Readers respond to "Pack of Four," by Susan Straight.

Published February 15, 2003 8:02PM (EST)

[Read the story.]

We were not so much of a pack, my two kids and I. When I first split up with my husband, it felt strange just to go out to dinner alone with two children. And I was determined to date. I dressed like a girl. Bought high heels, new underwear. Hid all the toys when men came over so they wouldn't be scared off right away. It was all very tiring. I did eventually find a wonderful boyfriend, who still likes it when I dress like a girl, but he is now part of our pack. My kids want him to come over and make puppets and learn "punchbuggy." We were a little empty and he helps us be more full. Your family sounds so full already, it might need just a small empty space that needs to be filled.

However, if I could write just one chapter of "Highwire Moon," I'd feel pretty full myself.

-- Patty Berlin

Susan Straight sounds in love with her daughters, as any proud parent is in love with their own children. How beautiful, talented and charmingly quirky they are. But this indulgence seems to have little to do with why she isn't dating.

Despite her protestations, she does indeed sound afraid of rejection. The hesitance to "speak a language outside" of the one she shares with her kids strikes me as a B.S.-y way of saying the same thing. It's scary to extend oneself. Scary to be open and giving, as a mother is to her kids, and was to her husband at one time. It's scary to be rejected after taking that risk. Rejection hurts like a mofo, but when it comes to romance, vulnerability is the price of admission.

If Mom is cleaving tightly to her team, she can remain safe from such risks. If she takes a night off, opportunity has a chance.

Her daughters may be more "wild" than the ones next door, but her descriptions don't strike me as remarkable, either as an obstacle to normal society as she implies, or even particularly outrageous. Perhaps people are really bland where she lives, I don't know.

Finally, why are these same friends -- who tell her to 'rein in this spunky posse and wear some makeup, girl!' -- pressuring her to find a man? Is she showing signs of depression or loneliness? If not a point of genuine concern, this seems like simple meddling. Maybe Susan Straight needs new friends.

If the girls need to see a man in their lives, they have their father. Perhaps he has a good relationship with the new woman in his life.

-- Helen Robison

Susan Straight needs to be straight with herself. Stop being a soccer mom and get with the program. Watching "Oprah" and "Gilmore Girls" won't help you get a man. She needs to stop obsessing about her kids, find it within herself to forgive herself (for waiting five years without dating. Damn!), and most important -- is she really, really, really looking for a man?

-- Bashir Abdi

By Salon Staff

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