Ever heard the expression, “darned if you do, darned if you don’t”? Probably so. It can be a defeating feeling, a voice whispering that you just can’t win. We’ve all experienced it at some point or another, but socializing as a single mom has taught me a few unexpected lessons on how to move past those emotions and focus on my own truth. I’m certain many of my readers will relate.
A For Effort
Life is moving incredibly fast these days. I’m always on the go. My days consist of anything from being on site during construction of one of my design projects, to conference meetings with my team, to PTA meetings at my kid’s school. Every day is different, and it’s something I’ve simply grown accustomed to. Because my agenda for each day can be tightly packed from hour to hour, I’m often dressed in a way that will carry me from a board meeting to a stone and materials vendor. I have to be prepared for everything.
Like most women, I always feel good when I look good. Life as a newly single person means I welcome the opportunity to meet new people to add to my circles, be they romantic connections or platonic ones. My business as a designer means a lot of talking to people and even more deliberate networking. I am my brand and my own best advertisement. Mingling at events is not only for enjoyment, it’s business. I never thought more of it until recently, when I began noticing that socializing as a single mom came with its own set of challenges. I would attend an event, go up to a group of people and introduce myself and attempt to politely join a conversation. It felt like getting into a pool and immediately watching everyone else get out. The first couple of times I dismissed it as just a coincidence. Maybe those couples were already in the process of ending a conversation when I walked up. Perhaps the sudden leaving of a few people had nothing to do with the fact that I just arrived. But as it started happening more frequently it got harder not to make the connection.
It’s Just Lipstick
I started questioning myself. Was it something I said? Something I wore? I scrutinized everything. I’ve definitely put more effort into my appearance as of late. My dresses, though not extremely tight and not at all revealing, skim my curves a little more closely these days. My tresses are full and bouncy, and I love the way the color red looks in both a lip color and a high heel. I never considered that taking pride in my appearance would negatively change the way people in a professional and social atmosphere interacted with me. I mean, it’s just lipstick after all. Closer observation exposed an ugly truth. I saw women start to put their wedding rings on display when I held conversations with their husbands while in a group setting. What I can only assume was insecurity reared its head as wives pulled their guys closer, or led them away as I approached. It was strange. I felt like I’d made a mistake by not dressing more casually. Their public rejection made me wonder if socializing as a single mom would mean I needed to dim my light in order to make new friends. Further introspection took me down a different path.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
My challenges and darkest days have done something amazing to my psyche, my trajectory and my overall life outlook. They’ve increased my strength one-hundred fold. I’ve never been more certain of who I am and what I’m capable of. Maybe that’s what people sense when I enter a room. Maybe it isn’t the dress or the shoes or the hair. It’s tenacity that people perceive. Walking in the fullness of who I am has had some unexpected side effects. The most interesting social difference has been that I attract strong people. Bosses want to congregate with other bosses. It’s because they aren’t intimidated by something they already possess.
I love meeting new people and conversing about my passions. If I’m in a group speaking to others about design or construction and one of the 4 people happens to be a male, it isn’t because he’s a guy, it’s because we share business prospects! I’m careful to address wives and use every bit of my etiquette. The suspicion surrounding my intentions is merely projection. I wish married women realized that single moms don’t walk around plotting on taken men. We aren’t fluttering about from guy to guy like a bumblebee in a garden. We don’t think we’re hot stuff, and we don’t view our position as an advantage over yours. We’re moms who got up before the sun to ready our kids for the day before rushing off to work. In this moment you see stilettos and mascara, but hours earlier there was baby vomit on my shirt and cheeto dust in the car seat.
Room For All
Socializing as a single mom requires a little more effort. Attending events and meetings can feel more like presenting for an interview than a lighthearted occasion. At times a little more appearance sprucing is in order, but it isn’t at all meant to be a statement about the state of affairs in your personal business. I’m learning that the insecurities of others shouldn’t demand a lessening of myself. It isn’t me. It’s them. Socializing effectively and without headache may take some work, but I’m done blaming myself for simply being single. We all have something to add to the conversation. Focusing on that leaves less time for pesky intimidation and more for healthy connections. That’s something we can all get behind.