Hi, it’s Gregg. In advance of Manimals being published soon, I wanted to share another of my readers’ stories about dating a man. With her permission, here is Ainsley’s story. Funny how when you’re young you think you have it all worked out, right? You have this grand plan and nothing can derail it. You will graduate high school, go to college and have a great time, land your dream job, meet Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome, make some babies to fill your house on the corner lot (with the white picket fence and golden retriever, of course), and live happily ever after. What could possibly go wrong? But when there is a wrench thrown into your plans, you can come unglued. Here I was twenty years old, my whole life ahead of me, still time to live out my grand plan. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. It started when I went to the doctor for my annual checkup and the doctor says to me, “You know, with your family history, if you don’t have kids early, you may never get the chance.” Kids! I was twenty years old at the time. I hadn’t even thought about kids yet. All of a sudden my biological clock was in hyper drive. It didn’t occur to me to stop and ask, “What’s your definition of early?” Being the planner I am, I set out with one goal in mind: find a man who had the qualities I wanted to see in my children. It didn’t take long. It was a chance meeting, in fact. He was perfect. He was seven years older, established and ready to settle down, pretty good looking, and had a degree in engineering from a great school, with a job at a big time company. He was the definition of a “grown up.” I asked him out. Yes, I’m a very headstrong, confident, independent woman, so that’s what I do, I ask guys out. Up until this point I hadn’t really dated anyone seriously. Like ever. I was too busy living life. I didn’t want to be tied to anyone in particular before then. He said yes to my date and we went out. After about six months, talk had turned to getting married. It was a whirlwind romance. We were together nonstop. My world was centered on him and our future. Finally the ring came, and wow, what a rock! I was so excited. I was yelling it from the rooftops, “I’m in love and getting married to this awesome man!” My mom and I started planning the wedding almost immediately. I remember the day the invitations came in the mail. I was so busy with checklists and to-dos I hadn’t even really had time to process everything that was happening. I opened the box to make sure everything was in order and that’s when it hit me. I was about to get married! I started second guessing everything. Is he really the right guy for me? Am I too young? I sat cross-legged in the middle of the living room floor with a box of invitations in my lap bawling. I finally pulled myself together and gave myself a pep talk in the mirror. I chalked it up to cold feet and never gave it a second thought. Fast-forward five years. I’m standing at the sink brushing my teeth. As I’m looking at myself in the mirror it hits me like a ton of bricks. I’m with this man FOREVER. Talk about a freak out moment! The little things in the beginning that seemed cute were now a real strain. At first it was, “You should wear your hair like this,” or “This outfit would look really great on you,” but somewhere along the line it grew into, “What did you spend $1.29 on at the gas station and do you REALLY need to go out with your friends tonight, where will you be going, who will you be with, and when will you be home?” I recognized myself less and less until I didn’t even know the person standing in front of the mirror brushing her teeth. My identity had become him. I hadn’t only made him my hobby; I’d made him my life! What happened to the confident girl? I think I had always known that he wasn’t really the right guy for me, but I thought I could make it work. At this point we had one child and were working on a second. No one in my family had ever gotten divorced, so I didn’t know what else to do but to carry on. Smile and pretend everything is great and it will be, or so I had hoped. After a dozen long years of grinning and bearing it through a miserable marriage, I stopped kidding myself. I started to slowly rebuild me. I finally began to realize that confident girl was still there and I was quality. I could choose my men, and I did not settle to be chosen. No more would I make my life all about another man. I got back on the horse and after nearly 15 years of being out of the dating scene, I went on my first date. Then another. And another. Just like Gregg teaches, men want a confident woman who has her own life, and he is right. I could have my pick of guys. They were crawling out of the woodwork to date me. ME! Could you believe it? A single mother of three in her 30’s who hadn’t dated in over a decade and a half had suitors knocking. I was Middle Aged and Kickin’ It! Finally deciding to leave my unhappy marriage was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but finding myself again made it all worthwhile.

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