I'd been single for 100 years.
OK, not really, but it felt like it.
It seemed like every other weekend I was at a bachelorette, wedding, shower or engagement party. All the while I was over here, like, "Can I get a text back?"
I was the classic "looking for love in all the wrong places" type. Was he 35 and still living with his mom? No problem! A 42-year-old failing musician who can't commit? Yes, please! Neo-Nazi bartender? Let's give it a shot! I swear I would see potential in the biggest losers you could imagine. One time I asked a guy what his plans were for the following weekend and he looked at me as if I'd asked for his hand in marriage and to father 17 babies with me.
There was a string of bad dates thanks to Zoosk and Tinder, and I even went to the lengths of enlisting a good friend to ghostwrite for me since clearly my judgment in men and choice of words were no bueno. I literally handed over my passwords and said, "Go!" I had a dating-after-work routine down. The bathroom at my office became my personal dressing room, as night after night it was a new suitor.
One friend asked me if I had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness because I was "dating like I was dying." I'm not sure what had lighted a fire under my behind, but I was ready to settle down. It felt like I just had to keep trying on dresses to find one that fit. It also didn't help matters when it seemed like every single guy I met online was an idiot who seemed capable only of text exchanges such as "hey," and "what are you up to?" for weeks at a time. My patience and control issues were on another level.
One day, while I was on hiatus from this dating hell, I was having lunch with a co-worker, who sadly was in my same predicament, and she told me about JSwipe (think: Tinder for Jews). I had nothing to lose.
Within minutes of swiping (mostly left) I came across someone who had the best face. That's all I could remember — just a smile and a feeling of familiarity. As I swiped right there was a giant "Mazel Tov!" with two glasses clinking running across my screen. It was as if this app knew how hard I had been searching. I could hear the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme song playing faintly in my head, "You're gonna make it after all."
I was pleasantly surprised with his opening line (at this point anything was a step up from "hey"). We exchanged witty banter and within a day or two, Jeff asked me to dinner (with a real date, time and location to boot!).
When we met at the restaurant I felt an immediate attraction to him. I think the first thing I awkwardly blurted out was, "Oh, good, you're tall!" (I'm 5'9".) I was so excited he was even better looking than his pictures, and there was that feeling of familiarity again. We just felt instantly comfortable around each other and were both willing to be completely and totally honest. I wasn't pretending to like the Flaming Lips or hiking, for example. When Jeff asked me if I like to hike, I said, "Not really," but told him I'd enjoy a brisk walk in a pretty location for not too many hours.
And that was the truth. There were no fake answers, I was just being myself. (That's not to say I was totally myself — any girl knows you have to conceal some of your crazy on the first few dates.) But I was 95% me.
When he told me he didn't have a TV, I very calmly and politely said, "This isn't going to work." I was only half-joking, but TV is my religion, so I was reassured when he said he actually had one, it just wasn't set up. (Jeff had it set up before our second date.)
The fact that I could do or say anything and nothing scared him away was a comfort — and a feeling I hadn't experienced in a long time. I wish I could have told the old me that it was all going to be OK and that I'd find a man who wouldn't look at me like I was Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" cooking bunnies when you ask if he wants kids.
Here are a few more nauseating details of our first few dates, and then I'll shut up: We played a game of mini-golf which he lost, which meant my pants remained on; attended a tragic improv show above a bar where I rested my head on his shoulder and felt at home; and went salsa dancing while I was in a dress that I had to practically pour myself into.
But wait, here's the best part.
We were a few months into dating, but by that point and at my age (33) I already knew he was the one. This sealed it:
My co-worker called me into her office with an urgency I hadn't heard before. She'd just noticed something about the picture that had been on her bulletin board for years. It was a picture we'd posed for three years earlier, when we were all out together on a boat for a tiki-themed outing.
Her finger pointed to a detail I'd never noticed, even though I must have glanced at the photo countless times in her office. It was a face in the background at the boat party. Actually, it was the only face in the background, and it was perfectly positioned right behind mine.
It was Mr. Mazel Tov himself.
Jeff likes to say love was right in front of me all along, and I was just looking in the wrong direction.
I like to say it was bashert — that's a Yiddish term meaning "meant to be."
The author lives in Dana Point with her dog, Wendell. She recently got engaged and looks forward to a winter wedding in 2019. Here's the picture that was hanging on the bulletin board:
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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