Dating

So, Apparently I'm A MILF

What I learned as a newly single mom on the prowl.

Getty / Scary Mommy

There I was, single mom and owning it, happy with myself, not needing a man in my life but wanting one. I knew I had to be willing to risk the vulnerability dating requires to see if there just might be someone out there who can enter my life, make it better, and chase after dreams and wee ones with me. Someone that could mesh with my Enneagram 2 personality and find value in the things that I am.

It was a daunting prospect for the traditional reasons every single mom has ever felt with all the added brutality of an app-dominated, insta-assessment-swipe dating culture in which even the most desirable people can and do get ghosted after just an exchange or two. Owning the mom thing was a first conclusion; knowing that dating would take some steely perseverance was a second.

I had been married over a decade to a determined academic whom I followed around the country for more than eight of those years. He was driven, intelligent, and an excellent conversationalist. He wasn’t a monster by any means, but he wasn’t physically and emotionally present in my life much. The university beckoned and the children took up any extra time. He wanted me to show my love by giving him more time to work. So my people-pleasing self did and, as a result, our marriage ceased to exist. I finally ended it after 40-plus marriage counseling sessions.

Divorce was not what I wanted, but it was the healthiest choice for me. It took years for me to exit. In that time, I had come to know exactly who I am apart from my ex. I had kids to mother and love my own way, personal goals to achieve — including a life full of advocacy and writing (hey-oh Scary Mommy!) — and an abundance of joy and Americanos to fuel me. Meg 2.0 was ready for the next chapter.

The downtown city life was alluring and finding a bougie place to live felt a bit essential to the healing process following divorce. I found a place with a heated Olympic-sized pool, a 40-person hot tub, and a 360 mountain view on the rooftop. Needless to say, many hours were (and still are) spent up on that rooftop, many of them with my two wee ones in tow. It was on this rooftop I learned two things about myself. First, apparently I'm a MILF. Second, I learned just how accurate I am in my perception of my children’s adorableness. Approximately four times in the span of two months I was asked out in the exact same manner on that rooftop. I felt flattered and it was a boost to my ego to know that though I’m no longer in my early 20s, I still have “it.” I became quite the Sherlock Holmes and deduced that the following sequence would lead to a man asking me out to dinner or for my number: kind and silly chat with my kids who were immediately deemed “adorable,” pretending to be a shark and getting my kids to giggle, intermittent eye contact with me followed by at least two smiles, followed up with, “Could I take you out sometime?”

And I let one of them take me out. It was a decent night of some pretty excellent chat that ended up with an internal warning signal blaring in my brain: Meg, back away! We swapped our prior marriage stories and I quickly learned his wife left him for almost verbatim the same reasons I left my ex. I just couldn’t risk that road to misery again. I was smarter and more aware of what I deserved and what I needed to run from. I told him thank you for the delicious drinks and seafood, but that I was not interested in another date.

Enter Hinge, an online dating app, and some pretty surreal encounters. Outside of being a mom and a speech and language pathologist, I am a pretty active autism advocate. My heart literally beats extra for the neurodivergent community. So when I found a man who was three years older than me, easy on the eyes, and who expressed love and adoration for his 4-year-old autistic daughter, I was ready to head to Tiffany’s... until I glanced down at my phone to discover a video was awaiting my viewing from this McDreamy. And that was when my phone flew across the room, smashed into a wall, almost knocked over my favorite Christmas cactus and left me in a laughing-fit where I couldn’t breathe. The video? High definition, full frontal nudity... posing his junk from left to right and right to left. I gently let him know that I thought we might not be right for each other after all and wished him well.

But then there was Hunter. One of the very first men I met online who did not send me a d*ck pic. Is this love?

Hunter had a very fitting name. He was a legit mountain man. I’m talking man-bun, lived in a van and wore all Mountain Hardware and Patagonia. He climbed mountains with his bare hands, sans rope, almost weekly. He was hunky. He had a kind soul and was, ladies, a mountain man — just what I needed in my new Meg 2.0 single-mom life. The only caveat? He was pretty absent from his phone because he was typically out and about in the mountains. At first this seemed charming to me. A man without a need to always be on his phone. I’m smitten! Then I realized it turned me into a version of myself that I was not a fan of: the woman who checks her phone over and over again worrying. I worried because literal days would pass. I worried because we had such a connection and if he were to ghost me I just might have to consume two pounds of dark chocolate a day to escape the fantasy of being in a relationship with a mountain man. I worried because “mountains” and “no rope.”

While Hunter was really fun and enjoyable to date when we were physically together, I realized our communication styles would not work for me. I’m not a needy woman, but I do prefer a text or some sort of communication at least once a day. I had voiced to him that it was a bit concerning not hearing from him for two to four days at a time while he was out in nature. His spontaneity was attractive, but not practical for me. Certainly not practical when having to coordinate sitters and schedules around my children. My takeaway from my time with Hunter? I need someone who has similar communication frequency expectations and who lives the majority of their life on lower elevation. That doesn’t seem like a tall order now, does it? I let the mountain man go.

Enter several more alerts from Hinge, a couple more genitalia photos, and a message from a very intriguing gentleman named Jared. A decade older, a world traveler, intelligent, great smile, dreamy eyes, well-rounded energy in his pictures and, get this, a father to a 7-year-old son who is neurodivergent! Promising.

Jared had commented on the only photo I had in my dating profile with one of my kids in it. Immediate points for Jared. He made a clever little remark about how my then-2-year-old was an adorable photo-bomber and proceeded to keep my attention by asking about things that are integral to who I am all sprinkled with the perfect amount of flirting. The points kept adding up. For two weeks, we exchanged five to eight paragraph messages living out my Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks You’ve Got Mail fantasy. Some want fancy dinners and forward flirting. Me? Give me all the bouquets of sharpened pencils and show me the depths of your soul immediately, thank you very much.

And while it is invigorating to hit it off so well interpersonally, it was even more invigorating to hear him mention he can’t wait to meet my kids. Say it again, Jared! The sexiest verbal foreplay to this, and I’m sure every, single mom’s ears. We dated for months and we continue to date. We hike the mountains of Utah, dine at the greatest hot wing joints, attend theater and ballet productions and snuggle on the couch watching Lost in Space or, more recently, a vampire movie about Abe Lincoln (a real winner for sure). We put in work together and dream of cultivating a more inclusive and accommodating world for neurodivergent children and adults. We play with our kids together, envisioning just what blending our little families would look like. We laugh at them and with them. We laugh at each other and with each other. And at the end of the day, we both return internally home to ourselves. Jared to Jared. Meg to Meg. And so far it’s pretty damn great. It’s pretty damn healthy, and I’m not taking it for granted.

Meg Raby is a mom, children's author of the My Brother Otto series, and Autistic residing in Salt Lake City where you can find her playing and working with neurodivergent children as a Speech Language Pathologist and friend, or writing and planning big things in the second booth at her local coffee shop that overlooks the Wasatch Mountains while sipping on her Americano. Meg believes the essence of life is to understand, love and welcome others (aka, to give a damn about humans).

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