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I begged him to be my boyfriend.

I begged him to be my boyfriend.
If online dating was indeed poker, I needed to find someone I felt comfortable showing my hand to. (Hanna Barczyk / For The Times)

I’d finally decided to give Tinder a try. It wasn’t my first time on the app, but it was the first serious attempt. This time, I was fully over all exes and ready for a relationship. About a week in, I fell in love at first swipe.

Him: a 40-year-old dirty blond tatted up former architect with a hipster furniture store in East Hollywood (my ’hood). One of his profile pics was casually shirtless, surrounded by tools. Another was one with his mom. I wanted to write him off, but in earnest, I was too turned on. Plus, he went so far as to describe himself as happy – an adjective that always makes me swoon.

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That night, I “liked” him and fell asleep. The next morning I woke up to a new match. (There were several, but his was the only one that mattered.) So it was mutual! I wanted to wait to text him, but not even breakfast was a worthy distraction. I’d barely finished chewing before I broke down and messaged him, “Drink soon?”

Six agonizing hours later, he replied favorably. A highlight reel of our entire relationship projected in my head: Then there we were, in old age, and I was stricken by the fact that one of us was going to have to die first. I thought solemnly, I love him so much, I’d rather it be me.

A few days later, we were at the hip Thai Town bar Harvard and Stone. There was a sexy spark between us, but we were both nervous, so we fidgeted and stole glances until our first drink allowed us to lean in and lock eyes. After three hours of standard first date fare supercharged by palpable attraction, he walked me home and kissed me goodnight.

Until this point, my online dating experience was limited. So after several more dates, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. My best friend had regaled me with wild tales of New York City dating and flitting among men. Her stories led me to believe that playing hard to get was the gold standard. They became my strategic inspiration: Be the cool girl. I imagined online dating to be like poker; to be forthright about your feelings was to lose.

The trouble was I’m bad at bluffing. I could keep the cool charade going for only six weeks before dropping the ultimate post-coital bomb: “What are we?”

Needless to say, we weren’t on the same page.

Then it was fits and starts for our budding relationship. I would come on strong; we’d both take turns running away. Nothing could bloom in this environment.

We did this for months, but then I found something questionable on his Instagram feed and folded. I went to his furniture store, sat on a red vintage chair and broke things off.

A month later, I texted him. He responded enthusiastically but seemed to be holding back. He said he wasn’t ready to meet up in-person. Ugh, why do I always want more?

We flirted on a text-only basis for another month until I cracked and asked: Why can’t we hang out? Um, well… Then it comes out: He’s started seeing someone exclusively for the first time in six years. He’s confused by it, but he’s trying. I’ve inspired him, he says.

Still, we arrange to meet that night at his Arts District loft, sit across from each other like grown-ups and suss out what went wrong. At first we succeed in this mission. My therapist later identifies this brief period of composure as my “higher self.”

Alas, after we adjourn my “inner child” makes an illegal U-turn and drives defiantly back to his pad, unsatisfied with the stifled goodbye. He meets me at the door with matching anguish on his face. We talk, graze lips and nuzzle until sunrise.

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This does not lead to closure. (Duh.)

The next morning, I’m zipping down Melrose trying to make it to my brow appointment, windows down, yelling at him over speakerphone – raising a few brows along the way, I’m sure.

At the height of my soliloquy on why he should pick me, I heard myself saying, “I ... love you?!” I didn’t even know if it was true. It didn’t sound right. He didn’t say it back. Instead, I heard sirens.

When the officer approached my window and asked me why I was driving while on my phone, I explained that I was having relationship issues.

He gave me a $165 ticket and a last look of pity before hopping back on his motorcycle.

It doesn’t matter what was printed on the citation – whether it was issued by the LAPD or the self-esteem police — it was a stern warning that I can’t beg someone to be my boyfriend. I needed to read the signs better, and, more important, not play games or pretend to “be cool.”

If online dating was indeed poker, I needed to find someone I felt comfortable showing my hand to.

My coulda-shoulda-woulda-been boyfriend was still on the line through it all, but I was finally ready to hang up.

That night, I went on another Tinder date, though not before vowing full authenticity. I was skeptical of the timing, but it was the best first date of my life.

“He’s going to be really great for somebody else,” I reported back to my friend.

But somehow we just kept going. There was something easy about it; we just flowed.

A few weeks later he made a thinly veiled joke that he wanted to be my boyfriend. We’ll see, I joked back.

We recently celebrated our one-year anniversary.

So far, no tickets.

Courtney Kocak is a writer on Amazon’s “Danger & Eggs” and host of the sex and love podcast “Reality Bytes.” You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @courtneykocak

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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