During the 10-plus years I was a single parent, I was consumed by my career as a literary agent. This was the kind of job that involved long-range strategies and 24/7 focus. I didn't have the time or energy left over to date. Instead, I devoted myself to many well-intentioned but futile attempts to rein in my troubled teen, who was moving in a perilously rebellious direction.
As a parent, my heart was breaking and yet as a woman I couldn't shake the persistent and inexplicable feeling that somewhere, at some point, I'd actually met the man I longed for, who'd somehow vanished from view. I often had the uncanny feeling he might be right under my nose, maybe even next door or down the block.
I responded to all of this by putting my sorrow aside and going into a free fall, flinging my heart wide across the 'Net. I became "Ms. Aloft" (a lame reference to the fact I lived in a loft downtown) on a plethora of dating sites.
I checked my inbox with regularity but attracted only respondents who lied about everything from relationship status to height, weight and bank account. When I tried to explain all of this to a friend, I sobbed, and he said, "I know an Internet dating coach. Maybe she can help."
I phoned the expert, and to my surprise, she came right over. "No wonder you're attracting weak men," she said. "We have to do something about that profile picture."
"It was taken for an article I wrote for Variety!" I protested.
As she snapped a new photo with her phone, she explained, "You look like a dominatrix in that picture. Let's have a look at your closet."
I pulled out some of my nicest clothes and arranged them on the bed. She responded by tossing them aside and went right for the lingerie drawer. I could feel my heart pound.
"Put these on," she purred, handing me a pair of modest Chinese silk pajamas "then this … and this," referring to combinations I never would have thought of, snapping away with her phone.
Then she instructed me to close my eyes and imagine the man I sought. "Now, tell me how you feel about him. Be really specific." Words, just like the clothes in my closet I'd never imagine pairing, came pouring out for the first time.
Satisfied, she announced, "OK, now let's rewrite your profile." Though I wanted to reveal my true age, she advised against it: "You're a youthful-looking lady. They'll think your pictures are 10 years old and you're being dishonest. Put down that you're 10 years younger, then add you're actually 'somewhat older' … but 'identify with a younger vibe.' Then add that your pictures were taken this month, this year."
To lie and immediately acknowledge it seemed perfectly honest to me.
Next she asked, "How do you feel about him having children?" I sighed, "I assume every man has children." Flinty-eyed, she continued, "That's not what I asked." So I typed: "Though I have a wonderful 17-year-old, I'm not looking to raise any other children." Saying what I wanted suddenly wasn't so hard.
One evening I noticed a nice-looking face and clicked on his profile. I read about the woman he longed for. He described me to a T.
We made a plan to meet at a popular downtown L.A. spot. I immediately felt at ease, settling into the calm he cast over the tiny table we shared. I told him my true age, which was the same as his. We discovered we'd been classmates in the same school in New York in the same program the very same year. We retraced the steps of our separate journeys in migrating West. As I suspected, for many of the years since college, we'd been living less than two miles from each other in Santa Monica. It turned out that his sister-in-law, who lived in Los Angeles, was a longtime friend of mine. His cousin was an East Coast literary agent with whom I'd co-represented an author only a few years earlier.
He'd never married yet he always believed, as I did, that his destiny was out there, somewhere, and somehow he would find her.
He asked me to attend his nephew's engagement party, where I knew more of the guests than he did. We waltzed through our own private nostalgia ball, also becoming engaged.
Months later, at our wedding on our downtown rooftop, our violinist neighbor played sweet notes that seemed to sum up our long journey. I texted my dating coach: "Life is lived forward but understood backward. What could say 'happily ever after' better than an actual fiddler on an actual roof?"
Nigrosh is a consulting editor for authors and screenwriters in Los Angeles and teaches at UCLA Extension's Writers' Program.