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(Un)settled: An Introduction Tales of seduction and self-destruction

This past summer, I sat at a cozy table at 29th Street Tavern, across from a perfectly nice man, just a few years younger than me. I’d met him on Bumble and when he asked to meet me for drinks, I willingly accepted. But about a half hour into the date, I found myself bored out of my mind and wishing I’d told a friend to give me an emergency “something bad happened” phone call, à la Charlotte in Sex and the City. I hadn’t been so wise.

Meet Sarah.

I felt like time had come to a halt, and I knew no amount of sipping my generously poured CabSav or playing good jams on the jukebox was going to save me (believe me, I tried, and ended up with a gnarly hangover the next day). But I had no idea what to do in this situation because, well, I’d never exactly been in it. I was fresh out of my eight-and-a-half year marriage, and I’d only just begun dating again. Before that, I was in my 20s and meeting people standing over a keg, not on set-ups or dating apps.

What was the protocol? Should I be really upfront and honest, pay my tab and tell him I really had no intention of ever seeing him again? That seemed a little too honest. Maybe even cruel. I decided the only way out was to lie. I told him my kid was sick, apologized profusely and darted outside to get in my Lyft. But it wasn’t pretty. It was awkward and fumble-y, and oh-so-clear that I was lying through my wine-stained teeth. In retrospect, the truth would’ve been so much kinder and I felt guilty about it later, vowing to just be forthcoming on my next dates-gone-crappy.

I didn’t really need to, though, because soon after, I ended up on an amazing first date (drinking the best spicy margaritas in the world at Clavel) which turned, rather quickly, into my first post-marriage relationship. For a few months, I got to be happy and in love and for a while, I thought, without a doubt, that everything was working out exactly how it was supposed to. But then it crumbled, just as quickly as it began. And I was utterly devastated.

Truth be told, I was only just beginning to get used to my new life as a single parent. And all of intense stresses from being the primary caretaker of my kids to having mounting financial pressures coupled with a jarring breakup turned it into the most brutal heartbreak I’d ever experienced. I learned that falling in love after a decade is amazing. I also learned that I had to do a better job of guarding my heart because it had been horribly shattered in a way it never had been before. Maybe I was just more vulnerable now. Maybe I wasn’t as resilient. Maybe I needed to just hole up for a while and cry until I didn’t have any tears left, and I did.

As scary as it was to start dating again after first, the end of my marriage, then, after piecing my heart back together again after that first epically horrible breakup, I did. And it made me realize that if I could get through that devastating heartbreak and still have hope, I didn’t really have that much to worry about. My heart was still broken. But it wasn’t hardened or closed off. It was open. The realization that I could go through so much pain and still be brave enough to put myself back out there felt good, so I embraced it and moved forward.

I started casually swiping my apps. Then, I started making direct efforts to ask people out. My first date back was terrible, but I got out of there gracefully, this time without any lies. It was so graceful, in fact, that I even managed to ask the bartender out in the process, which was really a thing of beauty (more on that later).

In the past year, I have probably felt more feelings than I’ve ever felt at any other point in my life. I’ve been happy and in love, sad, devastated and overwhelmed. I’ve been depressed and bouncing off the walls, sometimes all in the same day. But going through massive life changes and reinventing your romantic life will do that to you. Single, dating parents know this to be true. This 34-year-old mother of two wonderful little people sure does.

Whether you’re single for the first time in years and learning to balance parenting and dating, or wondering if and when you’re going to dip your toe in again, I hope you’ll join me here every month at (Un)settled. If you’re married, you can live vicariously through my tales of seduction and probably, self-destruction, and chances are, some of it will probably make you cling to your spouse and vow, all over again, never to leave them.

So, come along and learn from my mistakes. Or laugh at them. I’ll be doing both. Probably at the same time. Either way, this is gonna be fun … I think.

About Sarah Bregel

Sarah Bregel is a writer, mother, feminist and deep breather. She has contributed to Vice, Vox, Slate, Longreads, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Parents, and has been featured in multiple anthologies. She lives in Mount Washington with her two children, who are 9 and 5, and is working on her first manuscript.

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