L.A. Affairs is our weekly column about the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles -- and finding romance in a wired world. If you've got a story to tell, we want to hear it. We pay $300 per published column. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs
"But what's the ratio?"
My newly minted roommate is pressed against the window of an Uber whose backseat can hold only three people but is currently seating five. He's shouting into a phone, at the other end of which is a bouncer who could probably juggle all five of us at once and whose patience is understandably wearing thin.
I, meanwhile, am cursing God for a larger-than-average shoulder width as two people I barely know fight for seat-back space along with me. I am confused, cramped and trying to figure out what kind of ratio my roommate is asking about as our Uber driver plays his newest mix tape.
Let's back up.
I went to a college in Chicago where eye contact is 17th base — not because the students are religious or conservative by any stretch of the imagination, but because they're a gaggle of introverts forced to interact with each other. Being an extrovert who can string sentences together without dropping names like Hegel, Foucault and Didion meant that I was a comparative Casanova (bear in mind, I'm pale, schlubby, short and laugh a little too loudly). I had a string of flings, a string of relationships, but rare was the night that I felt particularly lonely.
Cue my industry-mandated pilgrimage to Los Angeles, where everyone is extroverted, tanned, toned and knows how to flambé kale in half a second flat. I don't stand out in person (or in a photo), but I like to consider myself a people person. Nonetheless, I find the ice pretty hard to break here. As a result, I have had, for all intents and purposes, an on-again-off-again relationship with singledom for the past 2.5 years. Now, I think I have finally figured out the end-all-be-all reason behind it.
There's an entire science to dating that I'm completely unaware of. And I don't mean people using SEO on their eHarmony profiles. There's an entire dating culture that I am only now discovering.
There's a lexicon I was not attuned to, processes that I had no innate knowledge of, and social graces and appearances that my dedication to living in beautiful squalor (technically my home is a renovated walk-in closet) won't allow.
But the biggest issue that I find myself running into, time and time again, is this: Dating apps and dating sites seem geared toward expediency. And that's not me.
I have five crushes at any given point in time, but I spend too long thinking about what to say rather than actually acting on any of them. (I comfort myself, of course, by noting that four out of five probably have boyfriends and I'm fairly sure the fifth is not interested in men.) I might have several OKCupid profiles open at work, but I can't muster the nerve to communicate because I'm on the 13th draft of the opening lines for a message to profile No.1. (First impressions are everything.)
You'd think Tinder or JSwipe would force me to streamline my thought process and go on gut instinct, but landing on an office crush stagnated my entire swiping experience.
The same roommate whom I introduced at the start of my story tells me he thinks I'm brave for putting myself out there so much. I appreciate the support, but I stand as a lone albatross in a sea of suaver, more sophisticated and more outspoken birds. So I tell him it's not working and I should probably just try to meet people the old-fashioned way, in spite of my status as "not old-fashioned" on OKCupid's personality breakdown.
Which leads us back to the jam-packed car headed to a jam-packed bar that's entirely not my scene because everyone's got a more robust everything in comparison to me. Trying to get out of my head doesn't particularly work as I sit there sipping a Hurricane something-with-coconut and try to calculate the mystery ratio — of men to women, of course — for my roommate.
None of this is to say that there's any right or wrong way to meet people. This isn't intended as some giant pity-party; it's just to acknowledge the others out there who are, well, like me.
Los Angeles is a city of pilgrims — it's sprawling and daunting and impossible if you don't have a car. (And, by the way, finding someone who was actually born here is like finding a unicorn.)
So here's to the ones who are like me. Who have come from near and far in an attempt to find whatever it is one sets out to find in Los Angeles. Who have left substantially better dating situations.
This is a terrifying city that demands that one not overthink things, but it offers enough choices so that it's impossible to underthink it.
Bring an ice pick. At least it'll be a conversation starter.
Adam Rosenthal is an L.A.-based writer.