When I was five, my dream was to be a professional Lego builder. When I was seven, it was to be a professional baseball player. When I was thirteen, it was to be a professional porn star (as if there's any other kind). And at eighteen, well, my dream was to marry my "Dream Girl" -- a girl I met freshman year in college -- a girl I had an enormous crush on, but never dated, let alone kissed or held hands with, because she dated my older (and much cooler) fraternity brother for all four years. But then everything changed one drunken night when she told my best friend that if she wasn't dating her boyfriend she would be dating me.
It was like a light went off -- like that moment in "Dumb and Dumber" when Jim Carrey realizes, "So you're telling me there's a chance?!" This news shook me to my core -- like the way a Paleontologist must feel upon the discovery of some new dinosaur genome -- as if this was something I too had been waiting millions and millions of years for.
And if that wasn't crazy enough, eight years after the moment that I nearly peed myself with joy, I had an even greater thrill... I actually said, "I do!" Can you believe it? I married my "Dream Girl!" I didn't think life could get any better than that moment. Literally, I remember telling that same best friend of mine how: "Life could throw sand in my eyes for the rest of my days and I would not care." That's how happy I was then.
The only problem is, like with any dream, you eventually have to wake up. And when we awoke 20 months after our wedding day, we realized that while we had a great story (and it was a great story, thanks to Paul Reiser himself) we were not going to have a great life together.
And so that was that... my dream, a lot like the Lego building, baseball playing and porn participation, suddenly was coming to a close. And for me, one of the hardest parts about being T.T.A.D. (thirty-two and divorced) was not the fact that I had to tell people we failed, or the fact that I now had to check the "divorced" box when I was filling out a job application or seeing a doctor for the first time. No, for me the hardest part about all of this, was signing the divorce papers. Not only because with one stroke my life was about to change -- but also because up until that day, I hadn't actually been able to say the word "Divorce" out loud. I mean, I'd thought about it (a lot) -- I'd talked about it (even more) -- but I'd always called it the "D-Word" - like it was some bad word that should be spelled out, not spoken out loud, in front of little kids.
And so when I went to sign my divorce papers -- when the nice old man who was acting as notary asked what papers he was notarizing for me... I froze -- I still couldn't actually say the word "Divorce" out loud and so instead, I simply just slid him the papers -- papers that luckily had the word "Divorce" written at the top in like a huge 36-inch font.
The nice old man looked down at the papers I'd just slid him, then up at me, back down at the papers and finally, back up at me. He then smiled, patted me on the back and said: "Well... Better Luck Next Time."
And I kind of just shrugged and thought, you know what, he's right... better luck next time. I mean, how hard could it be to find someone a second time -- I found someone the first time. And don't they say doing things the first time is always the hardest?
Besides, I'm better off now because of my Starter Marriage -- which is any first marriage that ends within 5 years and before you have kids. Because, see, when I was in my early 20's -- when I was last out in the dating world -- I was this hopeless romantic. But I got my fairytale -- I found the girl I swore I was "destined" to spend the rest of my life with -- the only problem was: it didn't end "Happily Ever After". And so now I'm back doing it again -- I'm just no longer a hopeless romantic, now I'm more of a realistic romantic.
Because being divorced in your early thirties is much different from simply dating in your twenties. Not only because I'd spent a good part of my late twenties with the same person -- while everyone else was experimenting with different people and doing different things -- but also because I got married when everyone else was still dating and now I'm getting divorced when everyone else is first getting married.
It's kind of like I did everything backwards. And so now I'm having to do the dating thing all over again -- but this time it's totally different. So much so that I've suddenly found myself second-guessing everything -- even more than I normally do. And that's because, if you think about it, marriage is like an athlete retiring in his prime -- going out on top -- saying goodbye when people still want him. While divorce is like that same athlete coming out of retirement after his prime -- only to have to do it all over again. But the problem I've found with dating today is -- it's an entirely different sport than when I last played. So much so, it's like Jordan returning to basketball only to find the ball is now square, the hoops are 20 feet high and you can no longer use your hands.
I mean, when I last played in the dating world my friends and I had finally just gotten a handle on how long you wait to contact a girl after she calls you (three days) or e-mails you (one day). But now there's texting, Facebook, Match.com, tweets and even the newest version of on-line dating I just experienced the other night called: Cheekd.com -- where this girl literally walked up to me, handed me a black business card and then just walked away. I was stunned, both by what just happened but even more so by what the card said: "Act natural. We can get awkward later. Find me at Cheekd.com." Really? Are you kidding me? No way. This is what dating has become? This is how dating has evolved in the few years since I last played this game?
And it's not only the way we meet people, it's also the fact that for the first time... I have baggage: real baggage that I have to unzip and expose the contents of every time I meet a new girl. And that's scary. Not only 'cuz I don't know how she'll react but also because I have no idea when I'm supposed to tell her. I mean, I can't just drop "The D-Word" on the first date but if I wait too long, it looks like I have something to hide.
And if I'm lucky enough that the girl pretends to be cool with the fact that I'm damaged goods, it's not all smooth sailing from there either. As I've learned, the small things now throw me for a loop too -- like mistakenly saying, "I love you" at the end of a phone call with a girl I was talking to for the first time. Literally, the conversation was going great, she was great, I was great, but then just as we were about to hang up, I forgot who I was speaking to, I was so used to saying: "I love you" at the end of every conversation with my wife, it just slipped out. I was mortified, she was freaked out, and of course we never spoke again.
And so while, yes, there have been a lot of expected and unexpected changes now having woken up from my dream, one that I never expected was the realization that since all of my friends are now either in relationships or married, I needed to find a new set of friends to hang out with on weeknights -- a new set of friends to go out drinking with -- a new set of friends to go pick up girls with. And so I now roll with a group of 24-year-old guys who were sucking their thumbs when I was getting Bar-Mitzvahed -- a group of guys who were still getting "Cootie Shots" while I was a Freshman in college -- a group of guys who think a "Cougar" is any single girl as old as me.
But the funniest part of all is the fact that my ex-wife (always weird to say and still weirder to type) is on national television. So you can only imagine the awkward moment the other day, as I got out of the shower and walked into the bedroom butt naked, only to see my ex-wife's mug on the TV -- and then, as if it was scripted, she pointed in my direction and suddenly started laughing hysterically -- as if she was looking right at my naked body and could not stop laughing.
And that's the best part about love -- how one morning you can be in your most vulnerable state, literally naked watching your ex-wife laugh at you, but later that night, you can be out at a bar (with all of your new 24-year-old friends) when out of nowhere someone spills a drink all over you -- and as you turn around, ready to yell at this person for being so clumsy, incompetent and selfish, you suddenly lock eyes with this girl -- a new girl -- and you realize that you're finally ready to love again.