My mom is the coolest woman I know — and of course she returns the compliment to me, her only child. After 20 years of marriage, my parents divorced and she was left with a basic high school education and very little alimony. She began working full-time and attending classes at a local community college at night, all while trying to keep her sanity and handle a depressed, rebellious preteen. She gave up her dreams of working in the Peace Corps, and any semblance of a social life, or love life, all because of me and my obnoxious, demanding temperament. Of course, I was too naive at the time to see this, and she must’ve been too busy to realize it. My independence, sassiness, and very rarely exhibited compassion is all because of her strong influence and wise words.

A few years ago, mom turned 55. She looked at herself in the mirror and rightfully decided that it was her turn. She began working out, getting microdermabrasion treatments, and shopping for property in the town she loves — Charleston. Oh, and she also started dating again. Which, for me, is just freaky-ass weird.

My mother is the one who introduced me to the world of internet dating. She’s a member of three different sites and receives e-mails and “winks” from potential suitors nonstop. Internet dating makes sense at her age. The bar scene is too young, and she’s a recovering Catholic, so it’s not like she’ll be meeting someone at church anytime soon. She also speed-dated. Again, I guess people her age have little time to waste with the games that my generation loves to play. And as far as her dates are concerned, sometimes she provides more information than I care to know.

It’s like the mother/daughter roles have reversed. Now when my mother comes into town, she usually ditches me to go hang out on Folly Beach with friends while I sit at home with pizza and a flick from Blockbuster. She’s nearly impossible to get on the phone at first try, and seems to have plans with someone every night of the week. I’m not complaining; I think it’s great. It’s just a lot for me to get used to, which I know seems a little selfish, but my heart is in the right place.

This is the mother I never knew — the social, flirty, sexually attractive woman who suffocated under a self-imposed gag order during my formative years. It’s great to see her emerge, but also a bit scary. It’s inevitable that her heart is going to be broken again. I saw firsthand with my parents’ divorce how painful and absolutely life-threateningly depressing it can be. It’s really what has shaped my cynical views when it comes to love and marriage, and my “push them away and they’ll never hurt you” mentality. Obviously, these are issues I’m still struggling with on a daily basis, but she seems to have moved on, stronger than ever. But I also wonder, like me, is it all just a front?

Remember all that advice you gave me when it comes to men, mom? I just hope you listened to yourself better than I did.

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