When I first moved back to California a few years ago as a single mom, online dating was the talk of the town.
It's so-not-me, I thought.
I'm the kind of woman who has to see a man in the flesh to fall in love. Computers are for word processing, not man hunting.
As my single mom friend, Siobhan, puts it, "I have to smell a man! You can't do that on a computer screen!"
Still, my girlfriends dared me to post my profile on Match.com.
I've always been the kind of woman who jumps at a dare, and new adventures thrill me -- especially when they involve a man. So, online I went.
"Are you an honest, big-hearted man with no addictions, except coffee?" I asked in the first line of my Match.com profile.
Every night, I stayed up past midnight to read the notes that arrived every day. I organized all "my men" in a thick three-ringed binder. There was Gary, the divorced businessman who liked watching movies that make him sad. There was Robby, who looked like a Calvin Klein ad and went to AA meetings every week to stay sober. A funny thing happens when you decide to open yourself up to a new possibility, like dating. It actually happens.
I fell in love with the anonymity of it all, as I stretched out in my panties and T-shirt, the minutes ticking by, my fingers tapping out responses. The reader in me loved examining all these details about men before meeting them. The writer in me loved drafting witty notes. It felt so safe to be checking men out from my living room. I scrolled through hundreds of them, clicking on their photos.
In the past few years, I have been on over 100 Match.com dates, blind dates, set-up dates, and disaster dates.
But online dating is a demanding, arduous job without pay. After a couple of months, I had bags under my eyes. I was crankier than my kid.
I have written all about my single mom dating blunders here, in this column. It's tough enough negotiating issues such as sleeping with a man for the first time -- not to mention birth control -- but throw in a kid, and it really gets interesting. Inviting a man home after your date is one thing, but doing so when your child is sleeping in the next room -- it becomes something else entirely.
As it turns out, single motherhood has been my first lesson in learning how to date -- for real. Pre-kid, I confused a red flag for a green light. Pre-kid, I didn't know what my deal-breakers were -- now I do. Dating as a single mom taught me to my trust instincts when they tell me to pause. It has given me the chance to not keep going when a red flag comes up.
What I've learned is that no matter how a date ends, what really matters at the end of the day is coming home to my girl-power house and kissing my first love, my daughter. Motherhood has changed me. Today I'm still the same free-spirited adventuress I always was. But my pace is more deliberate now, as I balance on these stepping stones of life, instead of running in circles on the track.
I am first and foremost a mom, dedicated completely to my daughter's well-being. She will always come first.