definitely “looking for love.” I was pretty tuned out at this point.
But the third and final woman made me stop, put down my laptop, and start to tear up. She was in her 30s, had two small kids, and was widowed. She talked about how she was ready to find love again. She also discussed how it was hard to even approach dating as a widowed mom – would people think it was too soon? Would people understand? She wanted to do right by her kids, but she also wanted to find love.
I set my laptop down. I was rooting for this woman to find someone. I could relate. I was having many of those same thoughts and feelings and questions. I wanted her to be happy, screw whatever criticism she would get for wanting to find love.
I’ve thought a lot about what the next chapter of my life might look like. The kind of person I might want to share it with. My situation is different from, but still somewhat similar to, the woman on the dating show – she lost her husband after a three-year battle with cancer; she had time process losing him and at some subconscious level to start thinking about where her life might go.
Mike and I were separated for five months before he died, but our marriage was over long before that. When I think back and really reflect, there were significant problems in our marriage well before I learned he was drinking, which was about a year and a half before I filed for divorce.
A few months after Mike moved in with his parents and I moved to Wisconsin, I started researching online dating services. I had met several people who met their spouses this way, and being new to the area, I thought it might be worthwhile. I filled out the survey for one national service and waited for my computer-selected matches to arrive in my inbox.
It’s probably important to note that I didn’t sign up for the “paid” part of the service. Heck, I wasn’t sure this was even a route I wanted to go, so just “seeing” how it might pan out seemed like a good idea (without the financial commitment, which is kind of steep).
Every week, a group of 10 potential mates was sent to me, and it was a pretty easy choice to hit the decline for all of them. There was the guy just looking JUST to get lucky (wow, was that a descriptive – but very honest – profile!), the guy with the photos of his pick up truck (no photos of him, just his vehicle…um, weird), and the guy with the sketchy, shifty eyes in what looked to be a mug shot (no thanks!).
The choices were so BAD, that I looked forward to getting the email every week just to see what kind of goofy, horrendously bad choices were “matched” with me. I took advantage of the “free” weekends to see what sort of other men were on the site. But then Mike died, and it felt wrong that I even signed up in the first place. I stopped opening the emails and after a few months, the emails stopped coming.
Then, there was a little flirty thing on Facebook with a guy I know from way back when. I was quite excited with our little flirty messages over the course of a few weeks and wondered where it could lead. It felt REALLY good to flirt and to be flirted with. We were even making plans to see each other (he lives in another state). But just like that, he moved on, apparently interested in a recently separated woman who used a very busty boudoir photo as her Facebook profile pic, lived in the next town, and was able to spend every waking moment at his side. (Sidenote: Why don’t people use FB privacy settings?!) Turns out, dude was much needier than I could have dealt with, and I’ve even wished him luck with this woman.
I’ve kept all of this private – not telling anyone about joining the site or the flirting on FB. I’ve kept it to myself because I don’t know how people will react. If they will judge because it’s too soon or talk about it behind my back about how I’m moving on (before Mike is even, technically, laid to rest). I’m not usually the kind of person who cares about what others think, but on this issue, it’s holding me back.
I don’t have a master plan. I don’t even KNOW anyone locally I would WANT to date (working 80+ hours a week really limits the social calendar…) or even what the “rules” are for dating when you have kids. Heck, Mike and I started dating in college, so I have zero “real world” dating experience. But, I know that I want to find someone to share my life with. I’m ready to move on and anxious find love again.
I’m going to keep watching this random dating show, and I’ll be cheering for the widowed woman to find love. She deserves it. And I think it will help me realize that I can do it, too (just not on a reality show).