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The merciful lie of 'I'll call you'

"I'll call you." Three little words uttered at the end of a date that no self-actualized girl wants to hear. For the inexperienced, "I'll call you" is filled with promise and possibility. Those of us more seasoned daters know "I'll call you" really means: I'm never going to call. Ever.

I was still relatively new to online dating when I met Jake. What drew me to him initially were his soulful brown eyes. His wit and self-deprecating sense of humor cinched it. Jake was also geographically desirable. He lived in the Valley, which was a big plus, because a lot of guys I met online lived in West Hollywood or Santa Monica — a traffic nightmare from Burbank.

Instead of the usual meet-and-greet for drinks or coffee, Jake suggested dinner. He said he felt "like a jerk" for having to plan the date so far ahead because of his work schedule. Was he kidding? As far as I was concerned, a man with a plan wasn't a jerk at all.

I had a good feeling about Jake, so I decided, just this once, to break a cardinal online dating safety rule: I let him pick me up at my place. Jake arrived at my door on time, and my word, he was even cuter in person. I uttered a silent prayer. "Oh, dear God, please let this be a good one."

As we approached his car, Jake didn't just unlock my door with his remote while skirting around to the driver's side. Jake opened my door manually. I think the last time someone did that was 1988.

But wait, it got better. As we pulled away from the curb, he asked — with genuine interest — "So, how was your day?" My mind went blank. He's asking me about my day? It was my best date in a year, and we hadn't even reached the stop sign on the corner.

During dinner, we easily shifted from one topic to the next. We talked about our families and our mixed ethnic backgrounds. He was Peruvian and Salvadoran. I'm Mexican and Polish. We discussed our shared love of art, photography and architecture. And once the tequila kicked in, we gleefully entertained each other with our dating horror stories. All in all, I thought it was a great date.

So when Jake walked me to my door, hugged me and said, "I'll call you," my heart sank.

As I lay in bed that night, I replayed the date over and over in my head. Did I say too much? Was being a single mother a deal breaker? Was I too old for him? Was I not his type?

There are cues that I usually notice when a date isn't going well: He makes little contact, he's not participating in the conversation, his body language is closed off, he doesn't laugh at my jokes. But Jake was easygoing and talkative, he asked a lot of questions and he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

I remembered that Jake mentioned he'd be traveling over the holidays. Maybe he'll call after New Year's? He deserved the benefit of the doubt, didn't he?

The holidays came and went. I never heard from Jake. Yes, I knew I should have let it go, but we Gemini folk are curious creatures. I had to know. I emailed Jake and asked: Why say you'd call if you knew you wouldn't?

Jake replied that although he'd enjoyed our date, he simply didn't feel a connection. He apologized, saying he "wholeheartedly did not mean any disrespect by not being honest." He admitted that the end of a date was, at times, "quite a perplexing experience" and, having had experienced some "interesting reactions," he chose to avoid the "potentially awkward and unpleasant situation" by taking the easy way out.

Was Jake's "I'll call you" really any different from me emailing someone to say I didn't feel a connection? Aren't both kind of junior high? You bet. But how else can one gracefully avoid a confrontational, uncomfortable moment?

Yeah, it was a tiny blow to my ego when Jake didn't call, but I wonder how I might have felt if he'd said, "Thanks for a nice night, but I don't think this is going to work out." Truthfully, I think I prefer the little white lie.

Not too long ago, I met Ryan for drinks. He was an attractive, intelligent, hipster-nerd musician type. I definitely would've gone out with him again, but I sensed he wasn't that into me. So, at the end of our date, when Ryan bro-hugged me and said, "Take care," I smiled. "Take care" was Ryan's "I'll call you." No explanation was necessary.

Victoria Carlson is a professional dog walker who's writing a collection of stories based on her dating experiences. L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns are archived 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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