Inspired by the true life events of today's single moms, the following is designed to be a guide, not a rule book, for those mamas re-entering the dating pool with both bruised hearts and jelly stains on their LBDs. Together we stand.
1. The Drop-Dead Gorgeous Douchebag
This is the guy who motivates women to leave their husbands. He is unbelievably fit and handsome, but in a sexy, scruffy way that manages to be the polar opposite of your khakis-loving, clean-shaven ex-husband. He probably majored in Physical Education, and he gets by doing small-scale art projects for local coffeehouses. Meaningless and erroneous conversations about books and architecture enjoyed while he strums his guitar leave you swooning. He practically has to kick you out of his studio apartment and remind you that you have kids waiting at home. Of course, artists have limited cash flow, but since you work two jobs, you're happy to pick up the tab when you go out to dinner, telling yourself the adult conversation is totally worth it. Behind the seductive veneer, he houses a huge secret that can easily go undetected by single moms new to the dating scene: He only wears flip-flops. A dozen identical pairs are lined up by the front door of his "minimalist" bachelor pad. Recognized by experienced moms as the universal signal that he can't commit to anything, you decide instead to write it off as "hipster." While he's chatting with you at an out-of-the-way cafe he has texts flying in from ladies just like you in multiple parts of the country (he's a midnight Internet surfer, after all). When he confesses he's moving to Oregon to live with a molecular gastronomist he fell in love with via email, you're more devastated than when you got divorced.
Single Mom Souvenir: This guy reminds you that there is a sexy, passionate beast living inside you, and prompts a much-needed lingerie makeover. Bye-bye period panties!
2. The Smart and Sweet Rebound
When the douchebag leaves you heartbroken and addicted to drive-thru meals, you find solace in -- gulp -- his best friend, an aspiring poet who makes a living writing book jacket copy. In his spare time, he takes ballroom dance lessons and reads books about ballroom dancing, which you try to feign interest in but it's just not there. A loner, he shows up at your door at the first sign of a text from you, yet is man enough to stand in the shadows when you cry over his former BFF, a.k.a. the douche bag. His poems have taught him that heartbreak is temporary. He's sweet to your kid, but visibly uncomfortable, opting instead to congratulate you on being able to "do" motherhood and a career so seemingly well. He saves all his money for an end-of-the-year trip to Buenos Aires, where he plans to learn tango. The only problem is he doesn't invite you. Instead, his "dance partner" goes along with him, leaving you vulnerable to the assertive advances of an older gentleman you meet at a work event.
Single Mom Souvenir: A copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
3. The Older Man
Don't call him a guy or a dude. This is a man, a gentleman. He's been married a few times, traveled the world and is a successful entrepreneur with a vintage motorcycle. European with a penchant for scarves (even in summer), he stands up when you leave the table at a restaurant and takes you places you long dreamed of going -- Milan, Buenos Aires, Prague -- but never with your kids. Uncomfortable with anyone under the age of 25, he plays ball with your children once every few months, but otherwise leaves the caregiving to you. Rather than watch TV, he spends his nights on the balcony of his urban penthouse sipping Grappa while listening to Carole King. When he walks into a restaurant, employees bend over backwards to cater to his every whim (and yours!). On the downside, he will expect you to look good 24/7 with zero tolerance for carb binges during certain times of the month (good thing you ditched those period panties). Due to his demanding work schedule, you will spend a great deal of time alone in his sprawling condo, but on the bright side, he lets you drive his convertible. Then one day, you find yourself lying by the resort pool in his waterfront building, half-drunk at noon and wondering where your kid is. Thank goodness for grandparents.
Single Mom Souvenir: You walk away from this one with a higher standard for chivalry and a lower standard for being "cultured." You need a guy who can laugh at a fart joke -- or hell, come up with one on his own.
4. The Divorced Dad
At first it seems the two of you have soooo much in common. You're both single working parents who love films and food -- what are the chances? He's quiet and shy, but that's OK because you're plenty crazy for both of you. Steady text-streaming while each of you carpools kids around town leads to formal date nights that involve hiring sitters and end with late-night conversations while lying on the grass in his backyard. A secret stoner, this guy only comes out of his shell when he's baked, which explains his timid retraction when his ex-wife threatens to keep him from seeing the kids if the two of you keep seeing each other (she is the only one allowed to have a life). When communication comes to a screeching halt, you borderline harass him for a while, demanding a reason why.
Single Mom Souvenir: "My ex-wife says so" leaves you disgusted with the notion of dating another divorced parent, which is totally hypocritical, but you don't care. You've got your own ex and kids to deal with, who needs more?
5. The Younger Man
You can swear you hear angels singing when you finally meet this Match.com cutie. By now you've been divorced a few solid years and your tolerance for inadequacy is at a record low. At $10 per hour minimum, a dude has to be sitter-worthy at this point. Several phone calls point to yes, so you agree to meet at a trendy restaurant. He unabashedly gushes over how beautiful you are from the first moment he sees you and he hasn't stopped since, so you're finally starting to believe him. He prefers collared shirts and sport coats to ripped jeans and T-shirts, and he tells everyone he knows that you're the love of his life. He makes your son as big a priority as his own, and like you and your ex, he gets along great with his. Together, you confess all of your past mistakes and decide to go for it one more time. When your kids meet, they become fast friends, and when it's time to meet the exes, it's awkward but pleasant, and always respectful. He welcomes your moodiness, and when he keeps forgetting to put down the toilet seat, he tolerates your talking to him like he's one of your kids. The first time he witnesses one of your fiery rants, he stares wide-eyed and says, "God, I love you." As much as you try to find something wrong with him, he continually comes out on top (or makes you laugh so hard you forgot what you're mad about). Finally, you give in and before you know it, day by day turns into month by month, and you start to seriously consider getting married again.
Single Mom Souvenir: A renewed sense of hope that maybe this relationship thing can really work out for some people.