The dating scene can be a jungle filled with suspense, pitfalls and strange species. Apprehensive women warn each other, "Watch out — there are so many creepy guys!" But while some men deserve that description, in my experience creepiness is not a gender-specific trait.
A few years ago, I was living in Beverly Hills when the conclusion of a long-term relationship put me back into dating circulation. I encountered, in my own personal journey through the personals, a wide range of unique — and sometimes odd — women.
There was the lead singer in an L.A. rock band. She'd invited me to a gig, where we met for the first time after the show. She pointed out the bassist. "He was my boyfriend, but we broke up," she assured me. "We don't sleep together anymore."
"OK," I said, grateful for her honesty. Then she hit me with the punch line: "Yeah, since he can't get a place of his own, now he sleeps at the foot of my bed."
The ballerina from Sherman Oaks had a former boyfriend in the picture as well. This guy owned a house in which one room was inexplicably filled with automobile tires. A believer in the "we can still be friends" concept, she would sometimes do a friendly sleepover at his house — though not in his bed (she said), and, presumably, not in the "spare" room.
The Westside CPA was a trip. For our meet-and-greet, she invited me to a concert at the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard. She arrived in her new Peugeot to pick me up. So far, so good. But what didn't add up was the inside of her car.
The passenger seat was piled high with laundry. Then, as she scooped it into the back, I noticed a large vacuum cleaner lying across the back seat. As she drove, she asked my opinion on a controversial topic, then attacked me when I answered. We debated the matter heatedly.
During the show I conjured a possible explanation for the car interior: Her attitude had alienated so many clients that she now had to supplement her income with housekeeping jobs. Of course, I never saw her — or her laundry — again.
Without a photo, the first phone encounter with a potential date can be challenging. Several women with whom I spoke were, from the first sentence, suspicious and angry at me — treating me like a surrogate Guy Who Done Her Wrong. For these women, one common complaint seemed to be men who misrepresented themselves — like the cheaters, bigamists and other scoundrels featured in so many melodramas on basic cable.
When women asked me to describe myself, I'd give my age, height, weight, hair and eye color. If they pressed, I'd describe myself as good-looking. One woman pressed further yet, asking me to describe my body. All I could think of was how some female friends had described me: "Well," I said, "I've been told that I have a swimmer's body."
"That's what all men say!" she reprimanded me, disdain dripping from her mouth. Her tone was so emphatic that I could almost picture millions of men lined up for the Olympic swimming trials.
Another woman quizzed me for the usual stats, and after I responded, "I'm 6 feet, 170 …" etc., we made plans to meet at a club in Marina del Rey. Then as I started to say goodbye, she drew in an audible breath.
"Wait!" she said quickly. "Don't hang up yet! Do you have all your hair?"
"Yes," I said, curious at her intensity.
"Well, the last guy I met said he did too — but he was bald!"
When I met her, she was stunned. "You're handsome!" she blurted out. I figured she'd braced herself to meet yet another geek posing as America's Next Top Male Model. But her obsession with my appearance — leather jacket and all — was just too cloying.
Finally, after I'd had several pleasant phone conversations with a biologist from Highland Park, she suggested we meet-and-greet at Barney's. No, not the shop-till-you-drop upscale retailer in Beverly Hills, but the drink-till-you-drop dive bar in West Hollywood.
I'd already sensed her independent nature — but when she walked in bringing me yellow roses, my heart melted. Over Gordon Biersch Märzen lagers, she shared her own dating disasters — like the guy whose ad trumpeted: "Very good looking, Harvard grad, fencing champion." Turned out he was a rather unremarkable Cal State undergrad with no skills except his admitted ability to lift appealing phrases he'd seen in other guys' ads. Then there was the "romantic English gentleman" who was a serious foot fetishist whose affection was reserved for his omnipresent cat, Pumpkin.
But instead of feeling betrayed and bitter — like so many other women did when encountering such scams — this woman actually found amusement in the absurdity of it all.
"What do you expect?" Alison laughed. "Men are dogs!"
I liked her energy, lack of baggage and sense of humor — qualities I find crucial in a relationship. And those qualities, among others, have kept our marriage strong for the last 11 years.
Bill Hoversten-Davis has written for City News Service, the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Business Journal.
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