Wednesday, April 2, 2014

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Every Girl Didn’t Meet My Standards Anymore



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I chatted with an old friend the other day. Ivan and I hadn’t seen each other in a few years. He lives in Arizona, and I live in Oregon.  We met just after high school, over ten years ago now, and have stayed in contact through Facebook, phone calls, that sort of thing.

He went through his second divorce about a year ago. When we used to hang out, in our early 20’s, I always saw him as a bit of a ladies man. He’s tall, slender, and charming. Very charismatic. He’s the kind of friend who lets you stay at his house free of charge while you’re in town, and then introduces you to a dozen new people during your visit.

However, if I were to describe his dating choices in one word it would be... trashy. Outside of his two wives, who were relatively nice women from what I could tell, he tended to date women that, personally, I wouldn’t take home to my mother.

Ivan is now in his early 30’s. He didn’t have any kids with his first wife, but with his second, he had a daughter. She must be about five-years-old now. From what I can tell, he is a dedicated father, living in a two-bedroom apartment, trying to make a go at single life again every other weekend.

I asked him how things were going being single again. I’ve been married for almost ten years, and I suppose I like to live vicariously through my single friends. I like to hear their stories of living it up, the highs and lows of online dating, about their bad dates and good ones. Not that I’m thinking of leaving my wife, more that I just find mid-life dating interesting. Although I should probably admit that I am sometimes a little jealous of my single friends. Particularly when they are telling me stories of a new love interest while Mel yelling at me to get off the phone because one of the kids wet their pants. However, most of the time I am just happy to not be going through the ups and downs of trying to date again. 

Anyway, Ivan said he hadn’t been dating. “Well… I did a bit right after we separated. I was kind of trying to be a kid again. But every girl didn’t meet my standards anymore. Which seems strange considering I’ve been married twice. I’m kind of damaged goods, but somehow my standards have raised.”

Ivan is a nurse, and he told me that when his daughter isn’t around, he works 60 to 70 hours a weeks. “Right now I’m just paying off my bills, spending time with my daughter, and keeping clear of trashy girls.”

“Crazy,” I said. “I assumed you’d be cutting lose. I was kind of hoping for some juicy details. You’re letting me down.”

We laughed for a bit. Then he said, “Yeah, I thought that, too. And I kind of did after my first wife. But not this time.”

I asked Ivan what the difference is now, and he went on, telling me about this girl, and that girl, that he’d met online. He bitched for a bit about the guys his ex-wife was dating.

Then he said something that really hit home with me: “I just haven’t met someone that I feel comfortable introducing my daughter to. They just aren’t good enough for her. I mean, they might be good enough for me, but not for her. Having a little girl has really put things into perspective.”

I asked him what he meant by perspective, and he stumbled a bit. He struggled to define what he meant. Then he said, “I don’t know. I just think about her a lot, and I want the best for her. If that makes sense.”

I will admit that I was surprised by this change, although I shouldn’t have been. There was something funny about having kids that really changed my perspective, too. After having children, I went from a life of fussing over my friends’ lives, their relationships, an obsession over my own appearance and health, and a passion for having the newest thing (car, phone, jeans, and so on), to a life of making ends meet, excitement over a $35 basketball hoop in the front yard, and spending New Years hosting a Pokémon party with a group of 6-year-olds, and enjoying every moment of it.

I used to worry about looking sexy and being cool.

Now I worry if my kids are in clean cloths, and if my wife knows that I love her, because without her, I wouldn’t be half the father, husband, and man that I am now.

My change in perspective didn’t happen over night. It took years. And I have to assume that I’m still changing, still growing, still putting things into perspective, but when I look back at my life with children, and my life without them, I have a hard time recalling feeling satisfied as a single and childless adult. I know that there are people out there who are childless and have found something to live for. I have many friends that feel satisfied without kids because they have found some purpose that drives them, something keeps them getting up in the morning. But me, personally, I wasn’t of those people. I didn’t realize how much I needed children in my life until I had them. And perhaps that’s why this conversation with Ivan stood out so much in my mind. Because I could really relate to the way having children changed his personal outlook. Maybe that “perspective” that Ivan was talking about, that thing he struggled to define, well maybe what he really meant was, “Having a little girl has really given my life a purpose.” 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley