L.A. Affairs is our weekly column about the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles -- and finding romance in a wired world. If you've got a story to tell, we want to hear it. We pay $300 per published column. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs
Looking for the One via online dating has been a rather curious experience. I've sampled some great coffee and frequently found myself immersed in some decent conversations. But most of the time, that's been the end of it.
Of course, I'd been out of the game for a while; getting back in, I was startled to learn what I didn't know about dating in 2014.
Dating websites try to match you with someone who likes the same books and movies, or at least has the same electrical impulses in her brain. And whatever mad magic the sites conjure, it seems to work … to a degree. I had something in common with each person I met, but sometimes, I felt I was dating myself. Consider:
The One in the Valley
On paper, she was almost an exact match. So we agreed to communicate — via texting. Our missives were entire paragraphs that included jokes, favorite movies and books, traveling and comments on why Boba Fett was the best character in the "Star Wars" universe. In fact, she was so taken with Boba that she told me she wanted to have sex with him. Then, after a week of solid texting, I insulted the fictional character with a cult following. She broke it off.
Lesson learned: Texting seems to have its limitations — we never even got to have that first cup of coffee.
The One in Downtown L.A.
After the initial contact through a dating website, I made sure we spoke on the phone. In fact, we talked for hours each night. I found that I didn't have as much in common with her as I'd had with Texting Girl, but the differences were intriguing. She told me she had a child, and for the first time in my dating life, that was OK for me. After a week of solid conversation, we felt it was time to meet for a cup of coffee. I felt good about this woman; we had so much to talk about, a conversation over coffee should have been a no-brainer. But then we met. We drank our drinks but barely said two words to each other. After the rendezvous, we spoke one more time on the phone, but that was it. Apparently, we were all talked out.
Lesson learned: Let there be mystery. Save some of the conversation for the in-person meet.
The One in Costa Mesa
We went for drinks this time as opposed to coffee (since that worked out so well), and the first date turned into a few dates. There were no sparks, but I wanted to stay with it. I told myself, "Maybe sparks don't come right away," and for the most part we had a good time. Her favorite band was Joy Division, mine was U2, and we could talk about music for hours.
Then she popped up with a question that turned the conversation in another direction.
"Are you a Republican?"
"No, I lean toward the left, but some of my best friends are Republicans."
That was the end of that. Her affection turned into animosity. She suddenly hated me with a passion.
Lesson learned: Apparently, for some people, political leanings are a primary indicator of compatibility. Until you figure that out … don't talk politics.
The One in Huntington Beach
She was an Angels fan, as am I, and a sports fan in general. We didn't like talking on the phone much, which ultimately prompted a coffee date. And more. The relationship continued for a few months, and she became sort of like a best friend. But somewhere down the line, it became almost.... impersonal. We still enjoyed each other's company but only for food and sex. Neither of us complained, but something was obviously missing. We ended it but stayed friends.
Lesson learned: Get comfortable but not too comfortable. Make the relationship about something.
The One in Pasadena
With a voice and a personality that made me think of Sofia Vergara, this woman kept me on my toes. It was odd, in a way, that she was the one to initiate everything, but I liked her. She had a 5-year-old, who was adorable and smart, and I enjoyed time with her live-in mother as well. Instant family. Then a year went by. It started to occur to me that there was no compromise or sharing of ideas and desires. I was starting to forget who I was. When our relationship ended, it took me awhile to remember what I was looking for.
Lesson learned: Don't lose yourself in pursuit of the One.
So where does this leave me? For starters, I've taken a break from online dating — that world where nothing is as it seems — and I'm counting on fate to lead me somewhere. Is the One around the corner; is she in this Los Angeles coffee shop where I'm trying to write about my loneliness and desire for romantic connection? It's possible, I guess.
Maybe she could come over, with a cup of coffee in her hand and ask: "Is this seat taken?"
I'd then respond: "Not at all."
And then we could start from scratch.
Bryon L. Richards is a novelist/screenwriter based in Los Angeles.