A couple months ago I was driving upstate New York to a town a 1.5 hours away from my home in New York City, catching up on my podcasts. While cruising through the foothills of the Catskill mountains, NPR’s Anna Sale told a touching love story on This American Life about herself — a New York City journalist (um, like this writer) — and her boyfriend, an ecologist. Listen here, it’s so good:
It was a fantastic tale, but more critically, an eerie coincidence. A month prior I’d messaged with a sexy ecologist who lived more or less near my day’s destination, and scored a 95% match on OKCupid. I’d been excited about the Korean BBQ date we’d planned, but at the last minute he canceled, blaming a springtime cold, and failed to follow up. It was clear I’d been blown off. Boo hoo. Back to swiping dudes online!
But this coincidence of happening upon the journalist/ecologist love story on the day when I was in the neighborhood of an ecologist love interest was just too much. Certainly it was a sign to make a move, right? What did I have to lose (except the very high risk of being force-fed a giant slice of humble pie a la mode)? So, with a lurch in my gut, I found his contact info was still in my iPhone and sent this message:
Hi! This is Emma. I am driving to New Paltz on business and just listened to a sweet This American Life story about a journalist and an ecologist, and I couldn’t help but message. Any chance you’re free for a late lunch?
You know what? He wrote back. A couple hours later I was sitting across a bowl of udon noodles hearing all about his field work with birds and kinda liking him a whole lot. He walked me to my car and kissed me a bunch, which has been followed by a slew of dates and last night’s Korean BBQ and I’m so very glad that I sent that text — even if common sense, self-respect and The Rules all shrilly screamed not to.
Interestingly, other single mom friends have had very similar experiences. Janet has enjoyed a wide swath of New York men (“mostly inappropriate,” she confesses, gleefully) since her divorce from her long-time marriage. About a year ago she told me about one man she went out with, who was the one who was not only the most appropriate, but the one she adored the very most. He stopped texting, which was not breaking any rules since their encounters were few, but she was still very disappointed.
Then, a few months ago, her amour still on her mind, she found herself near a restaurant where they had enjoyed one of their dates. She texted:
Hey Paul. I’m sitting near Tertulia and thought of you. Hope you’re well.
Great news here, too. Turns out Paul had recently become untangled from the love interest who had snagged his attention away from Janet, was happy to hear from her, and now my friend has a fabulous new boyfriend.
The takeaway is that at this stage of life, dating is especially messy. Not only are there hardly any courtship rules any more, but if you’re divorced, a parent, or older than 28, you’ve almost guaranteed to have had your heart broken one or 12 times. You have responsibilities and ideas about relationships and a full life and history that makes the road to love nuanced, layered, complicated and confusing. If you’re going to get anywhere in this shit show, it requires a whole lot of forgiveness — forgiving yourself for feeling needy and vulnerable. Forgiving him for hurting you, or being inconsiderate or missing your cues. Forgiving and accepting that there are few rules to play by, and accept that you must be extra-kind, and sometimes extra-bold, in order to have fun and find love.
And sometimes, you need faith. Faith that a well-timed, if discouraged-by-your-friends, text can open doors to something special.
Just ask my old friend Lynne. A year after her divorce this single mom started a lusty long-distance affair with a beautiful, divorced European engineer — who unceremoniously dumped her six months in. She licked her wounds, dated a bit, but was compelled some months later to send him a text with a link to a funny news article related to an inside joke, with the note:
I thought you’d get a kick out of this.
He did. They kept chatting, and are now a couple. This summer she’s traveling with him to Europe to visit his family. In dissecting the situation she said she held no grudges about his dumping her for an old flame who’d reached out. “There’s not a lot of room for sanctimony in post-divorce dating,” Lynn says. “Who the hell really knows what they’re doing? Mistakes — if you can even call them that — will and should be made.”
Anna’s thoughts dating ecologists:
What do you think? Have you successfully reached out after getting dumped? Are there any rules in post-divorce dating? Share in the comments!