It actually gave me hope

It was six months after our marriage had ended and my daughter had yet to meet someone I was dating. As far as she knew (if she thought about it at all), when she was with her mom, I was at home or work, spending too much time on the computer, or not cleaning, or going to film screenings.

But I’d been out a few times with the new girl, and dinner would be our only chance to hang out together that weekend. So, I invited her over on a Friday night for dinner with Simone and me.

Andrea and Simone seemed to hit it off right away, so they colored together at the dining room table while I prepared dinner. My daughter did get a little silly at times, throwing a crayon or pretending to bite it, but all was relatively quiet. The two went off to play in another room, so I set the table, finished cooking, and called to them to wash their hands while I put food on the table. Simone didn’t want to stop what she was doing, and that’s where the fun began.

What would this woman think? Would she ever want to hang out with us again?

Have you ever been to a meal with a strange family and the kids started to act out? You sat quietly, uncomfortable, averting your eyes until it was resolved. Suddenly, I was having a rare verbal tussle with my daughter in front of company. I felt self-conscious reasoning with a histrionic three-year-old.

What would this woman think? Would she ever want to hang out with the two of us again? When I finally got Simone’s hands washed, it was another struggle to convince her to sit down at the table. And that’s when she thought it would be fun to knock her silverware on the floor.

After taking a deep breath and internally counting to five, I gently picked my daughter up in my arms, and took her to her bedroom for a time-out. She screamed, she cried, she made me think I’d never be able to bring a woman home again. I told Simone to call me when she was ready to be polite at the dinner table, closed her door, and went downstairs to apologize to Andrea. She didn’t seem too troubled by it, but I could almost see the pot roast I’d cooked getting cold, could almost smell the fresh asparagus turning from spring emerald to steamed green. Simone was calling, so I headed back upstairs. She was ready to come down.

Tossing.. . cookies?

To lighten things up a bit, I tossed my little girl over my shoulder, and brought her downstairs upside-down (if you’re a parent, you already know what comes next). We were both laughing together by the time I got her to her chair. She stood on the cushion, getting ready to sit down, when she threw up all over herself, the dining room chair, the table. The more fluid parts began to make their viscous way down to the carpet.

Here’s what went through my mind in the first milliseconds:

1. Oh, my poor baby, better get her to the bathroom!
2. It had to happen tonight. I can’t wait to tell this story.
3. I’m never going to have a girlfriend.

I conveyed Simone to her upstairs bathroom, and held her hair back as she vomited another time into the toilet, then removed her soiled clothes, brilliantly pulling her shirt over her head and getting chunks stuck in her hair. I stripped off my shirt, picked up my tiny, naked, whimpering daughter, and ran downstairs.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Andrea, “I need to take Simone in the shower.” I waited for this new girl to say something like, “Well, you have your hands full, I’d better go.” But she just nodded, so I turned toward the staircase.

A beautiful mess

Then: “Hey, do you have any upholstery cleaner for the chair? I already took care of the carpet.”

I may have cried later, but I didn’t at that moment. It was one of those times of pure magic – I’d expected this younger woman to make a quick escape, but instead she was cleaning my daughter’s gastric exhalations out of the crevices of the dining room table. I’d been through half a year without backup, making discoveries about the easiest or best way of maintaining a house and being a parent by default (or miscalculation).

I’d fully expected Andrea to leave me to deal with the mess, the sick baby, the lonely house in the suburbs, my doubts. She’d asked a simple question, but, for me, it caused a momentary shift in my sense of the world, in the possibilities for a happy future.

I held Simone’s warm body close to mine in the shower, calming her, and carefully untangled her hair. I made her laugh by gargling the hot water, and helped her rinse out her mouth. I looked at her open, trusting face, and felt horrible for the evening’s events. I’m still pretty good at beating myself up.

Once she was toasty in her fleece pajamas, sitting on the family room floor with a big plastic bowl in front of her and “A Bug’s Life” on the TV, I went back to the dining room to find Andrea.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “What a disaster. Simone’s parked downstairs, and I need to stay with her. So, if you want to go, I’ll understand. I’m just going to put my dinner on a plate and eat it downstairs.” I gave a wan smile, and braced myself for the answer.

She said, “Would it be okay if I stayed with you guys?”

Andrea no longer lives in Colorado — she moved to the East Coast for law school last summer. But I’ll be forever grateful for the way she treated me that evening. It was only my first foray into the emotional juggling act of the single dad’s social life, but the lessons I learned and the optimism it bred have stuck with me.

Excerpted with permission from Best Of The Dating Dad. Original post written in 2004. Eric hasn’t introduced his daughter to a woman he’s dating in a very long time. 


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dating disaster

“Hey, are you dating anyone right now?”

I was at my four-year-old daughter’s baseball game watching my daughter play with another little girl. The other parents and I spend three to five evenings a week together at practices and games throughout the spring and summer, so we all get to know each other pretty well. A week earlier, I’d been talking with a mom who asked me what I did for a living. I told her, “I’m a writer. I write about parenting and dating/relationships as a single father.” In a different crowd, this honesty opens up the door for people to ask me a million questions and help them solve their problems while I’m out and about; but I digress.

At this last game, this lady who I have gotten to know over the last three seasons asked me the dating question. I thought back to our conversation last week and assumed the questions that I normally get were about to fly. So I was honest and said, “Not right now.”

She responded with excitement, “Oh really? I have this friend…”


“She’s thirty-six and has a son about your nephew’s age…”


“She’s a nice person…”


“She hasn’t really dated much since she and her son’s father broke up. I feel like she’s afraid to venture out, so she kind of keeps him around. I’m gonna give her a call right now!”

Shit! Fuck! DAMMIT!”  

I’m just not that into it

It was as if she ran down a checklist of everything that doesn’t quite work for me at this point in my life (I’m twenty-nine, I still want to have more children, and everything else just sounded like we wouldn’t be a good fit). I looked at my phone, and said, “Hold on, I have to take this call.” I walked away for a good five minutes, listened to a song and rapped along with the lyrics to look like I was having a conversation, and then came back. She had just got off the phone and looked like she was looking for me to show some semblance of interest. That’s when I said, “Honestly, I just got out of something I had been in for two years,” which is half-true. It looked like she took that to mean I wasn’t dating right now. Luckily, that was the last game of the season, so I won’t see her until next spring.

That was the moment that I realized that I’m that person people feel like they need to hook up. Honestly, only women friends who are more like associates do this. I like to think I’m pretty good-looking and I’m always coming to my friends with some hilarious and drama-filled dating story, so they don’t even try.

I am a single parent. I don’t have much time to be out and about to meet people. Others, like said baseball mom, see me spending so many evenings at games and practices and probably think I am inundated with doing things that revolve around children. And it’s very true. People are just trying to help two people they know who they think are good people. No harm, no foul.

OK, I admit it – I’m shallow

However, blind dates almost never end well. The first question anyone asks after, “I have a friend” is “What do they look like?” Often the response is “She’s cute,” or “She’s nice,” which all mean, “Hell no.” I have humored this once or twice and upon meeting the “cute friend,” I want to punch my  so-called friend in the face. Some may think this is shallow, but the truth for most is that physical attraction comes first, so I don’t feel bad at all about this. The truth is, you can ask someone who is a real friend of yours, “What does he/she look like?”And 9.5 out of 10 times they will respond, “They don’t look like someone you’d date.”

What happens when things don’t work out? It can get awkward. Everyone might be at a function after things went south. Or you could wind up losing a friend. While I do love being in the same place as one of my exes for the sake of a great story, I don’t need extra drama.

Sometimes people who want you to meet their friend think that you’re lonely. Sure, things would be a lot easier if there were two of us raising my daughter, but I am happy. I like to think that many of us single parents live pretty regular lives with the exception of our dating lives…that’s where things get incredibly interesting. And speaking for myself, I want to be the one to set up that part of my life. The acquaintances who want to introduce me to their friends only know me as fairly mild-mannered guy who does kid shit all day. If the baseball mom knew what the dating part of my life looked like, she wouldn’t think her friend and I were a good fit at all.

Readers, tell the truth: Do you like being set up on blind dates? 

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“I cast out and you reel them in!” My daughter recently said to me. I laughed because she had all but confirmed that she sees herself as bait to attract women for her single father.

I don’t–nor have I ever–used my daughter as bait on purpose. I like to think that I am a pretty handsome guy and quite personable, even a little charming. However, my four-year-old daughter has been the greatest wingman I have ever had.

I’m 29 years old and have been a single father since my Cydney was nine months.  I’m still young and want to enjoy what my grandmother once told me are “the best years of my life.” Because of this I have taken my daughter with me some of everywhere. We would hop on Megabus and go to Washington, DC to hang out with my friends until the wee hours in the morning and she would be the life of the party without dulling down the festivities because she’s a kid. We’ve gone to happy hours, dinners, job interviews, networking events, you name it. If my college friends in New York have a day party and I don’t bring her they ask “Where’s Cydney?!” They’ve adopted her as an official member of the crew.

My girl knows my taste in women

I guess along the way Cydney has picked up on a thing or two. When or if she sees fit she will make her presence known to women. About two years ago, while watching the Knicks in a playoff game, Cydney took it upon herself to leave, invite herself to the neighboring table of girls in their mid-20s, introduce herself, stay there, eat some of their fries, knowing that I would have to come and get her. She has done this time and time again.  What’s extra interesting is that she has this down to a science. She knows exactly the kind of women I like and who find me attractive. It is as if she knows what she is looking for for her dad and for herself.

Cydney has not only appointed herself as the bait but she is also the gatekeeper. She is nice to everyone but if she isn’t quite interested she will let that be known as well. Once I took Cydney with me on a date. She was cool about it for a while. But when she was no longer interested she laid her coat on the ground and pretended to go to sleep. That was an indication it was time to get the check and go. She has done this more than once.

I’m aware that my experience dating as a single parent is a little different from most. Part of this is because I am a father with a little girl–seems to tug at heartstrings or something that I can’t quite understand (I chalk this up to being a guy). But many single parents have found dating to be more of a challenge. It’s tough to find time for it and I definitely have a hard time being able to consistently do so, but for me getting a date has never been a problem.

Do single dads have a dating advantage?

My good luck might be because there is a double standard around dating single fathers versus single mothers. I will admit I don’t date single moms. I did once, but for the most part I stay away. I have my reasons and for the sake of this post they don’t really matter. In any case, knowing that I’m a solo dad with a cute little girl makes women fawn…so I’ve been told.

I think my ability to find dates is also because I am not afraid to take risks. One of the things about starting a blog based around the Adventures of a Single Dad is that it prompted me to constantly find things to get into. I often say God knows I live for great stories so He keeps giving me great stories to tell. There have been weekends in which I wanted to do absolutely nothing, but I would make a conscious decision to go out, do something, and bring my kid along just for the sake of having something else to write about. I still have living to do and my daughter is a major part of what I do it all for. Turns out she’s been paying attention and has found herself a niche for continuing to make things interesting.

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I’ve been a single mom since my son Jack, 7, was in my belly, which means my dating life gets, well, complicated. When you’re a single parent, dating is part challenge, part comedy routine. It also feels like deja vu all over again. In fact, most of my single mom dating scenarios remind me of what it was like when I was dipping into the dating pool as a fresh-faced teen. Here’s why:

Fooling around is still risky business.

When I was a teenager my mom caught me making out on the living room couch with my boyfriend Joey*. She was probably more embarrassed than me and gave a loud cough as a signal to stop kissing and get back to studying. Fast forward: My sleepy son wandered out of his room — to pee — and caught me making out with a guy I’m casually seeing. This time I was the one who was more embarrassed. After Jack peed, he decided to join us for a cup of milk. Then and now, my makeout sessions get sabotaged. Busted!

I still have a curfew.

Back in high school I was always rushing to make it home by my 11:30 pm curfew to not piss my dad off — and risk being grounded. It’s not so different these days. If Jack isn’t sleeping over at grandma’s house, I’m rushing to get home so I don’t piss my sitter off by being later than expected — and risk losing her. And honestly, at 12 bucks an hour, I don’t want to break the bank.

I’m still a pretty (good) little liar.

I admit it — I lied to my parents a few times in high school so I could hang out with a guy or go to a club in NYC. My go-to lie was: Mom, I’m sleeping at Melissa’s*. And Melissa told her mom she was sleeping at my house. Well, I’m still lying to my parents about where I go sometimes. Why? Because I don’t feel like telling them about every freaking Tinder or online date I’m trying, because I don’t want to play 20 questions just because I swiped right — and um, all I know about the guy is he’s 36 and had on a blue shirt. I usually say I’m going to a movie and drinks with girlfriends or a book signing in NYC. But I never date without a safety net. My cell is always on me and a good friend always knows who I’m really with and where I am just in case….

I still slink home at dawn.

OK, so I wasn’t doing the walk of shame at 15, but when I was in college I definitely dragged myself back to the dorm in the wee hours with last night’s makeup on and a wicked hangover, and promptly crawled into my skinny twin bed to crash. A few years ago I was dating a sexy, older guy who lived in Hoboken. I fell hard for him and never turned my family down when they offered to take care of Jack so I could have a grownup sleepover. Wining, dining and uninterrupted sex was ahhh-mazing, but then morning came all too quick. As a devoted single mom, I couldn’t just relax in bed, have bagels and coffee and then have morning sex (well, sometimes there was time for that). I would set my alarm for 6:30 at the latest, kiss my sexy guy on the cheek and tiptoe down the stairs in his T-shirt and my jeans or mini skirt, in heels (ugh — heels on cobblestone!) and a topknot. There I was — in my 30s making a mad dash to the car so I could toast waffles and watch cartoons with my kiddo.

I still have to get creative to get busy.

When I was in high school, Joey and I would make out in his car on the top of the parking garage at the mall. After getting caught fooling around at home (see above), it seemed like a good idea. Let’s just say, dates have parked around the corner from my house before dropping me off. I’ve been swept away to a hotel after dinner for a few hours. Sometimes I don’t eat lunch … on my lunch break.

Infatuation is still a thing.

I was one of those girls who went gaga for guys and talked about them, wrote about them and daydreamed about them nonstop. As a single mom, finding a cool guy who likes kids and is not a sociopath is a big deal. So I’ve definitely texted my girlfriends about how awesome Ken* is. I’ve imagined marrying Ken and my son calling him Dad. We have another baby. We live in a home with a Spanish style roof. Dating is a huge, exciting deal for a single mom! You want to scream it from the rooftops!

Breakups still really, really suck.

I was a teen drama queen when it came to breakups, and that hasn’t changed since becoming a mom. Dating as a single mom requires so much time and planning and organizing. When you lose the person you spent two years loving, trying again seems like such a project. But there’s a silver lining: Taking a break from men is often just what the doctor ordered. Dating is so much work I never rush into a rebound relationship. And there’s hardly any time to mope, because you have a kid to take care of and baseball games to attend, lunch to make, homework to do. Being a single parent actually makes for a better breakup.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

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For more on single parent dating, including single dad Eric Elkins’s hilarious dating disaster story, check out Singlewith’s romance page. And for more on the subject of how trying to date as a single parent is like dating as a teen, go over to Wealthy Single Mommy, aka Emma Johnson’s great blog, for her take on the subject.

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Real Housewife of New York and New York Times bestselling author Bethenny Frankel has a brand new book out called I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To, which is full of great lessons she learned the hard way. Dating as a single parent is no easy feat, so I tapped Bethenny to share some quick nuggets of advice for all of us single moms and dads who are braving the dating pool.

10 Minutes, 10 Questions: Bethenny Frankel gives Christine Coppa the real lowdown on dating as a single parent


CC: When you hear the term “single parent dating” what comes to mind? For me it’s, CHAOS.i-suck-at-relationships-so-you-dont-have-to

BF: The challenge of balancing time. 

CC: What would you tell a newly single parent about getting back out there?

BF: Be in the moment. Meeting new and interesting people – and that alone – can have value and help you grow as a person. You can make a new friend, learn what you like, what you don’t like. Don’t beat yourself up, because every person isn’t prince(ss) charming. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself.

CC: The scene in Jerry McGuire when Tom Cruise eats Apple Jacks with Renée Zellweger’s little boy “the morning after” always sticks with me. How do you feel about introducing a child to the person you’re dating?

BF: He/she shouldn’t be introduced until it’s a very serious relationship, or a person that’s definitely going to be in your life for a while. Even then [the introduction] should start off just as friends. The child doesn’t need to know what the extent [of the relationship is.] Be mellow about it. I mean, single moms have gay friends, male friends, girlfriends – it can be just someone the child is meeting – it doesn’t have to be so serious.

CC: How do you feel about single parents dating other single parents? Too much? Good move?

BF: If you date a single dad, he understands where you’re coming from, the division of time, your priorities and that your kid is your number one priority.

CC: Let’s talk about reeling men in…

BF: Women attract the right type of man if they’re honest about having kids – and that’s something they are really passionate about. You attract the type of man that wants that – a responsible family man.

CC: A lot of single parents swear by a, er, friend with benefits – what’s your take?

BF: My personal thing is that women – for the most part – are incapable of separating sex from emotions. I’m not a big fan of a friend with benefits. I think it gets tricky. A newly single mom might be in a fragile state trying to balance a lot of things and I don’t think being emotionally attached to the wrong person is a good idea.

CC: When I go out on a date I feel like I have to flip the switch and be a sexy woman, not a single mom – and it’s not always easy to reverse roles. What’s your advice for enjoying a night out?

BF: It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention you have a child, because that’s a part of your identity. But you don’t want to go on and on and on about it. And it’s not good to badmouth an ex – you can sprinkle in certain things over the course of several dates. I once had a guy tell me about all the money he has to pay his ex-wife and I was so turned off. Get yourself dolled up and looking pretty and appreciate the date. Time away from your kids  is something different in your day.

CC: What are some dating red flags for single parents?

BF: A person who doesn’t want kids, doesn’t want to commit, someone who seems to be dating a lot of other people and is not going to be solid. People think they can change someone. Pay attention in the beginning – it’s an indication of who the person is.

CC: Can/should a single parent stay friends with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend  if the child is attached to that person? 

BF: That’s hard. Still be friends, if it can be structured. If everyone can handle it. It’s like a juice fast, you have to be delicate – you can’t just go cold turkey.

CC: What’s a single parent’s happily ever after in your opinion?

BF: I think a partnership is nice. I think having a partner that wants to be apart of your family completes the puzzle. Going out to the park on a Sunday. You can have a unit and that person can fulfill something for the child and you.

Singlewith contributor Christine Coppa is the author of Rattled!, a memoir about single motherhood. She’s also a contributing writer at Yahoo! Parenting and the mom of a 7-year-old boy. She loves cheese and wishes she could find a man with her golden retriever’s personality. 

Reality-TV star Bethenny Frankel is the author of many bestselling books, including I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To, Skinnygirl Solutions, Skinnygirl Cocktails and A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life. She’s the single mom of a daughter, Bryn, who will turn 5 next week. Happy birthday, Bryn! 

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How to get your groove back

I’ll never forget one night in the mid-80s, when my attempts at dating as a newly-single mom of a grade-schooler reached a low point. I got my daughter into bed, welcomed the babysitter, went in my room to prep for my 9 p.m. drinks-date, lay down on the bed to ponder my outfit… and the next thing I knew, the babysitter was shyly asking for a ride home. It was midnight, and I had slept right through the date.

Single parent dating has changed in some respects since then; for one thing, today I would have gotten an angry text from my date demanding to know why I was standing him up. But other things have not changed one iota.

When you’re a single parent, you are the sun and the moon in your family. Your kids depend on you for everything—from homework help to meals to driving duties to costumes for school plays. It can be exhausting. And, if you’re a good parent, you’re often a bad dater. As in, you rarely carve out the time for it, because your family comes first.

“Dating when you are exhausted from parenting is challenging,” says Ellie Slott, author of Mom, There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe and Dating for Dads. “But as anyone who dates knows, a new, exciting romantic relationship infuses us with boundless energy. So go for it.”

It’s also true that you can’t parent well—or even effectively—if you’re feeling exhausted, and resentful because your own needs aren’t being met. Denying yourself social interactions can just hasten burnout. Everyone needs “me” time, which means time with sweethearts—or potential sweethearts.

Fisher recommends online dating, because “Anyone can do it, and in your PJs no less!” and points out that when you enter the dating world, there is a lot of incentive to pull your life together. “Making the decision to date means taking care of yourself, eating well, exercising and looking your best. It can really lead to a healthier lifestyle.”

As for other places to meet single parents, Fisher suggests trolling for dates at kids’ activities. “Consider an activity with your kids that includes the parents. Say a daytime haunted hayride or a children’s book reading in a local bookstore. Granted the likelihood any single person you meet will also be a parent—but who better to appreciate your exhaustion?”

Fisher also recommends, “timing your dating opportunities to coincide with your kids’ sleepovers and friends’ birthday parties.  Skip the nap you are craving; instead, fix yourself up and go on a date.”

This all sounds reasonable, but the issue is energy. How can single parents increase their mojo, so they have some left over at the end of the day for romance? Here are some tips:

Get up earlier—but not so you can start on your chores

Set your alarm for 15 minutes early. When it goes off, instead of leaping out of bed, spend some time thinking about what you’re grateful for, and the wonderful things in your life. Or write in a journal—or engage in any other activity that makes you feel centered. You’d be surprised at how it increases your energy!

Set aside at least one night a week just for you

Whether it’s for a date, for a movie, for volunteer work or time with friends, you’ve earned it. And you’ll feel refreshed afterward!

Make sure your kids get to bed at the same time every night

This is harder when they get older, but it’s impossible to carve out some quiet time in an evening at home for reading, a good movie or pursuing a hobby when your kids are lobbying (loudly) to watch Letterman.

Don’t deny yourself grooming appointments

You might feel selfish getting that pedicure rather than volunteering to bring cupcakes to the soccer game, but you’ll also feel great afterward. Twenty minutes on your own getting your feet massaged is worth 20 naps.

Instead of eating lunch at your desk, take a walk

It’s tempting to skip lunch or chow down at your desk when you’re anxious to get home to your kids. But a light meal followed by a brisk walk can be enormously renewing and recharging.

Turn shower time into spa time

You don’t need to spend a fortune at a spa to feel rejuvenated. It’s possible to get any number of fabulous aromatherapeutic products at a local natural foods store that are inexpensive and make your shower feel like a spa treatment. Turn off the noise in your mind and breathe deeply.

Tune in to the quiet

Whether you’re driving or cooking or getting dressed, the tendency is to have a radio or TV on for background noise and for quick hits of news. This is especially true while driving. Turn everything off and just be still, at least once a day, and you’ll notice your stress level decrease.

Okay, now look at your calendar, call the sitter, accept that online invitation, and put on your dancing shoes.

Featured photograph by bombardier

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!

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The only time everyone in my school was happy on Valentine’s Day was in 3rd grade, because in 3rd grade Mrs. Chatterton made sure that either everybody got a valentine, or damn well nobody got a valentine. By middle school we’d all matriculated into that fickle world where unconditional love is no longer supervised, and you’re just as likely to get left behind. Candygrams and paper hearts stuffed in shoeboxes and lockers – they make and break our adolescent dreams.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, 2015, and if you’re a single parent like me, you’re ambivalent about the empty shoebox. You love your kids, but you’re not quite sure about being home with them tonight. All those googly-eyed celebrations are getting on your nerves.

You could just write a check to Amnesty International and write off the whole thing as some kind of political protest – after all, chocolate, roses, diamonds and gold are all blood-stained commodities. Or, because this is the Internet, we can make a list. Herewith, ten reasons to celebrate that you’re not on a Valentine’s date:

1. Drink practically as much red wine as you like—at least after the kids go to bed—and lie to yourself about the health benefits. So many lies will be told tonight that yours won’t even move the needle.

2. Rediscover the literal Total Eclipse of the Heart. Enjoy the full measure of sarcasm without suffering a hint of deflating irony.

3. Revel in the fact that you have time to read more Mallory Ortberg. (Good chance she’s way more entertaining than that date would have been.)

4. Think of how much time and grammatical angst you saved by not re-reading those endlessly over-sharing and under-achieving online dating profiles. And you didn’t have to fake your own death to get out of a date. (Though your wrist could be a bit sore after all of those swipe-lefts. Put an ice pack on that.)

5. Do some Taylor Swift karaoke! Perform her entire catalog and really revel in the teen angst. (You too, menfolk. If you have a daughter of any age and haven’t opened yourself to the preening pop power of T-Swizzle, you owe her a family sing-along. She’ll never forget it.) Follow with a goat chaser.

6. Sock away the cash you saved. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, the average Valentine’s celebrant is expected to drop $142.31 this year; 1 in 5 intend to include the family pet in the festivities. With children and no sweetheart, you’re already in the black. Or, hey, splurge a little: get nickel rolls from the bank, one for each family member, and spend V-Day teaching your kids blackjack and poker. If none of them show promise as card counting savants, that still leaves $120 and change for the college fund.

7. Stay safe. Valentine’s Day is the bully of holidays. It has to be true—HBO said so!

8. Watch When Harry Met Sally with your kids and devise, on the fly, an age-appropriate explanation for your child about the deli/orgasm scene. However old they are you’ll be laying a fine foundation for the healthy discussion of human sexuality. And however old you are the mental gymnastics should be enough to forge new pathways in your brain.  (A double feature with Frozen is not recommended; Sally’s special moment would truly melt poor Olaf. )

9. Rejoice that nobody, anywhere, even thought of giving you a 50 Shades of Grey Teddy Bear.

10. Celebrate with your kids. Make comfort food and heart-shaped sugar cookies and tell them stories about all the best and worst things that love has ever wrought. While you’re at it, tell them that you’re not out there this weekend because never, ever, will you settle.

Bonus: if the next morning you awaken with that hollow, didn’t-have-a-date feeling, you can always send your enemies glitter. Careful — that link is Australian, and we suspect the import tariff on glitter is hefty. Since you’ve got kids you can easily subcontract and save yourself some bank. Which is important, because there is a lot of chocolate on sale today.

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Photo by  Jamie Street on Unsplash

I often am asked whether or not I would consider getting married again.  For a long time, my response was something like,  “I’d love to.  But to be honest, I think I’m going to do a George Clooney it and be a bachelor forever.”  But Clooney got married, so I replaced him with someone else who’s made a career of being a single guy — Derek Jeter. Then he got engaged to model Hannah Davis, something more unlikely than the Yankees captain being honored by the Boston Red Sox, archrivals beat the Yankees in the 2004 World Series, when he played his final game in Fenway Park and retired his jersey.

My heroes are failing me…

Actually, it’s quite endearing.  Men who once had committed themselves to not being committed seemed to have found someone who complements them so well that they want to finally settle down.  For the most part, that’s what everyone wants.  It’s what I want.

Been there, done that

However, I think about the many conversations I’ve had with my single friends who are tired of dating and think happiness is finding someone they’ll fall in love with forever. But having the traveled the road from great first date to saying “till death do us part,” I find myself putting them on game on how this life partner deal really works — the overwhelming odds are that they are going to get on your every last nerve.

They will try your patience in ways that will surely make you do things you swore you would never do andpromised them you wouldn’t do back when you were dating.  You will consider — and probably carry out —acts that your partner once said were deal-breakers because you know they actually won’t be. You will dread knowing everything they are going to say before they open their mouth. But they are still your best friend and you love them more than anyone else on the planet.

“But I don’t want to compromise!”

I can’t lie, I actually miss that.  However, just thinking about all that comes along with it makes me more than a little wary to want to settle down again.

Perhaps my biggest phobia about commitment is the idea of co-parenting.  I have been a single father for almost five years and I know almost nothing about sharing parenting responsibilities.  Even while Cydney’s mother was alive, I stayed up all night, cleaned the bottles, and did most of the work. She passed away when my little girl was only nine months old.  For better or worse, all I know is being a single parent.  There is a good chance that part of my wanting to play the field for the rest of my life and have relationships that don’t last forever is because I am not used to accomodating someone else’s parenting ideologies and compromising on things like what school my child goes to and a million other things.  It has never been a part of my or my daughter’s lifestyle.

The pressure’s on

But Cydney wants me to have a serious girlfriend and get married. She wants a stepmother and siblings.  In fact, she says I need to do all of this by next week.  As stressful and draining as it can be sometimes, I love being my daughter’s everything.  Maybe this is the one part of my life where I want to and feel like I am justified for being a little selfish.  But I guess if George Clooney and Derek Jeter can find people worth committing to forever then maybe I can do the same.

In the meantime,  I still have Jamie Foxx.

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Do’s and Don’ts from “Dating Dad”

When it comes time to introduce your sweetie to the love of your life, it’s likely you won’t be the only one with performance anxiety. You’ll have put it off as long as possible because the implications—

1. You two are serious enough that it’s time to bring your child into the equation
2. Which means that the person you’re seeing has somehow managed to last more than three dates
3. And you trust (as much as you can) that this person will be around long enough to make a strong connection worthwhile

—are many, and the potential consequences—

1. Your child can’t stand the new joy in your life
2. The new joy in your life is awful with kids
3. Your sweet kid and your darling fall in love with each other
4. Your child is going to tell your ex about it, and you’ll have to provide some sort of explanation
5. If things don’t work out, you’re not the only one who will be left desolated, and you’ll have to explain to your child why there’s a big hole in your lives, and you’ll have to start all over again, except this time you both will feel the need to be more guarded than before, and who’s really going to fall for you and your kid (or two, or three) and all of your baggage and quirks and faults?
6. You, your honey, and your little goofball do so well that none of you can imagine life without each other, and the three of you become a family, and create an imperfect-but-wonderful new world together, and you and your love watch your baby grow up together, maybe adding a little miracle sibling or two along the way, and everyone feels whole and happy and…
7. The three of you just don’t connect, it’s no big deal, and you move on

—are too many and too maddening and too heart-wrenching to think about for very long, but finally, you realize that it’s time. Something in your heart says it’s right to take that chance; that your child will be okay, and you will be okay, and your new sweetheart will be okay. But that doesn’t mean you, your adoring kid, and your adored honey won’t feel a ton of pressure.

I haven’t done it in a long time, but I can still provide a few dos and don’ts for that first special date.

DON’T make a big deal about it with your child. Sure, you can barely contain the rich mix of excitement and apprehension that makes your stomach hurt and your head ache, and your nerves jangle like Rosie O’Donnell’s second chin. And, yes, you want your kid to be on his or her best behavior and make the “right” impression. But putting pressure on your baby will only set things on edge. Don’t tell him or her too far ahead, and when you do break the news, keep it light. “Hey, my new friend Lenna is going to meet us at the playground tomorrow, so we can all play together.” Or, “We’re going to have a guest for dinner tonight. Her name is Marie, and she’s a good friend of mine.”

DO plan something that’s fun for your kid, and doesn’t require super-human feats of good behavior. Skip the fancy restaurant; have a picnic and bring toys. Don’t go to the art museum; visit the zoo. Avoid the library, and play at the park instead. Plan an easy, fun activity, with potential for stretching it (like going to a movie, then stopping for ice cream afterwards). It’s only the first outing. Maintain perspective.

DON’T make your child perform. You know he can spell “disestablishmentarianism” or sing all eight thousand verses of “My Darling Clementine.” And, yeah, it’s freaking adorable when she does that dance move with the little maracas you brought home from Cabo a couple years ago. But you’re not an organ grinder, and your child isn’t a performing monkey. She’ll do the cute stuff when she’s comfortable. Let her find her own way. You’ll look ridiculous trying to coax some brilliance out of your kid.

DON’T stress. Your sweetheart knows how important this is to both of you. He or she is nervous. Really nervous. This is worse than meeting the parents. Your date understands the implications as well as you do (or should, if you’ve done your homework and made a good choice), and has decided that his or her behavior and chemistry with your child on this date could make or break the whole relationship. But it’s not true. It’s only the first meeting, and things are bound to run off the rails here or there. If you’re meant to be together, some minor disasters early on will only become fun stories down the road.

DON’T do what I did for the next three days after the latest one of these things, which was: obsess over how it went, and whether the timing was right, and if she really, really understood the implications of the fact that I allowed her into my daughter’s life, my heart doing the rumba every time Simone mentioned her name.

It’s going to be okay, really.

Excerpted with permission from Best of the Dating Dad. Original post written December 28, 2006.

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Photo by  Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash