When meet cute is more like meet awkward

L.A. Affairs: With little dating experience, a woman tries and tries again on the Los Angeles singles scene

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

My brief history of boys.

Age 4: Photographic evidence of flirtation on the steps at Sesame Street Place.

Preschool: A boy who couldn't be in the sun too long.

High school: A few dates with a boy who afterward declared his homosexuality.

College: Nothing doing.

Los Angeles: Nearing 30 and not a single relationship under my belt. Perhaps shawls and cats were in my near future.

I wanted to turn my fate around. At the insistence of a friend, I signed up for a profile on OKCupid, which led to a grand total of three dates.

The first was at a Hollywood gastropub. When I saw him through the window, I knew there would be no second date. I thought the guy had a Louis C.K. vibe in his photos. Translation: He was bald, fat and looked 45 at 30. My mother's voice was in my head telling me not to judge so quickly. But he was sweaty! And he snapped his fingers at the waitress to get her attention. Then he wanted me to share my lobster mac 'n' cheese. Sweat dripping into my melted cheesy goodness, no thank you. But I was still offended when he didn't contact me again.

The second guy, nice. Bought me a coffee. Decent looking. But I got a weird vibe. When he told me he'd showed his mother my profile picture and she approved, my vibe intuition was verified. He also said "gosh darn it." I couldn't date an adult who said "gosh darn it" sincerely.

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I quickly became frustrated and left the online dating scene for months. The same friend who insisted I do it in the first place forced me to give it another shot. I set up a date with a third guy who also happened to be from Pennsylvania. I was skeptical, though. He liked heavy metal. Also, I lived in Westchester and he was in Echo Park. Practically long distance.

Setting: The late Ford's Filling Station in Culver City. He was sitting at the bar and I saw his back first. Then he turned around. Whoa. Better than the pictures. Like a shorter, skinnier Michael Fassbender with tattoos.

We sat together drinking beers for a few hours. We had a lot in common. Had I just had a successful online date? He walked me back to my friend's place (my paranoia warranted setting up dates in locations where help could be summoned quickly). We ended with a chaste hug and an agreement to see each other again. I liked him enough to be worried that wouldn't happen. And when I didn't hear from him for a few days, I thought that I was right. I liked him, but it wasn't mutual. And then I put on my big girl pants and asked him out on a second date.

Second date also good. We walked along the Venice Beach boardwalk. I nonchalantly swung my hand nearer to his multiple times throughout the night. And yet he did not pick up this hint. We walked out to the ocean. Very romantic. Perfect for a kiss. Nothing.

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Third date. NerdMelt. I kept my hand open on my knee. Our knees touched, but that was it. Later, dessert wandered into awkward silence. Another disaster? I wished I'd had more dating experience. Then I might be better at this.

But he chose that moment to be honest: "I'm sorry. I've never really dated before, so I don't know what to do." I'd met the other freak. He walked me back to my car and said goodnight. Fine. I was going to have to be the guy. I asked, "Dude, are you going to kiss me or what?"

He did. It was quick. But it was forward momentum. Two adults navigating a relationship when neither has been in one before is an interesting experience, but I think it's the thing that bonded us together. Perhaps I labeled him "boyfriend" too early. My friends were suspicious of how quickly he changed his relationship status on Facebook. But we didn't rush other things: The first "I love you" was carefully considered (and delivered by him as a Christmas gift).

And now we live together. This guy was totally worth waiting 29 years for. He tickles me because he likes to see my smile and hear my laugh. Certainly there are times when he can revert back to the silent guy, especially with new people, but I have the same tendencies, so I understand it. If I do want to talk, I'll start the conversation. I've always let him know that I'm not going to judge anything he says. Growing comfortable with each other has helped the awkwardness melt away.

We actually haven't had a fight yet, and I worry about what that'll be like. We'll conquer it when it comes, but I think our relationship works because neither of us settled. We waited for the right person to come along. I'm well aware of how bizarre it is to have two bad dates and then have lucky No. 3 be "The One." Despite the amount of time I spent wondering if I was a freak of nature, I'm so grateful that the only relationship experience I have is this one.

Will there be challenges ahead for us? Of course. He still likes heavy metal.

Kara Costello is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles.

L.A. Affairs chronicles dating in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

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