Thursday, July 12

Zen and the Art of Dating with a Baby

DATE: it's a four-letter word for a reason.  Dating isn't easy to begin with.  Throw in a pre-existing condition (like a baby who belongs to only one of the dating parties) and the whole thing gets one bajillion times harder.

A couple weeks ago, I went on my first date since Sol was born (prior to that, my last date was in August, both of us knowing I was pregnant, but I decided it was too complicated and broke it off).  My dear friend Julia took Sol for the evening, and I went out.  Out for dinner.  Dinner with a man.  A man who thought I was pretty.  (and for the sake of this story, we'll call him Mr. Uno)

In case it weren't obvious, being pregnant and single does nothing for one's self-image.  I'm not saying that my whole life's happiness depends entirely on male attention; but when a women is pregnant, it's only natural that she wants a companion there, someone to hold her hand, or kiss her on the forehead after a long day at work, or place an "i-just-can't-wait-for-baby-to-arrive" hand on the pregnant belly every now and then.  A pregnant woman wants to know that someone out there (ideally the baby's father) thinks she's beautiful.  Pregnancy morphs a woman's body into a puffy, incognizable, stretched-to-the-max machine, whose only purpose is to go against the laws of physics and essentially squeeze a dinosaur through a drinking straw.  No, I'm not saying I need a man to make me happy.  I'm saying it would have been nice for one man - just one - to make me feel beautiful while I was pregnant.

That said, it feels good to go on a date - to feel attractive, to get dressed up and feel the butterflies as I apply my mascara and wait for Mr. Uno to pick me up.  It feels good to have a male companion - to talk with him and laugh out loud with him, to feel that flutter when there's a knock at the front door, to lounge on the couch and watch a movie with him, to feel his fingers intertwine with mine as we take a stroll through the warm summer breezes.

My very first date with Mr. Uno went really well - the evening was free of any awkward silences, slams on my personal beliefs, or major conflicts in lifestyle.  It went so well that he asked me on consecutive dates - many of which included my daughter. 

On one such date, Mr. Uno offers to drive my car (which might as well sport a "Baby on Board" window cling... gag me).  He parks and pulls Sol out of the car.  He carries her down the street and into the quaint little Italian bistro, holding my hand the whole time.  He laughs and plays with Sol while we wait for our food, and he gives her little foot a squeeze every so often throughout the meal.  He doesn't even flinch when the waiter brings our bill and says, "I've never seen such a good baby!  You two are really lucky!"  **insert exasperated sigh here**  No, Mr. Uno isn't visibly disturbed, but I know he's thinking, Really? When did I become a dad?

That same night, Mr. Uno and I head to the grocery store.  He carries Sol into the store, sets her in the cart, and pushes the cart himself.  We make our purchases, I grab the bags, and Mr. Uno pulls Sol's carrier out of the cart and totes her out of the store.  On our way out, the oh-so-friendly door greeter says, "Have a  nice day!  Happy parenting!"  OMG.  O.  M.  G.  I nearly die as I wonder what's going through Mr. Uno's mind now, as I watch him carefully to see whether he runs sprints away.  Winning tonight.  Congratulations, Mr. Uno.  You just became a father.

It makes sense for people to assume that the man out with me and young Sol is her father, right?  Maybe Mr. Uno realizes that.  Maybe he's not offended.  Maybe he is.  Maybe he's offended but he just wants to see how long he can handle the semi-insanity that comes with raising a baby.  Regardless of what he feels, he drives Sol and me home that evening, and doesn't even mention the two omg-blazing-red-flag comments from the waiter and the grocery store greeter.  No, he does everything right.  And yet I would expect anyone to run after hearing comments like those.  No one's life plan includes raising someone else's child.

I've said it a million times, and I'll say it again: humans are social creatures; we're not designed to spend our lives alone.  It feels right to have a male around.  Even if it's just someone to talk to me while I'm rocking Sol to sleep, someone to bounce Sol on his knee in the living room while I'm making dinner, or someone to install the curtain rod above the window in Sol's nursery (all Mr. Uno, by the way).  Suddenly my home is filled with conversation, laughter, and noise in general.  We comment on TV commercials, or mention things that happened that day while we sit out on the patio.  I have another adult to talk to, a male companion to make me feel wanted again. 

Then he goes home.  And it's quiet.  It's just me and Sol, just us, just our family.  I suddenly remember what life was like before Mr. Uno came along.  And although I know we don't need anyone else, it's nice to have a guy around.  When I'm home alone with Sol, I can talk to her till I'm blue in the face (and I know it's good to talk to babies), but it's just not the same as having a grown-up conversation.  It's not the same as having another adult here.  Maybe Mr. Uno will be okay with Sol, maybe we'll find out that he's not.  But in the meantime I'll be patient, and I'll focus on what's best for Sol.  I owe that much to her.  She deserves the best.  For now, for always.

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