"Sending direct messages on Twitter is the easiest way to confirm that someone is not to be trusted," my friend declared over brunch, causing me to choke on my $18 Bloody Mary with a mini-cheeseburger garnish. Nonetheless, I remained silent instead of sheepishly announcing that a Twitter DM did, in fact, spark my fairly serious relationship with a comedian.
He had written: "Do you have any plans to come to L.A. any time? Because if so, I would love to take you to dinner. I think you are pretty darn adorable."
Another comedian had warned me about him. "He's a road comic. I've traveled with him and he doesn't know how to be a loyal boyfriend. One night he'll call you from Middle-of-Nowhere, South Dakota, and tell you he's so sorry but he kissed some girl after a show. That's just what happens. And then I'll say, 'I told you so.'"
But I happened to be headed to Los Angeles (my work necessitates lengthy trips from New York to L.A. every few months) and I was feeling pretty adorable. I knew, at least, that we had one friend in common; he, on the other hand, was unaware of any connection. I was just a girl on the Internet whom he happened to find intriguing.
"I hate how L.A. gets a bad rap," he said when we finally met in person. "I grew up in Los Angeles, so I'm not like those people who moved here from Ohio. I'm so grounded.
"I gotta run, though," he continued. "There's this private screening I was invited to and then a cool after-party."
He told me later that dating a performer, especially in the digital age, requires a strong sense of self — you have to understand that you come second to his work, and you must be secure enough in the relationship to not get jealous about eager audience members or overzealous fans.
He admonished me that I should know the difference between a flirty front-row fan and the faithful woman (me) waiting for him backstage who knows his secrets — such as the fact that he talks in his sleep. I should know the difference between a girl with stars in her eyes and the woman who talks him off a ledge (me) on the days when he's feeling wildly insecure.
"You understand, right, babe?" he said distractedly as he cropped me out of a photo he was posting on Instagram. "I just need to keep my personal life private, so don't tag me if you post it on yours."
When I protested the existence of these two versions of life, he replied: "If we know each other's hearts, that's all that matters."
He'd found me on social media, displaying his public image. I fell for it. But the Internet became the instrument he utilized to halt our progression as a couple in the name of pursuing his career. He needed to appear single and available, insisting that he didn't need to publicly acknowledge me in order for me to understand what I meant to him.
I silently watched him embark on the road to carpal tunnel with his incessant posting about every single person who crossed his path besides me. Still clinging to the thrill manufactured by his initial 140-character promise of something more, I ignored all the red flags.
"If you were a performer," he'd say, "you'd probably understand. This is what's good for my brand."
I understand that "always respect the light" is one of the most basic and important principles for comedians. Even if the audience members are tweeting out your every word, hashtagging your name with "hilarious," and tears are pouring down their faces, when that light comes on, a comedian understands that there's a minute left to wrap up. When the light starts flashing at the 30-second mark, he'd better be ready to smoothly make his exit.
I learned this from many nights watching in clubs, ranging from seedy to opulent. The red light beckoned and the seasoned professionals wrapped up without the slightest hint that they were racing to annihilate that last minute. The less experienced tended to tense up, stilting the delivery of that final joke. Or worse, they blew right through the light, rambling into an incoherent finish.
By ignoring what was right in front of me and blindly putting my faith in him, I was blowing the light. I was overstaying my welcome and breaking my cardinal dating rule. Because loving someone who kept me a secret? Not good for my brand. Babe.
Danielle Sepulveres is a writer whose articles appear on HelloGiggles, xoJane, the Comedy Experiment, Femsplain and TheaterMania.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We pay $300 a column.
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