“You may be smart and pretty, but with two little kids? You’re a hard sell,” my mother told me a few months ago when we were discussing my dating again after my divorce. It was one of her more tactful moments. But it turns out, as a single mother with two kids, she’s wrong. I’m not a hard sell at all. I attribute this less to my own attributes or promiscuity (lest anyone get the wrong idea) than to, of all things, my comparative insouciance.
See, I’m a woman in my 30s. I date like a man—that is, having a ball without worrying about catching a mate before any clock runs out. And I like it.
Before my divorce two years ago, I hadn’t dated since the 20th century. That was in my own roaring 20s, which, as in world history, preceded an abysmal, paradigm-shifting crash.
Back then, I was vaguely aware that somewhere within my anatomy lay a biological clock whose portentous ticking would only grow louder. But in those halcyon days, this didn’t strike me as being particularly relevant. Having kids was on my very long, macro to-do list of lifetime accomplishments, somewhere between “establish peace in the Middle East” and “win Nobel Prize for Literature.”
Of course, back in my 20s, when I’d imagined my future, I also envisioned it including a husband. And, for a while, it did.
But now here I am, several thousand dollars poorer, 60 pounds lighter (245 pounds, if we count my ex) and one agonizing year and a half of divorce proceedings later, going back to dating—something I never thought I’d do as a mother of two boys under the age of five.
It’s not our respective residences on Mars and Venus that give men and women such different outlooks on dating. Rather, it’s both the concept and the reality of time: that sorry fact that if you’re a woman and you want to have children in a conventional way, you’d better find a man sooner rather than later.
As a result, in a strange way, many women who’ve never been married or had children find themselves dating not so much because they want to, but rather, because they are goal-oriented. They want children. I don’t blame them; I rather like my own. In contrast, men are in no particular rush and can smell the roses as they wish—at least until they’re called on it by an imminent fiancée.
In the ideal world, I’d love to meet a man with whom I’d want to spend the rest of my life. And, if such a man were to surface, I absolutely wouldn’t mind having more children. As one of four siblings, as well as a sheepish fan of both the Jackson Five and The Sound of Music, I see the merits of a big family. It can be an invaluable support system. It can even help you cross the Alps to get away from Nazis.
But even if I never meet my bashert, I still have two wonderful sons, for whom I am grateful. So yes, I have beat The Clock.
After all my various losses, financial and otherwise, I find myself reassessing my net worth. But in times of economic and emotional devastation, who is rich? The answer: she who is happy with what she has.
I’m happy with my lot, and I’ve always loved to meet new people. Thanks to friends and JDate, I meet people beyond the playground. I’ve gone to Shakespeare in the Park, Broadway, salsa dancing along the Hudson, a boat cruise around New York Harbor, exhibits at the Cooper-Hewitt. If I want to see someone again, I do. If not, I don’t. No hard feelings. Oddly, this combination of confidence and nonchalance seems to have a pheromone-like effect on men, which, in turn, has a tremendously positive effect on me.
A 30-something friend of mine and I had dinner together a while ago. She’s smart, articulate, and pretty. She has never been married nor had children. She asked me how I felt about getting back into the dating scene. I told her I was having a fantastic time.
“You’re so lucky,” she said. “Whenever I go out on a date with a new guy, I’m so unbelievably nervous. Because, honestly? It’s a job interview for me. I want the job of being a mom someday and am nervous that I’ll never get it.
“I wish I could feel the way you do,” she went on. “Never stop being thankful that you have those kids.”
My dates aren’t job interviews. But if they were, they’d go something like this: “I’m not sure if we have an opening right now, but let’s talk a while. We can get a sense if you’d be a good fit for my company, and if you are, I’ll keep you in mind for the future. We’ll be in touch.”
After all the anxiety, it’s finally time to relax and see where I go. And if there’s more drama on my horizon, don’t worry. I’ll take it like a man.
Jordana Horn is a writer and lawyer at work on her first novel.