Why don’t we applaud women who brush themselves off after divorce, get out, and live? Instead, we shame them.
After twenty years of marriage, and an amicable divorce, I was excited to get back into the dating pool. It didn’t take long to see there was a double standard for women fresh on the single scene, especially those who were middle-aged, and especially those who had children.
As a single woman, dating strangers can be a daunting task. First there’s the fear that someone you meet might compromise your drink. Then there’s working out schedules—planning around your children’s routines, and your date’s if they also have kids. There’s upgrading your wardrobe. Primping and preening, and then the question of where to meet and what to eat. It seemed exciting at first, until I realized not all of my friends shared my enthusiasm.
And then there was something else.
“The monogamy issue.”
A male entering the dating scene after a long hiatus is looked at admirably when trying to sew his proverbial oats. A male who dives into the dating waters and spreads his affections (sleeps) usually receives high-fives by his peers.
“Good for Ed,” his friends might say. “Divorce isn’t holding him down.” (Insert thumbs-up gesture.)
This rarely is the case for women.
During my separation, before my divorce was finalized, I took the leap and decided to brave the dating pool. Social media sites provided ample opportunities, but it wasn’t for the weak of heart.
There was “Poofing” (instant disappearances from someone you thought you connected with,) lying—about age, weight, height, etc., and time, or lack thereof.
Thankfully, I never encountered any physical threats, but I quickly learned that single women needed plans, like arranging backups with girlfriends. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d text my neighbors things like: “If you don’t see my car in the driveway tomorrow, call 911,” or, “If things go badly, I’ll call and fake an emergency.”
Dating new people was something I thought I was ready for. I’m a fairly social person and enjoy making new friends. Online dating provided ample opportunities, and from the start I made a few interesting acquaintances, mostly writers, but after one or two dates I found myself. . . disappointed.
A Few Examples…
There was the handsome writer/engineer who seemed promising until he felt comfortable enough to share his government conspiracy theories.
There was the charming man who conveniently forgot to mention he was married.
There was the one who begged for “Nudies.”
And lastly, there was the novelist I refer to as “Gropy hands.”
So what was the dating double standard? It was revealed to me in time.
As the year went on and my divorce was finalized, and I ended up spending most of my time with three people: a friend I’d made on Match.com, a man who lived in my home state, and a long-distance friend who was divorced and new to dating.
It was hard to balance three friendships, but I’d always admired jugglers. Time was the enemy, but I had a good friendship with each person and did my best to share the moments without my children.
What about commitment?
In my head, I wanted freedom. I’d been monogamous for over two decades and committing to one person didn’t feel or sound right. I thought I deserved time to spread my wings and enjoy the company of intriguing men. It wasn’t about sex, it was about long conversations, shared meals, wine and laughter, things I never could do with the opposite sex whilst married.
This is where the double standard came into play.
Things change when you’re single. Married friends tend to distance themselves from the gal who’s entertaining multiple partners. People make assumptions. A Mormon family I’d been close with snubbed me and my children. The real shock came from my ex’s new girlfriend. When she’d learned I was moving to her neighborhood, she sent a scathing text warning me of what the kids would think if they caught me sleeping with multiple men.
Sleeping with multiple men?
For the record, once I became intimate with the man out of state, it was nearly impossible to be intimate with anyone else. Sure I went out, and yes, they sometimes came to my home, and though I repeated to the man, “I’m not ready for commitment,” the truth was, I wasn’t able to be physical with the others.
The judging continued.
When a close friend saw pictures on my social sites, she warned me not to post them. She feared my ex would challenge custody or others would get the wrong message.
What wrong message?
My pictures showed a happy gal, out on the town dancing, attending concerts, exploring new restaurants, and visiting good friends.
My dresses were shorter and tighter than the ones I wore as a married woman, I experimented with hair colors and styles, but all I was doing was letting out the creative goddess I’d stifled too long. I’d changed, but deep down I was the same.
When my kids are with me, parenting is top priority. Homework, making healthy meals, and conversation comes first. The people I dated understood this and waited patiently—even the times I was on a date and one of my kids had an unplanned crisis.
Assumptions are the termites of relationships. Pictures we portray on social media are not necessarily the entire story. Just because I spend company with more than one person, or my dresses are short and tight, does not mean that I bare my naked body to just anyone.
If I were a man, would I be judged this way? Would friends caution me not to look promiscuous or act wild if I was born with a Y chromosome?
Why haven’t I received high-fives and thumbs-ups for attracting the opposite sex? Why don’t we applaud women who brush themselves off after divorce, get out, and live?
No one gave me a fist bump when I told them a man almost half my age was interested in me. But, I did get smiles and likes when I posted happy homemaker photos of my children and dog.
Maybe people aren’t ready to embrace the demirep.
But I’m happy with who I’ve become, a free person who’s been fortunate enough to share company with some amazing individuals.
I’m happy my ex found a steady partner who’s good to my kids. I’m happy my children tell me I’m hip, fun, strict, and cool. They know my heart. They know my morals keep me grounded.
It’s a shame we live in a society where women are judged for having fun.
It’s a shame we can’t applaud those who break from convention.
It’s a shame that divorce, like a scarlet letter, has a stigma attached to it.
It’s my hope that one day the gender double standard will cease to exist. Until then, I give those of you in similar situations my personal thumbs up.
More from DivorcedMoms