L.A. Affairs: I’ve discovered the secret to online dating: Just chill out, preferably over In-N-Out

L.A. Affairs
(Niv Bavarsky / For The Times)

Dating in Los Angeles is hard.

Dating online in Los Angeles is even harder.

It’s about as enjoyable as stopping at that fast-food joint you only eat at because you’ve been driving for miles and you can’t find anything else, so you finally give up and decide to settle on that weird off-brand chain with the broken “open” sign.

That’s what online dating is like. You go on a bunch of terrible dates and end up going out with someone for six weeks because you’re ready to give up and they happen to have a dimly lighted “open” sign, so you’re like, “maybe this won’t be so bad.”

But then it is.

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This is the thing though. Like many things in life, you meet someone online or off when you decide to stop looking. I know, I know, it makes no sense because online dating is predicated on the act of looking.

But what I mean is, stop looking so seriously. Look without fear of starvation. Know that something great will come along when it’s meant to come along.

It’s sort of like when you finally do eat that weird fast-food meat, and then three miles later you pass an In-N-Out.

Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

The take-away?

Stop settling for the cheap stuff and know you’re worth at least a double-double with fries.

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About a year ago, and one too many dates later, I adopted this laissez-faire attitude myself. Maybe it was exhaustion or maturity, I’d like to think the latter, but what happened after was unexpected.

Rewind a year and a half.

I met Tom online. We had some fun chats with some weird banter about hobbits, with little promise of real-life banter about hobbits, because that’s what online dating is like. For one reason or another, probably having something to do with some bad fast food, we never went on a date.

Almost a year later, there I am on another dating site, and whom do I find staring back at me? That’s right. Tom. And so we start chatting. Again. And the banter continues. Again. Thankfully, expanding to topics beyond “The Lord of the Rings.” And even though it’s great when we do finally lock down that date, I decide not to take it too seriously, because I’ve been through this before, and I know online dating is just one bad chicken nugget after the next, so I go in not taking this particular nugget too seriously.

And there we are, finally out together, and I’m not taking things too seriously, which is very unlike me, because I always take things too seriously, which is part of the problem.

But with this one, I decide to just let things happen or not happen at all. And I think it’s when we do this, when we’re not trying too hard or thinking too much or over-analyzing every text and word exchanged, that we really open our hearts and our minds and are able to let someone embrace us for who we are, rather than for the awesomely charming and funny person we’re trying to portray in our online profiles.

Things developed organically, without pressure or rules or timelines, without the need to play an impossible role. Tom was always who he was going to be, a person comfortable with himself, even around a virtual stranger.

I, however, had to actively make a choice. And the decision to stop being so serious, or at least try, is really what allowed me to be with someone like Tom.

A few months into our relationship, I found myself in London, staying with Tom’s family, there to attend his mother’s funeral. He wanted me there with him, and I wanted to be by his side. So as you can see, something that started so light, quickly developed into something far more important than I’d ever imagined.

Given where we are now and all that we’ve been through in a very short time, it’s hard not to fall into old patterns and think about societal pressures and rules and being a serious adult in a serious relationship, because these are all things we’re told we should be thinking about.

But then I remember what brought us together, what this whole relationship was built on.

And that is all the reminder I need to chill out, preferably over a double-double with fries.

Lauren Otero is a TV writer in L.A., and has a food blog: www.notadairyqueen.com

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.


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