...This is something I stressed and got sick over so much in those early first weeks - in those moments I felt ok enough to imagine the prospect of dating again at some point. Interspersed with 'how exactly am I going to meet someone when my entire life is pretty much a trip to softplay and the supermarket?' and 'how could I imagine a guy would ever look at me while I was mostly looking down at my kid to avoid glancing at my own reflection' was 'wouldn't a man just run screaming if he asked for my number and I have to root around the spare pull-ups and Transformer toys in my handbag to retrieve my phone (which would no doubt have at least one dried up Cheerio stuck to the screen)?' Pre-kiddo I had this terrible habit that I charmingly described as 'eyeball-fucking' - now I could barely make eye contact with the waiter in the Italian deli who always called me 'Bella Donna' when he took my order. I stopped looking, and I stopped letting people look at me. I wished myself into invisibility.
And then came a time when I had to leave the house without a spare pair of training pants and half a toy box full of distractions - I spent whole days alone, while my son was with his dad, and I didn't see or speak to anyone for hours, if at all. So I practised walking with my head held high, I worked on making eye contact, smiling, allowing myself to be just a little visible. I wasn't quite at eye-fucking stage, but I was getting pretty good at eyeball-flirting.
And as my confidence crept back little by little, slightly softer round the edges and re-shaped by life and love and loss - I started to lift my head when I was out with my kid too. And as I looked around, people weren't looking straight through me, they weren't even recoiling in horror as I had expected. Some of those guys looked back at me, some of them might have tried a little eye-flirt of their own.
I knew deep down that there are men out there who aren't put off by my having a kid - my own amazing father is actually officially my ex-step-dad having met my mum and me when he was in his late teens, got married and had my brother, then divorced and still wanted to be very much a part of my life. There must be some good guys out there I wondered, as I read page upon page of internet forums like this one with such charming lines as "She decided to have a kid without a husband. This demonstrates terrible, selfish values..." and this one and this one ("The last thing any guy should be is a meal ticket for any woman stupid enough to have kids before shes 25") and there are more, many many more. It seems my fear wasn't entirely unfounded.
I read two blog posts this week that have brought me to this point, to writing this post. The first was another singlemom blog who had written a post with a title just like this one. And the first line of that post said “Do you think men really care if you’re a single mom?” Oh right, I forgot about that. Mostly I've realised, it's only an issue when I make it one - lately there have been a couple of guys in my life (that have gone no further than eyeball-flirting, I assure you), all of them know about Vin, some of them I actually met when I was out with him - they saw me, kid and all and they didn't bolt for the door faster than you can say 'daddy issues'.Of all those guys (I say all, I don't mean like there's a lot at all) only one of them seemed to have an issue with my situation and when I realised that he might have been using my kid and my situation as an excuse not to completely be with me he started to look a lot less of a catch right about then.
The other thing I read was a feminist reaction to a quote that Lady Gaga had made in that feminist handbook, Cosmo magazine, that a career would never wake up one day and decide it didn't love you anymore. The blog outlined exactly my thoughts (only wish I could find the original post and tell you all to go read it!) - they are not mutually exclusive - your dreams/career/life (my kid) and having a great relationship with a great man. Because when you find a good guy who loves you for your dreams and strength and the way you live your life he will want to be a part of that, to support and live and thrive right alongside you.
I have no expectations when it comes to men, to dating, to my future in that respect. I don't need a man to support me or complete me or play daddy. I'm not using "love me, love my kid" as a chat-up line. But I know that I will never be with someone who doesn't at least accept my life, my situation and my kid - someone who wants me because of those things I go through, not in spite of them. All I want right now is acceptance, understanding and maybe the ability to one day fall in love with it all.