What I May, or May Not, Want

Even on the internet, people.

Even on the internet: the place where single people go to be sensible, calculated, methodical in their romantic pursuits–I have gone to behave just as irrationally, impulsively and–dare I say–foolishly as is my bane in real life.

Or have I?

Truth be told I’m still rather squeamish about the whole project, and hesitate to write anything. Also, when one shares something with a person, and said person responds with shock and dismissal that borders on disgust, one might hesitate to share said thing with hundreds on the internet.

Fortunately for me, I need not listen to your dismayed responses the way I had to my sister-in-law’s the other day over the phone.

And in the end, I can’t very well announce to you all that I’m going to start dating online and not follow up with some sort of report.

So: within days of posting a profile, I have begun trading messages with a handful of men. One, a 24-year old fresh from a serious relationship. Another, a 40-year old with a ten-year old son. And another in his mid-thirties who is father to three children.

(Insert sister-in-law’s disapproval here.)

Let’s tackle the young guy first. I know: I regularly complain about 33-year olds not being mature enough. However. Everyone’s different. And for all the sleaze and industry that cougardom has been tagged with, it makes biological sense: older women and younger men are more compatible sexually. Also, men die younger. I understand that the reality might not work out, but in theory, I support dating younger guys.

So, the kids thing. As I’ve written, I want children. But don’t I want my own? And don’t I want them not now, but someday? Someday meaning, in my ideal world, at least four but no more than five years from now?

The absurdity of that last part aside, it’s an interesting question. Because I doubt that anyone really plans on becoming a step-parent.

I’m fairly sure my mother didn’t, at least–until, at age 25, she met my dad: the recently widowed father of three young boys. (A few years later, once married, they had me, praised heaven I was female, and called it a day.)

My mother’s decision to marry my father has been the source of no small fascination for me–especially in recent years as I’ve matched and then surpassed the age at which she made it.

“What in god’s name was she thinking?” I have often wondered. And, recently, over dinner, I asked her.

At first, her answer seemed to be: not much.

“I thought I’d just bring them up!” she said, her eyes wide and shoulders up as if to convey that the question might sometimes baffle her as much as it baffles me.

But the explanation that followed indicated otherwise: in fact, it made sense. For one, she was very much in love with my father. For another, both of them had a lot of support–he wasn’t looking for her to raise the boys on her own. Plus, she was an elementary school teacher: comfortable with young kids.

It wasn’t as simple a project as she might have imagined, but in the end those boys turned out pretty darn well, if I may say so–as have the children that two of them now have.

Some eerily (read: infuriatingly) similar mannerisms aside, I am not my mother. And I feel pretty far from being in a position to make the kind of choice now that she made then. There are a number of logical reasons why it doesn’t make much sense for me to date someone here who has a family. For one thing, they’ll probably need to stay here–and I’m not sure that’s what I want.

But I’m not totally sure what I do want, either. I’m not totally sure of anything–except that I want to find a way to live comfortably, have some sort of family that centers around a strong, passionate relationship, and write things. I don’t know I ever felt confident that I knew what my life ten or twenty years down the line would look like, but at this point I’m pretty clear that I have no idea.

So maybe it is a bit foolish to entertain correspondence with men who have a family, especially in a context–aka the bizarre marketplace of internet dating–that allows me to make informed choices and rule things out that I don’t think I want.

But I guess, when you don’t know what you want, the truly foolish thing seems to be to rule out anything.

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