Tag Archives: dating

Dating Differences

Don’t get too excited by the title up there, this is nothing to do with a single father going on dates and more to do with a single father raising two girls.

Still . . . nothing makes my head swim quite like being Dad to two girls – one of them now the age I was when I first started seriously dating myself.  Even then . . . I don’t mind telling you at this point that I was painfully poor at it.  Still, it never stopped me from trying.  In fact, I had more than a few dates that were woefully laughable today.

I could go back into high school, I suppose, but my attempts in those years were at best painfully pathetic.  It’s probably best not to re-live those youthful attempts both for my own and those unfortunate few that went on the occasional date with me.  It’s best not to embarrass any of us further.

College wasn’t a lot better.  I went out with one girl who had just started modeling.  When she realized I couldn’t help her career as a local TV person she disappeared.  Another was Afghan and devoutly Muslim.  When she stated there was no way she’d ever end up with someone who wasn’t Muslim or willing to convert I knew there weren’t any other dates coming.  One girl, whom I sincerely liked, went with me to see George Carlin.  When he went off on a tangent about how much he hated anorexia – nay, said, to quote: “some rich bitch decides she doesn’t want to eat her cheeseburger?!  F**k anorexia!!”  I had no idea at the time that my date had been anorexic.  (In fairness to George, the old line used to be . . . if you weren’t offended at least twice at a George Carlin show, you weren’t paying attention.)

That’s just a few memorable ones.  Those don’t include the ones that had no spark whatsoever.  So you can see . . . my dating experiences were varied, strange, even odd.  All of them colored with my stammering, nervous, sweating and scared beginnings.  Even the date with Andrea, who would become my wife, was filled with strange, confused, beginnings.

But having two girls . . . my point here . . . that’s put a whole new perspective on things.  I honestly don’t know if the way my girls see things; hell, the way all girls here seem to see things is the way girls saw things when I was a kid.  I grew up seeing things much as my father did.  You went out with someone you liked.  You asked a girl out, or to the Homecoming dance or to the Prom because you liked that person, not just because you needed a date for those occasions.

But apparently I was mistaken.

For the last four years, all through the high school years my oldest had been through, the schools have pushed and prodded and encouraged a “you have to have a date” mentality for the school dances.  When each dance would approach, the desire to go or attend with a date was less a desire and more of an off-putting event.  But as the dances would approach and every…single…friend would attain a date, I would come home to the depressed, hormonal, upset daughter that just kills me.

I talked with other parents, other girls of my daughter’s age (that she doesn’t know) even, and they all say that this is the way things are.   Have I been hiding under a rock for God’s sake?  At least now it’s the way things are.  You just go . . . get a date, almost any date, as long as they’re seemingly tolerable.

I never quite understood nor could come to grips with this concept.  As I said, I just wanted to go with someone I liked.  If that wasn’t going to happen . . . so be it.  I went alone.

But I also have a far different take on things now.  I was always the guy looking from the outside.  Seeing it from a girl’s perspective is new.  Before I’d have said that it was easier to just go alone or realized that the girl I wanted to date didn’t want to go.  But now I see these things as my daughters both see them.  Being alone yourself, when your friends all have dates . . . and you see guys who went alone, without even just asking you to go on a date themselves.  That’s got to be painful, even difficult.

As a Dad, it’s hard not to try and fix this, but some things are just part of life.  I also think, though my daughter doesn’t likely think this is the case, that being a smart, funny, quirky (yeah, I said it, even though women around me told me it’s the kiss of death) girl is hard for a guy.  Being a girl who’s likely an even match or – in many cases – smarter than the guy is even harder because they don’t like that.

But at the end of the day, I never thought about the fact that there were girls out there – nice girls, pretty girls, smart girls – who just wanted a date.  I didn’t think about the fact that going with a friend who is a lot of fun gives you a date and her a date and makes for a good night anyway.  I’m not sure which is the better mentality to be honest.

The hardest thing to come to terms with is the fact that I have to listen to the situations unfold and not be able to do anything about it.  Nothing.  Not one single thing.  I could try but then I’m the fodder of most 1980’s sitcoms.

But as hard as it is . . . I know that my daughters have amazing years ahead of them.  They get to meet people. fall in love, maybe have (another) breakups, but they will have the opportunities I didn’t.  My daughters have more confidence, as do my sons, and will get to go through life better than their father managed in those years.

At the end of the day, can you really ask for more?

Zipper trouble

Abbi in a different dress – prom from this last school year

It’s not what you think.  (Well, I’m not sure what you’re really thinking, but it’s not even what you’re thinking.)

So I got home the other night and my oldest daughter was trying on a dress that she pulled out of her closet.  It’s a beautiful dress, one that she wore some time ago, but not many people have seen it.  She was trying it on because the dress she wanted for Homecoming wasn’t in her size.  She tried on this particular dress even though she wanted to wear it for her prom.

As she was there, in the living room, in front of the mirror, though, I heard her grumbling at her sister, Hannah . . .

“You’re not doing it right, Hannah, you have to zip it and . . . ”
I pushed Hannah out of the way and managed to zip Abbi’s dress up in half a second.  She looked gorgeous, by the way.  She was disappointed, though, because she wanted to wear it for prom.  So I promised – considering I’ve managed to budget OK in the last few weeks – to get her a dress on Sunday.

It made her night.  She turned around and said simply, “can you . . . ” pushing her zipper toward me.
“Of course.”  Then . . . the next part just kinda slipped out.  “…not like I haven’t had a lot of experience doing this.”

Now . . . I didn’t mean it the way it sounds.  Without sounding too gratuitous, yes, I’d *ahem* removed a few of Andrea’s  dresses.  More often than not, though, it was “I’m dying in this dress…will you unzip me?” That was inevitably followed by the pad of her feet moving to the closet to remove said party dress.  The following moments were usually with her in sweat pants and a big Creighton University sweatshirt.  Not really the sexiest of scenarios.  (Though I have to admit, it was nice having her relaxed and lying in my arms.  I do miss that.)

Still . . . it’s not how my daughter took it.
“Ewww.  Thanks, have that vision in my head all night now.  Thanks, Dad.  Ugh.”

That’s what I got.  “Ugh.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I see myself in the mirror – and even though I’ve managed to lose another 10 pounds, I can’t really look long without being a bit angry with myself for getting here.  Hoping that changes in the next couple months so I’m at least able to wear some of my clothes from a few years ago.

Still, it opens up a major question.  In weeks past, when I’ve had any time alone with any woman, my daughters have had some nitpicky issues with it.  They don’t want to see their Dad with anyone else, I’m fairly sure of that.  It’s not that they expressed the worry, but I know my kids.  I can hear it in their voices and see it in their body language.  It’s funny, too, because none of the moments I’ve had alone have been romantic ones.  They’ve been for work or just meeting for a beer with friends.  Nothing close to putting myself out there.  It really cracks me up they’re that worried for nothing.

But I don’t really use that as a litmus test.  9 years.  I’ve figured it out.  9 years is how much time I have with kids in my house.  That’s not a lot of time, when you consider I still look at Abbi and think of that little girl from 9 years ago.  In some ways the last year and a has felt like ten years.  They will start their lives and I’ll have to make some difficult choices about my own.  In some ways I see time speeding up and I’m losing a grip on the moment as well.  Time has found a way to right itself in our lives, whether we were ready for it or not.

So when I hear my daughter say “ewww” when I simply mention the ability to unzip a fancy dress it actually makes me smile.  These little moments don’t disturb or bother me any more.  They show me that we’re farther ahead than we thought right now.

Though the disgusted “ugh!” I could have lived without.

Through their eyes

Our Easter Family Photo this year.

Ever wonder how your kids see you . . . or more appropriately your actions?  This is something that has weighed on me for far longer than just the last year or so.  It was hard when I had just one – then two – little girl(s).  Then came four kids with twin boys.

When my marriage hit that stressful, swirling 7-10 year mark it was like the prophecy had to be self-fulfilled.  I didn’t have a “seven year itch” but I had a wife who was intent on seeming to push me toward it.  I work in an industry where, by nature of the fact people are on-camera all the time, is filled with . . . sorry to put it this way . . . very beautiful people.  I make no bones about that.  What that statement does not say is that they are very beautiful people I am attracted to.  Just because I happen to go out on a story with an attractive woman doesn’t automatically infer that I want to sleep with them.  In this era I was married . . . happily much of the time.

I can look back now, though, and see the lack of self-satisfaction and low self esteem my wife must have had in those years.  She’d just had one and then two children.  She wanted to lose baby weight.  She was getting flack from her father about being overweight even when she wasn’t.  The one person who never made her feel that way or told her that – to my knowledge – was me.  But that old adage of “you always hurt the ones you love” was Andrea’s mantra.  When she was upset about herself she took it out on all of us.  She was jealous of reporters I worked with.  She was angry I spent so much time at work.  I see now and then that you spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your spouse.  For me it was enjoyable to come home, though, with the person who understood and supported me.

But the image for my two girls at this point was probably their parents at each others’ throats.  Andrea had an innate ability to find the exact buttons to push that would make my blood boil and make me lose all control.  She’d shout at me and then tell me not to shout back because the kids would hear.  She’d hear our daughter coming into the living room to check on us and throw a verbal jab at me just as she was entering so I’d shout just in time to see my teary-eyed daughter walking around the corner.

Yes.  I’m saying my wife, the amazing, beautiful woman I loved, fought dirty and was unfair when she fought with me.

My worry even then was my kids would see my as an angry bully who just shouted when things went wrong.  It was even harder when the very raw nerves I tried to cover would be exposed by the person who knew exactly how to dissect my emotional walls and shut down my self-control.  I worried about this until my doctor once told me something I had never considered.  She asked if I’d ever left saying it was for good or left the house and the kids woke up with Dad not home.  I never did.  What she said pulled a weight off my shoulders like I was Atlas handing the sphere to Hercules.  She said if my kids saw that we ended up together and woke up to see us drinking coffee in the morning or heard us kiss and make up – they heard us communicating.  they had an example that we may disagree but we worked it out.  I still hate how I reacted to many of those arguments, but I almost felt a sense of accomplishment.

Now, though, I see different visions reflected from my kids’ eyes.

I want very much for the kids to see me as stable.  I want them to feel like they have a home, food, money to survive, all of that.  No, we’re not rich and I make sure they know we have our hardships – that’s a reality they are old enough to face. Still, I want them to know they have a roof, I have a job, we can eat, we can see an occasional movie, and I treat them to some things here and there.  When I feel a wave of grief or something that pulls me under I leave the room.  I am fine with them crying or saddened when they think of the loss we faced, but I want them to see me as able to handle that loss and able to prop them up when they need it, not fall apart when they do.

But here’s the thing . . . I still work in an industry where I work with attractive people and meet lots of diverse subjects.  I make friends.  I still talk with reporters from other markets.  I probably have as many female friends as male.  I don’t have the Nora Ephron When Harry Met Sally syndrome.  Sex isn’t in the way.  I’m not looking for a date; I haven’t gone on a date; I’m not sleeping with anyone.

But I’ve seen an odd sort of confusion in my kids the last few months.  I had a friend stay in my house.  I met a friend for a drink one night.  I went to lunch with another.  I’ve traded emails, all of that.  I have photographer friends from other stations who I’ve met for a beer.  I have reporter friend in Dallas who I’ve decided is my little sister even though she’s not related in any way.  I write and am friends with Good Enough Mother Rene Syler.  More than half are male friends.  Many are not.

I try to reassure my kids that I’m painfully resistable.  I am overweight – by 28 pounds – at least.  I have grey hair.  I have wrinkles on my face.  I am, at least for awhile still, a bit broken.  I lived half my life with the same woman.  I’m not jumping into the dating pool.  Not now.  Not sure when I might if ever.  I wonder sometimes if the kids are less worried about my doing something and more worried about my getting hurt.

At the end of the day, I think they know I’m keeping no secrets from them.  I have forced no people upon my children.  Stability is compromised by secrecy so I keep no secrets from them. If out of the blue one day I decided to go on a date they’d know.

Still, what I have to get across to them – and apparently haven’t gotten across very well – is that as much as I love and adore them; as much as I enjoy and soak in every fraction of every second I get to spend with them, sometimes I need to talk to another adult.  Sometimes that adult looks like me.  Sometimes they’re younger.  They’re always interesting and worthy of my attention because I no longer have the teenage hormonal desire to just hang out in a bar and look for the most attractive person I can find with no thought to their thoughts and opinions.  When I get asked “what do you mean it was just the two of you” or “at their house?” or “why are you emailing such-and-such” I see not panic but worry in their eyes.

The thing is, though, sometimes, you need pauses in conversation.  Kids aren’t good at that.  Sometimes you need to talk to someone who thought they were an outsider in their world, like you did, and didn’t really care what others thought.  I thought that sometimes, I don’t believe my kids did . . . which I see as a success in their upbringings.  But sometimes, you need an empathetic ear or a strong word or advice.  Sometimes it’s a guy.  Sometimes it’s a girl.

But sometimes . . . you just need another adult to talk to.

Tubthumping has ended . . .

A picture from those early days.
No, it’s not a diatribe about the untimely (or is it timely?) demise of the band Chumbawumba.  But it was a headline to get your attention.

I got to thinking over the weekend, particularly since I’ve been pretty sick, about whether I spend an inordinate amount of time talking here about how I met Andrea and not our married life or our lives and how the kids came to be, etc.  Under the blankets, over medicated and trying to reduce the fever and the icepick-stabbing pain in my forehead I got on the blog here to see if there are more instances of one than the other.

And there are.  Not by a radical amount, but sure, there are.

There are a couple reasons for this, and they’re fairly simple.  First, the only era in which I was able to take regular pictures of my wife are from when we first started going out.  She was at her “smallest” (her term, not mine) but even then she fought the camera.  It’s funny, because she was in TV, but have a still picture and she would sit and critique it for hours, literally.  I decreased the amount slightly as I got into marriage and then with Abbi’s birth.  She hated that she’d gotten heavier after having a first child but I never noticed.  Andrea took to wearing what was fashionable then and it was overalls.  I know this sounds crazy, but I loved seeing her in those.  Something about them just made me smile and my heart race…even after having a child.  Nothing about her changed so radically that I thought less of her that way.

Andrea and Abbi . . . at a friend’s wedding
Hannah was harder.  After Hannah, I nearly lost her.  She bled out on the operating table.  They took the baby one way and then took Andrea another and I was literally standing in an operating room, blood on the floor, wondering what I was supposed to do.  Pictures were taken but I don’t hardly remember them.  The recovery was so hard and horrible I couldn’t really think what to do about anything but getting Hannah and Andrea well.

The twins . . . she carried two babies.  She had such an insecurity about weight already that having two babies inside made her even more self-conscious.  After they were born she got Bells-Palsey and it never recovered.  She thought her smile was everything – but I tried to tell her that her smile was more than her mouth and her teeth.  I loved how she smiled with her whole face and whole body.  When she smiled she was radiant.

And I think that’s also why the early relationship comes through most.  She smiled all the time, and so did I.  It’s not something I did much, I’d never met anyone who made me feel like I was worth the attention.  When things would go bad in my house – when we’d argue or she’d get jealous . . . when she fell into clinical depression – I wouldn’t think of leaving her.  I thought about those early days: when the thought of seeing her at work made my heart race.  When we woke up and realized we had to leave each other’s side and didn’t want to . . . those were the days that got me through the rough ones.

So, yeah.  They’re burned into my brain.  The happiest memories . . . and the darkest . . . those stick with you.  I remember vivid details of meeting, dating, making love to, and falling in love with my wife.  I also remember every single detail of her last hours.  I remember visiting Valla’s Pumpkin Patch with our young daughter as much as I remember the time I spent as a five-year-old in the hospital alone because my Mom couldn’t stay in the room with me.  I remember meeting my brother at Houston’s Mission Control and the family trip we took there before leaving Texas as vividly as I do the moment she left the earth.

So those college days, tubthumping and crazy, stick in my brain.  You know how they tell you in dark times to go to that “happy place?”  That was mine.  Now they’re not necessarily that place, they’re just happy memories.

But I remember all those college days because they got me through the darker days.

Sticking to Your Guns

Comfortably Numb (Live) by Pink Floyd, live at Knebworth, 1990

I’m nearing the beginning of one of the craziest weekends I think I’ve had since our story began.  Not only is my daughter’s Prom this weekend, but tomorrow, in an agreement with my daughters months ago, we’re driving into Oakland to see The Black Keys play.  This comes, of course, after we initially planned on seeing the band here in Sacramento on Saturday.  It was all set, the tickets bought, the show ready, all of it.  Then my oldest daughter, Abbi, gets word that the prom is on the same night as the concert.  She was beside herself.

So being the problem-solving father I claimed to be, I found pre-sale tickets for the show the night before the prom in Oakland.  It was supposed to be the three of us – me and my daughters, on the road immediately after my work.  Instead, though, it’s just me and my oldest.  My middle, Hannah, was supposed to be coming with us but she had one deal – the one thing she had to do in order to retain her ticket to the show: she had to finish and turn in all her homework.  Now, sure, it sounds like a pretty low threshold to meet.  I mean, after all, it’s the work that is due every day and should be no big deal, right?

Wrong.

We were doing well, though.  Things getting turned in, the homework done, all of it.  Even her grades had improved, to the point it looked like she would be an average student, which compared to the beginning of the year, was an amazing grade.  But we went to Nebraska to see my family in March and the homework she had gotten changed while we were gone.  The teacher gave her the assignment change the moment she got back, but one month later, in the middle of it all, I see a report saying she had 3 missing assignments.  She used the homework change excuse, and I gave her a reprieve for a few days.  All she had to do was find out what happened and fix it.  Instead, she got embarrassed, didn’t ask the teacher, and the homework got worse and worse.  Then, when I told her it was this or nothing, she flaked.   Said she had to learn her lines for the school musical.

So I sit here tonight, just about 24 hours from sitting at the end of that show, and I’m having to stick to my guns.  In the midst of all of this Hannah gives me the sad puppy-dog eyes and asking “can you guys call me and tell me how the show was?”  I had felt bad until I found out that she could have avoided all this.  That and the constant drilling into her eardrums to get her to do her one basic chore: the dishes.

I guess it was providence, then, that I could relate to her and let her know that life just isn’t fair.  Throughout the day my younger brother innocently texted me photos: he and my older brother wandering Austin having fun.  At dinner.  Having margaritas.  Then came the text saying “heading to the arena for the show now” and I was a bit confuzzled, as my daughter puts it.
“What show are you seeing?” I asked.
The response was a shot of the stage with a bunch of blocks on either side.  Roger Waters’ the Wall – Live.  It hit me like a punch in the gut.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: he’s jealous.  He sees his two brothers having fun, on a weekday, off and going to a show and he isn’t.  It’s not fair, he’s home caring for the kids.  He can’t leave because it’s his job that deals with ratings periods and he’s in the middle of a major one.  Dave chose this job, chose to have kids, chose all of it, so he can be unhappy and jealous all he wants but he just needs to buck up and deal with it.

But you’d be wrong.

This is almost an annual thing for my brothers.  Sure, I was part of it at one time, but I was the first one to get married.  I had love, marriage, a home with an amazingly beautiful wife and kids before they did.  At that time they were single and alone and I had it.  Now I’m widowed and they’re happily married.  But this still isn’t the issue.  My brother wasn’t being mean sending the texts, he honestly thought I’d seen this show once before, more than a year ago.

And he was almost right.  I should have.

You see, seeing the Wall at San Jose’s HP Pavillion would have been one of the last “dates” I had with my wife.  In fact, I had purchased the tickets to the show and had them in-hand.  The punch in the gut today was the fact that I never saw that show.  In the middle of the weeks prior to that show we reached a bit of a financial meltdown.  Andrea’s liver had several ducts plugged and she had to have surgery to remove the blockages.  She’d gained a substantial amount of weight as a result of whatever caused it all. Her circulation went bad.  The knees that had troubled her were now completely shot.  She’d been home on disability but the disability benefits ended.  She was out.  Home without work and no paycheck.  It didn’t take long before things got really rough.

The last ditch effort for us came when they changed the day of the show by 1 day.  The ticket contract said that if anything changed you could get a full refund.  The fact was, it went from Sunday to Monday, which would have been bad anyway.  Worse, we needed the money.  We couldn’t eat that week.  So I asked for the refund.

Not long after, pictures started popping up of the show.  Then came word that a few weeks after the HP show David Gilmour played with Waters at the O2 Arena in London.  Every new picture or clip was a reminder of how I’d messed up and how bad things had gotten for us.  Not a day went by that I didn’t want to have gone to that show.

So I reminded my daughter tonight that her missing the show was a price she had to pay.  I paid a big one missing The Wall.  I had sworn long ago that if the Wall ever toured again I’d see it, but now I just can’t make it happen.  The last tour everything fell apart.  This one: I’m already going to a show with my daughter tomorrow.  The Wall in San Francisco is next week.  Not something I can do 2 weeks in a row.  I have nobody to go with and I don’t know that I’d want to go.  I so wanted to share another concert, a night like our first date, with Andrea.

But I’m going tomorrow with my oldest daughter.  It’s killing me that my middle daughter can’t come with us, but I have to stick to my guns.  Worse, she tells me how she understands and that it’s hard but she knows it’s her own fault.  That plays on my heart strings a lot.  So I’m going to see a band I like, but not one I swore on a stack of biblical LP’s I’d attend.

So I’m making it a nice night.  We’re staying the night overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf and the ocean at an old renovated hotel.  We’ll eat breakfast on the beach.  And we’ll tell Hannah what she missed, just so she gets the lesson, and hopefully turns in all her homework from now on.

It’s hard to stick to my guns on this one.  I missed what would have been one of the last, amazing, dates of my marriage.  But I cared and loved her and the kids enough to sacrifice that date in order to fix the mistakes that could have really hurt us.

It won’t sit well with her, but at least I have something to look forward to.  I have a date with my daughter, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do that.  So I take the victories I can.