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I’m a serial dater. And I’m grateful to all the guys who never call me back

Thinking about the ones that got away.
Thinking about the ones that got away.
(Valeria Petrone / For The Times)

These days, I go on about two or three dates a week. I can tell you every good bar in Los Angeles (my recommendations: Father’s Office near Culver City has surprisingly comfortable stools, and the Roger Room near West Hollywood is a fun speak-easy circa the 1920s). I’ve played pool, sipped tea, and drank way too many white Russians. One guy even brought me to a Mexican wrestling match in downtown Los Angeles after winning a bet.

Most of the guys I met through dating apps (I like Bumble, though I’ll use Tinder on occasion). I’ve had the privilege of going out with many smart, talented, successful guys. Everything from Wall Street types to professional poker players to the Guinness world-record holder for tallest Lincoln log structure.

But there is one guy in particular that stands out to me.

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We met on a Thursday night at the Club Bar at the Peninsula Hotel – one of the priciest spots in Beverly Hills. He was good-looking, successful. He had just graduated from the University of Chicago and was working at Wells Fargo. He owned his own home, a Porsche, and a large part of my headspace for quite a while.

The date started out pleasant enough. Small talk. The usual. He told me he wakes up every day and reads the Wall Street Journal; I told him I had just been published in the Wall Street Journal. And just like that, we started to click – two yuppies destined to be together.

Or so I thought.

In spite of the fact that we spent a couple hours talking, in spite of the fact that we continued over to another bar after, in spite of the fact that he walked me to my door and made sure to get my number, and in spite of the fact that he kissed me goodbye, I never heard from him again. Nothing. Not a word. Nada. I even tried texting him once, sacrificing my pride. No response.

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It blew my mind. I couldn’t get over it. Not him – he faded away with dates and time – but I couldn’t get over the fact that my judgment had been so totally off. How could something I was so sure of be so wrong?

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Maybe he was too young. Maybe I was too edgy, too serious, or too Jewish. Maybe he had met somebody else. Maybe I just wasn’t “it.” It could have been any number of things. But at the end of the day, it was a misread, and that was something I had to deal with.

Which is when I was confronted with one of the hard truths about dating: You don’t always know. You can’t always be sure, and you can’t always be right. As an accomplished young twentysomething, this was a tough pill for me to swallow.

In truth, I thought dating was something that could be mastered, a game that could be won. Like a skill.

Sure, I’ve learned a thing or two here and there. Always arrive early so you can get a good seat (ambience is everything). Take Uber or Lyft to avoid trouble parking. Wear comfortable shoes in case you end up going for a walk afterward.

But for all of my tips and tricks, what I’ve learned is that I am essentially clueless. Sometimes he’ll never call back, and sometimes you’ll never know why. You can make guesses and assumptions till the cows come home, but, ultimately, there are times where you will be left in the dark.

That’s just part of the game.

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I will never really know why he didn’t call. But perhaps I’m not supposed to. Part of dating is learning to live in limbo, and part of growing up is being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Maybe there’s some alternate universe in which he comes running back to me and we trail off into the sunset, but that’s a universe where I would be the same as I always was, safe. There is nothing particularly enlightening about regurgitating your own beliefs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my plunge into serial dating, it’s that nothing is worse than listening to a monologue.

One day I hope to be out of the dating game, to be scooped up and swept off into that aforementioned sunset. Heck, I’d even settle for a second date. Anything for a callback.

Then again, I’m learning a lot from this experience, and am not the same person I was even three months ago. There’s something to be said about being blindsided. I’m usually not a huge fan of surprises, but when it comes to dating, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. And for that I am grateful.

So let this be a message to all the men who didn’t call me back, who didn’t take me out again when they said they would: Thank you.

Thanks for all the mystery and confusion; thanks for all the tears.

And thank you especially to that one boy who had me hook, line, and sinker – it probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

The author is a Los Angeles-based writer whose work has been published in the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post. Her website is amandabotfeld.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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