L.A. Affairs: How I figured out I was dating a drug dealer

Things he said stopped adding up, but I didn’t want to judge too quickly.
(Dola Sun / For The Times)

There’s a picture of me from that night — with a giant panda head on. I should have known then what I was in for, but that’s half the fun — or torture — of growing up, isn’t it? The not knowing what we know now; the hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

I met him at Finn McCool’s on Main Street in Santa Monica. It wasn’t even a bar I went to often, but my niece and I were looking for some Irish men, or at least some Irish music — it was St. Paddy’s Day, after all.

He was so fun and wild; he was buying all our drinks, we were laughing and flirting, and although he wasn’t much taller than my 5 feet 2 inches, it didn’t matter. Personality trumped height in this instance.

As the bar shut down, we got in a cab and headed to his friend’s place in West Hollywood. That’s where the panda head happened, a relic from a costume party. It all naturally led into a fully fledged two-month whirlwind of budding romance.

But my whirlwind soon began to feel more like a weird-wind.

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Things he said stopped adding up, but I didn’t want to judge too quickly because goodness knows I didn’t come with a clean canvas.

And at first, they seemed harmless.

Like, the black Mercedes he would pick me up in turned out to be his mother’s. The occasional weed indulgence he admitted to that was actually more like a daily wake-and-bake ritual. The retail management job he claimed to have became more vaguely defined every time I asked about it. This all put quite the damper on our sex life.

He told me he was cash poor because of a large investment he’d made in a fledgling “retail” business and that it was always slow getting a new venture off the ground. I could tell he was one of those guys who always had something in the works; the type of guy that is so excited about his “next big thing” that you barely question what that “thing” actually is.

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So I started paying for dinners if we wanted to go out, and then groceries when we wanted to stay in — which became more and more frequent because, well, money problems. He got hooked up for Dave Grohl concert tickets in San Diego one weekend, only I drove us down and paid for the “hookup” tickets, and even put dinner on my credit card.

Amid all this and after about a month of dating, I let him come live with me in my minuscule Culver City studio apartment. I made space for his clothes when I barely had enough for my own. One night, he attempted to cook me stuffed squash blossoms and left my tiny kitchen an oil-splattered mess. It was romantic … for about five minutes.

Again — hindsight is 20/20 — I try not to be too harsh on myself for letting it go so far.

One night he came home later than he had said he would, and I was rightfully worried. He explained that he had to take the bus because his car was confiscated.


He told me that there had been $10,000 worth of marijuana in the trunk and a rival “retail” business stole it and the car.

None of it made sense. Why wasn’t he calling the police about his mother’s stolen Mercedes? Why did he have all that weed? Why was he lighting up a joint at a time like this?

Maybe because my boyfriend was a weed dealer.

After putting the pieces together and demanding some answers, I realized that his “retail business” was in fact a brick-and-mortar dispensary planned for West Hollywood. I wasn’t so upset that he was in the pot business — I was more upset that he was terrible at it.

The next day, I stopped asking myself why. It had been about two weeks after he had moved in, taking my precious closet space, getting his car confiscated and slowly hinting at just how messed up everything was for him. The charismatic and entrepreneurial guy I’d met at Finn McCool’s had faded fast. That morning when he left to do whatever small-time, unsuccessful weed dealers do, I gathered all his belongings up and dropped them into two paper bags. They fit.

When he showed up at the door later that afternoon, I told him he couldn’t stay there anymore. He didn’t say much in return, he knew his failings. I watched him walk across the street to the bus stop where he had to wait 20 minutes for the next bus.

I felt terrible, watching him on that bus bench, his head hung low, almost as if weighed down by a giant panda head.

The author is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles who has written for Vanity Fair, Mashable and Variety. She is on Instagram at @tiniv11

L.A Affairs chronicles the dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments, or a true story to tell, email us at

To read the article in Spanish, click here


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