When I began seeing Gina I was guarded. I had been hurt a few times in the past like most of us. She was older — 36, never married, no kids, a social worker. She lived next door. Her confidence about what she wanted from men made her that much more attractive. I had dated a fair amount in Los Angeles, mostly women in their mid-20s with no real interest in settling down. I'm 32, so thoughts of settling down come and go.
She wanted to take things slow — a hike in Elysian Hills with a stopover at her community garden, then beers and burgers at the Holloway in Echo Park. After a few dates she had little interest in just "having fun" and was looking for something "real," she said.
The problem is I took things too seriously, too fast.
I came on strong; my enthusiasm at having found something "real" was difficult to mask. When I saw the book by David Sedaris she mentioned loving but not owning, I bought it and gave to her. I brought over soup once when she was sick. Worrying my enthusiasm would dampen her interest I pulled back. After a few weeks it seemed to work. She initiated contact; we saw each other more and eventually slept together. The following night I made dinner for her at my apartment — Mediterranean food, I think. The next day she stopped talking to me. I waited a few days and nothing.
Someone who was so intent on being close now seemed incredibly distant.
A week later I decided to check in with her, and as I had suspected, she had no interest in dating me any longer.
She wanted to keep her options open, she said. The thought of living so close to me made her uneasy, she added. There were, according to her, a million things that could go wrong because we were so close to each other.
What was left was the vulnerability I had given and expected to receive, which was now nowhere to be found.
But the rules of dating require that somewhere in the obscurity of it all, you make sense of things the best way you can and then move on.
Exhibiting vulnerability as a man is not common and has plenty of drawbacks, such as coming across as weak, needy or too nice. The tragedy of it all — to borrow a line from Gina — is that all along I thought there were a million things that could go right because we got along well and we had managed to carve out our own thing in our neighborhood, in the face of huge, impersonal L.A.
I made it clear to her that she had hurt my feelings — something I don't usually share with a woman. I felt mislead, I said.
I wanted badly to blame her for everything and I did for some time. I wanted to convince myself she's what's wrong with dating in L.A., and maybe there's some truth to this. But the reality is that people have a right to change their mind, even if it seems they pulled you in under false pretenses. In the messy world of dating — heartache warfare, if you will — being forward and truthful has a way of becoming collateral damage.
The experience with Gina was not a particularly long exchange; still, I had given her more trust than I had to anyone previously while dating, so it had an effect. And even though it made sense at first to withdraw from the dating scene after things ended, it became clear to me that despite things not working out, there were many small moments of bliss we shared because I had actually put myself out there. Those small moments felt good. They made my heart race and my stomach turn upside down — more than anything, they made me feel — a flurry of emotions I struggled to process. Perhaps the transparency I displayed in feeling each scared her off.
Gina swaps only pleasantries with me now. They're forced, and it's clear she treats our exchange as a mistake, a figment of each other's imagination — or at least mine.
There are, unfortunately, no do-overs in these sorts of things. Lesson(s) learned. No take-backs, here. I'm better for it, and I recognize it as being a part of dating. I think about it the way I think about L.A.: To enjoy the many upsides of living in our city, such as finding decent food or the beach, you have to deal with horrendous traffic and long commutes; and so, naturally, it is fitting to have to go through these types of experiences to eventually arrive at something great down the road.
Rodriguez is a writer and investment banker in Los Angeles.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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