After a breakup with a film and television editor, I decided that 2012 would be about being proactive and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I would attempt to go on 365 dates during a 12-month period — some of which would, I hoped, be amorous or affectionate. Others would be "documentary dates," in which I would get to know people's stories. I wanted to think about men for who they are, not what they are.
I figured the 365 goal gives me an emotional safety net. If I was attracted to a guy but it wasn't mutual, I could move on. I'd be disappointed and frustrated, but at least I had a plan. I didn't set a strict set of rules other than I do allow for multiple dates with the same guy. After all, I want to be in a relationship. It's time. Most of my friends are recently married, and some have young children — an indicator of my stage in life.
I found my first couple of dates through a Jewish singles mixer. Then I had a "speed dating" experience in which I met eight men — eight dates. In January, I traveled to Mammoth. It was surprisingly warm, so I skied down the hill in a bikini — outside my comfort zone — and asked the lift operators out on dates. The first two said no; the third stood me up. Later, I was sitting at a bar alone, which led to an impromptu date with a Royal Air Force pilot. We clicked, but the only follow-ups were some emails with the news that he would be stationed in California next summer.
One night, while sitting with a friend at Tom Bergin's, I met a man named Darren. He asked me for my number, and I gave it to him. I met Darren the following night at Mom's Bar on Santa Monica Boulevard to watch his stand-up comedy routine. He was funny, and afterward we talked on a bench next to the pool tables. He walked me to my car and seemed as if he would be interested in going out again.
The next day we were talking on the phone, and I told him about my 365 plan. His initial spoken response was "cool." His second response, a text, was, "I'm not a monkey." So there was no second date. But we are now Facebook friends.
Additional encounters included a Skype date with a 70-year-old; a date "request" to (and polite rejection from) an actor on "How I Met Your Mother," a lunch encounter with a group of senior citizens (I counted that as five dates), a date at Cheebo on Melrose with a valet parker, lunch at Santa Monica Pier's Mariasol with an Irish guy I met on the "How About We" dating site and a surfing date with a 25-year-old.
On another night, I approached a man in his early 30s at a screening of a documentary, "Beyond the Chair." He was the star of the film and had traveled the world in a wheelchair, alone, even though he suffers from progressive muscular dystrophy. His name was Drew Shelley, and he said yes.
Our first date was dinner at the Veggie Grill in West Hollywood and drinks at Sushi Dan upstairs, where I rode on a skateboard attached to the back of his motorized wheelchair to keep up with him.
Our second date was at Universal City Walk, where we ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Our next stop was City Walk's iFly Indoor Skydiving.
Our third date was at Mammoth Mountain, arranged through the Orange County chapter of the Achievers, a division of Disabled Sports USA. I was an instructor. I guided Drew in a heavy adaptive sit ski down the beginner run as he maneuvered his weight from left to right to ride the turns.
We stayed in the same condo and, during his shower, he fell. I ran into the bathroom and asked him to give me instructions on how I could best lift him up.
"Don't worry. It's not the first time I have seen a guy naked," I joked.
Drew chuckled, uncomfortably.
It may have been the wrong thing to say, in light of my 365 quest, but I was trying to help him avoid embarrassment.
He was the first man in years to send me flowers. I cried because of his strength and sense of adventure. I cried because of the weakness of his 95-pound body. And I cried because the flowers made me think about relationships and vulnerability — including my own.
As of this writing, I've been on scores of dates. If I schedule two weeks' worth of speed dates this month, I might make it to 365. But at some point in the process, the absolute number started to fade in significance. I haven't found a partner yet, but at least I am encountering amazing people — Darren with his guy's perspective, and Drew with his sense of adventure — and stories to share. And I am anticipating I will look back at 2012 as the year of maturing from nomad to farmer, ready to plant a seed rather than eat pickings as I go.
Michelle Paster is a freelance writer and documentarian.
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 email@example.com.