My mother’s headline on her online dating profile reads “I like to cut to the chase. How about you?” She does this to weed out any normal men who enjoy engaging in email flirtation before they give their phone numbers out to complete strangers. A virtual tête-à-tête is a necessary cautionary step that my mom, who is not web savvy, likes to skip. She just dishes out her digits to anyone with a cute enough picture. Having never seen “The Craigslist Killer,” she assumes that handsome men don’t carry knives.
As a woman in her 60’s (though if you ask any dude on Plenty of Fish, she’s 57), she believes that the safety rules of online dating don’t apply to her. Instead of meeting men in public places, she has guys pick her up at her apartment. Then she gets in their cars. As a worrisome only child, who feels like more of a parent most days, I sometimes think this is safer than her driving herself given that her other favorite rule to violate is #7: “Don’t drink more than two martinis on a first date.”
Last night she was out with “Ron” who she’d spoken to once the previous evening. She gave me his phone number so I could give it to police in the event of murder. When I insisted that she give me his email address too, she responded that she didn’t want to ask Ron for his handle because she didn’t want to give him hers. Her physical home address – no problem, but email address – which she only uses to collect coupons for penis enlargements? No way. “Don’t worry, baby. I’m just going to drink a spritzer tonight. I’ll be safe.” Real reassuring, mom.
At 8 p.m, I got the obligatory, “I’m good” text from her. Her pattern is to go silent after that. Her hearing starts to go after the third vodka goblet so she doesn’t notice that I’m calling. Incessantly. By midnight I started to panic. Lying in bed, frantically scrolling through pictures of teacup pigs on BuzzFeed, trying to think of anything other than my mother being hacked up by Ron, I began to realize that I’m not cut out to have a child. Unless I develop a Xanax dependency like my own mother did once she popped me out, I won’t be able to cope with the nightly worrying that my kid is safe. Especially when cars are involved. In that moment I almost sympathized with why she was so strict about me riding around with senior boys when I was a freshman in high school. Then, it occurred to me that driving to the mall in the back of Dave Vigneaux’s Bronco – a boy who had dinner at our home, and whose parents she was well acquainted with, is not the same thing as her mixing pills and booze with a man who won’t even pay for an online dating service. At least the boys I was doing donuts with used their real names.
By 5 a.m., after my third dream that a scary man from the web was trying to violate me, I had given up on hopes of sleeping. I let one last call to my mom go to voicemail and I put on Pitch Perfect while my newly minted husband snored softly beside me.
At last, I got an unapologetic text from my rebellious teen at 9 a.m., saying smugly that she was out late and “just fell asleep.” Having been around the block, I know that meant that she passed out drunk with her clothes on, after a sloppy makeout session by the door. Relieved that her body remained in one piece, I developed a new appreciation for just how difficult parenting most have been for her, without anyone else there in bed to assure her in the middle of the night that Dave Vigneaux wasn’t going to run me over with his car – just for kicks. Though empathy made me soften on the inside, like any good mommy, I didn’t show it. Instead, I threatened to stop paying for her Match account if she ever pulled this crap on me again. And then, with the soothing tunes of Anna Kendrick singing without accompaniment, I finally drifted into an acca-coma.