Dear Damona: I’m 24, and I’ve never been kissed or had sex. Should I tell my dates?

Illustration of colorful lips and hearts.
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

L.A. love coach Damona Hoffman tackles dating and relationship questions on her weekly podcast, “Dates & Mates.” Here, she shares her thoughts on some of the most topical questions from her listeners:

Dear Damona: What is the best way to express to my new boyfriend that recognizing Valentine’s Day is super important to me? I work weekends and my boo does not. We will not be able to spend time together this weekend, but I want a Valentine’s Day card or something. Yet he is not a very emotionally expressive human, and I’m worried I’m going to be disappointed.

I believe Valentine’s Day should always be celebrated, but I’m even more bullish on it this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, traditional Valentine’s Day gifts and celebrations are due for a refresh anyhow. The way your partner gives or receives love is more important to get right than dropping a bunch of money on a fabulous bouquet. A card is a very simple ask, but I’m more interested in why you’re hoping for that. Is it about hearing him say that he cares or is it about the gesture of the gift? Everyone in a relationship knows that Valentine’s Day is coming up, so go ahead and cut to the chase. Men are not known for their subtle mind-reading abilities, so you should simply tell him what you’re dreaming up and make magic happen.


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.

July 19, 2020

Dear Damona: I’m a 25-year-old female, and I met a guy on a dating app a few months ago. We’ve seen each other twice; both times, he canceled initially. (The second time, he said it was because of a last-minute trip.) I told him I didn’t want to see him again. Fast-forward to now (two months later). He texted me wanting to hang out. My friends think I shouldn’t waste my time, but I did enjoy hanging out with him and want to give him another chance. Am I being naive?

This is a textbook dating dilemma: You’re falling in love with the fairy tale instead of facing the facts. You caught a whiff of this fella’s pheromones, and it is making you feel bonded to him, even though he’s proved himself to be unreliable, to say the least. Even the use of the phrase “hang out” screams, “Please give me more of your time for me to use, abuse and waste as I choose.” Pay close attention to how someone treats you in the beginning phase of dating, as that’s generally when people are on their best behavior. If this is the best he can do, I shudder to think of how he shows up at his worst. While I think it’s beautiful that you’re open to possibility, I’d rather you put your energy toward someone who is ready to meet you halfway ... or at all.

L.A. dating coach Damona Hoffman tackles dating and relationship questions on her weekly podcast, “Dates & Mates.” Today she shares answers to the most common questions about love in the time of coronavirus.

May 15, 2020

Dear Damona: I thought I’d met my person. We talked marriage after two years of dating, but then he had to recover from a financial setback. After that, he said he was comfortable in our current situation and didn’t intend to remarry any time soon. Should I return to online dating? I’m so apprehensive, because I don’t enjoy this method of meeting people. But because of COVID-19, options are limited.

Relationships are dynamic. They change along with the people who are in them. It sounds like three years ago, your person was in a different mental state and his financial setback may have affected him on multiple levels. In our society, men have a very narrowly defined role as provider, and men who step out of the traditional breadwinner role or struggle with financial security often grapple with feelings of inadequacy or a fear of being able to provide for a partner — although it’s sometimes masked as fear of commitment. That’s his stuff to sort out, and unfortunately, there’s little you can do to change his mind. If you are set on marriage, you have to move on. I understand your dislike of dating apps, as it is very different from the old-fashioned methods of meeting. However, I see more opportunity in apps than obstacles. Even a decade or two ago, a woman in your situation would have had to go “into the wild” to make a match again, but you now have millions of connections at your fingertips — even in a pandemic. It’s just a matter of learning to use dating apps effectively. And make sure safety precautions are taken when meeting in person.

I was proud of myself for getting to a place where I could love a man who could love me back. Nothing was perfect, but we were both growing. Then, she texted.

Feb. 6, 2021

Dear Damona: I’m a 35-year-old single mom. After my divorce, I was in a car accident that left me with permanent brain damage. How do I put myself out there, knowing that I would be relying on my long-term partner to bear most of the financial responsibility?

First, take a moment to recognize your own power and resilience. You suffered two life-altering events: a divorce and a major accident, and you’re still here. Date from a place of confidence that what you bring to the table will be enough for the right person. Because you’ve taken care of yourself financially thus far, while overcoming an immense obstacle, there’s no reason to assume your partner needs to take financial responsibility for everything. That said, you should be upfront on the first or second date about your limitations because of your brain injury. What have you learned from your experiences? How has it made you stronger? Rather than seeing it as a deficit or burden, could you see it as something that has helped you grow in ways that make you the perfect partner for the right person?


Featuring our favorite tales of searching for love in Southern California, curated from the beloved L.A. Affairs column.

Dec. 2, 2020

Dear Damona: I met someone on the online platform Twitch, but I live in L.A. and they live on the East Coast. I don’t know how to move forward, considering the dangers of traveling during COVID-19. I want to see if what we have is real, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to meet in person any time soon.

The upside of dating during the pandemic is that many people are entertaining new possibilities, like long-distance relationships — or even dating someone across town (a.k.a. L.A. long-distance.) My advice for people who date across the miles has always been to move offline quickly — meaning eight weeks or less — to see if you truly have chemistry or if you’re pouring your heart into a fantasy. Now that the stakes of traveling are higher, you have some tough questions to ask yourself. One, is there a possibility you could ever live in the same place? Most LDRs work out only for a finite amount of time, and I’ve seen them last long term only if the parties have a plan to blend lives at some point. Two, how well do you and this person match on a values basis? Is this a romance of convenience, is it an ego boost or is there something deeper that connects you? If it’s the latter, go for it. The only way to know if this is your person is by taking the necessary precautions (have you both tested negative for COVID-19? Can you self-quarantine before meeting in person?). After putting on these pseudo-hazmat suits, it’s time to board a plane or stock up on coffee for what might be the longest car trip of your life.

In a world where everything is changing, two families redefine what it means to be a family by deciding to combine households for a year, to ride out the pandemic.

Feb. 4, 2021

Dear Damona: I’m 24 and I’ve never kissed anyone. I’m starting to go on dates via different apps, and I’m really nervous about broaching this (and the sex topic). Do you have advice for how to bring this up? Do I even bring it up?

The old adage “never kiss and tell” also applies to not kissing. Personal information always needs to be earned on dates, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to share that you’ve never been kissed unless it would help you relax more. The Instagramification of life is probably making you feel like you’re the only one who hasn’t “done it” yet, but statistically speaking, people are waiting longer to have sex and Gen Z is having far less sex than the generations before. According to a prepandemic survey, 1 in 3 men ages 18 to 24 reported having no sex in the previous year. You’d better believe that number is even lower now, so if you choose to broach the topic on your next date, you might be surprised to find that your match is not only accepting of your experience level but in the same boat.

Dear Damona: Do you think we should add a profile picture wearing a mask? I’m seeing them more and more on dating apps.

Masks and vaccine photos are all the rage on dating apps today. They’ve become popular because people are trying to broadcast their values and belief system in pictures. While a picture speaks a thousand words, your photos are valuable profile real estate that should be used to show what you truly look like and tell your story visually. A masked photo accomplishes neither of those goals. Pop a masked emoji into your profile text instead and find five great photos that feature your best assets and not your fashionable N95.