A Divorcee’s Dating Deadline
Depending on your perspective (especially if you’re a divorcee* like myself), you’ll soon be taking a side on this perplexing issue, one that has—within the last 18 months of my own life—become a prominent, yet hotly debatable topic of discussion. Perhaps you’ll completely concur with my sister. On the other hand, you may very well, unhesitatingly, support my stepmother’s reaction to my surprise disclosure about said topic, back when I first re-entered the dating scene in the late fall of 2015, after a two-year hiatus from “life” after my sordid separation and debilitating divorce.
The quandary I face is this:
Should a divorcee immediately broach his or her status of being divorced, while on a first date with someone new (or even before going out), especially before anything possibly transpires romantically, or should such a discussion take place later down the road, at least until after a few getting-to-know-you outings, despite whatever activities happen spontaneously during that span?
Naturally, there is no answer that will appease all, for it is merely one’s point of view that is the sole determinate of what is “wrong” or “right” here, and regardless of your actual response, you’re neither right nor wrong, either. However, every time I’ve broached this topic to someone with eager ears, there is invariably an automated, automatic reply that I should have ______________ (you can fill in the blank with your own answer).
[*Even the label “divorcee”, I’d like to argue, should be thrown away, banned from future use, for with it surely comes a negative connotation. Why can’t I just be single again—and use that status as the preferred nomenclature that currently shapes part of my identity? Indeed, I am single again, just as I was before marriage, excluding those periodic committed relationships I’d entered into over the years, along the varied path of life before eventually tying the knot.]
On that note, perhaps a divorcee shouldn’t even have the chance to decide when to disclose such things.
Perhaps society should mandate how and when ones marital status is exposed. To avoid any confusion or debate, let’s have a divorcee immediately announce to the world that he or she has gone through the rigors of divorce upon signing official paperwork, right there in the courthouse, by getting a tattoo across one’s forehead in bold red. For added emphasis, perhaps such signage should be hyphenated D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D, and underlined—and even italicized, to boot.
Therefore, such tattoos will serve as a warning sign on any first date—or even while making one’s acquaintance at the check out line at the neighborhood grocery, while winking at some studly studious type while checking out books at the local library, or as you sit across from a hottie on the subway, casting googly eyes from over the top edge of your newspaper.
Who am I kidding? Those approaches to meeting someone are utterly old school.
Thus, all dating app profiles should be required to contain a visibly noticeable forehead shot, with no bangs allowed to cover one’s D-mark. If the State Department can mandate that no one wear glasses in passport photos nowadays, social media could surely weed out those who are trying to hide their D-marks under heavy makeup or baseball cap brims.
With that said, why stop there? If society is so cynical about divorcees (yes, I’m starting to feel that way), why not sequester us all and forbid us from using the typically normal means necessary to meet someone new. We could be relegated to the back of the bus or to using our own dating apps, like D’s Anonymous, Doing the D-Thing, or Dinder, where there’s neither potential confusion nor disappointment in store for whomever you might match with.
Maybe, as an alternative to a D-mark, one can wear an inner t-shirt emblazoned with a Superman-esque, neon yellow capital letter “D”, which could be startlingly flashed upon meeting up with someone on that first encounter.
Said divorcee may shout out, “I’M A DIVORCEE!” as he or she reveals his chest insignia dramatically. Optionally, dudes can pound on their chests like a gorilla, even muttering masculine-ly, “Me Divorcee, you Jane.”
A bit of double entendre could be at play, too, for “D” could also stand for diseased, since that’s what it feels like at times.
Or perhaps, if horizontal romance is on the immediate horizon, and the inevitable “D-revelation” hasn’t yet taken place, one should bring condoms, whether male or female, to advertize his or her previous marital history. The packages or wrappers must be stamped with a “D,” circled by a ring of fire, just in case pending partners prefer to be cautioned that they’re somehow going to get burned just because the imminent exchange is with a divorcee.
Fuck it! Forget the packaging or wrappers! Just emblazon the condom itself with a partially flame-enshrouded D insignia! That should stop one from being duped before doing the D-eed!
Of course, the above offerings in how to signify one’s apparent failings and shortcomings well before romance happens are tongue-in-cheek nonsensical options. Yet at the time of writing this, I feel a sense of sarcasm looming in my fingertips. The above suggestions may have merit, for good reason!
Back to the quandry and the reasons for it:
In August of 2015, at a café in my current city, I met a woman, the first time I had the courage to approach someone since my separation back in October of 2013. Even though I was in my 40’s, I chickened out at first, even driving away from the establishment, to then turn around and walk back in, asking for her number in the end.
In fact, it was the first time I’d actually approached anyone since 2005, the year I had met my ex.
My interest piqued, my excitement immeasurable (well, it was certainly measurable, pardon the pun), I then went out for five fun and favorably frisky times with the gal (I have reason to believe that I may have been somehow set up, but that’s another blog waiting in the wings).
On our third date, we walked out of a live music joint together, at closing time, out onto the sidewalk, when she inquired demurely (in Mandarin), “Do you want to go there together to ‘take a rest’?” Simultaneously, as she was pointing across the street to a ten-story hotel, I offered no resistance, nodding my head like a bobble-head doll glued on the dashboard of a Baja 500 rally car).
You see, I’d not been with anyone sexually for two years (and had only been with my ex-wife since the fall of 2005). To say the least, it was exciting, the long-awaited end of an at-times-excruciatingly-challenging “dry spell”.
Who am I kidding?
The prolonged wait for those two years after separation and divorce was a parched and cracked landscape, like a withered lakebed in the Mojave Desert.
Assertively, she also initiated once we checked in, and that made it all the more stimulating, if you will.
I went with the flow. We went with the flow. Plenty of things went with the flow. Ahem.
Up until the point of consummating the ephemeral acquaintanceship, we’d had beers at an outdoor eatery the first night, for a meal on the second. On neither occasion did our varied conversations bring up my divorce from the year before nor any details about the intense custody battle that I’d been going through. We merely chatted, struggling a bit with two respective foreign languages—for us both, seemingly enjoying the brief times we shared—enough so that physical romance ensued.
Subsequently, the fourth evening also saw a follow up to similar evening pleasures.
Then on the fifth night of our nascent dating life, after a dinner and while on an evening walk in a park, I shared my story with her, explaining that I was divorced and that I have two small kids, not living with me.
Naturally, I had wanted her to know about my past, for it is a part of whom I am now, especially the continuing struggles I had endured to see my children more frequently. Of course, revealing one’s personal path in life and broaching intimate histories takes time, and more dates were needed to explain all, but I at least wanted to get that tidbit of information out of the way on night number five.
My “D-revelation” backfired, however.
The next day she wrote me to say she never wanted to go out again. Surprisingly, her response killed me. We’d gotten along… nicely. We’d shared some pleasant times. I was still the exact same man she seemed to like for the first five days, enough so that she shared intimacy with me.
I didn’t feel used, but I, indeed, felt like I’d been tossed to the roadside like a cigarette butt thrown out a car window at high speed, bouncing and skidding along the pavement, my recently-ignited fire snuffed out by the impact of her decision.
We’d romantically strolled down back alleyways, shared a few laughs, etc., so for her to completely blow me off, a good guy (who is worth getting to know), because I had simply been divorced (and/or had gone through a custody battle), did NOT make sense to me. Of course it hurt me—because I am MUCH MORE than that seemingly indelible D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D tattoo I may be forced to bear the burden of for some time to come.
To discredit our five days together because of a newly adorned label she placed on me was, naturally, unexpectedly disappointing. Feeling like I was the protagonist of a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, after I had read her text, it was as if I should have been forced to stand in a public square, required to don a shirt emblazoned with a scarlet “D” for all to see.
Damn, where were those D-adorned condoms that night when I desperately needed one? I could have saved myself from the let down earlier in the process. (Or maybe, just maybe, it was all still worth it!)
Logically, when I soon after had shaken the shock off my shoulders, I realized that a divorce is just a divorce, and it is not much different than any other long-term relationship ending. Of course I didn’t deserve a mosquito-repellant-patch-like label, like I had some sort of leprosy, like whatever I had was contagious, but in a day or two, I had, of course, gotten over it.
But the issue has come up again, since that initial incident, repeatedly, sometimes dramatically, sometimes not.
Immediately after being dumped because of “The Big D” announcement (and for whatever other explanations she may have internalized and not revealed), I wrote emails to my sister and stepmother in America about having gone out, finally, and I told them the story of meeting her. Admittedly, even though they are my female relatives, I somewhat gloated about finally having ended the longest arid stretch of my life (sans childhood). Both women were happy to hear I’d gotten out and gotten some.
Zealously and quite adamantly, my stepmother, on the one hand, replied to my D-revelation, incredulously, “Why did you tell her so fast? Why didn’t you just get to know her more, first, so she could merely like you for whom you really are, just a guy named Mike?” Imploringly, she claimed, “You shouldn’t have told her so soon!”
She had a good point.
On the other hand, my sister quickly responded, “Why did you wait so long? You probably should have told her on the first date. If I were her, I would have wanted to know in advance!”
She had a good point.
Neither my sister NOR my stepmother was wrong; neither was right.
Such reactions are simply a matter of perspective.
However, at the time of starting this blog entry, which is exactly what prompted my writing it in the first place, I experienced another slap-in-the-face reality check about when it is “necessary” to tell someone. I met someone else in January of 2017, and the same crap surfaced abruptly and a bit more dramatically.
Having been intrigued by said woman and our online conversations, I eagerly went out with her for a face-to-face outing, a coffee, when she accepted my invite.
While exchanging text messages as I walked across an intersection on the way to the café where she awaited me, she actually revealed she was on her way to me instead since I had been a trifle uncertain about the directions, even with Google Maps laying the path out for me.
On the pedestrian crosswalk, she came up to me and made such an immediate impression that I was smitten faster than an addicted cat takes to a freshly packed dime bag of catnip.
That night, after also chatting in a three-way café conversation with her friend, who just happened to be at the same joint attending some financial advising event, we went for beers at a favorite micro-brew establishment of mine, not so much getting to know each other but rather just joking around openly and shooting the breeze.
Perhaps four hours flew by. Admittedly, I was mesmerized. Attractive, witty, bright, and sarcastic, she hooked me quickly.
After a relationship fails, friends and family often advise that there are ‘plenty of fish in the sea’, but I realized then that I no longer wanted to waste any more hooks.
Our second night saw us heading to another expat hangout for a beer/drink—and then to a Greek joint, where we didn’t stop talking and laughing, unless to nibble a bit of hummus. All seemed right, sitting side by side in a semi-circular booth. Conversation, unguided and unplanned, went with a natural flow. Our guards down, we both simply enjoyed our time together.
NOT ONCE DID I STOP TO THINK ABOUT DIVORCE AND “HAVING” TO TELL HER THAT I WAS A DIVORCEE.
In a slight drizzle, we later strolled to the nearest subway station in the city, expressing, mutually, how we’d like to meet up again, yet realizing she was heading south to visit her family for the pending holidays. We talked of getting together and maybe exploring the countryside near her hometown a day or two later since I was on a three-week holiday then.
Standing under the same umbrella, having just giggled and guffawed about whatever topics we had broached that evening, we kissed, ever so slightly. No deep-tongue action transpired. Rather, it was simply a slight caress of the tips of our tongues and the tender touching of our lips.
Shooting stars never came to mind as our lips met at that moment. Instead, I envisioned every celestial body in the Milky Way exploding simultaneously into a gigantic fireball. Even months later, I wish I could re-live that instant.
“Why did you kiss me last night? Did you think I was a slut?”
When I opened my email the next morning to find her accusatory queries, my jaw dropped, smashing into the chair between my thighs, even rattling the floor via the vibrations sent out by the impact.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were divorced?” she continued feverishly.
Truly stunned, I inquired how she’d discovered that I’d once been married. Turns out, she did a Google search of my email address and discovered that I’d once posted a question about air pollution on a website dealing with climate issues here in my adopted country.
Shocked beyond believe that she had accused me of thinking she was somehow loose like that (and partially so that my email revealed such findings), I ensured her that I’d thought no such thing, that we’d both made a mutual decision to partake in that ever-so-brief, spontaneous kiss in the rain.
We’d not dropped doggy style onto the sidewalk or a back alleyway after eating Greek.
One brief kiss. That’s it.
I couldn’t see where she was coming from.
In subsequent email and text exchanges, I explained myself as best I could. Eventually, we met again, and we talked about her expectations and why I’d not come “clean” so quickly.
Think about it, this quandary:
The first night with her friend at a café, followed by beers at bar, there was no perfect time to just blurt out my past relationship woes! We were having a casual, stress-free conversation that involved such topics as learning Mandarin, mango smoothies, and dating apps. Should I have just randomly interjected to commence a tirade about all the problems I’d been dealing with over the last three years?
On day two, all also transpired without a plan. Natural dialogue streamed forward without direction, as first or second dates often do.
Then the drizzle. The laughter. The kiss.
When should I have stopped the natural progression of either evening? Should I have forced it, unnaturally, like a doctor just emerging from the ER, having just lost a patient, to deliver the bad news?
Was my sister right?
Should I have interrupted the specific moment we got close under the umbrella, with an, “Oh, geez, we better not kiss—for I am D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D .” None of those options seem plausible then, even now, but she accused me of thinking she was a slut, and that somehow I was wrong in doing what we did!
Should I have flashed my neon yellow chest insignia dramatically as we stood in the drizzle? Should I have actually gotten the forehead tattoo so none of this had ever taken place?
In the few months since meeting her (we wound up dating from January until March of this year), I’ve been on other single or multiple dates. I’ve met women who are quite compatible, women who are outrageously whacko, and the gamut running between. That’s par for the course in being single again (or am I required to use the term d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d here)? Unhesitatingly, though, I’ve never lied about my past on any date, but I still don’t feel overly obligated to unexpectedly suspend an evening’s conversation to let the cat out of the bag about my failed marriage. It just doesn’t feel right.
This much can be said, however: I’ve ruined a few first dates by sharing too much, too quickly, by revealing that I’ve been living a nightmare for 3.5 years—after someone has asked, “Have you been married?” or “Have you been divorced?” To focus an hour or two on answering the requisite queries about the reasons for my separation, etc., is utterly draining. Why do I want to spend the duration of a first coffee or meal having to explain all related negativities?
As of May, 2017, I have just recently met a woman who was equally able to sweep me off my feet upon first sight (like the kiss-in-the-drizzle gal), or at least within the first twenty minutes of walking together to a café from our meeting point in a public park in broad daylight. However, practically upon receiving our lattes, she asked if I’d been divorced.
I have NO reason to lie—and it surely is best not to (in fact, it isn’t even an option).
Pathetically, though, I got too deep into the topic, even going off tangent in explaining the egregiously unfair court theatrics and the dramatic, associated bullshit. Lo and behold, she went from all smiles and an openly warm persona to being a trifle standoffish later. Since, I’ve tried to get her to see that I’m at least worth another coffee, knowing (or at least feeling in my gut) that she too seemed excited to meet, at first, until my drama-heavy D-revelation.
Undoubtedly, I shot myself in the foot. A subsequent text exchange revealed that she’d thought it was a bit too much information. Crap!
Was my step-mother right?
Maybe I just need to state, henceforth, “Yes, I was once divorced. One day, if you’d like to get to know me first, instead, I’ll be totally willing to share the whole story with you, but for now, can we just chat about life in general—or at least about positive experiences we’ve had in our respective lives?”
Of course, I shouldn’t send a deluge of details one’s way as I open up about divorce, but this may be said: If I’d not shared so much with the latest lady on that first date, we may have made a stronger connection than we did, and by that I’m not stating anything about physical connections. Just being able to chat about every day life and loves, habits and hobbies, etc., would lead to a simple understanding about compatibility. That connection could be later tested by the heavier-baggage details.
Perhaps if she and I had continued with the initial humor and the light-hearted zest that our first conversation contained, we’d have hit it off better. However, if I then didn’t tell her about my D – I – V – O – R – C – E – D status for a few dates, regardless of what transpired, I could then have been potentially accused of hiding something deliberately (which I didn’t and wouldn’t have), and as I’ve seen twice, the results would not be so pleasant.
So when is it best to make such a D-revelation? I’m sure you’ve already filled in the blank, dear reader.