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One Can Only Dance Alone For So Long

An excerpt from my book, Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce

The day I got married I was delighted with the possibilities – a lifetime partner to honor, cherish and have babies, minivans and power tools with. I think that every bride who walks down the aisle is not only dreaming of her future but also privately saying to the world: “See? Someone finds me wonderful enough to have spent two months’ salary on a ring, put on a rented tux and those black patent-leather shoes, and live with me forever — even when I’m PMSing.

But the main thing that I, personally, was secretly thrilled with was that I would never, ever have to go on a date again. Especially not a first date, the singularly most anxiety-producing part of dating.

Well, I was wrong.

 Two years ago, after 13 years of marriage, I became the first person in my family’s history — dating all the way back to my great-great-great-grandparents in Siberia,Russia — to get a divorce.

The divorce itself wasn’t so bad. Mutual. Amicable. Friendly, even. In fact my ex is one of my dearest friends.  

It’s the post-divorce-dating that I just wasn’t up for. Yet.

So, for a while, I just didn’t. Date, that is. Instead I took kickboxing and Pilates and digital photography and salsa dancing (all listed in the catalogs as “Classes for the Newly Divorced”) and channeled all my energy into these healthy activities.

 But one can only dance alone for so long.

 So I started to tiptoe into the dating world again. Only this time there was a whole new world out there – Online Dating. Speed dating. Lock and key parties. I discovered that people don’t necessarily date – they hang out or hook up. People spend hours getting to know each other before they ever meet or even talk on the phone; instead they makes posts to walls, text each other and IM. 

There were rules I’d never heard of: A guy who is interested in a girl never calls before three days, but doesn’t wait longer than five. Women who date younger guys are called “cougars,” and I don’t think there is meant to be anything remotely complimentary about it. If you call the person you’ve been dating for the past week and your call goes straight to voicemail it means something other than the person you’re calling is not available. The list of new rules and the ones I broke on a nightly basis is actually quite lengthy. 

Being a quick learner, however, I went from crawling to walking to running very quickly. In the two years since I have been divorced I have been on approximately 87 dates. This alone makes my friends’ jaws drop and has anointed me a dating expert. Combine that with the fact that I have been dating since I was 15 (minus the decade-plus that I was married) and during those years I had likely been on 500 dates – and probably 100 of them blind dates – well, that should make me some sort of reality-show survivor. I have also been in four long-term relationships in addition to my one marriage and one divorce.

 But it is my post-divorce dating that makes me a true expert. Because it took being married to cure me of the near-desperate desire to be married that consumed most of my 20s. And believe me, dating with that goal in mind — to get married – is the singularly most prevalent cause of disastrous dating. It causes us to date people we wouldn’t even sit next to on the subway. It causes us to stay in relationships that are completely wrong and possibly dangerous to our health and self-esteem. G-d forbid we give up on a relationship we’ve invested two or five or 10 years into because he is the wrong guy. “What, and start all over?” Let me tell you, starting over is one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language, if you can just embrace it and buy enough mint chocolate chip ice cream to get you through three weeks of lonely nights.

 In this post-divorce-dating world, I have learned what I like and dislike in a guy and what my must-haves and non-negotiables are. I think everyone should have a dating checklist to refer to that includes all of her notes from past dates, boyfriends and husbands, so she is not tempted to consider a man who embodies one or more of her non-negotiables. I recommend you start this list now, no matter what age you are, guys and girls, for that matter.

 But just before you do, to make sure you have a sense of humor when creating that list, try this: Right now, stop and call this number: 415-228-0207. It’s called Rejection Hotline and it’s pretty funny. It’s the number you give to people who ask you for your number but to whom you would never give your number and this is nicer than saying, “Not if you were the last breathing person on Earth.” And anyway, you won’t be around when he calls it – you should only give this number when you are on your way out of the bar or party or gym or whatever — and it’s funny so if he doesn’t get it then he doesn’t have a sense of humor and you were right to give him this number anyway.

 Okay, maybe it’s kind of juvenile. But it can also be its own dating Litmus test. I was telling the hostess at my favorite midtown pizza place about the Rejection Hotline– well, actually, I was shouting the number to her from across the room (attractive lady-like behavior, I know). A guy at the counter piped up and said, “Hey, I know that number! That’s my girlfriend’s number.”

 I asked him out immediately.

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