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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m a 45-year-old divorced mom of two boys (10 and 7). For the first time since way before my marriage ended, I miss dating and specifically romantic intimacy — not just sex but closeness, having someone care for me.

I’ve done some online dating and find that the guys dating women in my age group want to keep things completely casual, or else to talk immediately about a relationship and marriage. I think I’m interested in the former, but am having a hard time feeling “OK” with that as a mother of young kids and someone who has probably frowned on that sort of thing in the past.

I don’t have a great read on how others view this sort of thing now. Is it OK to just go out there and — safely, when time permits — have a good time? Is that going to make me ineligible to have a relationship again someday, if I want to?

Carolyn says: Why so much concern about public opinion of this “sort of thing”? Who gives half a damn what people think of your value system or how you choose to live by it, and why would they even care?

Why did you care enough in the past about others’ value systems that you judged them for “that sort of thing”?

Why would you even want to date someone in the future who would page through your history, including the choices you’re poised to make now, and find it morally disqualifying? Wouldn’t that make the guy a judgmental doink — or at minimum just very wrong for you on principle?

As long as you are careful not to destabilize your kids’ home life with the ups and downs of dating, then you’re fine on the kids thing, and as long as you behave respectfully of your and others’ feelings, then you’re fine with your fellow earth-dwellers.

But this is all advice on best practices only; permission emphatically not required.

Other views

Re: Permission:

Is the divorced mom worrying about how a vindictive or judgmental ex/co-parent — and family court judges and social workers — will see her love life? That might necessitate different emphasis in the answer. Similarly, she may be interested in having the backing of her community.

Still, usually a good mom is a happy mom, and in most communities, people understand that.

Re: Permission:

I get the feeling she wants to be able to do something that she judges/judged others for and not be judged herself. So either she’s changed her mind, in which case she needs to stop caring if others will judge her, or she still judges others, in which case she’s a hypocrite and needs to practice what she preaches.

Re: Permission:

She can tell friends she is dating men and taking time to get to know them before making serious plans and introducing them to her kids — a choice that seems wise. Or she can tell them she’s (bringing home) every guy she sees on the dating site.

Her choice of how to spin this, but really, I’m not certain why she hasn’t figured that out yet.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com.