At 32, I definitely didn’t expect to be single, unemployed, and sleeping in the same room where I lost my virginity over a decade prior. You’d assume it’s the worst introduction to any guy you’d meet on a dating app, but unfortunately, the most challenging part seems to be explaining to my parents why I won’t be home for dinner.
We’ve all experienced the bitterness of dating after the second “Mike” of the week goes for a high five, and all you have to show for the past 3 hours is your mediocre to-go Pad Thai.
Let’s also not forget the mid-date text from “Mom,” asking about laundry while you’re in the middle of explaining to Mike your 5-year plan.
“You look nice… Got a date tonight?” This my mom asks as if I wear red lipstick and do my hair to sit around the house and watch Family Feud for the millionth time. Unfortunately, like the other 52 percent of people living at home with their parents due to COVID, moving back meant answering intrusive questions about dating and continuously reminding them I won’t get murdered every time I leave the house.
You see, explaining how to upload a picture to Facebook is one thing. Explaining how app-related dating works to a baby boomer is another.
Among the “what’s online dating?” group, my parents add to the 81 percent of people 55 years and older who admit to never using a dating website. My mom, a post-Woodstock love child from the ’60s and ’70s who just started to trust the internet for online shopping, is now giving me pointers on finding love through the interwebs.
The burden of creating a profile that doesn’t scream “I’m bitter, but bored” through filtered pictures of myself, while educating a demographic on what not to do, has become quite the feat.
Ironically, dating at 32 is very similar to my high school years; minus the apple bottom jeans and baby phat jacket from Burlington Coat Factory. My parents now, as then, are vacuuming in another room, trying to listen to my poor attempt at flirting.
Present day, not much has changed, except instead of on the landline where I need to delete the caller ID, I save “Hinge guy 1” on my unlimited, non-family plan cellphone. The discomfort of not having alone time to talk peacefully and without an audience is impossible when living in someone else’s house. I see my own experience in another blog post about another person’s parental dating struggles “…Sure, I’m an adult. If I lived on my own, my mom wouldn’t be asking if I was coming home, but I am living at home, so the rules are different.”
Yes, let’s not forget the house rules—the rules of expectations, responses, and curfews that we quickly forget once we establish our own. Yes, my parents’ home comes stocked with Costco snacks, free cable, and a daily reminder that my “dinner is in the microwave,” but I forget the expectation in return is many, many questions and comments.
The “Where are you going?” has transitioned to “Who are you talking to?” and “What’s his name?” It is as if I’ve infiltrated the 13-year-old version of myself, anticipating the talk on boys and my first period. “[They] can say, ‘Mom, I appreciate your interest, but please stop asking so many questions—if it’s someone you should know about, I'll tell you,’” advised Andra Medea, author of Conflict Unraveled: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families, after suggesting to be straight up with intrusive parents about privacy.
I scour the internet for some form of relevance when it comes to living at home with parental woes only to end up on Reddit reading endless responses to questions like “Where do you smash at?” and others complaining of taking care of their parents, maintaining a household and trying to find love.
Surprisingly many comments ended with a positive outcome on their situation “…I know I have missed out on a couple dates because of my situation, but even more, people were accepting and understanding.”
Unfortunately, while the internet has provided the top advice tips from experts on how to get sexy while your parents are in the other room and the benefits of creating boundaries, no one is explaining how to combat the post-date interrogation and the awkward stares after I come home on a Friday night past curfew.
We’ve all experienced the walk of shame from a night out, but coming home late after a date only means one thing to parents: sex. As much as I wished my messy hair and wrinkled clothing was a result of such, the truth is I got a little wine buzzed after an un-stimulating conversation about Zoom meetings and eventually Uber’d home.
“Thank your parents for their concern, but remind them that you are an adult,” says relationship expert Susan Winter in an interview with Elite Daily. “Also remind them that they have done a good job to raise you and instill the kind of critical thinking that is necessary for you to make good choices.”
By good choices, let’s not allude to my failed relationships or the one guy you met with the weird facial hair.
On the bright side, the success rate of finding love and marriage from online dating is said to be around 10 percent of the U.S. population, especially within the millennial age range. Unlike my experience of being ghosted and blocked, the actuality of finding a connection seems to be plausible. The challenge of making any form of a romantic relationship, or hell… friends, after eliminating those married, incarcerated, or dead looks different, but still, we have to hope that dating while living at home isn’t impossible.
Regarding my parents, they still ask questions about my dating life, but instead of being pushy on responses, they throw in the occasional “How’s your friend?” the next morning over coffee. Surprisingly, this method has been working for us. I personally am more open with information when I don’t feel the pressure of “Is this the one?”
For now, my quest to find love has been put on ice. I’ve met some really nice men, but actively trying to find a connection is mentally exhausting over time. I can only tell someone my favorite color so often before I get right to the point of “How many children?” after the first exchange of pleasantries. It began to feel like a chore after some dates, and I already have enough of those at home.
Creating boundaries, communicating, and recognizing house rules are some key ways you can effectively live with your parents and not lose your mind. Yes, we all like to think one day, the knowledge we bestow upon our parents can be acknowledged and respected, but at the end of the day, you are left with the realization they have the power: If you don't like it, leave!
So, if you decide to stay, be prepared for the birds and bees conversation after taking out the trash. In the words of Chelsea Handler, “Obviously, if I was serious about having a relationship with someone long-term, the last people I would introduce him to would be my family.”