Going out together with a group of friends felt weird the first time I did it. Most of my friends, if not all, are married or in committed relationships. To those who were meeting me for the first time and had no idea of my past, I was, on the surface, simply just another single person. And when you meet a singleton for the first time, the last thing you would ever wonder about them is whether or not they have children. So imagine how uncomfortable it could be when you find yourself in that seemingly normal position doing that seemingly normal thing of going out. To most people, this is something that happens on the regular. This is, after all, how people meet each other, isn’t it? By going out? Through friends? But what happens when you’ve suddenly become the rookie all over again? If you could just picture it, you’d see that at that point in my life, I felt oblivious, disinterested, yet somehow, slightly nervous at even the slightest prospect. What follows would be informal and loose introductions, coupled with fidgety laughter, and then the inevitable asking out on a date which would then incite the response that typically make men recoil in horror.
“Wanna grab dinner next Friday? Maybe a movie?”
“Um…I need to get a babysitter…because I have…a daughter…and she’s, uh..a baby. I mean she’s…an infant.”
Of course, not all men are created equal. And believe it or not, even my response would actually elicit a few genuinely inquisitive questions. Questions like, “How old is she? Do you have pictures?” And maybe it was part of their way of trying to show me that they were, at best, “cool” with the fact that I have a kid, that would prompt them to say things like, “I bet she’s cute. Like her mom.” (Yes, I was doing a lot of very heavy eye rolling in my mind.) I couldn’t help but think, “Ugh. This is what it’s like to be ‘back on the market’. This is the crap I have to sift through. And this is just the beginning.” Interestingly, for whatever reason, they all had the tact not to immediately ask where said baby’s father was and whether or not he was in the picture. How do I respond to something like that? “Yes, well, no. Not exactly. He’ll always be with her, but he’s…um… physically not here anymore. There, uh, was…an accident…” is how I imagined I would fumble for the words to explain it. But I never really had to sugar coat anything. They would find out through rumor mills or, if they actually did ask, I was very frank, blunt, and surprisingly prepared to give them the very honest response of, “He passed away in an accident.”
Believe me when I say that I had no immediate plans to start dating. None whatsoever. Despite being immediately thrust into that precarious “single” category, I was actually enjoying the autonomy of my newfound relationship status. It goes without saying that, “enjoying” is a very loose term. I was trying to see the silver lining in all of it with the mindset of, “Well, here I am. I can loathe the rest of my life or I can live it. If living it means that I meet someone new, then sure, I’m open to it.” As it were, this was the start of learning how to date all over again. I remember being conflicted for all obvious reasons, but the biggest one was that I actually thought it could potentially be fun. Or at the very least, it could be funny. So I accepted a couple of invitations. I went out a couple of times. And it was completely not at all what I had expected. To make a long story short, it felt like one gigantic and weird Twilight Zone episode.
Then I met him. Through a friend. There was something there. It was different, it was unlike anything I had felt before and it felt like a breath of very fresh, cold, clean air. The kind of air that you breathe when you’re on the summit of a mountain–it’s dizzying and feels exhilarating at the same time. He was like that light when the first sunshine breaks in the morning. I didn’t have to pretend, I didn’t have to hide, and what caught me completely off-guard is that I felt completely at ease, like he and I had met a long time ago, even though it was our first time seeing each other face-to-face. There are songs that are written about this stuff, movies that are made, stories that are told. Björk wailed, “I miss you, but I haven’t met you yet,” and Bruce Springsteen crooned, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” All of this was resonating with me and it felt like I was a cartoon girl with hearts in her eyes and her head in the clouds. The truth of the matter was, however, that I didn’t have my head in the clouds at all. More than ever, I was firmly planted on the ground with even more of a desire to continue to love.
I opened up my heart. I dumped out the fears I had in my mind. I gave myself and all of the heavy I came with to him. He opened up his heart. He showed me what true selflessness was. He took my load and helped me carry it. In that moment, we became vulnerable to the world we stepped into, the journey we decided to embark on, the adventure right at our fingertips and most of all, we became vulnerable to ourselves and chose to be brave.