The only real name used in this book is the author’s. ALL other names have been changed.
Picture it: I’m on my way to a first date with a cute guy I met on a dating site. I’m feeling good – got my hair and nails done, put my jeans in the dryer for an extra ten minutes so they’re fitting just right, and I’m wearing my favorite heels, because this guy is quite tall and I won’t feel like a giant next to him in heels, like I do with most men.
For our first meeting, we’re getting together at an upscale bar for a drink. It’s attached to a very popular restaurant, and the parking lot is nearly full on this Friday night. I park in the back, and when I get out to walk in, I run in to my date, who is also walking in. I recognize him from his photos on the dating site.
I’m happy with what I see. He has a very friendly smile, and he’s wearing a nice shirt with jeans. And? He really is as tall as he said on his profile. We walk inside together, where we have a drink and some nice conversation.
When it’s time to go, I button up my coat, and he walks me all the way to the back of the parking lot, where my car is. It’s a cold winter evening, and I can see our breath as we stand next to my car facing each other.
It’s the moment of truth: will he or won’t he kiss me? I reach up to hug him, and after the hug, he does, in fact, kiss me. Then he kisses me again. And a few more times after that.
He’s very tall, he smells good, and he’s a good kisser. I’m feeling good. But it’s really cold out, so when he asks me if we can get into my car, I say sure. I’d rather make plans to see him again away from the bitter wind.
I should stop here and tell you that before going out with this guy, I had already checked him out. I knew his last name, where he worked, and that he’d never been arrested. I always check these things out before meeting a date in person. So I did feel safe inviting him to sit in my car with me in a parking lot where lots of people were coming and going. More on this part later.
We get into my car and warm up a bit. He’s even cuter with rosy cheeks. He leans over and kisses me again. I’m thinking he’s definitely second-date worthy.
There’s no delicate way to put this, guys. I look over and see that he has just exposed himself to me. He has his hand wrapped around his bare…you know, sausage, and the look on his face is nothing short of open pride.
I gape, my eyes shooting to his. And then, he says the words I shall never, ever forget:
“Do you like my wiener?”
I’ve fielded so many amused, incredulous questions from my girlfriends on this that I know what you’re thinking. No, he wasn’t kidding at all. Yes, he really called it his wiener. And yes, he seemed to think this unexpected display of his manhood would turn me on.
It did not. I was shocked and utterly, completely disappointed. He had seemed so nice. And nice guys don’t whip it out without warning on a first date.
My girlfriends got a huge kick out of that one. *eyeroll*
I should have just told him to exit my car and my life in that moment. It took me another thirty seconds or so to do it, though. He took my awkward response as encouragement and told me what he wanted me to do to his wiener, at which point I told him no and goodnight.
But seriously, who expects to find themselves in such a crazily inappropriate moment? Well, if you’re going to date, you should expect the cringeworthy. It will come your way.
You should also expect moments of joy, disappointment, hope, and relief. Dating in this day and age is not for the faint of heart. But you can prepare yourself, and I hope to help you do that.
So who am I anyway, and how am I qualified to help?
As the subtitle of this book states, I’m no expert. I’m not sure what makes one a true expert, but I’d never call myself one. I have been in the trenches, though. I’m twice divorced and have been on many dates when single. I’ve dated at different life stages—in my twenties and in my forties, with kids and without, through thick and thin (Yep, I’m talking about my waistline, and surprisingly, I’m more confident now even though there’s more junk in the trunk). I’m a former journalist and the author of more than twenty-five romance novels.
I look at every date as a learning experience. And in this book, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned. I hope you can avoid at least some of my mistakes and go in a little wiser than I did.
A lot of single women believe there aren’t many good guys out there to date. I know this feels like the truth sometimes, but it hasn’t been my experience. To find the good guys, though, you have to be both smart and tenacious.
Success happens when preparation meets opportunity. If you want to find a partner, I believe you absolutely can and will. It won’t happen overnight, and it probably won’t be easy.
But first, you have to be prepared. So let’s start preparing you, girl.
“PLEASE don’t send me a dick pic.” – Me, by text, thirty seconds before getting a dick pic
If you’re single, you can skip this chapter.
If you’re not single, some people might be wondering, why would you be reading this book? Sometimes our instincts guide us toward something because, deep down, we know we may need it someday. Or maybe we just hope, though it feels like an impossible dream.
As a person who has been in a few relationships, I’ll be the first to tell you that most of them aren’t all good or all bad. Even the best relationships have rocky times, and even the worst ones have moments of bliss.
Overall, though, a relationship should make you feel good. It should add to your life, not suck away your joy and energy. Your partner should be your biggest supporter and your shoulder to cry on.
If you’re in a relationship and you don’t have that, you’re not alone. Many, many women stay with men who aren’t treating them the way they deserve for various reasons. They’ve been together for such a long time. They have kids. There’s probably nothing better out there anyway.
Let me tell you something—there is something better out there. Standing up and saying that you won’t settle anymore, and being alone as a result, is better. Not being cut down, used, and hurt is better. Knowing you not only can survive being alone, but rock it, is better.
So many women are concerned with what it looks like they have. Through social media, they project an image of happiness. They put on a smile and keep settling, because the alternative can be terrifying.
What do you truly have, though? How does your partner treat you behind closed doors? If you’re with someone who doesn’t cherish you, know that you don’t have to be. Don’t let someone steal your joy just because it’s easier.
It often takes time to realize and accept that we’re in a bad relationship, and even more time to do something about it. I get it—I’ve been in bad relationships that spanned years. You aren’t weak if you need time to get strong enough to take action. And even then, action may mean counseling to try to salvage the relationship. It may mean leaving.
If you’re in a bad relationship, don’t try to hold the truth in. If nothing else, confide in trusted friends or a therapist. That feeling that you aren’t alone in knowing the truth is a liberating first step. It takes a load off of your soul.
What I don’t want you to do is try dating while still in a relationship to test the waters and see if there’s something out there better than what you already have. That’s not fair to anyone involved—including you. Online dating allows people to do and say things they might not be bold enough to do in person, but you don’t want to go there. You’re better than that.
Once you’re able to leave your bad relationship, I highly recommend you take some time to just be you for a while. Spend time with your kids if you have them. Go on dates with your girlfriends. Read. Watch movies. Try new things.
In a good relationship, both people will be emotionally healthy and ready to date. You can’t be there if you’re still in a bad relationship or fresh out of one. Take time to heal and reflect. Ask yourself how you ended up in that relationship and how you can avoid falling into the same trap again. Think about what really, truly matters to you in a partner.
You deserve to get out of a bad relationship no matter what. No matter how long you’ve been together, no matter how many breakups or divorces you’ve already been through, no matter the impact on others.
If you need more time to get there, it’s okay. In the meantime, just remember you’re not alone and you’re strong enough for whatever comes your way.
“So…is a blow job out of the question?” – Andrew, at the end of our first date
Before you’re ready to decide what you’re looking for in a partner, I recommend spending some time taking stock of yourself. Don’t just blindly date for the sake of dating.
First, make sure dating is truly what you want. Our society and the people around us can put pressure on us to date. It’s what we’re all “supposed” to do. But if you don’t want to, don’t. Maybe you aren’t ready. Maybe you’ve had enough of relationships and you just want to do you for a while. Or forever. It’s your decision, and no one should make you feel like there’s a right or a wrong answer.
If you do want to date, what are you looking for? Do you just want to have fun and not get serious? Are you looking for a long-term relationship? Deciding these things up front will help you attract what you want in your life.
What do you like about your single life? When I’m single, I like that my time belongs to me. I don’t have to share my bed. I can be lazy all weekend if I want to. I get to choose what movie I want to watch, and I don’t have to share my popcorn or feel weird for breaking out my floss in the middle of the movie to get the kernels out of my teeth.
Being in a relationship requires giving up some things. Ideally, we want to give those things up because what we’ll be getting is worth it. But it’s important to decide up front how much you’re willing to give up. FFS, don’t be that woman who never has time for her girlfriends anymore because she spends every waking moment with her man.
Think about how you want a man to fit into your life, and also how you’re going to retain independence and keep your own identity. A relationship you completely lose yourself in is not a healthy one.
Once you’ve decided on those things, take some time to think about all the amazing qualities you have that will enhance a good relationship. Are you giving? Loyal? Funny? Smart? Generous? I recommend writing out a list of your best attributes. Remember that none of these will be physical. Great boobs, while fantastic, don’t actually enhance a relationship. (I know many men would disagree with me there.) I’m talking about the ways you support and give joy to the people you care about.
If you have trouble coming up with a list of your best qualities, you aren’t alone. So many of us struggle to see ourselves as others do. We focus on what we aren’t and where we’ve gone wrong. But if you can’t see your best qualities and appreciate how much you have to offer a partner, you need to take time to work on that before dating. Loving yourself is so important. That’s the kind of love you need ahead of all others.
This is also a good time to reflect on where you’ve gone wrong with relationships in the past. Did you jump in too soon? Did you overlook things you shouldn’t have? Did you tell yourself you didn’t deserve better than what you had?
At this opening stage, I strongly advise you to put together a tribe. It should consist of a few trusted girlfriends who really know you and want what’s best for you. Many of the women in my tribe have the kinds of marriages I’d love to have. Others are single. None of them is in an unhealthy relationship.
Your tribe will play an essential role in dating. You’ll need them for encouragement, venting, and advice. You’ll laugh and cry with them. Celebrate and commiserate.
Though it may feel ridiculous, ask your friends to play this role in your life. Say something like, “Hey, you’ve always been there for me in every way. You and your husband have an amazing marriage, and I’d love to have that kind of relationship. I trust your judgment. Can I rely on you for guidance with dating?”
My best friend Beth is in my tribe. She often gets a phone call as I’m pulling out of the parking lot after a first date. We’ve been friends for a long time, and it’s great to share my experiences with her and get her views. When I get down, she listens, dusts me off and often encourages me to take a break and focus on myself and my kids for a while. There have been times I’ve been unsure how to respond to something a man said to me, and I ask her advice. She’s a strong woman I love and admire. Surround yourself with women like that.
Another member of my tribe is my therapist. I’ve been seeing her for a while, and I’m very open about it. She knows me and knows what I’m looking for. It’s great to have a neutral person to bounce things off of. A lot of what I know about healthy relationships, I learned from her. If you’re able to see a good therapist, I highly recommend it. Navigating the dating and relationship realm is a perfectly valid reason for seeing a therapist. If you try one and don’t feel comfortable, try someone else.
Before you start dating, I want you to know yourself well. Know who you are, what you have to offer and what you want out of a relationship. It’s too important to just figure it out as you go.
I know this part isn’t flashy or exciting, but it’s crucial. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. The goal is for this time to be different. You want to go in wiser and more prepared.