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‘Listen to your instincts.’ It’s a dating lesson she had to learn the hard way

L.A. Affairs
(Daniel Fishel / For Los Angeles Times)

After living in Los Angeles for five years and racking up a track record of short-lived relationships, I finally caved: I joined OkCupid. I posted several photos of myself and attempted to sound witty and approachable when answering the profile questions. Smartest of all, when sending messages to potential dates, I used an effective pickup line: “Hi, what’s your name?”

One morning, I received a response from someone. “Ken,” he said. “What’s yours?”

Ken’s profile stood out from the rest. He appeared to be genuine and hard-working. But what was most obvious was that he was overtly good-looking. Impeccable, I might add, with hazel eyes and a chiseled jaw line.

In our messages, we exchanged Instagram user names, per his request, and I accepted an invitation to go out with him. During a brief phone call, we decided to meet at Dave & Buster’s in Hollywood.

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When I first saw Ken in person, he was shorter than I expected, but I found him to be absolutely dashing. He looked like he could be a heartbreaker, but I decided that I would give him the benefit of the doubt.

We sat down at the bar to eat. We exchanged histories of how we both landed in Los Angeles. Ken, originally from Europe, explained that he relocated to L.A. to work in real estate. He emphasized that he inherited his strong work ethic from his father, the former chief executive of a major international corporation. Needless to say, Ken was loaded. I couldn’t say that I was feeling any butterflies in my stomach, but he had me intrigued.

Once we finished eating, we began playing the games at Dave & Buster’s. In the middle of the fun, Ken surprised me with a kiss. Still no butterflies, but he seemed to be doing all of the right things. At the end of our date, he told me that he wanted to see me the next day.

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The following evening, we had dinner at Los Balcones, gazed at the Los Angeles skyline from the Griffith Observatory and had drinks with his friends at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s.

Our courtship moved at a rapid pace. We saw each other almost daily, he took me on my first motorcycle ride and we spent our nights watching hours of Netflix. He referred to me as his “love” and told me that he was ready to introduce me to his cousin, who also lived in L.A.

There were red flags, however. I would catch Ken on the phone discussing “sealing the bag tight” and “getting $700 in cash.” When I finally asked about these calls, Ken hesitantly said that he used to have a legal marijuana dispensary but gave it up after a deal went awry and someone tried to assassinate him. Ken disclosed that he was being summoned to court to testify against the man who tried to kill him. Appearing needy and distressed, Ken was adamant that he was no longer selling weed. Instead, he reported that he was assisting as a “third-party liaison.” Uncertain of what that meant, I decided to stay with him out of pity and obligation. I was void of any butterflies, but I felt stuck.

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Over time, Ken and I saw each other less frequently, and I didn’t hear from him as often.

But he joined me at Ay-Do-No Korean BBQ when my best friend and her fiancé were in town. During the dinner, my friend asked Ken what he liked about me. Ken took a long pause. He finally answered with, “She makes an amazing lemon pepper chicken.” Realizing that he had nothing else to say, I knew that it was time for me to terminate the relationship.

I had been on my own again for just a couple of weeks when Ken contacted me and said he missed me. We attempted to rekindle our romance, but it still didn’t feel right.

One afternoon, I received a call from an unrecognizable phone number. “Hi, my name is Mary, Ken’s girlfriend,” said the voice on the other end of the line. My heart dropped. I immediately responded, “Listen, I don’t want him!”

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Mary explained that she had been out of state for months for job training. When she returned to L.A., she found my text messages on Ken’s iPhone. She expressed frustration but said she planned to stay with Ken.

But the most revealing part of our conversation was when Mary told me that Ken sold illegal substances, never had a dispensary and was heavily involved in money laundering, which was the real reason why he was summoned to court.

After the call I cried hysterically. I wasn’t upset that Ken had a girlfriend and that I couldn’t be with him; I was upset that he deceived me.

I never spoke to Ken again, and I don’t know what ended up happening to him in court, but I was grateful for the lessons he taught me: The absence of butterflies is very telling. And the next time you date someone who seems sketchy, bail out immediately!

Maxie Pulliam is a social worker and freelance writer living in West Los Angeles.

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 home@latimes.com

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