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After a lousy first date, a sweet grace period

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First time on the market in 24 years. Good bones. Needs TLC.

Alas, this was not realty. It was reality, smacking me in the face.

Several months after the end of a 20-year marriage to my college sweetheart, I was ready to date. I told my friends. The first call came as I was headed to a movie.

"I have somebody for you," she said. "He's tall."

To her, this was a crucial attribute because I'm tall. Unusually tall. When I was confirmed in the sixth grade, I was taller than the bishop — with his hat.

Truth be told, I wasn't concerned. Even in high school, I knew only a small percentage of the male population was taller than I. If I culled that tiny group by requiring a suitor to be smart, funny, decent, hard-working and able to rock his Members Only jacket, I would not have had a dating puddle, much less a dating pool.

So my friend had a nice, tall, single dad.

I calmly thanked her. Then I threw up in a theater lobby trash can in front of about 30 people waiting to see a matinee.

I was still queasy from nervousness when he called the next night. I was calmer by the following week we were to meet. I had conferred with a divorced friend on what to expect on a first date. Do people kiss? Or, you know, do other things? He gave me simple advice. Do what you want, if you want, and don't do anything in a car. He may have said more than that, but those were my take-aways.

After a grooming routine that would do a Pekingese proud, I was ready. I walked toward the door, and my nanny grabbed me and informed me that one of my two sons had lice.

She did a quick check of my head. All clear.

I met Matthew Abromowitz (not his real name, but he'll know exactly why I chose it) for drinks. I can't remember what we talked about because I was too busy thinking about how much my head itched, and how the itch seemed to be walking.

As luck would have it, while we waited in the valet line, there wasn't an opportunity for a good-night kiss. Matthew would later tell me he knew I wasn't ready. I would later tell him I was ready but didn't want to give him cooties.

When he called the next day, I was de-lousing. Turns out, we all had them. (I'm not sure if the nanny really didn't see lice on me or if she just knew the truth would make my head explode.)

I was much more nervous on the second date. The first time had been a bonus. Good or bad, I knew I had gotten through the whole first-date-in-24-years thing. But the second date had awful possibilities. I could like him and get rejected. Or he could like me and make a move.

We went for dinner. He talked easily. I blurted out every random thought that popped into my head: that my last first date was paid for with a college meal card, that almost everything I knew about dating since then I'd learned from "Sex and the City." And the worst blurt of all: that the last time I dated, Brazilian was a nationality, not a grooming choice.

He didn't blink. He may have smiled just a tiny bit, but he didn't blink.

He said he knew how nerve-wracking the process could be. He'd been divorced after a much shorter marriage, and it was an adjustment to get back in the game.

At some point, he suggested we get the kiss over with. I agreed. It was unbelievably weird to be kissing somebody new after all those years. It was so unfamiliar. But after I relaxed, it was so, so nice.

We quickly settled into a routine. Dates every other weekend when neither of us had our kids. Hot coffee lots of mornings in between. Texts every day that made me smile more than I had in a long time.

After a few months, something started to feel not right. We were on different paths. He was interested in settling down again. I couldn't imagine introducing my kids to a boyfriend, let alone moving in with someone, ever. We talked about staying friends, but I didn't want to be part of his life while he searched for love with someone else.

So we wished each other well and parted ways.

I will always be grateful that it ended so well. I am grateful for a lot of things about him. I'd had a grim image of dating from TV, movies and friends. Matthew didn't reinforce any of that. I had gotten back some of the confidence I'd lost during my marriage and my divorce. And I didn't puke the next time someone asked me out.

Beth Szymkowski is a tall screenwriter who lives in Studio City.

L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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