In wrestling, competitors are required to earn an escape point each match — they have to prove they can extricate themselves from tough holds. In her new book, author and Northwestern University journalism professor Michele Weldon explores all the nuances and metaphors of that phrase. Through a cancer diagnosis, kids’ injuries (all three were wrestlers) and challenging workload, she maintains her humanity and humor. The following excerpt is a shortened version of Weldon’s chapter on the challenges of dating as a single, midlife parent, titled simply: Alone. Raising the boys alone without financial assistance or physical reprieve kept me occupied, if not impatient. Meeting Mr. Wonderful was not the highest priority.
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In the time since my, most of my first dates were coincidentally the last dates because I couldn’t wait to get home and call a friend or one of my sisters to laugh. And it was addictive, the feeling of being loved. I liked being able to relinquish control, even if just in the restaurant ordering wine. There was the Italian accountant with the creaseless pants who asked early on our first date if I had my marriage annulled. He was Catholic and wanted to remarry and didn’t see the point of going much further if I didn’t conform to canon law.
Sure, some men were polite, attractive and intelligent, but for years no sparks flew in my direction and no one was ever all that funny, interesting or a better option than a hot bath, rented movie or a stack of new magazines. The boys didn’t need any more surprises from a parent. I was predictable I didn’t bring home any threats to their homeland security. I also had hundreds of papers to grade, articles to file for magazines and newspapers, books to research and write. I had to give speeches and go to conferences and meetings.
The Challenges of Dating as a Single Mom Next Avenue
I had to make dinners. I had to make lunches. I had to make breakfasts. It was easier to go to bed early, wake up early and get on with my day. “He was so boring, ” I told Dana, my former college roommate, on the phone after a nice date with a nice man who was nice looking.
“I think he went through his entire day minute by minute in chronological order. ”There were men I met in airports, on airplanes or in shared cabs when I traveled for work. Meeting someone was not difficult. Men talked to me in grocery stores. Not that I am all that flirty, but I answer them, even if I know the question about where are the sundried tomatoes is just a ruse.
Still, meeting someone who was worth taking a risk on was nearly impossible. The idea of being close emotionally or physically with someone — anyone — was far too unsettling. I said no, thank you, to any offers but took the compliment they extended and that was all I needed for a while. I guess I could have taken a chance on one of them and fallen in love. But I dared not — the terrified of being fooled again thing.
Staying out of the game was also about more than not wanting to waste my spare time. It was about my ability to trust someone, anyone outside my immediate family.