How not to date.

So you survived foster care. Multiple homes. Crazy people. Even crazier kids created by ever crazier people.

Now, you’re an adult. And you’re finally, finally on your own.  Time to date, have some fun.

I’m not about to claim super dater status. After all, I’m past 40 and married. But two decades ago, I did manage to have my share of dating fun. So, I’m going to offer some tips here. Take them. Leave them. Whatever. If it doesn’t apply to you, no problem.

1) If at all possible, if at ALL possible, avoid the conversation about your family until at least the third date.  (That is, if you care about the person. If it’s just a casual thing, don’t worry – it’s never going to come up or he/she doesn’t care. )

But if you care…

I know, I know, you want to tell the other person, I know you do. You want to show them that you are really solid, really tough. You went through some crazy stuff and look at you now – you’re here on this date and holy bat balls, you’re NOT murdering your date.

The reason this is so hard is that not talking about is like cutting off your arm. It’s such a big, big part of your life that it’s almost impossible not to talk about it.

Look around the web at any former foster site and you will find that most of the general public is under the impression that YOU did something to be put in foster care. YOU! You are the cause and thus you have some problems.

In my very early 20’s nobody cared about my past. It was college, it was fun, no big deal. Things were easier. As I got older, women would almost always start checking boxes on the first date (where did you grow up; what is your family like; are you close to them; do you have brothers and sitters).

So, just avoid this for the first couple of dates. If he or she is the kind of person that has to know about your family that soon, trust me when I tell you this is NOT the match for you.  The person who is focused on that part of your life that early is almost guaranteed to be a more hard core “traditionalist” and even if you mix early on, eventually it’s going to be oil and water.

Although this kind of statement was very difficult for me, I wish I had said this more often when pressed about my family:

“You know, I love my family and they’re great. But I really don’t want to talk about family today/tonight.”

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have what other people consider to be family at that exact moment.  But in fact, you do have family – you have someone, a friend, a mentor, someone.  And that someone IS your family. If by the 3rd or 4th date, he/she can’t accept that, forget that person and move on.


2) Don’t assume ANYTHING.  Don’t assume that a woman wants a door opened. Don’t assume she doesn’t. Don’t assume that your date knows how tight your finances are this week. Don’t assume that they don’t.  Don’t assume that he somehow just knows that you were raped at age 15 by a parent or foster parent – no one ever assumes something like that and most of the time they won’t believe you if you tell them (it’s too far out of their range of experience), so never assume he/she knows the really bad things.

The bad things really ARE NOT written on your face.

Most importantly, don’t assume that you understand his or her life – AT ALL. You don’t.  Just as other people don’t understand your life, you have no way to understand normalcy.  It’s foreign, weird and difficult and boring at times.

Don’t assume that your date is as comfortable with their sexual being as you are.  Because you went through foster care I can guarantee that you’ve had more time to understand your own sexual being – more than the average person. Often, this is not by choice.  But a consequence of that is that you will assume that other people have the same level of understanding. They don’t. They can’t.  So, don’t make comments, jokes or assumptions about sex.

And heterosexual men in particular listen to me here, never, ever, ever initiate or have sex (that includes oral) with a woman unless she has clearly, clearly, clearly indicated that she wants sex.  Remember, 1 in 2 former fosters are incarcerated at some point with the first few years of leaving foster care.  Don’t make it easy for the police to make you the 1 in that 2.  This is a rule I followed religiously even to the point of missing several “invitations” which were less than explicit.  Follow it, no exceptions.


3) Religion. Ugh. It’s hard to say how you’re feeling on religion. I think it depends on your age.

If you’ve recently aged out of foster care and were placed in very religious homes, you probably think God has a plan for you.  Who am I to say she doesn’t.

Regardless, keep those plans to yourself.  If you happen to be on a date with another equally amped up Jesus or Mohammad lover then sure, God it up until the break of dawn. Otherwise, shut it.  If my take on that offends you, well that’s the point – you don’t know how your date feels about this yet, so keep it to yourself.

The problem with going on about how you’re special in God’s eyes, and how “He” has a plan and all is that it’s very, very intimidating for your date.  And what they will remember is not the date and the fun you had (did you have fun?).  What they will remember is what a giant, self important, arrogant ‘tard you are for making yourself more special than your date.  After all, you think you came through hell because of God’s special plan for you (more on this topic later).  And this mere mortal date of yours, he or she just found out that God didn’t love them enough to get an A on their latest test.  No one likes a teachers pet, or in this case, God’s chosen foster.


4) Money. Money is truly one of your Kryptonites.

One of the statements I have heard more than once, is this – “You don’t know how to handle money because you’ve never had it.”  (Which, actually isn’t true, but I digress here)

This is one of the things that makes me truly, truly want to punch the person in the face, nuts, anus or throat.

To begin with, you’re actually pretty damned good with money. You’ve had to live on virtually nothing and still survive. Stretch a pack of Ramen noodles for three days – you’re a  freaking money boss.  Austerity was your bitch! (Which is why you know how bad it sucks.)

Second, just thinking about the statement is absurd. It’s like saying, you can’t handle chocolate because you’ve never had chocolate and therefore I can’t allow you to have chocolate.

It’s probably true that you’ve never handled large sums of money at one time (as in hundreds of thousands of dollars), but that’s not the point.  Hell, the average non foster has never handled more than a few hundred dollars cash at any one time.  And any large sums they have been responsible for, were not their own.  Trust me, this kind of thinking is pure bullshit and should be a red flag that the person who said it is looking to squeeze you to enrich themselves at some point. More on that in another post.

Anyway.  Don’t talk about money. Here’s  why.

The relationship you have with money and the relationship that your date has with money are two different relationships – I promise you.

Your awe, revere, and desire to earn money or have money is going to come off completely wrong in every instance.

And there is no way you are going to relate to how your date thinks about money because your date doesn’t really think of money at all.  In most cases, if you are dating a non foster, chances are good that even if her or his family was just average, your date never really had to think about money, and that is completely, totally foreign to you.

As with the family issue, this is something that actually can wait.  Unless you are getting serious and thinking of moving in together, don’t discuss money unless you genuinely feel that you have something to learn from the other person – or something to share.   If you ever do become serious, then yes, you need to talk about money – A LOT!  You need to be as open and honest about money as you can be.

But for now, put it on silence. If you have spare money and want to go on a date, simply enjoy it and don’t explain one damn thing about it to your date. It’s your money and vice versa.