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L.A. Affairs: Where are they now? My therapist told me to go on 35 dates in 2020

An illustration of hands holding a smartphone, trying to find love on a dating app
“Have you tried the apps?” Uh, yes.
(Verónica Grech / For The Times)

As we celebrate the publication of the first L.A. Affairs book — you can order it here — we revisit some of our most memorable columnists from years past. This author’s first column was published in February 2020, about her plans to go on 35 first dates. Then COVID hit.

It used to be questions from others that got to me.

“How are you still single?”

“Have you tried the apps?”

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“But how many dates did you give it?”

“Are you really putting yourself out there?”

“Are you sure you’re not being too picky?”

The new book -- due out in time for Valentine’s Day 2021 -- will feature our favorite tales of searching for love in Southern California, curated from the beloved L.A. Affairs column.

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They came from all over: My friends, family, coworkers, seemingly random strangers, people who had met their spouses when they were in college, people who had never been on a dating app, people who would say they wanted to live vicariously through my “single life” while obviously relishing their coupledom.

The questions even came from my therapist, who had advised me to go on 35 dates in 2020 to help me snap out of my rut. Following her orders, I got through 17 dates, but then COVID-19 happened.

My therapist was pushing me to date more, which is hard when you’re a teacher and can’t go out “on a school night.” But I’m getting myself out there. L.A. traffic willing.

Now, at 31, it’s the questions I ask myself that are really getting to me.

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“How did you let it go on like this for so long?”

“What if you hadn’t moved back to L.A.?”

“If you had just stayed in Oakland, don’t you think you’d be settled down by now?”

“What about that one guy from last year? Why didn’t you pursue that harder?”

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“What if you want to have kids?”

From a Fleetwood Mac concert in 1979 to roller skating in Venice, these are the best dates our readers have ever had in Los Angeles

It’s harder to roll your eyes at the voice in your own head. It’s also harder to shut it out.

I thought I had avoided the horrors of facing quarantine alone when a guy I met right before the shutdown in March was willing to continue with video dates. That lasted for about a month. As Southern California closed down more and more and avenues for a safe, outdoor date seemed to disappear, so too did the motivation to keep meeting only in the virtual world.

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We did manage one socially distanced date at Griffith Park. But when I reached out to him after that, he said he was “going through some stuff” and couldn’t deal with dating. I think reconnecting in the real world had suddenly made everything seem more serious to him.

We collected some of our favorite L.A. Affairs columns — which run weekly in the Los Angeles Times, and chronicle the ups and downs of dating in Los Angeles and the search for love — into a new book. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of the columns you’ll find inside. Hint: The book would make a fab V-Day gift!

The pandemic would shut down even the possibility of socially distanced dating (for me at least) in a way that I never could have imagined. I realized I had to choose between seeing my family, with both parents over 60, and my newly expecting sister or going into quarantine for 14 days after every socially distanced date. As far as I was concerned, no guy I’d ever met on a dating app was worth 14 days of total isolation.

I tried meeting new guys via video dates. I did Zoom drinks from my living room, making sure my lighting was decent and the angle of my camera was at least a little flattering. But there was no replacing the chemistry (or lack thereof) that you feel when you’re sitting across from someone in person.

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And the intensity of the Zoom dates could be unnerving: There was no background noise, no drinks menu to linger over, no bartender to break up weird silences, no other stimulation at all, as you video chat with a stranger from inside your home.

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been far luckier than many. My newly tenured position as a public school teacher was secure, no one in my family has died from COVID, I’m not facing housing or food insecurity. But with the statistics and numbers and dates and various measuring sticks we’ve been using to calculate the toll of this virus, I’ve started to think of the unquantifiable losses.

And the questions start flooding in again.

How do I really measure losing a year when it comes to dating and trying to meet someone?

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What happens when I add on the ultimate countdown: my biological clock?

Are all the dating skills I’ve spent years honing going to disappear from lack of practice?

In this city already filled with Peter Pan types, will anyone be willing to settle down once they’re finally set free from quarantine? Or will it be another free-for-all like when Tinder first hit?

I’ve already learned a painful lesson about placing too much stock in the “possibilities” of a new year. This new year didn’t start off any better, with the unfathomable surge in coronavirus cases across Los Angeles County and the vaccine rollout moving at a snail’s pace.

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But even as dark as everything seems right now, I know there’s light at the end of this tunnel. I know that things will slowly but surely inch toward normal, which means there’s really only one question I should be focused on:

How can I make the most of it?

The author was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a high school teacher.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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