Dating as single parent_LR

Dating as a 40-year-old single parent

As a hard-working single dad, with a three-year-old son that lives with me 50 per cent of the time, it’s tricky to actually find time to meet someone. I mean, it’s not like the movies where Theo’s cuteness would grab someone’s attention in the supermarket and we would get chatting and swap numbers. (Believe me, I’ve tried… did you know following someone around the supermarket trying to get your child to get someone’s attention is classed as stalking?)

Don’t worry, that last bit isn’t true but still you live in hope, right? You both reach for the last Moroccan salad and you bump heads. But this isn’t Hollywood and I definitely don’t look like the latest Hollywood-man thing.

So, where can you meet someone without coming across as some sort of psycho, staring at a ring finger for clues before realising you’re being totally awkward?

The real world is tricky. Unfortunately, no one gives anything away – singles don’t wear signs or have illuminations above their heads – so we’re left with the joys of online-dating: Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Match.com, and all those other wonderful places that are full of normal people… right?

OK, so there are some lovely people on these sites, and I’ve made some fantastic friends through online dating, but for every nice, normal person there are a dozen crazies with more baggage than Heathrow airport. By baggage, I don’t mean kids because when you get to my age and you meet someone you kind of expect them to have kids. No, I’m talking exes with histories of violence who aren’t over the relationship; people who have been treated like crap who don’t believe a word you say; the ones who just want sex; and the ones who think that’s all you want.

It becomes like a job sorting through the crazy and the not-so-crazy.

But all of that comes after you’ve got the attention to find out whether they’re bonkers or not.

Let’s take Tinder, for example. It’s a beauty parade. You have to get past the photo audition – why the hell do you subject yourself to this? It’s so judgemental, yet massively addictive. I traded my panini sticker-saying of “got, got, got, swap, swap, swap, need, need, need,” to swipe “right, right, right, right”.

She has a hairy lip. She has cross eyes. (Right, right.)

“Need, need, need, need”: super-needy.

Anyway, you get the point.

Then there’s the people that only post photos in a group – how in the blazes are you meant to know which one you are? – and those that only post one photo.

Come on, this is the digital age – no one goes anywhere without a camera now – surely you can do better? I have you sussed: you either can’t be bothered or, if it’s a super-hot photo, it’s not going to be who you say you are.

OK, it’s time for the message. This is terrifying. You’ve scoured the profiles and found one you really like – but you only get one shot here. Not only does your photo have to entice her but you also have to grab her attention with your message.

If you’re a single guy with above-average attractiveness you may get away with a “Hi, how are you?”, but if you’re behind the gene pool you’ve got to pull out all the stops.

Make it funny without sounding like you’re trying to be funny.

Make it interesting and not boring.

Talk about yourself without sounding like an egotistical twat.

Come across as natural without looking like you’re trying too hard.

Anyone else exhausted yet?

If you’re a single guy with above-average attractiveness you may get away with a “Hi, how are you?”, but if you’re behind the gene pool you’ve got to pull out all the stops.

So, you’ve broken through: after all this they want to talk to you, and you get to find out if they’re still hung up on their ex, still married (and still with their partner), looking to get married so they can stay in the country, an indecisive bisexual, a drug addict, an alcoholic…

Now, the date. When you’re in your 20s – and maybe even early-30s – you’re only really worried about a few things: what the other person looks like naked, and if they will annoy your mates. As you get older it all gets a bit serious. You don’t have time to mess about or be with someone who will ultimately annoy you when the honeymoon period is over so you end up being a bit harsher. Maybe you wrongly cut people off before it gets serious because one little thing annoys you, or you look to the future and second-guess problems that may or may not occur.

All of this seems so much harder than going up to a girl in a bar. At least you’re probably a bit pissed when you try.

Ultimately, we all want someone to be happy with; you don’t want to settle because you’ll never fully commit to that relationship. And the older you get the harder it gets. You get more and more cynical and critical and ultimately make the whole dating game really hard work. So then you can’t be bothered and the vicious cycle begins again.

My advice is never to settle for anything other than great. Everyone deserves greatness and that’s hard to find but don’t give up – there are some fantastic people out there; sometimes they’re well-hidden or just distracted being a parent, cook, cleaner, uncle, brother, friend, gardener and holding down a job, paying bills and everyday life-ing.

I’m not giving up on the thought of meeting someone but for now, I’m quite happy dedicating my time to my little dude. Let’s face it – he will soon grow up and not want dad adventures as much so I’m loving every moment we share.

Ed Smart blogs at theedsmart. Follow him on Instagram here.




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