The other night, I was out at a dinner for two — it was a great evening, with adult conversation, laughs, and good wine. At one point, my date looked at me and said with a naughty smirk, “You’re a DILF.” I looked at her with a blank stare and a thousand thoughts went through my mind, the first one being, WTF is a DILF? Given the direction the conversation had been going in, it sounded appropriately naughty. My dumbfounded look must have lasted long enough to give away my purity.
She teased me and asked if I knew what it meant. I didn’t want to be presumptuous. Then she said, “Not only are you a DILF, you’re also a FILF!” I’m not sure that’s much better. And here I thought the evening was going well! Then a light bulb turned on. I chuckled and replied, “That’s the nicest thing anybody has said to me in a while!”
My current state of life as a half-time, custody-sharing dad is exactly where I want to be right now. I have my health. I have a beautiful 7-year-old daughter and her health. I enjoy my work. I have a crew of good friends that easily regroups, even after long periods without contact. And unlike my married dad friends, I have a lot of time on my hands. Some of that time I spent with DINKs (although I have few of these friends left) and SINKs (even fewer). My married guy friends are all envious. My single-again guy friends are always trying to set me up. If the evening falls through, I call them up for a drink. Life is great.
But it wasn’t always like this. My wife and I were married for eight years, but after the birth of our daughter, things changed dramatically. Like all parents, we were constantly tired, and couple-time diminished — for us, it dropped to zero. Our communication became perfunctory, trivial, and unengaging. Conflict and disagreements between us were left to pile up in the corner: We were too tired to deal with them on any given day, so they were left, unresolved, for another, and then another. My wife co-slept with our daughter, which meant I slept alone in our room. We lived like this for more than two years.
Feeling like a roommate, each night I would lie awake in bed worrying about our marriage, our money, and our daughter. We even went to three counselors; my wife walked out on all of them, but I stayed. It was ironic that with both sides of the extended families and good friends in close proximity, I had never felt lonelier. I realized later that I was powerless to fix anything, nor was it my job. I wish my wife had known that my compliments to her were genuine and not attempts to distract or minimize our problems. I wished for a lot of things. And lastly, I wished for my failed marriage to end because I could neither be the man I wanted to be nor the father I needed to be. We divorced and I vowed never to trap anyone again, especially myself. That was five years ago.
A lot has happened since. When I became a new dad, I stopped caring about how I looked: I was puked on and had poo sprayed on to my suits. My necktie was used as my kid’s throw-up wipe. And I even once went to work with mismatched socks. On some days, just getting out of bed and wandering over to the coffee shop, unshaven, bed-headed, and with a sleeping baby in a carrier, was a huge accomplishment.
My vanity went out the door with the bags of used diapers — and I was totally fine with it. Who was going to judge a scruffy-looking man slumped over in a park bench singing his daughter to sleep? I’ve become comfortable in my own skin and in my parenting role. If I have to teach a little girl to be comfortable with her self in her body, I can’t be too hung up on going out in public in mismatched socks.
I actually became very happy to be out of a marriage turned bad. When I do go out, I clean up well. The fact that someone called me a DILF makes me feel attractive. I’m not out chasing skirts looking eager and desperate. I was totally OK asking for a table for one at a restaurant anyway, so a table for two is even nicer. It makes me feel grown-up again.
I do miss the days when things were good. But when things were bad, it was so bad that no amount of good days could make up for it. I tell my daughter of happy stories about the three of us. There were so few, and she relishes every single word. But when she’s at her mom’s, I keep busy. I have my work and my friends, and I have dinner with my mom once a week. I also seek out and enjoy companionship.
I do try to follow a few guidelines. As a man in my 40s, I try to date women close to my age. I’m not interested in having any more children, for one thing. I used to want more, but since the divorce, and now with a daughter who is 7, my clock is also ticking and it just feels too difficult to go through it again. And then there’s just something about being with someone who’s at a similar life stage, maybe divorced with her own children, or without children. There’s a certain sense of calm when partners aren’t looking to get something from each other and are simply content sharing with one another. It’s that sentiment I want to capture forever, and I’m enjoying the journey to get there, especially now that I know I’m a DILF.
Dave N. Marks is a divorced, custody-sharing father of a 7-year-old girl living in Toronto. He works as a negotiator at a financial institution, but is less effective in negotiations with his daughter.