So I went on a date last week. Just a drink. This was my dip-a-toe-in-the-frigid-and-murky-pond-of-dating-in-your-40s. Hold your applause and keep the Bride’s magazine in hiding.
He seemed like a nice enough man, also in his 40s, divorced, employed, no (obvious) criminal record and when speaking and writing, he communicated in complete sentences where the subject matched the verb. We “met” via a dating website and graduated to speaking on the phone before meeting in person. This is good. This is progress. I actually looked forward to meeting him and gave careful thought to what I would wear, beyond the normal prayer to just get out of the house without food, dryer lint, or a Tow Mater sticker on my shirt.
Let’s call him Tom for the simple sake of having something to attach an expletive to later.
Tom arrived on time (a plus) and came in with a smile (bigger plus). I was happy to see that our phone repartee and rapport could continue in person. This has promise, I said to myself. I’m not making a grocery list in my head or wishing I was home sorting socks. This is good!
And, near the end of what I thought might be the first hour of real, adult, flirtatious, and interesting conversation I’ve had in much too long, he asked about my children.
I do not hide the fact that I have two children when I meet someone, nor do I launch into the full background of my family arrangements. That’s at least a second or third date, right? The idea is not to send him running for the hills before he’s had a chance to experience my witty humor and radiant smile. That’s the goal anyway. So, Tom asked about the father of my children. Basically he was drilling for any baby daddy drama. I very simply responded with the truth – my elder son’s father is not involved in our lives and my younger son is adopted and we’re not in touch with his biological family. It’s just us, our happy little family.
Tom took a deep breath and started to speak. Speak is a gentle term for what happened next. Tom launched into a soliloquy about adoption. He did not think he could ever raise an adopted child. He knew he wouldn’t feel ‘attached’ to that child, and how do you adequately love a child you can’t form a bond with? And he loves kids. He wants kids. Just not adopted ones. Being a step parent, he believes, is somehow different, at least those children were related to the other parent, and if you love that other adult then of course you would love the children they brought into the world.
My turn for silence. I’m trying to decide if this almost-stranger is being sarcastic. Is this an attempt at humor? Not looking like it. The good angel and devil angel from Tom and Jerry appear on my shoulders. I could get up and walk out. Or, do I bother to impress upon this previously imagined sensible person that I am in fact attached and bonded to my younger son? That just because I didn’t push him out that I am lovingly ushering him through the world? This is a teachable moment! I could change someone’s mindset right this minute! On the other hand, this is a first date and do I want to have to convince someone of something so basic, so core, to my family as welcoming and cherishing adoption? Those unmatched socks are looking pretty good to me right now. I wonder how quickly I can get my car out of valet.
He notes my silence and immediately says it was so great to finally meet and he hopes we can do it again soon.
Excuse me? I say. I’m sorry; I really don’t think that’s necessary. I wish you well but this isn’t going to happen. (He looks genuinely surprised and, I’d like to think, a little disappointed.) I don’t think our long term views are compatible and I value my time and yours and wouldn’t want to waste it. Goodbye, I said.
Yes, I missed my teachable moment. Yes, the activist in me could have leapt out of my hanging open mouth and delivered a litany of reasons why his position is narrow-minded, inexperienced, and just plain wrong. But my dating-weary 43-year-old self wasn’t in the mood. She just wanted to check this off the list and move on. Besides, I had huge hugs from two happy little ones waiting for me at home.
Where’s that valet ticket?