If I had a penny for all the times a girl has told me she couldn't see herself dating a guy with a kid, I may have about four cents.
While four rejections might not seem like much, each one hurt a little bit more than the one that came before it.
One of those rejections, in particular, has had quite a lasting effect on me.
I met this girl (we'll call her Genevieve), or at least, was present in the same room as her, for the very first time during the summer of my sophomore year of college. And at the time, I was semi-dating a girl she knew — "semi" being the key prefix here.
I haven't dated any girl seriously since parting ways with my son's mother a little more than five years ago. That relationship, if it could even be referred to as that, fizzled out by the fall of that year, probably a couple weeks before Halloween.
At that point, Genevieve and I were by no means close with one another... unless you count sharing a few small words here and there when I was seeing her friend, that is.
Frankly, we've never been close. We've never been anything. But there were times I tried to show I was interested, using the best modes of millennial communication available, of course. That meant random Snapchat conversations every now and then, favoriting or responding to her tweets on occasion, liking her Instagram posts — and, rarely, texting.
This was what "our relationship" amounted to until the night I decided to straight up find out what she thought of me.
Skip forward to my junior year on a cold, wintry night in Michigan. There I was, sitting up alone in the living room of my apartment, looking outside at the snow that had recently blanketed the town.
As one who stays up later than his roommates, contemplating life and existence, I wasted time scrolling through Twitter. I stumbled upon a tweet from Genevieve that had seemed to have a melancholy tone to it. So, wanting to provide a voice of comfort for this girl that I'd had an underlying, but ever-present crush on for a year and a half, I decided to switch over to Snapchat and snap her.
It turns out she was upset, kind of in a general sense, about realizing that the friends she'd grown up with didn't exactly share the same values or care as deeply about the things she'd come to view as important. It was an existential, late-teen life crisis, as one has.
We snapped back and forth for a while, basically just sending snippets of words set against dark, black backdrops. She thanked me for reaching out, showing interest — caring, you could even say.
The conversation then turned, due to a maneuver of mine, toward her and I.
I wanted to know if there might ever be something between us. It was something I'd been wanting to ask about for a long time. It was also something I figured I already knew the dreaded answer to.
It was then, while sitting up alone in my dark apartment with my eyes glued to my phone, that Genevieve dropped the impending bomb I'd expected: “You're sweet and everything," she said, "but I don't think I could date a guy with a kid.”
Those last few words felt like the nail in the coffin, giving me a "this whole dating thing is just not going to happen for me" kind of feeling.
It's a weird thing to feel because the rejection was almost certain to happen. Since it was no surprise, why did I feel so crushed?
I suppose there was a slim chance, though maybe only in my head, for the two of us to be an “item." But I think because I waited so long to confirm my worst fears about what she thought, the hammer dropped with a bit more force.
The fact that she started attending the same college as me, and even joined a club I was involved with, didn't seem to help.
To be honest, just seeing her is a reminder of something I can't have. It's also a reminder of something I do have: my son, who is a bundle of joy on all accounts. Almost seven years old already, he's doing his part to keep me young while also making me feel so, so old.
And it seems he's also helping to weed out some of my romantic prospects. As painful as it can be sometimes, as it was with Genevieve, I suppose it's all for the best. I am much past the point of contemplating if my kid “situation,” as it is, were different.
My son is a big part of my life, and I can't imagine things being any other way. If a girl can't accept every part of me, including him, then I'm probably better off not being with her anyway.
Thanks to Genevieve's rejection, and the rejections from other girls, I have come to two crucial realizations.
The first: It's probably better for all parties involved if the girl I'm trying to talk to is upfront about her opinion on my status as a 23-year-old father. It'll still deliver a blow, but at least it'll be one that's much less powerful than if she'd convinced me things could work in the long run.
The second: There is a girl out there for me who has no qualms about dating a guy with a kid. She'll be one that I'll be able to connect with and have a relationship with — and I will find her.
One of these days, anyway.