This excerpt appears in a forthcoming pseudonymous memoir from Claire O’Donnell. Tentatively titled Drop and Give Me Ten the 40-something single mother of four shares her adventures in dating during this age of Tinder, texting, and sexting. Claire shares two rather fabulous dating fizzles with Plenty.
The winter months were horrifically long, bitterly cold and perpetually dark. I hibernated under the colourless sky without shame or guilt, sometimes only seeing my children for weeks on end. I consciously chose solitude telling my friends that I was swamped with work. In reality, I was lonely, unsure of my future, and full up with self-doubt. Twelve months post-separation, and I was still raw with the emotional upheaval of ending my marriage.
As good fortune would have it, my old friend Vivian – who had moved away a year prior – was desperate for a visit to the city. She’s the type of person that has a constant glow about her, always exuding joy and goodwill. We’re all happier in her presence. I brushed off some of my blues and invited her in to my home in hopes that she would banish some of my unaccustomed sadness and bring me back out into the world. Just as I knew it would, each day of her stay felt a little brighter. I was beginning to return to myself.
On the last evening of her visit, I’d made arrangements for two girlfriends to join us for a few drinks. As we talked, laughed and gossiped, Viv suddenly exclaimed in her best cheerleader voice, “Oh Claire! I just had a thought! I’m going to set you up with a single dad from my daughter’s old school. He’s amazing. And lovely. And funny. And kind. You! Will! Love! Him!”
With that glowing reference, she whipped out her phone and pulled up his image on Facebook. He was very lean and very tall – and covered neck to toe in tattoos. I confessed to her that I’d never dated anyone with such a plethora of body art. Viv went on to name more of his great qualities and explained that he was a big teddy bear and adored by every mom at the school.
“Alright Viv. Let’s do it!” My first set-up.
Viv was on it the second I nodded my consent. She texted him immediately and attached a photo of me along with some of my stats. The four of us continued with our evening where the conversation ranged from parenting tips to multiple orgasms. Two hours later, Viv’s phone pinged.
“It’s him!” she exclaimed. His response was three words long:
“She’s too old.”
Three years separated me from him and his tattoos. Viv’s retort was equally brief:
“You’re an ass.”
My heart ached with his curt, dismissive response. Faced with the reality of dating as a middle-aged single mom, it occurred to me that perhaps Mr. Tatts was right; that in fact, I was too old. I sat back down at the table and thanked Viv for responding perfectly but felt ashamed to verbalize my hideous fear. I didn’t want to believe that a woman can be too old — or have too many kids, or be too educated — but the overwhelming feeling was that I wasn’t desirable. I’m proud of all my accomplishments and adore my children most in this world, but I worried it would all be used against me in the dating court.
The banter continued to fly between the four of us, but with my newly sunken heart, I couldn’t participate with the same vigour. I listened to their stories, eventually bid everyone a good night, and Viv went back home early the next morning.
I’d gone full circle: from solitude to hope and back, although the despair felt stronger as I allowed Mr. Tatts to get into my head. Thankfully, along with Viv, Mother Nature had my back and the season changed. Sunshine started streaming through my windows and the light lifted my spirits. Gently and slowly I returned to the living. Well, the virtually living. I chose to jump into the pixelated vortex of online dating.
Within days, I received a message from Daniel – an exquisitely dressed man with chiseled good looks. His profile included that he was a lawyer. Never been married. No children.
His messages were short, factual almost, and for some reason, written very infrequently – his responses usually popped up ten days or so after my messages. This slow-moving series of exchanges lasted for about two months. I didn’t think anything would actually come of Daniel as there didn’t seem to be much of a spark between us – granted, it was difficult to assess given the sporadic communication. Forget technology. Chatting by carrier pigeon would have been faster.
Eventually, Daniel proposed that we meet in person and suggested dinner at an expensive restaurant. A meal seemed a big commitment to me, but regardless of my hesitation, I accepted, armed with a list of topics if awkward silences did present themselves.
At 52, Daniel was a little older than my target age group, but he was also far more handsome than most online suitors. As a bonus, his physique was rather spectacular. Perusing his photos, I could see the outline of his well-toned torso under his tailored shirts. I could see hints of a washboard stomach, strong pecs and biceps that could be used for all sorts of good things. His physique took me to naughty places that I would never verbalize – well, maybe to Viv.
We met at the restaurant where we were also met with a long wait for a table. Standing in line seemed like the perfect chance to chat and learn about each other, but instead of an exchange, he chatted and I listened. For thirty minutes solid. I was unable to squeeze a word in. Not. A. Single. Word. The irony that one tattoo-covered individual couldn’t give me more than three words, and this man couldn’t stop for a moment was not lost on me.
Once shown to our table, his endless stories continued. I decided to interject the moment I could see even a stitch of commonality in our lives. I actually succeeded once. His reaction was to lean back in his chair and look around the restaurant craning his neck so far back I thought his chair would tumble over. I was stunned. Eventually he turned his attention back to me and told me that he’d spotted a movie star at another table. He didn’t ask me a single question the entire evening. He took the time, however, to explain that his infrequent messages were due to the fact that he would stop communicating when he was dating someone else. He’d been chatting up all kinds of women, would invite them to dinner, perhaps go on a few dates, then when it didn’t work out, he’d resume our conversation. Neither the disclosure nor the strategy made me feel very special. I guess I’m strange that way.
Daniel had insisted on ordering for us, and our small table became a buffet of dishes. “Rude egotistical company but great food” was my official summary of the evening. Eventually the plates emptied, and I began to plot my departure. Daniel waved to the server and asked for the bill. He threw down a wad of bills, and I offered to contribute to what was certainly a large tab. He looked at me in disgust and uttered an unhappy growl. Apparently, this gesture offended him. Considering I’d been offended the whole evening long, I made no apologies.
We left the restaurant and walked out into the busy downtown street. A blast of cold winter air saw me zip up my jacket while my eyes darted about madly for a taxi. A few steps from the restaurant, Daniel proposed we grab a drink. It was mind-boggling that a man who barely acknowledged my presence – made me feel invisible, in fact – was interested in prolonging such a date. I proudly kept all sarcastic comments to myself and politely declined. We continued to walk slowly as I kept hunting for that taxi. Then the evening got downright weird.
With my attention devoted to the road, his pull on my arm took me by surprise. Daniel grabbed me by the elbow and yanked me a few steps into a small, dark alley off the main street. He immediately started to kiss me hard. Really, very hard. His hands were all over my body within a second of tearing me into the dark. As I started to push his body away, the hard kiss became hard biting. Yes, biting. He was biting my cheeks with such force that the pain spiralled down in a mad rush to the pit of my stomach. It resurfaced within seconds as rage, allowing me the power to shove him back with more strength than I rightfully owned.
The surge continued as I yelled out: “BACK OFF!” I pushed him away once more and called out: “CALL THE POLICE!” With my voice still raised, I laid into him and made him aware how inappropriate his actions were. He looked around sheepishly and admitted it was a rather creepy move. He apologized as we stepped back on to the sidewalk. He then uttered six words that could only be spoken by a seedy lawyer like Daniel…
“In my defence,” he said, “You exude sexuality.”
I was aghast. People were staring. With gritted teeth, I threatened again to contact the authorities then noticed an oncoming taxi in my peripheral vision. I hailed it, jumped in and barked out: “DRIVE!”
I called Viv the next morning and told her everything. Between us, we spread the word about Daniel — a prominent lawyer in the city — and my invisibility began to feel like a superpower. I used my powers for good and educated my single mom friends about Daniel and the dangers that lurked in that pixelated vortex.
Armed with my new knowledge, I returned to online dating but with my tactics drastically altered. I aimed to quickly weed out the nasties and find the elusive: a kind, decent man amongst the curt tattooed and the face-biting freaks.
The search continues to this day but the fizzles no longer threaten my safety nor make my heart ache. I’m still accumulating jaw-dropping stories, as Viv can attest – we laugh until our guts ache. I cherish that laughter knowing that one day, without a doubt, the fizzles will fade out when the elusive walks in.