My Dad's Dating Steps

I’ve seen you trying to hide it from me.


The extra dabs of cologne,

close shaves and whistled tunes,

seeing glasses half full but eyes empty of tears,

the divorce was then,

and this is now.


Tracing your mind’s rambling on a post-it for the babysitter,

like they say nothing,

is more important,

than that first impression.


The hopeful moment you step out that door our roles reverse,

you, are the giddy kid,

I’m the protective dad,

as you leave to meet her my fingers fly over your keyboard,

scavenging for a name,

what she’s like, where she lives--


Something just didn’t look right.

To many “I’m sorrys” too many “lets be friends”

and I realized that maybe you didn’t have such a grasp on the whole,

dating thing.


The babysitter texts her boyfriend,

eyes glaze over at the marathon of Invader Zim,

so on coffee stained sheets of yellow second-to-last notebook paper,

I wrote in my 6 year old scrawl:

tips to get a lady friend.


Step one:

Meet for a meal, because food is a feeling,

food is friday night ribs,

food is healing,

like homemade miso soup,

or soggy cereal I poured milk into hours before you woke up.

Food is how you stopped my crying when those kids called me fat,

a hot chocolate you tried to make authentic by melting actual,

dark chocolate,

food is rebellion,

a memory of simmering smiles and spaghetti as the world is ending.


Two: Ask her questions.

Give her internal giggles and butterflies,

let her share her world with you.

Her story,

her go-to bar, let her show you her world, through the stained glass of good days,

and I-want-to-die days,

of ignorances and wisdoms,

Know her, so that she can know you.


Dad, Have you ever felt like you were in a movie?

No, not you yourself,

but that your eyes were the camera because who you were seeing was so beautiful,

that they had to be captured on film?


See that’s part of step three:

romantic yet slightly cheesy pick up lines.

Not quite as cheesy as “scraping my knee falling for you”

more like words that linger as cinnamon candies and leave a traceable impression on the heart,

like, darling, your eyes shine like planets,

I lose myself in their intensity,

I consider myself lucky to have experienced their eternity.


Step four:

Keep her phone number.


lose them in the digits scattered wallpapers of student loans,

you're the eternal knowledge to my timeless questions,

but forget one plus one doesn't always make a couple.

Yet with each painful reminder,

I will bandage strained smiles of rejection with steak and potatoes,

Saturday night Stooges,


That’s all I have.

As that’s the extent of my first grade dating advice.


As heavy footsteps reach your studio apartment,

I shove my letter under your laptop,

hoping that like a treasure map it will be followed to happily ever afters,

blood red sunsets,


because if only they knew dad if only they knew what I have always known,

things would be different.


The lock clicks and you smile,

because I’ve waited for you,

because I’ve always waited for you.


As the Invader Zim marathon ends, you tuck me in.


And as I peer from my bed to watch as your breaths slow,

I think:


they sure grow up fast.  


This poem is about: 
My family


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