Ever since I started writing about being a single gay dad, I've had quite a few guys reach out to me to hear more about my experiences, as they too are interested in becoming a dad someday. Our conversations usually cover what the process of becoming a dad is, the transition from being a single person to caring for a child, and a plethora of other topics around parenting as a gay man.
After we cover the basics nearly all the guys ask that one burning question: "What's it like dating when you are a single gay dad?" The short answer is "great," but the long answer is much more complicated.
After I divorced my husband, I was not very interested in going out and meeting guys. My priority was to take stock of my situation and figure out how I was going to proceed with my life -- adjusting to being a single dad. Maneuvering schedules, both work and home. Preparing for my child's entry into kindergarten. Planning a move to a new city. There were many pressing issues I had to deal with and dating was just not on the top of my list.
Once things settled down though, I was ready to test the waters. Not necessarily interested in finding a new life partner, but more interested in finding some companionship. I was ready to feel attractive, desired, and simply more connected.
My approach to dating was typically limited to dating sites because they were the most efficient in outlining who I was and what I was looking for. Some sites asked for a lot of information while others simply required a picture and a blurb.
For those who saw my unabridged profile, I was the DAD (in bold and all caps). On less discerning sites where my profile wasn't as important as the picture, I was just another white, educated, professional guy living in the Bay Area.
It was interesting to see how one aspect of my life -- albeit an incredibly important one -- changes the entire matchmaking formula. Generally speaking, the guys who wanted to date JonnyDad were a bit older and more established. And the guys wanting to date JonnyLad were younger and more free-spirited.
The dating scene taught me a lot about our community as well as a lot about myself, and what I needed and wanted. Through that experience I realized how high-maintenance I had become. I realized that dating me would be a measure in patience and adaptability. It would take a very special person to want to put up with everything I was putting out.
To illustrate how dating me was no easy task, I jotted down a few "Tips to Dating a Gay Single Dad":
1. I Want You to Want Me. It's important that we are dating for the right reasons. Guys looking for their "instant family" are a huge turn-off.
2. QT. It's all about quality time. As a single dad, time is at a premium. If we only get together once a week, it's not because I am not interested -- it's just that there aren't enough hours in the day.
3. PDA. Not since being closeted do I remember being so conscious of my public displays of affection. I just don't want the neighbor kid telling my son whom I am dating.
4. No. 3. My kid comes first. Many guys are not used to being in a relationship where they are not the focus of attention. In addition, as a gay man I know the benefits and importance of also taking care of myself -- like the flight attendants say, "Put your oxygen mask before helping others."
5. The "Ex" Factor. I have an ex and he's Papa. He's important to my kid and therefore important to me. Gay culture allows for great relationships with your ex but the kid factor takes it to a whole new level.
6. Pillow Queen. Being a dad is 24/7 and exhausting. When I see a chance for a catnap, I take it. The opportunities are few and far between. If I choose that nap over you, it's really nothing personal.
7. My Amendment to the First Amendment. Around the little one, your first amendment rights are suspended. Before coming out of the closet, code switching was our M.O. Many guys resent having to "act" after exiting the closet -- free speech and expression is a core value. But I'm less concerned about my boyfriend's freedom of expression than about my kid's general wellbeing. So boys, it's a little more thinking before speaking.
8. Get Out of Here! My vacation schedule typically looks like my kid's school schedule. That doesn't leave a lot for romantic getaways or spontaneous trips. Much of what the travel industry markets to our community isn't on our family bucket list. Less Amsterdam and more Anaheim.
As you can see dating is a bit different through the lens of a gay dad. There are so many reasons why not to date us but I believe that there are even more reasons to give it a shot -- but of course I am not very objective. It's a transformative experience that may test your gay sensibility, but also opens a whole new beautiful world.
And lastly, about two years ago I did meet an incredible guy who loves me for who I am. He's patient, understanding, kind and best of all, puts up with me. And when it comes down to it, what more could you really ask for? (Oh, he's pretty sexy too!)