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I'm carless and I have to break it to every woman I date in L.A.

I'm carless and I have to break it to every woman I date in L.A.
"This may or may not bother you..." (Shenho Hshieh / For The Times)

"Listen," I said. "There's something I didn't tell you."

It was melodramatic, but I didn't know how else to drop "I don't have a car" into our conversation. We were at Smorgasburg on a Sunday afternoon earlier this year, fulfilling our hipster destinies with gourmet tacos and artisan cupcakes in a man-made oasis of empty warehouses. This was our second date. I worked for a legal nonprofit and she worked for the government. On our first date, at Know Where Bar in Hollywood, her first question had been, "How was your day?" Mine, "Are you evil?" We'd ended up making out on tilting bar stools.

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"This may or may not bother you," I said, "and I totally respect if it does. But I don't have a car."

"Oh," she said.

I waited for "Oh" to become "That really doesn't work for me" or "You built that up way too much, dude" or "Did you get a DUI?" but none of those came. After a long moment, during which the sun seemed to intensify over our heads and the loud murmur of the crowd became a breathless pause, she landed on a rather unconvincing, "That's cool."

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Later, after a couple beers at Little Bear, she handed me her phone and disappeared to the restroom. I sat at the bar and debated how much my revelation had contributed to the current awkwardness when her phone flashed and the following message appeared on the screen:

"He doesn't drive? Dealbreaker?????????"

Not that I blame her.

Even in the New Los Angeles, with Lyft and Uber giving us cheaper rides and two-thirds of voters passing Measure M, dating without a car is still playing the game with a serious handicap. I should know, I've been doing it for 10 years. In 2007, you couldn't pick a woman up at her front door or ask for a kiss when you dropped her off after a night out. Or, you could, but then you'd find yourself waiting for the 2 a.m. bus after your date had long ago closed the door behind her.

In 2017, it's a little easier.

"I'll pick you up," I recently told someone I was meeting for the first time. "How?" was her understandable reaction. Here's how: I walked from my studio in Koreatown to the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue and caught the 201 bus to Los Feliz Boulevard and Brunswick Avenue in Atwater Village. From there, I walked the six blocks to her apartment and ordered a Lyft on the front steps moments before knocking.

On the way to Bao in Highland Park, we flirted tentatively in the backseat and chatted with our driver, an aspiring screenwriter. "Do you get a lot of first dates?" my date asked him, smiling over at me to make sure I knew she was teasing me. "Oh, yeah," he said. "You'd be surprised." Then, "How's this one going so far?"

"The jury," my date told him, "is still out."

Inevitably, no matter what year you're in, you'll face the same question from each potential partner: Why? Is it an environmental thing? Are you legally blind? I've experimented with different responses, but the unsatisfying truth is I just don't like to do it. Beyond traffic and the cost of insurance, the act of driving gives me anxiety. I'd rather just avoid the whole thing until the world forces me to give in. So far, despite dating more than one resident of Santa Monica, it hasn't.

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With few exceptions, online dating has made it only easier. In this new normal, where you can frontload information before you even meet a person, it's possible to head this delicate topic off at the pass by revealing all in my profile. On Hinge, I note that one thing that makes me happy is surviving in Los Angeles without a car. On the League, my "about me" tells you that I'm "carless in LA." On OKCupid, you should message me if "you don't mind that I don't drive." Unlike having an STD or wanting to have an extramarital affair, there isn't yet a dedicated dating site for non-drivers, but I have to believe it's only a matter of time.

And yet.

"I don't mind that you don't drive," a woman I'd been dating for six months told me last year as she drove us to dinner at Broken Spanish for my birthday. "But don't you want to? Doesn't it feel like part of being a grown-up?"

I don't have an answer for that one yet.

Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago, when a date and I shared a Lyft to Footsies in Cypress Park. It was our third time going out, and somehow the topic hadn't come up. She paid for the ride and I volunteered to pay for the drinks. We talked about books and watched strangers dance to Prince songs in the open space between the bar and the booths that lined the wall.

"Listen," I said. "There's something I didn't tell you."

I watched her brace herself and then relax as I explained the facts of my situation. I'd barely gotten the words out when she spoke.

"I kind of figured," she said. "How is that? I've been thinking about getting rid of mine but I just don't know how practical it is."

"Well," I said, trying to speak through a sigh of relief. "I have a lot to say about that."

The author is a Los Angeles-based writer and nonprofit paralegal. You can find him on Twitter at @WriterDaniel

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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