Online Dating

From the male perspective, online dating is a completely different game. In the predatory world of the bar scene typically the male has the dominant role of hunter,… or so I’ve heard. In my lifetime I’ve probably engaged in this sothrowback_thursday1_largert of bar room drama less than a dozen times back in college and even that was under duress because friends and roommates, driven by alcoholic delusion, were convinced that their boyish charm would score them some dance floor groping if not a full-fledged one night stand. And since misery loves company I came along for the ride and was therefore blessed with the opportunity to bear witness to their drunken failure and inevitable shame. But despite me and my friends’ lack of success I was able to observe how the game should play out by individuals more dedicated to the craft. The perfectly puffed up male swaggers confidently over to well-positioned and well-manicured female and engages in some level of inane small talk for the sole purpose of stalling for time while they mutually access their sexual attraction; the woman evaluates his potential as a lover, a provider, and his ability to make her friends jealous while the man evaluates if she’s at that alcoholic sweet spot safely between “willing” and “passed out”.

Ok honestly, what do I know? I just admitted very little experience with this whole process so maybe I’m just jaded and there really is some soul searching being exchanged out there. My point, though, is that the role of the male in these situations is still very clear, regardless of the depth of conversation or the sexual end game. When this moved into the online dating realm the gender roles remained the same. Everyone fills out the same profile information, posts the same self-portraits in the bathroom, and pads their preferences with the same white lies – guys pretend to not be couch potatoes, gals pretend to be really in to sports, and everyone pretends to enjoy hiking.   But after all that it’s typically the guy that initiates the first contact. For the woman this plays out with them receiving a stack of invitations from a variety of suitors from which she can choose or simply ignore the lot. For the man this plays out with them firing off introductions in a shotgun pattern hoping that something will hit and trigger a random spark. Sure you can spend all your time combing through profiles hunting for your perfect woman, but chances are a dozen other Romeo’s before you have already filled up her inbox with the same attempts at witty banter and romantic propositions that you were so proud of just moments before. After a week of the virtual cobwebs and crickets you realize that your perfect woman, who the site promised was a 92% match with you, is not going to be writing you back much less bear your children or share matching rocking chairs on the porch of the retirement facility. “Ok”, you think, “how about this one, she’s an 88% match?!” This process continues until you find yourself, late one Saturday night, after one too many rum and cokes, writing to a 65% match that is 10 years, 60 pounds and 120 miles outside of your acceptable range, waking up the next morning with a hangover and a vague recollection of the romantic promises you made to this mystery woman only to reach the sad realization that she too has chosen not to respond.

Having exhausted my pool of prospects in this manner I start to consider perhaps it’s not me (of course, how could it be); perhaps I’m just not on the right site! In this age of online dating the variety of sites that has cropped up is staggering. Now days I can sign up for a specific site based on my age, race, religion, occupation (at least if I’m a farmer) or even my chemical composition. This all sounds like a fantastic idea until you consider that any restrictive classification only further limits the pool of available prospects. Think about it; you can fill out as many questionnaires as you like detailing your preferences and ideal qualities but if there are only three 40 year old, Jewish farmers in the Sacramento area how meaningful is any of that amassed information really going to be? It’d be like if I walked up to a vending machine looking to score a package of peanut M&M’s only to have it spit out a bag of stale trail mix with carob chips because that was the closet match. Did I benefit any from finding my own personal vending machine? I could have stepped into Costco and ended up with the same bag of trail mix but at least I would have had more options for substitution. I could have settled for a jumbo bag of Goobers,… like that night I had one too many rum and cokes.

So am I bitter because the online dating world isn’t just handing over the girl of my dreams? Wasn’t that subliminal marketing promise? Isn’t it written somewhere in the cosmic small print that your efforts will be rewarded?   Ok, so maybe it is just me. Maybe if Gerald Butler felt he needed online dating to meet the right woman he too would find a flooded inbox filled with provocative propositions. Maybe that’s the part I’m bitter about. Why can’t I lie down and be the proverbial prey for a while? I want the woman to abandon the old fashion traditions and take some initiative damn it. I did find one site that was basically the online equivalent of a Sadie Hawkins dance; it’s all about the woman being in control and initiating the selection process.   This sounds great in theory but doesn’t it come down to the same principle; woman having the ultimate power of selection over multiple suitors. I guess the only real difference is I enter into the process accepting my passive role in the equation hoping that perfect bag of peanut M&M’s is already out there just waiting for me to pick it up.

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Parental Major / Parental Minor

During the initial stages of divorce you are forced to break down parenting duties into very impersonal numbers; “child 1 and child 2 are henceforth declared to be in the custody of parent 1 65% of the time and parent 2 35% of the time”. When you’re married you are simply a parent. There is no real break down in time or responsibility. Even if I have to work from 9 to 5 to pay the bills with only evenings and weekends to hit the park scene or build a Lego death star, I’m still considered an equal parent to the stay at home mom that suffers through multiple mealtimes and pickup patrol throughout the day.  I am the dad, with the sacred privileges and duties that come along with that. No matter if I’m bread winner or caregiver, my parental role is unique.

Once those impersonal legal numbers of are defined though everything starts to change. The distinction now is painfully evident to my kids. I can no longer emerge from my office to scoop them up for an adventure in the backyard or crash a tea party already in progress. Now, just as they are getting settled into whatever is keeping them entertained at mom’s house they are told to stop suddenly, pack up a few precious possessions and prepare for the trip to dad’s house. Their attitude for this transition I’m sure is mixed; sometimes they may really look forward to the change and sometimes not so much (I gauge this only from my experience on the other side). For my older son he can vocalize either reaction, but also we had enough experience together under the same roof that out relationship is pretty well established. My younger daughter though probably does not remember much before the divorce, so daddy is someone who lives outside her home. In her mind mommy is the main parent. Not only does she spend the majority of her time with mommy but there’s also the obvious bit about younger ones just needing that mommy-bond. Ok fine, mommies are always number one at that age right?! But again it’s different when the distinction is made so evident. When you’re under the same roof, the little ones may be thinking, “Who is this other person who gets me stuff and lets me drool all over him. He’s not my mommy but mommy seems to like him, and we’re ok with anything mommy’s like”.

Things start to get even more interesting once we introduce more parents into the mix; step parents. A title already made prickly by so much bad press, becomes more pokey when viewed from both sides of the split. In our household, we try to embrace the title for each others’ kids. We want to give them some label to attach to our new partners without stepping (pun intended) on any toes. I don’t want them simply calling me by my first name, but I also want to keep sacred the name and title of “daddy” for their biological dad. That all seems perfectly rational when I’m the one making the distinction but any mention from my kids of their “step-dad” makes me break out in hives,… and by hives I mean an irrational juvenile anger that spawns competing desires to either kick him in the balls or deeply embarrass him with a well-timed pantsing.

They say a child benefits from every additional person that loves them. That’s all well and good, and I guess on the surface I really have no problem with that part. For me it’s more about my ever diminishing role as dad for my own kids. How is my youngest supposed to understand the distinction now? It’s one thing for me to be their only dad, and just living outside their home, but accepting that the role of dad, in any degree, is now being played by someone else when they are not with me just grates on my happiness.

Really though it’s not his fault; No matter how appealing the groin shot or the public humiliation I need to consider that he’s doing nothing wrong. As far as I know he’s not actively trying to diminish my role or steal my title. I need to keep this in mind and be empathetic on both sides, understanding how hard it must be for the father of Nicole’s kids being away from his kids and understanding that the step-dad to my kids is doing the best he can. It’s my own damaged ego that’s really at play here anyway. I am mad that my ex, through her actions, has forever altered the relationship that I will have with my kids.   It’s different now and I just need to accept that.

Back here on the home front I am the minor parent with my kids but share the major parent role with the other kids and so I’m the minor parent to the major parent (or in Office terms my title is not “assistant major parent” but rather “assistant TO the major parent”). My authority and jurisdiction are bestowed on a case by case basis. Often times I’m no better than the 7 year old “informant” who just tattles on the other kids and suggests, in a passive-aggressive way, that they get severely busted. Granted I never envision myself as the “Father Knows Best” head of the family type who sits behind his desk in the study and dispenses justice to his wobbly kneed offspring who have been sent in after repeated threats of “just wait until your father gets home!” I don’t want to be the “bad cop” in this scenario. I’m fine with “passive-aggressive, tattling cop”.  And I guess underneath all the ego/anger issues I’m really ok with all of the parental roles I’ve been given. I just need to focus less on the numbers that label me a lesser parent and instead focus on how much I can give to all the kids in my life with whatever time I share with them.

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Start Anew

The packing tap screams out across the final box. And then the silence returns. It is the calm before the storm.  My final moments in the house that I made into a home after the divorce.  When I first moved in to this renovated house it was stark and empty. All the walls were white, all the surfaces new.  There weren’t even mirrors or shower doors in the bathrooms.  It was a blank canvas, which was oddly appropriate coming from my home of 10 years which had been so stuffed with memories and emotions.  That house had the rhythms of life that I had grown accustom to.  My family and the only life I had come to know all evolved in the house I left behind.  And then into this blank canvas. No wife, no kids, no cats, no dogs.  An empty house.  A quiet house. A quiet that was once overwhelming.  A quiet that I would banish with the TV on all day just to hear another voice from outside my office.  I was lost in the silence and emptiness.

As time went on the new routines became a part of me.  The walls eventually filled with pictures of new memories and the house filled with a new life with the kids.  “Daddy’s house” was a new concept for all of us, but we made it work, and learned to love it.

Then eight months ago another change for the better.  A new love and a new family awaits. Nicole and I have found a house to share.  A new home in which to combine our families into one.  One dad with two kids now becomes a full couple with six kids total. As much as I look forward to the new chapter in our life and the incredible memories and traditions we will share as a family, I reflect now on the silence and the quiet house that had once haunted me.  And in a few months from now, when kids are arguing, kids are screaming, dogs are barking and TV is blaring, I’ll look back and think, “what the hell was so bad about silence??!!”

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My Day

How was my day, you ask?  Why how very thoughtful of you?  I would love to tell you about my day.  I would love to describe in vivid detail my heroic actions this morning at the Starbucks drive thru where I helped bring a new life into this world before the paramedics arrived and before my venti vanilla latte was fully whipped.  Or maybe I should start with the ongoing drama I’ve been having at work where our biggest client is involved in a sex scandal with Jim down in the mail-room (along with the back-story of how he used to be Jill 6 months and 3 surgeries ago).  And then there is that hilarious incident with the leftover sandwich and the homeless man that kept petting it like a cat, and nibbling on its face.

Yeah, I would love to tell you all of this and impress you with just how much life I fill my life with.  Like there is just so much that happens to me in a single day that I struggle to edit it down to the juiciest highlights.  Unfortunately though, none of that crap happens to me,… ever.  My commute is a flight of stairs.  My coffee comes from my kitchen.  My co-workers are in another time zone (and lacking both a mail-room and a transsexual). Even the homeless have more interesting neighborhoods to hang out in then my slice of suburbia.

“Wow”, you say “you should get out more”.  And before I can defend myself or fill in the gap with the more mundane details of my actual day, you dive into a colorful account of your day instead.  At that point it finally dawns on me that the original question was rhetorical.

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