Dear Dana is a bi-weekly advice column for humans who engage in romantic relationships. Please send your dilemmas, issues, conundrums, assumptions, conflicts, anxieties, worriments, obstacles, complications, predicaments, queries, questions, and any other synonyms for “problems” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m half terrified I’m going to be single for the rest of my life! Yes, exclamation point. I’m not sure I’m being overly dramatic anymore when I say that.
I’m a 30-something single mother living in the suburbs with my two-story house, leaning privacy fence, two dogs and about a hundred pounds of weight I didn’t have B.C. (before child) that I’m more than worried won’t come off again. The last date I went on was about four years ago, and even on those dates I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. He was younger with no kids, and no concept of what it was like when you have a child. (“As a matter of a fact I can’t drop everything on this Thursday night and meet you at the movies.” “Umm.. the bar? No, my child doesn’t like the peanuts.”) You don’t even want to know how long it’s been since I’ve done that other thing. That really amazing, other thing.
So here’s my question to you. How does a single mom living in the suburbs and not working in an environment that allows for office introductions, find a date?
Single and Ready To Mingle
Raising a child by yourself can easily encompass an entire life. I understand why you’re afraid that you’re going to be single forever—where is the time to find a partner? How are you supposed to incorporate another person into your tight family unit? How can you ever take on the risk of a new romantic relationship knowing that your child’s heart will also be involved?
When I was actively dating, single, and childless, I dated a few men with children and I can tell you that I had absolutely no appreciation for how their lives differed from mine. I was annoyed when they cancelled dates because their child got sick, or their childcare fell through. I was annoyed that they wouldn’t just have me over to meet the kid and still have the date.
I now have a child and I understand—your range of movement is limited, your time is at a premium, and every evening spent away from your kid is a moment of their limited childhood that you miss and will never get back.
But, here’s the other thing: Your child isn’t going to be around forever. They’re going to grow up, move out, and have their own, separate life. That’s why it’s imperative that you carve out some time to invest in your own future. It’s great that you know what you want—a partner who appreciates that your child isn’t an accessory, that he’ll have to be scheduled into your already full life, and that sex is like, the most fun.
The answer to your problem is blisteringly simple, which is probably why you didn’t mention it and/or are avoiding it completely. How does a woman who works and has a child meet an available man in her area? Online dating.
Give yourself a moment to panic at the thought. Now, come back. It’s going to be OK.
Online dating is not only the best way to meet other people in your region who are single, but it also can be fun. You get to meet people who like you—they like your picture, your write-up, your sense of humor. And it’s important to remember that no one thinks they’re good enough to successfully online date. Online dating can make us feel like commodities, we’ll all be ranked against each other and only the thinnest, youngest, and most unencumbered will be chosen.
But people are chosen all the time for all of the reasons. You know how you get chosen? Create a damn profile.
Invite a friend over, pick out some cute pictures, take some cute pictures, and have your friend create an online dating profile for you while you hide in the other room and pretend it isn’t happening. Then the profile will be up, it will exist, and on another evening when you’re feeling restless you can log in and see what’s out there.
There are many dating sites to choose from:
- Tinder: quick and easy. Focuses more on the picture than the content of the profile. Lends itself to casual connections, hook ups, and people who want to meet up right now. Best to avoid it.
- OKCupid: cheeky and free. I legit met my husband on this platform, but we both had to sift through a lot of other people first. Their personality test is uncannily accurate at matching folks, but because it’s free, it attracts users who aren’t necessarily serious about finding long-term relationships. Also, when I first joined, and whenever I reactivated my profile, I was always, that same day, greeted by a group of gentleman I like to call ‘”The dic pic welcome wagon.” Ignore all messages from the Dic Pic Welcome Wagon.
- Match.com: paid, so users may have a more focused intent. The Dic Pic Welcome Wagon also resides here.
- Bumble: a new platform I didn’t get a chance to use, but my girlfriends say it’s pretty great. This dating site is woman-focused. Women initiate all conversations, and messages are removed unless you respond to them within 24 hours.
- eHarmony: focused on people who are serious about finding a long-term relationship. I also abandoned this platform after a month because every time I matched with someone it felt like I had to take the GRE before the site would let me talk to him.
The sites above are large enough that they will likely net you results no matter the size of your suburban region. But you have a specific set of circumstances: You’re a single mother, with a child, and you don’t want to have to explain over and over again to each new date how that means you have to come home every single night and that babysitters are real and also require advanced notice. I suggest creating profiles on dating sites that focus on single parents—Single Parents Meet and Just Single Parents are two that will match you with partners who understand your experience.
Please, please, please know that your body shape does not determine whether or not you’re worthy of love. You are worthy of love. You’re worthy of finding a partner just as you are right now, not when you’re 20 or 25 or 30 pounds lighter. Right the actual fuck now.
You’re lucky, you know what you want. Be bold, and let yourself go get it.
Dana Norris once went on 71 internet dates, many of which you may read about here. She is the founder of Story Club and editor-in-chief of Story Club Magazine. She has been featured in McSweeney’s, Role Reboot, The Rumpus, and Tampa Review and she teaches at StoryStudio Chicago. You may find her on Twitter at @dananorris.