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Dating, unplugged

Posted on Monday, February 22, 2010 in dating, Parenting, Relationships, single dads, single moms, Singles

“I envy you guys,” Sara said as she, Mia and I sat in her hot tub last night.

“As you should! We’re such fabulous, gorgeous women with perfect children and perfect lives,” Mia quipped. “But we still like to hang with you, Sara, so that almost, almost, makes you one of us. Be thankful.”

“Don’t be silly, and don’t pay attention to Mia, either,” I said. “But, why in the world do you envy us?”

“You both have found love and I’m beginning to feel like one of those picky single women. I’m stuck in “impress a guy” mode while you both are walking around in your faded jammy pants, cozy Ts, chipped nail polish and no makeup.”

Sara did have a point. When you’ve been seeing someone for a while, you can finally relax and be yourself, although wouldn’t it be better to be yourself from the beginning? Which leads to the bigger question — can you be yourself from the beginning?

I sure thought I was back when I was dating, well, except for the enormous amount of time I spent on beauty maintenance — waxing, hair and facial
fussing, outfit organizing and other assorted
routines. But that’s the superficial stuff.   

The “being you” is showing all your quirks, your good and bad sides, the way you deal with life, work, friends and family — especially your kids.

And that’s one of the things that freaked me out about getting to the point in a relationship when your kid and your sweetie meet (besides not wanting to put The Kid through another breakup); as Art Linkletter said, kids say the darndest things — mostly about you. They also make us act like crazy people sometimes.

I feared my kid was going to burst the bubble I’d created about myself to the guy I was trying to impress.

I’ll be damned if my parenting skills are
going to influence a guy
, I thought.
After all,
it isn’t fair to begin with: The Kid has a lot of ammo against me for all the times I grounded him, took away his PlayStation or told him, “No!” In fact, he’s got 17 years’ worth!

And yet, few things reveal more of the real you than how you are around others, especially your kid. As Single Mom Seeking says, “something about parenting around and in front of someone you’re dating seems to bring everyone to stark reality.”

Yes, it does.

Impressions can only go so far when you’ve finally invited your guy over to meet your kid and all hell breaks loose. That Mommy of the Year award you were hoping for? Forget about it!

But, maybe not.

I remember Sean telling me about a day I don’t even remember. He’d stopped by the house to fix something and, as he did — quite obliviously to me — was watching Trent and me doing our thing, mom and son interacting like we do every day. No pretense, no “impress” mode — just me (although I’m pretty sure I was waxed, but whatever). That’s the day Sean says he fell in love with me.

So, maybe stark reality is not only nothing to fear, but something essential in an honest relationship.

And who would guess that having kids would help make that happen?

  • For how long after you meet someone do you feel that you’re in “impress” mode?
  • Can you “be yourself” in the early stages of dating, or do you have to “impress” him/her?
  • Does parenting around your date show the “real” you quickly?

Photo © 2roxfox –

Bring on the comments

  1. Jenni says:

    As far as keeping up my appearance, I stay in “impress” mode for a while. Personality wise? They tend to see all my quirks pretty quickly – I’m a bit high strung and intense. I’m working on that..

    I think parenting around someone you’re seeing does show a more “real” side to you. I think men see that I really am a no-nonsense type of girl, when they see me with my kids. I play and joke around with them, but the minute one of them does something out of line, well that just all changes. How I handle my kids, is also how I handle my relationships. I’m fun and like to play around, but I don’t take any BS.
    .-= Jenni´s last blog ..Taking Action =-.

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t change much. The things that I do I enjoy doing so it doesn’t go away. I try to be what you see is what you get.

    It would have to be a serious relationship going on for at least 6 months for me to introduce my son to them. Although since my son doesn’t live near me that makes it possible.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..I Made This =-.

  3. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    Ten years ago when I first started dating after divorce, I couldn’t be myself. I was too busy trying to impress. Now, I just let things roll.
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog ..Funny Pick Up Lines – This One Rocks =-.

  4. Kat Wilder says:

    Do you reveal the "real" you faster if you're a parent?

  5. Kat Wilder says:

    Jenni — Being playful helps. So does drawing the line at BS. And, yeah, it’s hard to hide high-strung …

    Mike — How far away does your son live? And, (forgive me for being so bold), why?

    Dads — That sounds typical. The first dates post-divorce are, uh, interesting …

  6. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    Very intriguing post.

    When I’m out of this country, I’m more “myself” all the time. Much less in impress mode, when dating or getting to know someone.

    In the US, I think we judge on superficial criteria, and do so very quickly. Impress mode is a necessity here, even if only “lightly” impressing.

    I don’t believe in moving too quickly anyway. I think taking time to get to know someone is pleasurable, and allows for balancing out what you find terrific and what may be less so. And yes – introducing kids into the mix comes later, for me. Always has. And certainly does show “the real stuff” of your household.

    Part of why it’s generally easier to date someone who also has kids. They get it.
    .-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog ..Kids say the darndest things! =-.