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L.A. Affairs: I wanted him. He didn’t want a ‘girlfriend’

Different calendar years, from 2017 to 2020, show writer's changing emotions.
I moved on. And I didn’t hear from Steve again until earlier this year.
(Rachelle Hall / For The Times)

It was our first Bumble date. We met at Alfred tea shop on Melrose Place.

We picked up our mint tea lattes and strolled Melrose, chatted about shared interests, including our love of the Groundlings comedy troupe, and childhood summers spent at camp. There was lots of laughter. Steve was funny and had a dad-joke sense of humor.

It even turned out we had mutual friends. He was a personal trainer minus the attitude and had a body like Adonis and a boyish sweetness.

He was a true gentleman, always holding doors open for me and reaching for the check. Before I knew it, the months flew by. We went to beer festivals, ate homemade matzo brei on Passover and spent nights cuddling up watching our favorite “Batmans” (the one with Michael Keaton as well as “The Dark Knight”) while eating Sour Patch Kids candy — a mutual love.

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I was really starting to like this guy.

When you’re with someone who was raised in a similar home with similar customs it feels easy and comfortable, like your allegiance to the same brand of jeans you’ve worn since college. Plus, most families reinforce cultural continuation, which is why Grandma keeps encouraging you to date the grandkids of her mah-jongg friends.

So what happened next may come as no surprise. Four months in, I brought up monogamy. I told him I wanted it to “just be us only.” He said that although he was not seeing anyone else, he still felt like he wasn’t over his last breakup. He wasn’t quite ready to start calling me his girlfriend.

A couple of weeks later I pulled up to his apartment for the usual — a movie night and sleepover. But he came out to meet me in the parking lot. He had a bag with him. I could see it contained a dress I’d left at his house, as well as pajamas, sweatpants and some other personal belongings.

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“We need to talk,” he said as he got into my car.

Oh, God, I thought. This can’t be good.

He ended the relationship. Why? Had I done something wrong?

“I don’t know,” he just kept saying as I pushed for an answer. “No, you’ve been great. I just don’t know.”

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He insisted it wasn’t my fault. But that was all he could offer: “I don’t have a good reason.”

I took my bag and sped off. I called my friend Tasha and we went to an In-N-Out Burger. The tears streamed down my cheeks and into my Double-Double. On my way home, I put in an emergency call to my therapist. Then I stayed up until 4 a.m. crying.

It took some time, but I came to realize that Steve wasn’t such a bad person for dumping me. (I had wanted to turn him into a villain. But he wasn’t.) For one, he actually had the courage to end things in person rather than via text, on the phone or by ghosting — all painful and common occurrences on the L.A. dating scene.

So I moved on. And I didn’t hear from Steve again until earlier this year.

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It was after COVID-19 hit, and I was posting more on social media than ever — to make human connection at a time when so many of us were on voluntary lockdown. One day I posted a stark photo of a closed-down park in Cheviot Hills, not far from my mom’s house. It was sad and empty, shuttered to the public. The next thing I knew, Steve was sliding into my DMs.

“Wow, I just trained a client at that exact park,” he said, and shared that he was disappointed at everything closing around us. “This is so sad,” he said, adding: “How are you?”

A bit stunned, and unsure of what to say, I kept it simple.

“Yes, this is crazy, I can’t believe we are living through this.”

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One thing led to another. We caught up over text and a couple of FaceTime convos. He told me he had just broken up with a girlfriend. It just so happened that he moved to an apartment off Melrose only a short walk from me.

I couldn’t help but notice it was nearly Passover again. Quite the circle we were beginning to form.

We made plans for a social-distanced date and met for coffee at Kings Road Cafe. Mirroring our first date, we strolled around the then-deserted neighborhood and chatted for almost two hours, catching up.

I went to South America and brought back a North American souvenir — a guy who just happened to be good-looking, employed, travel savvy, available and local. Wait, was he a unicorn?

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We laughed and bonded about what a rough ride we‘d both had since we’d last connected. He sweetly said, “I hope you get a kick out of this, because karma is real and I got mine, breaking up with you and ending up in a nightmare relationship.”

He was just as genuine and funny as I remembered, and he had matured.

We dished about our past with each other. He attributed it to bad timing.

I looked up from our conversation at one point and realized we were walking past Alfred tea shop, where we’d had our first date.

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“So I guess we’re literally and figuratively right back where we started,” I said.

I began to feel an emotional pull, but as we parted that day we decided to move forward with a platonic friendship for now.

Dating during a pandemic makes it hard to be anything but friends, and his recent breakup didn’t leave him in any position to be dating seriously.

Plus, there is no way I’m going to be rebound girl.

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We continue to keep in touch and have helped each other set up dating profiles, occasionally flirting with each other but always dialing it back. Friends for now, but who knows down the road?

After 46 blind dates that were mostly disastrous, my expectations were not too high. I had survived so many evenings of challenging conversation, no attraction and boredom that I figured what was one more to add to the list. It would at least give me another funny story to share with my friends and family.

I seem to have a thing for the unavailable man. Or maybe this is something positive to come out of this COVID-19 era. Maybe it’s forcing me to go slow in my dating life and really get to know a person first.

Whether Steve becomes my new best friend, my future spouse or someone to just get through these hard times with, I am curious to see where this walk will lead. Maybe we’ll end right back at Alfred with a ring on my finger ... just kidding ... or maybe I’m not.

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The author works in sales and is on Instagram @atmorgantrail.

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary — L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles, and we want to hear your story. The story you tell has to be true, and you must allow your name to be published, We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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