There is something really beautiful about dating a single dad. Like the way he understood when I couldn’t find alone time to schedule our first date, and suggested a play date instead. We drove separately and met in the line outside of “Imagination Playground” with our kiddos, making sure to acknowledge them and to learn their names. We stole glances at each other’s bodies, as we watched them run and play. And he offered to carry my diaper bag as we left.
We stood beside the model trains with our children in our arms, pointing out the mini skyscrapers that decorated the mini landscape. When I said I had to leave because it was almost my son’s naptime, he didn’t complain or ask me to stay. He gave me a kiss on the cheek, my son a high five, and his daughter gave me a hug. It was the best first date. I did not have to hide the fact that I am a single mom, and I did not have to feel ashamed.
The next time we saw each other, he agreed to meet me in the short break between work and daycare pickup, at a bar that I chose not for its popularity, but for its location just a few blocks away from my loft. We only had time for a couple of beers before I had to run to pickup my son. Again, he did not lament the short time we had spent together and expressed only appreciation. Many days passed before we saw each other again, due to our work and parenting schedules, but we kept in touch.
Our third date, finally, was more traditional. We planned to have dinner then check out a street fest. I was surprised that the first thing he did when we got out of the car was take my hand in his. I could not remember the last time I had held hands with someone as I walked, and I was instantly afraid. But he was so comfortable and self assured that I eased into the moment and started to enjoy it. When we ran into his coworkers, I thought he would regret it, but he did not let go.
That night, my son was staying with my parents, his daughter was staying with her mom, and the minutes we spent together filled up and rounded out into hours. We ended up going to a cabaret, and he moved the table that separated us to sit next to me. I was more focused on the weight of his arm around my shoulder and his hand against my hip, than anything that happened on stage. Afterwards, he thanked me, and leaned in for our first kiss.
We were both exhausted when he drove me home. But I don’t have free nights very often, so I asked him to come up “for a few minutes” and he did. He made a home in my bed and redeemed my body, erasing stretch marks with every kiss, and exhaustion with every embrace. And I felt like I deserved it.
When we awoke, we reached for our phones intuitively, to check on our children, and we said goodbye. I felt vibrant and joyful, and as he left to pick up his daughter, I thought of her mom. How she knows every muscle, every curve, and every expression of his desire; how she probably shudders at the thought of his embrace after the drama of all their disputes; how she probably feels more sympathy than disgust for the women who have crossed his path since her; how she feels the way I feel about my ex. Like me, she’s made it through hell with her heart and soul barely intact. And I want to express my solidarity with her despite having found redemption in the embrace of the man who betrayed her. But I can’t.