Disclaimer: Everything I’m about to share with you is true. But names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Let’s be clear. The advice from been there done that friends was there from the beginning.
Don’t even try to date for the first year after your divorce. You won’t be ready.
Take time to figure out who you are and what you really want. Then you’ll know what you need in a partner.
Have fun. Focus on your kids. The rest will come when the time is right.
Yes, it was all very well-intended. But I’ve always been the kind of girl who has to figure things out on my own, in my own time. Deciding when and how to start dating again was no exception.
Then one day last fall, I found myself in the IT department at work… chatting with the nerdiest guys in the building about their dating lives. We talked about swiping left and right, they showed me the different apps on their phone – Tinder, Match, Hinge, e-Harmony – and talked about a couple recent dates.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be on one of these soon enough,” one of them teased.
I told them I would move on when I was ready, which was going to be a long. Ass. Time.
Then I explained when I AM ready, I want to meet someone organically. Like, you know, he sees me. I see him. He tells me I’m beautiful and asks for my number….
One of the guys asked if I meant ‘organically’ as in the produce aisle at the grocery store.
What a mental picture: My three kids poking holes in meat packages and ripping open bags of cookies. Me pretending they’re being angels. Someone always crying. Now THAT is sexy.
But then another IT guy suggested Bumble would be the perfect dating app for me.
“You would hate all the others. Trust me,” he said.
Uhhh… Bum What?
Turns out Bumble – like Bumble Bee – is similar to other dating apps, except women are in control. A guy can’t even message you unless you’ve already swiped right on him.
I once again explained I wasn’t ready or even in a place to think about dating.
But then damn it. There I was. Three days later. Without my kids. Alllll alone in my new house. With my phone. I downloaded the damn app, OK? I knew I wasn’t ready. I knew I would just look.
And at first? It was kinda fun.
Oh wow, he is only 8.4 miles away? He’s so cute! And has a job. Swipe right!
Look at that one’s jaw line – and his eyes seem so sincere! Swipe right!
Yikes – that one’s not my type. Swipe left!
Yeah, a definite no. Swipe left! Damn it. I said left, but my finger went right. Ugh.
Suddenly though, my screen turned black and the app notified me I matched with one of those earlier swipes, meaning he’d also swiped right on me.
“Well hello there,” I typed.
“Hello yourself,” he replied.
“U married?’ he asked.
“What?” I responded.
“Your pictures – you’re wearing a ring in one and with a dude and three kids in another,” he explained.
OMG. I didn’t realize the app pulled my most recent Facebook profile pictures as the pictures my potential suitors would see. And I hadn’t completely scrubbed my Facebook after the divorce.
A bit later, he messaged to ask if he was the only person I was chatting with. I explained my best friend was also going through a divorce and I’d been on the phone with her.
And this is where the 180 happened. I don’t know how. I don’t know what I did. But it was so bad.
After asking if my best friend was hot and if I would “do her” while he watched, there it was. And it was awful. I screamed. I threw my phone across the couch, as if it was suddenly contaminated.
He sent me a dick pic! Seriously. Like can’t even make it up. I screamed. A penis. On my phone. THAT’S SO GROSS! Why would you do that? Why would you think a woman would find that attractive? It’s not ok. It’s never ok to send a woman a picture of your manhood. It's disgusting. And just really – why would you EVER think that’s OK?
I hadn’t really thought about my online dating boundaries until that moment. But I learned real quick – a pic like that is an instant block. Like, byeee! (But without actually saying goodbye.) I never talked to that dude again and for what it’s worth, I don’t even remember his name. Probably better that way.
Unfortunately, guys like him are out there. And Mr. Penis Pic Dude isn’t the only one who likes to send pictures that would cause his own mother to slap him where the sun don’t shine.
Over the next couple days, I figured out how the app worked, swiped right a few times and left a LOT more… deciding I could probably handle anyone within a 35-mile radius, mid-30s to mid-40s. Again, not ready to get into a serious relationship, just kind of dipping my toe in.
I think it’s fair to say I quickly identified 10 basic categories of men in the online dating world… including the guy I just told you about – The Playboy Sex Toy. Then there’s Effed Up Freddie, The Ghost with the Most, Soulmate Steve, Aggressive Andy, Gross Gary, Cat Man Curtis, Dive Bar Doug, Lights out Larry and Normal Nate.
Let’s start with Normal Nate. Because that’s who I started chatting with next. This 38-year-old divorced salesman had two kids and was very nice. We texted back and forth for a few days, but he ultimately let me know he couldn’t meet in person because he was set to meet another woman and wasn’t comfortable dating two at the same time. I appreciated him being up front and wished him luck.
Next? Effed Up Freddie. A beautiful, 41-year-old engineer. Holy shit he was so pretty. And I could tell he took care of himself. He had a job. A house. An SUV. 2 dogs. A sense of humor. And a love for country music. I swiped right, he swiped right, screen turned black – WE MATCHED!
After a week or so of chatting, we figured out we had mutual friends. I should have run for hills when I learned he’d once been engaged to one of them. She’s stunningly gorgeous. Even nicer than she is beautiful. He told me he broke off the engagement because he was young and not ready. It’s not like I was going to call her and say, “Hey girrrrl, I’m divorced now. What’s the lowdown on your ex fiancé from 20 years ago?”
I so should have called.
We went on a date. He opened doors. He held my hand. He bought me a beer at this cute little brewery. He was a complete gentleman, telling me he couldn’t remember having a connection like this on a first date.
We saw each other again the following day and everything went so well. He offered to fix a few things I mentioned were broken around my house. Asked if I wanted to run a 5K race with him in a few weeks. OK, so it was a little weird that he never called or wanted to talk on the phone, but some guys just aren’t into that. And I get it. Did I mention he was freaking gorgeous?
He also told me I was beautiful. And we made plans for a third date. But then that third date never happened. And we rescheduled 3 times. When I gently called him out on it in a text, he gave me some bullshit answer about his ex-wife playing games and then in a separate text at 3am said, “You deserve better.”
Annnnd that’s the last I ever heard from Effed Up Freddie.
Except for a random Instagram or Facebook “like” he’ll give me here or there. Gee… thanks. I think?
And let’s not forget Aggressive Andy. This guy – also super cute – was a 30-something-year-old divorced car salesman. “Andy” seemed nice. I felt like he really understood me, and we had a lot in common. Our phone conversations and a few Face Time sessions were great. So we met for a date. He brought me chocolate truffles from a really nice chocolate shop in his town. But after the initial introductions, things went downhill. Fast.
While we waited for our table, he kept doing the one arm hug thing and trying to kiss my forehead. Picture me non-chalantly ducking away from those forehead pecks, trying to make sure I didn’t know anyone in the restaurant when he suddenly smacked my butt so hard, I swear it left a mark. I was so embarrassed! I should have left immediately, but I thought maybe he was nervous and figured we were in a public place, so as long as I sat on the other side of the dinner table, I would be safe.
We had decent conversation while we ate, and I racked my brain to try and figure out how to politely get out of the date ASAP. Less than an hour later, on our way out the door, I explained I was really tired and needed to go. So what does Aggressive Andy do? Pulls out his phone and insists we take a selfie…”for next year’s Christmas card.”
Who does that?
Before he could smack my booty a second time, I peaced out with a hand shake and practically sprinted through the icy parking lot to my car.
And with that, approximately 24 days after joining Bumble, I decided I’d had enough. I truly was not ready to date. I deleted the app from my phone and swore off dating forever. That was December.
Then on Valentine’s Day, my best gal pal and I went to the Bahamas for a much needed “divorce vacation.” While we were there, she was on a different dating app – swiping right and chatting with cute, single men – and I felt myself getting the itch again.
So once I got home and settled back in, I was back in the game. Back on Bumble, swiping away.
I found myself matched with a man who would later become the Ghost with the Most. A 33-year-old Army Veteran earning his MBA at Notre Dame. He was attractive, intelligent and seemed very polite. We texted several times a day for a week or so before meeting for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. That first date went really well and we saw each other one other time after that. And then? He disappeared into thin air.
Even sadder? There’s actually a word for what he did to me. Seriously… look it up. It’s called ghosting. As in… one day things are humming right along with someone – either online, via text message, on the phone or in person – and the next, they disappear. Fall off the face of the earth and stop all communication without an explanation. Like a ghost. Cool.
Moving on to Gross Gary. We met for lunch one day at Hacienda because after asking me out, the 37-year-old divorced dad who claimed to be in the boating and RV industry insisted he “needed chips & ranch.” Even after I suggested a nicer establishment just down the street. I wanted to ask if he was on his period, but I showed restraint.
As soon as I walked through the door, I knew I’d made a mistake. Because at a table in the mostly empty bar area sat a man in a hoodie with an untrimmed beard and crazy hair. Oh, and can I at least mention the fact that he was like 40 pounds heavier than the pictures on his profile? That’s called false advertising.
It’s fine, I told myself. He seemed nice when we were chatting. Focus on that.
But then every other word out of his mouth was eff-this and effin’ that… and I’d just met the guy for the first time! He proceeded to talk about his effin’ cell phone sparking when he went to plug it in that morning, so he had to go to effin’ AT&T to have them look at it. And he has a Blackberry because… well, yeah. THEN, he took a personal phone call. At the table. With someone I presume was a buddy. For like 15 minutes! That’s so rude.
But the worst part (or funniest, depending how you look at it) was the end of what I won’t even call a date. When Gross Gary and I stood up to leave, I noticed he was wearing SWEATPANTS! You guys… cargo pocket sweatpants. As we walked out, he even had the balls to tell me I looked like a jack-o-lantern in my orange dress and black tights.
I got in my car, drove back to work and laughed until tears streamed down my face. Then I texted my best friend to fill her in on another shitty Bumble date. She’s the one who came up with the name Gross Gary, by the way.
And now, Soulmate Steve. A super sweet, 36-year-old twice divorced realtor. He practically begged to meet me, explaining he’d read every single blog post I’d ever written. He also told me we were soulmates and even though I kept saying I wasn’t ready for something serious, Steve told me he would wait until I was ready to have him in my life.
He was very kind and genuine so I continued to communicate with him, all the while making it clear I did not want to date him. But then, Soulmate Steve showed up at my work on a Friday with a dozen pink roses. And me – a fan of grand gestures – finally agreed to go on a date with him. As I suspected, no fireworks. And we saw each other a second time.
Then out of nowhere on the Friday before Mother’s Day, he had FIFTY gorgeous roses – imported from Columbia – delivered to my work. Fifty. I was so mortified, I told everyone they were from my parents.
Honestly though, this ain’t some Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks You’ve Got Mail thing, dude. You’re not my soul mate. I promise. I love flowers. I love getting flowers at work. But not like this.
There’s also Cat Man Curtis – who casually asked during our second date if I allow my kids to sleep in my bed with me. I explained I never even let my dog sleep in the same room because she snores so loudly and kids have never been allowed in my bed.
“What, do you let your cat sleep in your bed?” I asked, laughing and remembering his profile said he had a cat.
“I do,” he revealed. “Every night. No exceptions. She’s so snuggly!”
He wasn’t joking. I'm pretty sure my eyes got really big at the same time I started to pretend to cough so I wouldn't laugh hysterically. The look on my face had to be awesome. I made it through dinner, gave him a quick hug in the parking lot and deleted his number from my phone.
Ohhhhh I can’t forget Dive Bar Doug. This guy. Just wow. He suggested we meet at a place in Union, Michigan called Zimmy’s. So I show up to a tiny little dive bar on a lake at 5:30 on a Sunday evening in April. Super loud band. Almost nowhere to sit. And I text him to let him know I’m there.
“Be there in 10,” he replied.
Strike one. We said 5:30. He was late and didn’t bother to let me know. I almost left… and should have. But then he walks in – cradling a vape in his hands as if it was his child or something, gives me the one-armed hug, the kind a brother gives his sister, and I know this date is going to be TERRIBLE.
As we shouted (he mumbled) over the band and he snapchatted and texted – RUDE – his vape sat in the center of the table like a nice little prized possession. He asked how many kids I had and said something along the lines of, “You know how those dating apps are… you talk to so many different people and can’t keep them all straight.” Strike two.
Then he asked what I do for a living – which I had also previously told him. When I nicely reminded him, he followed up by asking how much money I make. Are you freaking kidding me? Strike three.
Thankfully, that was around the time he excused himself to use the restroom. I frantically messaged my ex-husband on Facebook, asking him to text me and tell me something was wrong with one of the kids.
He did. I left. With my pizza. And I ate that whole damn thing on my 25-minute drive home while calling a close guy friend to dish the lowdown on Dive Bar Doug.
Finally, I need to tell you about Lights Out Larry. I met this guy online and quickly realized he works in an office very close to mine. We had a couple really fun dates. He’s super successful, has good manners and is really cute. But I’m still trying to get past the fact that he turns off all screens at 8:45 on weeknights - including his cell phone (something about the blue in the screens affecting melatonin?). But he’s militant about it. He also rubs lavender oil on his feet to promote better sleep hygiene and asked me a couple different times if I would read him the same bedtime stories I read to my kids at night. And “do the voices.” He’s 33. I think he has #mommyissues.
It’s important to point out not every guy online falls into a category, and some can be a hybrid – like 50-percent Soulmate Steve, 20-percent Gross Gary and 10-percent Effed up Fred.
Can we also talk about what happened when I swiped right and developed a true connection with a decent human being? He was hard working, kind, intelligent, witty, well read, attentive, a fantastic father and incredibly dreamy. Took me on real dates. Made me laugh. Helped me get started on a massive project at my house. Gently put his hand on the small of my back when we walked together. Uncovered more about me in than anyone else has ever been able to find out in the past in a very short amount of time.
After about six weeks, he told me he’d been attracted to me since the first time we met and said I was the smartest, most ambitious girl he’d ever dated. But… he couldn’t date someone who lives an hour and a half away (I swiped right when he was in South Bend for work) because he was falling behind at work and had to put any extra energy he had into being a good dad. Ugh. How could I argue with any of that?
I think he might have been a unicorn.
Dating so soon after divorce left me with an odd sense of awareness and not quite knowing what to do with all of that. Run toward it? Run away? Am I really ready? Commitment? YIKES!
You might find it even more intriguing that I HAVE been asked out organically a few times – by strangers and men I’ve known for years. Almost exactly the way I thought I wanted it to happen. And all but once, I’ve said no. Except for that one time I said yes and then had to reschedule because of food poisoning and then changed my mind and backed out at the last minute. Ouch.
Or there’s the local business owner I met at a work event in the spring. After a couple weeks of flirtatious texting back and forth, HE GOT MARRIED! I found out the Monday after the wedding from a friend of mine who lives in the same town. Don’t worry though, I took the high road – simply sending him a text that Monday to say, “I hear congratulations are in order.” He never responded.
So here I am… off Bumble and not dating anyone at the moment. Is dating apathy a thing? If so, I’m there. Look, I’m not upset or sad that I jumped back in when I did. I’ve actually learned a lot from the creeps, the ghosts and yes – even the unicorn.
I’ve realized I’m bold enough to pursue a man if he catches my eye or my attention, but I have far too much dignity to chase anyone or sit by the phone and wait for a text. Also, I’m worthy of every ounce of kindness and respect I give someone else. That's not up for debate or compromise.
Best of all? I’ve learned I’m really not ready to “find” anyone right now.
And if one more person tells me love will “just happen” when I’m least expecting it, I just might punch them in the face and send Gross Gary their way… with chips and ranch, of course.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...