When my mom died six years ago, I accepted that my dad would eventually start dating again. My sister and I discussed it relatively quickly after we lost our mom; we knew he would never try to replace her but would want to find companionship. It wasn’t a life we expected, but it was a life that we had to accept.
Having my dad date other women didn’t bother me at all because I viewed the entire situation as undesirable for everyone. His forever ended abruptly, and if he had his way, I know he would still be with my mom. For my sister and me, the very fundamental part of dating in which women would find my dad attractive and crush on him the way I do with the men I meet on these apps made us want to shrivel up. I love my dad dearly, but thinking about one’s parent in an intimate fashion is distressing, let alone when said parent is now swiping past individuals who aren’t your other parent.
To be fair, my dad is an intelligent, caring man who comes with little baggage. He’s a widower who loves his two daughters more than one could imagine. He has even told me that he tells his dates that he’s more concerned with my dating life than his.
I love my dad dearly, but thinking about one’s parent in an intimate fashion is distressing, let alone when said parent is now swiping past individuals who aren’t your other parent.
We never had a formal discussion about his starting to date. It could have been that my sister and I expected the milestone or that none of us wanted to have an odd version of the birds-and-the-bees conversation. We definitely didn’t plan it, but it just so happened that five years ago, my dad and I started online dating around the same time, both using Match.com. He found success on that site, but I gave up after a couple of lackluster dates.
I decided to take a one-and-a-half-year hiatus from online dating while he continued to meet different women with various backgrounds. I met a few men the old-fashioned way — at the gym, out at bars, IRL situations that are practically unheard of now. But those relationships didn’t pan out either. Honestly, I don’t know if I am quasi-jealous or just dumbfounded that my 65-year-old dad’s dating life appears to be better than mine at 30.
His first serious girlfriend came into his life in late in the summer of 2014, just over two years after my mom died. The woman had a great sense of humor and a vibrant personality and truly seemed invested in our relationship. She appreciated the bond I had with my dad and even attended my oldest and best friend’s wedding ― a wedding that my mom would have played a major role in, had she still been alive.
Shortly after that wedding, we spent Thanksgiving with his girlfriend, and that’s when the reality of my mom’s absence sunk in. My dad tried to release me from our goodbye embrace after dinner, but my arms couldn’t unwrap from his neck as I cried, “Mom’s never coming back.” He held me tighter, and I felt his tears fall too while he shakily said, “I know, baby doll. I know.”
My heaviest tears continued into that Christmas, but I usually let them fall only when I was alone. It wasn’t that I disliked the women my dad dated; it was the situation. And in my dad’s defense, he never wanted to be the old guy dating either. He has had several relationships with women who attended major events and spent holidays with us through the years. We discussed the difficult times and laughed when that was the only thing we could do.
It wasn’t that I disliked the women my dad dated; it was the situation. And in my dad’s defense, he never wanted to be the old guy dating either.
My dad met most of these women on Match, and I thought that was his only online dating outlet, until this summer, when he alluded to Tinder. I didn’t want to believe him, since it has a reputation of being more salacious, and I think I just pretended not to hear him when he initially said it.
It wasn’t until a few months ago during one of my weekend visits with him that a very improbable nightmare of mine came to pass. I was enjoying an Egg McMuffin in his car while he was informing me of his current girlfriend.
“Did you meet this one on Tinder?” I asked, fully tasting the sarcasm dripping from my mouth.
“No, Sammy, this one was Match. But Tinder definitely has it right.” My sarcasm now tasted like vinegar and not my delicious McDonald’s breakfast.
“Dad, please stop.” I pleaded as I prayed for an instant death. I’m nearly positive I blacked out after that comment or I had an out-of-body experience, because I don’t recall how it ended, and how I didn’t jump out of the moving car is a mystery to me. Bodily harm seemed more appealing than the thought of my dad swiping right or left on a woman in her late 50s or early 60s. (He dates women only around his age. I can at least thank him for that one.)
I was catfished on my first and only Tinder date, and knowing my dad used Tinder and had more success on it still stings.
While my dad and I have very open discussions about our dating lives and one of my dad’s dates exposed his Match username to me, I have never seen his profile, nor do I want to.
Some may find it strange that my dad and I have such candid conversations about our dating lives with each other, but it has become our new normal. It’s no secret that he’s just trying to find companionship and not a replacement for my mom.
There have definitely been times I haven’t liked a woman he was seeing, but I miraculously managed to show kindness or at least neutrality because my dad deserves to be happy. It’s still that whole part about other women hitting on my dad that I’ll never appreciate, and I have no problem vocalizing it. But ultimately, my dad’s happiness will always come before my discomfort over watching him flirt with other women.
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