I met my husband in 2001 and started dating again for the first time in 2011. In just 10 years, the dating world had drastically changed. In the ensuing five years, it has changed even more (thanks for nothing, Internet!). After all, the last time I was single, there was no texting, online dating was still a little taboo, and only a few academics knew the definition of the word polyamory.
If you have not been out there for a while, you are probably totally intimidated for so many reasons. After all, you likely have never dated as a mom. Or your body looks totally different from the last time you were on the scene. And you definitely have had your heart broken a time or two since you spent time, alone, with a man, buck naked.
In addition to all these internal fears and concerns – all of which are totally normal, and all of which are experienced by every single mom – it can be completely overwhelming when you hear single people chat about dating. Because it is different. Texting, online dating, Facebook, Tinder, hooking up and birth control are not the same as the last time you were out there.
Here are some important ways that dating has changed in the past decade. Once you know the ground rules, you know what to expect. When you know what to expect, you can break the rules (if you chose).
1. Online dating is mainstream. Every once in a while I hear a woman say: “I’d really like to meet someone, but I don’t want to go online. I want to meet them naturally.” Translation: “I’m not really ready to meet anyone.”
Today, there is zero shame in online dating. People use OKCupid, Match.com, Tinder and other sites for all kinds of needs – romantic and otherwise. I’ve made platonic friends and professional contacts through these sites. One single mom told me she connects with other single moms in her area for friendship through Tinder. You and I are all online, all the time. Your dating life is not except from this. Embrace it.
2. Relationships are not monogamous until you mutually agree they are. In other words, unless you and a guy explicitly agree that you are not seeing other people, then both of you are free to date other people. This can be intimidating, but once you embrace it, you might find it liberating. After all, it means you can date multiple people.
3. No one has pubic hair any more. Now, there are signs this is shifting back to normal, but in my early post-divorced dating days, I was shocked to find many shaved or very trimmed penises out there. Many clip or wax all, all, all of their body hair. Men are so accustomed to Brazilian-waxed vaginas that they barely notice when their sometimes hairy girlfriend shows bald.
4. Dating multiple people can include sex with multiple people. Again, if you’re not explicitly monogamous, you are free to go on dates with other people, then you are also free to be sexually involved with other people.
5. Texting is part of romance. Everyone has a smart phone. Text is how you set up dates. Texting is how you flirt. Texting is how you can express your interest (by responding favorably to said flirts), or disinterest (ignoring said flirts).
6. It is OK to break up by text if the romance consisted of three or fewer dates. Go ahead and argue with me, but this is the very common, and acceptable.
7. Everyone uses condoms. Sure, after you’ve been dating a while, everyone has to negotiate safe sex in a way that responsible adults do. But at this stage, I find it refreshing that either he has a condom, or you pull one out without any fanfare and he uses it, and everyone is good.
8. He’s not going to pick you up at your house for dates. Until you’ve been involved, you meet out. Some women prefer this for safety purposes, and that is fine. But dating culture today dictates that you just meet at the bar or restaurant or park or dark alley. He’s not your limo driver.
9. You might pay for your drink. There are no clear rules about who pays for dates. In my experience, in New York City where guys tend to be a bit more chivalrous than the rest of the country, men almost always pay. I make my token offer to pay, but they pay. But that won’t always happen. Sometimes a guy – even if he is interested – will accept your offer to pay, or will split the bill. Cut the guys some slack. Feminism has been hard on them. Just don’t be disappointed or surprised if this happens. And don’t take it personally.
10. You might get a dick pic. It can be shocking at first, but men like to send you pictures of their penises. They may ask you to text them pictures of your various lady bits, and that is totally up to you. Personally, that is not my thing (at least thus far) but that is a decision you can make on your own. Whatever you decide, own it! No shame allowed!
11. All guys watch porn. It doesn’t matter what your feelings are about porn, if you are a straight woman interested in dating straight men, you must accept that they are almost guaranteed to watch porn. A few years ago University of Montreal researchers had to scrap a study about men and porn because they couldn’t find a control group of men who don’t watch porn. They did learn that single men typically spend 40 minutes viewing porn three times a week, while men in committed relationships averaged 20 minute porn 1.7 times a week.
12. It is totally OK to google the guy you’re dating. A few years ago I would have been mortified if someone I was interested knew I was cyber stalking him. Today, I assume he is checking out my various online accounts, and I readily mention to him that I do the same.
You can even tell him! For example, “I see on Twitter you visited Laos recently.” Or “I see on LinkedIn that you used to work in accounting at Google. Maybe you know my friend Jeff?” or “We have a Facebook friend in common! How do you know Megan?”
He won’t be surprised by any of these questions, because he googled you, too. At least if he is really interested. And if he didn’t cyber stalk you, that is telling, too.
13. People are kinkier. About a year ago OKCupid added a box to its most basic profile: Relationship type. Choices are “Mostly monogamous,” “Strictly monogamous.” You can also specify if you are in an open relationship, and search by people interested in just men, just women, or both.
In other words, whatever you are into, there is an easy and low-taboo way to find that very thing. Outside of technology, I have been surprised by ease at which men have suggested I help them with very unusual kinks, or introduce other people into our bedroom. I happen to be pretty vanilla about this sort of thing, but was impressed by how easily they embraced what they wanted, and comfort with which they asked for it.
This might seem intimidating if you are new to dating, or trying unconventional things in bed. But this new spirit of acceptance works both ways – you should feel equally confident saying what you want and need, including a hug, orgasm, or serious monogamous relationship.
Tomorrow's post: “Which dating site should I choose?”
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.