"Stay away from magicians and self-published authors."
This is one of my personal dating mantras. With it, I've saved friends from bad dates with Magic Castle groupies and guys who upload their Amish erotica to Amazon.com. While I can admit the magician thing is my own prejudice, my aversion to self-published authors is based on experience.
I met B. on OKCupid just a week or two after moving into the living room of a friend's apartment in North Hollywood. As I scrolled through his flirtatious messages while one of my roommates burned his midnight quesadillas just a few feet from my air mattress, it became apparent that I needed to get out and meet someone with a real bed … and his own bedroom.
Although B. didn't appear to be exactly my type, he did have an apartment in Burbank and a recently published mystery novel. He was also writing a screenplay and offered to give me notes on my own script. Isn't succeeding in Hollywood all about networking? I owed it to my very expensive MFA to give him a chance.
We met at a sports bar in the middle of the afternoon for drinks. Even though his looks were totally generic, B. stood out immediately. Surrounded by middle-aged men yelling at dozens of TVs, he sat alone, reading, it turned out, his own book. He had brought the slim novelette for me, in the hopes that I'd read it before our next date. This boldness was unnerving. I was used to writers who were filled with self-loathing.
B. revealed that even though he was a successful writer, he had a tech-related day job. He made the hours spent in his cubicle more bearable by working on a tennis-themed rom-com.
When our glasses were finally empty, he pressed me to send him my script. "Since I'm letting you read my book, it's only fair that I get to read something of yours," he said.
By the time I returned to my apartment, I already had several texts from B., who was eager to plan our next date. He wanted to take me out for dinner and a show at Flappers Comedy Club. I was impressed that he was offering me a seemingly glamorous and adult date. I had just turned 26 and I knew it was time for me to graduate from my typical date nights of splitting a pitcher of beer. My roommates agreed and encouraged me to give him another chance. (In retrospect, I think they just wanted me out of the living room for another night.)
We made a date for later in the week. A few hours before the date, I started flipping through his book. I noticed his author's bio and got sick to my stomach when I read: The author lives in Burbank with his wife and daughter.
I called my roommates together for some advice. They agreed that his bio was alarming, but they suggested that I give him the chance to explain himself over dinner. (Again, I question their motives.)
The evening started at a sushi restaurant, where B. did all of the ordering. He lectured the waitress about how important it was that she instruct the sushi chef to cut the roll into very small, bite-size pieces. He still hadn't gotten over the time he choked on a girthy rainbow roll, he explained. When he ordered us two spicy tuna rolls after I told him that I don't like spicy food, I decided it was time to bring up his author's bio.
"Well, your profile said you didn't want kids. If I told you, you'd never have gone out with me!"
He explained that he was recently separated from his wife, who had become unbearable once she got pregnant. Their daughter was just 9 months old. I was pretty sure that I hated him. The food arrived and I contemplated going to the bathroom and never coming back. As he enjoyed his dinner, I imagined him choking on one of those diminutive sushi bites. The waitress and I would share a glance as neither of us moved to help him.
Instead, I stayed. Too afraid of conflict to tell someone I have a problem with him or her, I feign politeness until I can write a scathing essay about them. As we walked to the comedy club, he pulled me in for a quick kiss. Then he quoted Woody Allen to me. I always love being reminded of men who marry their step-daughters, especially when I'm on a date. It was from that scene in "Annie Hall" where Woody tells Diane Keaton that he needs to get their first kiss out of the way so he can enjoy his meal without all that anxiety and anticipation.
Meanwhile, my anxiety had never been higher.
I survived the comedy club by pretending to be engrossed by every stand-up who crossed that stage. Every time B. tried to chat, I'd laugh too loudly and pretend I couldn't hear him. When the show was over, I told B. I had an early morning and had to go home.
Even though I had hated every second of our date, I still felt guilty as I read the texts he sent me that night. He'd had a great time and he suggested going out to Malibu that weekend. Eventually, I worked up the courage to type out the classic "It's not you, it's me" line and he, surprisingly, behaved appropriately.
A few months later, B. started following me on Twitter. I discovered that he had remarried and I wondered how long it would take him to leave this new wife. I remembered his book and donated it to Goodwill.
Swiping through Tinder a few weeks ago, I found him again. His pictures are the same, but now he claims to be a successful producer. His bio failed to mention anything about ex-wives, daughters or self-published books.
The author is a playwright and screenwriter living in Studio City. You can find her online at katemickere.com
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.
MORE L.A. LOVE STORIES …