|GQ said "no thank you"|
I spent a decade as a single mom, raising my oldest...and trying to keep my sanity on the dating scene. This was my perspective at the time and I'm sending it out there for my friend, Mandy Ciccarella.
If you've ever wondered what to expect, as a male, in the realm of dating women with children, or often wondered, what you did wrong after having passed on over into that brave new world and having crashed and burned in the past, take a little trip with me into the world of Disney Dating and learn...
It's happened to the best of you. You've been at a party or club and looked across the room and found yourself engaged in an intimate gaze with an attractive blonde or brunette or whatever your preference for the night is. You instantly tell yourself she's the one you've been waiting for all your life. You take a moment to collect your thoughts (translation: best line of the night) and walk over to her with confidence. She gives you a warm reception, so you advance with the introductions. Before you know it, you are having a conversation with a woman, who possesses both beauty and intelligence. She must be perfect. How, you ask yourself could you be lucky enough to meet someone like that who isn't already married or involved with someone else? Details, details...the main concern is to get a phone number and make a date. Although a little put out that she won't share her home number, you take the consolation prize...her office phone.
You go home a happy man, anticipating your next meeting. The following Monday, you sit in your office, at your job site, or wherever your career finds you, and start to pick-up the phone to give her a call. But wait, you don't want to appear too eager so you give it a few more days and finally make the call. She's glad to hear from you and agrees to see you the following weekend - she hesitates though, and says there is just one small thing she must tell you before making the date. You brace yourself, expecting the worse...a husband. No wonder she wouldn't give you her home number!
While trying to digest your anticipated fate, she shares that she has a child. You are momentarily stunned. You immediately go into denial. Surely not such an attractive, well figured creature could be a mother? Mom never looked that good in your house, right? Wrong! You just never noticed that mothers never cease to be women. And real women have children and still manage to remain people - interesting, alluring individuals that obviously still turn a head or two if your interest is any indication.
You quickly regain your composure...so quickly she takes little notice of the slight pause before your next words. The resilience with which you take on this new challenge leaves her feeling just a twinge of admiration for perhaps an exception to the rule she has come to know in dating men. Your concern and interest in her child sparks her interest in you. Your original plan for a romantic candlelit dinner is replaced with a day at the museum (at your suggestion). You go out of your way to include her child in everything, insisting you think that kids are great. Initially she is reluctant to allow you into her personal life with her child. But the zeal with which you pursue her quickly erases any doubts from her mind and you're off! To the zoo...the video store...dinner for three at McDonald's, Discovery Zone. You are suddenly in the know of every kid oriented event in town. You never stop for one minute to think about what you are projecting in doing so. She's still quite attractive on your arm, she still manages to get the Friday night sitter for your benefit and you can still go everywhere you always went on the nights she can't get away. The perfect set-up for a single man. All the luxuries of a family without the responsibilities to go with it. You never have to take it home with you. Funny thing is, though, eventually she starts to seem a little more possessive than you noticed at first. And maybe she starts displaying a more serious side than the carefree girl that made you laugh at every possible moment. You see some expectations there that you hadn't thought of before. But when you pull away, she never pushes the issue.
She is, for every practical purpose, the most independent, self assured lady you've ever met. She cuts her own grass, balances her checkbook, and once, you even saw her change a tire. She seems very content with her life as it is and makes wonderful headway all things considered.
But you start feeling a little anxious at the end of each date. Maybe her child starts giving you a hug as you leave. Or maybe there's a school picture her child had to wait up past bedtime to give you. Or my personal favorite of life's most embarrassing moments . . . the child very calmly asks you if you are going to marry his mom. You nearly go into cardiac arrest and there is talk of you starring in an upcoming Rescue 911 episode. The headline reads, "Small child saves man from choking on his own stupidity!" That's right, stupidity! Suddenly you don't think you make a very good role model, and you don't know much about kids. You can't relate to them. You're afraid of getting too attached. In short, you try to destroy the image you have created for yourself over a period of months...in a matter of seconds. Once you realize how far you have gone, you can't get away quickly enough. What was at first a novelty has turned into something that smothers and threatens your sanity. And single mom, in the world of Disney Dating prepares to chalk up another one to experience.
Okay, we've looked at the male reactions here. Now let's look at the other side of the coin (heads). First of all, single mothers have the same wants and desires that single women have (after all, they are one and the same). They have the same expectations, standards and desires as single women without children. They still like men. They still hate men. They still hate liking men.
So when you come along portraying quite simply, the perfect man (though a fictitious character as far as I'm concerned), she is naturally interested and your continued admiration and support only further entangles her emotions that she works hard to keep guarded.
Her mission is not as you see it in the end. She is not a tentacled creature looking for a host to maintain her on life support. She takes nothing and asks only for as much as she, herself, is willing to give. And yet you suddenly see this as a very large undertaking. The initial fun is over and now that you have convinced her of your good intentions, you realize they weren't so admirable after all. You never thought beyond each day. You never once stopped to consider how long you'd play this game - proving yourself different from other guys only to find yourself not merely the same, but the epitome of that standard. You can't bear to think about her or her child anymore. A mistake you made; a flaw in your character you never knew existed. You always thought yourself one heck of a nice guy. She proved you wrong. She believed in you and you didn't measure up to the superficial farce you'd projected. You quickly turn this around and say there were no promises. You never suggested any future commitments. Which is worse? To make promises you can't keep or to project an image that clearly doesn't exist?
And the final straw - that part about the kid asking if you were going to marry her mom. That one really finished it, didn't it? You may find yourself hard enough to believe she put him up to it or maybe you just think she talks of nothing else but marriage. Regardless, you know it's gone too far. This wasn't what you had in mind at all. Trouble is, you had nothing in your mind. As to laying the blame on an innocent child or the mother of that child, who, only a few months earlier you held in the highest regards...rationalize in whatever manner that leaves you with the fewest traces of guilt. But before closing the book on this difficult chapter in your life, know this...
A child's perspective is uniquely innocent. It is a treasure that most of us lose as we get older. Only in our children are we able to recapture this in watching them. And even then, our emotions are torn in what their expectations are and in the reality of the world around them....and our desperate need to protect them. You're interest in the child proves this. It's like having a second childhood. Having someone to be a kid all over again with ... perhaps you didn't realize who you were really seeing. Trouble is, if you have to break it down at all, you shouldn't be dating women with children. They truly are a package deal. Trying to maintain the self as both a woman and a mother is insane. Repeating again, they are one and the same! They are not looking for anymore than a typical single woman; their liabilities are simply a little more obvious and difficult to conceal.
Our children's words are not an indication of what we strive for or what impressions we leave upon them. Their words are spoken with more sincerity than you may ever know. Enjoy them for their special beauty. They are worth more than anything you have ever encountered before. They are trusting, vulnerable and loving. And their honesty, though ill timed albeit, is from their very secure world that hasn't expanded yet at the same level as your own.
And while Disney makes millions entertaining children, it is important that we all consider the impressions left on such trusting little souls:
Beauty met the Beast and tamed him into a handsome prince.
Sleeping Beauty was awakened by her prince from a world of darkness.
Cinderella wore a glass slipper that just happened to be the one Prince Charming was looking for.
Alladin rescued Jasmine from the cruel Jafar and showed her a "whole new world."
Snow White managed to find a giant of a prince even surrounded by dwarfs...
AND THEY WERE ALL MARRIED AND LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
If all these characters managed to find true happiness as the credits rolled across the screen, why wouldn't a child believe you to be the next Prince Charming for his mom? Your fiction bears the same striking resemblance to all the other make believe characters he's already familiar with.
After all, those heroines, though lovely to be sure, are nothing in comparison to a child's own mother. We are everything to them. Both mom and dad on a daily basis. And in their eyes, you should be grateful for even a chance to get to know us for however short a period of time. I doubt you'll ever forget us. We are the real super heroes of this age whether you know it or not. We love our children and have loved the likes of you, unconditionally. And because we have been given the gift of a child, we can never admit defeat or accept a world without fairy tale endings.
Our knight in shining armor may never come, but our belief in him is no indication of weakness, merely a desire for what every child dreams of. Happy endings vary from the storybook endings. If you're not part of the big picture, get out of the credits.
And, for the record, Peter Pan never married the Wendy lady, this isn't Never Never Land, and yes...you do have to grow up someday.