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Single +1

Sarah Fowler

I once dated a man who told me that he would never date a woman with “baggage.” He was in his mid-30’s, fast approaching 40 and had decided that he would never marry a woman who was divorced with children. Clearly I don’t meet his criteria and that was the end of our courtship but it got me thinking. Besides the obvious “Good luck, Buddy.” I began to wonder if “baggage” was necessarily a bad thing. We all have those skeletons in our closest, that dirty little secret that we aren’t proud of and some of us do our damnest to hide those from the person we’re in a relationship with. Some of us, however, air it out immediately and prop our special brand of crazy on the front porch for all the world to see. Or we write in a column. Yes, I have a baggage. I am a 26 year old, divorced single mother who has come to realize that I have no idea how to have an ex-husband not lose my mind in the process. And I’ve decided that that is perfectly ok. Instead of trying to fight it and act like things are coming up roses, I’ve accepted the fact that you know what, yeah, I am bitter on occasion and probably crazy too. For the most part, I try to handle my divorce and relationship with my ex-husband with dignity and maturity but there are some days where you want to tell maturity to go take a flying leap. And I’ve also come to believe that anyone who says otherwise is completely full of it. Yes, I’ve got baggage. And yes, that’s ok.
Of my four closest girlfriends, three have been divorced. Two are remarried and all of us have children. And together, they all have more baggage than the Delta baggage claim after a transatlantic flight with the late great Imelda Marcos on board. But I love them. And so do the men in their lives. Each one of those women is in a happy, committed, drama free relationship and it’s my personal belief that it’s because their significant others knew about their issues from the get go and decided that not only was the baggage worth it, but it made those women the special, unique individuals that they are.
A few months ago, I met a man who was divorced with children. He and his ex-wife had just gone through a very nasty, very public divorce and they had split custody of their three children. He was smart, funny and the way he looks in a pair of jeans stops me in my track but it just seemed like too much drama for me to handle. I told myself that I like to keep it simple and dating this man would obviously complicate things. But then I took a step back and looked at my own life. Yes, Prinny and I live a quiet little life but simple isn’t exactly the word that I would use to describe us. Actually, we’re anything but. So why was I giving this man a hard time? I thought that he had too much baggage but I realized that if anyone could understand where I was coming from, he could. There are things you can say to a divorced man that you can’t say to someone who has never been married and absolutely no one can understand the love you feel for your child unless they have children too. With a divorced man with kids, you can go to dinner and laugh as you have a conversation about the trials of potty training and it is perfectly acceptable to brag over the first time your baby poo pooed in the potty. You can’t say the word “poop” to someone who doesn’t have children, especially over dinner. You just can’t. With someone who is divorced you can talk about your ex with ease knowing that they aren’t threatened by the fact that you’ve been married before and they don’t hear the word “divorce” and immediately wonder what you did wrong. There is a certain level of comfort dating someone who is in the same position you are because they know that while you may gripe about your ex every now and then, you don’t hate them, you hate the situation. So maybe the more baggage the better. I’ve realized that what so many of us view as “baggage” is really just life’s experiences that we’ve collected along the way. And instead of holding that against someone, maybe we could learn from them instead.
In most relationships you get to know each other over a period of time, slowly but surely revealing things about yourself to the other. Trust develops and the relationship evolves and you begin to discover each other’s most intimate secrets. You slowly learn that the new man in your life has a taste for expensive cigars, old cars and rocks out to bad 80’s music when he thinks no one is watching. He learns that you are scared to death of clowns, secretly hate The Nutcracker, and have been shooting a gun since you were old enough to cock the handle. Then you learn the not so pleasant things, things you can only tell each other after you’ve been dating a while. There are things you can tell someone after six months of dating that you wouldn’t dare tell them on your first date. For example, after six months you can tell your new partner that you once accidentally dated your second cousin. You can’t say that on a first date. After six months, that person knows that ok, maybe you have french kissed a family member but they also know that you volunteer at the Humane Society on weekends, crinkle your nose when you laugh, love fresh cut flowers and have a weakness for the green M&M’s. They’re already in love with you so the baggage doesn’t matter as much. In fact, it makes you even more appealing when they know that you’re not perfect. So yes, I have baggage. And yes, that’s ok because whoever “he” is, chances are he’ll have baggage too. Hopefully he’ll love me not in spite of my so-called baggage but because of it. I promise I’ll do the same.

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