Holding on through the 30-date rule

(Casey Crisenbery / For The Times)

It was the beginning of our second date. We were in his car, stopped at a red light, when he turned to me and said: “So here’s the deal. I want to have a real relationship. I’m in this to see if we can make a life together. I don’t want to mess around anymore. I want to get married and have kids. So either you’re in or you’re out.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Did he really want a relationship? Was he the guy I had been waiting for? Did he really want the same things I did? Would he be “the one”?

But then came the kicker. “By the way,” he said. “I have a 30-date rule. No sex until 30 dates.”

My mouth dropped open.

“Seriously? Thirty dates?”

“Yes,” he said. “I’m tired of doing the L.A. thing. You know, where you date someone for a few months, have a ton of sex and then realize you don’t really like them all that much.”

So many men claim they want a committed relationship leading to marriage and family. But it usually ended the same way for me. A few months into the relationship, the questions would start.


“Are you sure you want to get married?”

Yes, I’d say.

“Are you sure you want to have a family?”


“You know, since you are not young, it’ll have to happen pretty quick.”

Yes, I am aware of my age, thank you very much. Then would come the dreaded, “I just think I’m not ready.” I would wish them the best, have a few nights of red wine and tears, and then set out to find the next one.

Everyone talks about how hard it is to date in L.A. And it is. I think that’s because so many of us are dreamers. Problem is, that’s not very conducive to long-term relationships. You’re always hoping that there is someone better out there.

I was starting to despair, but then came that question: “Are you in or are you out?” On the outside, I played it cool. On the inside, I was doing the crazy happy dance while screaming, “Yes, I’m in! I’m totally in!”

I only had one lingering question about his 30-dates-no-sex rule: “What defines a date?”

This conversation came on our second date — sort of. Actually, we had dated four years ago.

Best first date ever. We started at Oomasa in Little Tokyo, went to La Cita downtown and ended the night at the HMS Bounty in Koreatown.

Worst second date ever. He was whiny, negative and annoying. Where was the super fun guy from the first date? The one who charmed me with his manners? The one who made me laugh with his stories of ordering pizza in Japan? The one who intrigued me with his plans for expanding his sports agency? Where did that guy go?

We hit several hip spots in Los Feliz, but they did nothing to lighten the mood. And that was the end of that. Or so I thought.

Our families were friends, so we still ran into each other. During football season, we attended the same USC tailgates. We were always cordial. And distant.

Then at one tailgate, he approached me. “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about writing.”

We met at Houston’s in Santa Monica on a rainy Thursday evening. Sitting at the bar, discussing his Japanese adventures and the best way to turn them into a novel, we connected like we had on that first date so long ago.

And that’s how I ended up at the red light, trying to absorb his 30-dates-no-sex rule. I’m all for taking it slow, but 30 dates seemed a tad excessive.

“Can we count those first two dates?” I asked.

The verdict was yes.

Dates 5 and 6 were just hanging out at his brother’s house, where he was dog sitting. Date 7 was karaoke. We rocked a duet of “Bad Boys,” the “Cops” theme song, and he ad-libbed the show’s tagline between verses: “Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” I never realized how long that song was. And that we were only on date No. 7.

We spent a weekend in Laguna. “Can we count this as multiple dates?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. So now we were at Date 12.

We went to movies. We went to restaurants. We went to coffee. We went to dessert. We went to parties. He took me to a “Mad Men"-themed party and introduced me as his “girlfriend.” Good to know, since we hadn’t yet had “the talk.”

When he told people that I would be having his baby in the near future, I laughed out loud and said, “Um, we’re only on Date 20.”

He came to my family’s Christmas Eve party, where we surprised everyone. My sister’s comment was, “I thought you didn’t like him.” My response: “I changed my mind.”

We made it to Date 29. It was pouring rain. We had gone out to dinner, and when we got home, there was no more holding back. We just knew. And those prior 28 dates set the foundation for our marriage, and, yes, family.

Chelsea Watkins is a screenwriter and novelist in Los Angeles whose single life is chronicled in the book “The Girls’ Adventure Club.”

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