L.A. Affairs: The secret to ending my lonely nights? I’ve started dating couples
I’m not normally the kind of guy who brags, but for the record, I have now aced this whole dating business. I’ve discovered the answer to all those lonely weekends and empty Saturday nights. (The worst are when the cleaning service has come and the apartment is tidy and the bed made, for that one day out of every two weeks, and there’s nobody but me and the neighbor’s cat to appreciate it.)
Anyway, I’ll admit that I was, like most divorced men I know, doing everything the old-fashioned way. Spotting an interesting prospect online and then after 26 text exchanges and maybe a phone call or two, meeting her in a public place. But more often than not, something proved incompatible. The frequent conundrum was, if I was interested in her she wasn’t interested in me and vice versa. Three or four times, women wrote me afterward to tell me — no kidding — that I was runner-up and that they’d keep me in mind if things didn’t work out with the current winner. I’m still waiting.
Sometimes I managed to meet someone in the wild, my preferred method. Free-range women are always a better bet. My last relationship was with a woman I met, right after the pandemic took off, in Palisades Park — when I was wearing shorts! (These knobby, sixtysomething knees are the stuff of nightmares.) But how quaint is that? Together we were able to weather the pandemic in our own little bubble — though it burst once the world opened up. She was considerably younger, ready to lead a life of drama and renewed adventure, and I just needed a nap.
Though our timing was off, I miss her still.
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Then, I was back to square one — reading and writing all day, as I did before the plague and during the plague and will probably continue to do until the publishing industry sends me a cease-and-desist order.
That is, until I hit upon a new, successful technique for getting out there: I call it “Couples Dating.” No, not “double dating.” I mean me and a couple, out on a date. Just the three of us (though not to be confused with the tired, old ménage a trois.)
Here’s how it worked on a recent Saturday night. I asked out a couple I know from college, Sue and Jim, and offered to take them to Guido’s, my favorite old-school Italian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. They drove up from the South Bay on their own — so I never had to pick anyone up — and we were all glad to see each other.
The conversation flowed, as did the wine, and at no point was there any tension in the air, no wondering where the evening was going, how it would end, who might have an undisclosed sexually transmitted disease or insane ex-lover still stalking his prey. When we were done dining, I picked up the check, only nominally greater than if I’d taken out a single woman.
And back in the parking lot, we did that air-hugging thing. But who was Sue going home with? Her husband, of course! And who was I going home to? Watson the cat. (My neighbor travels so much the cat treats our adjoining units as one.)
I know that conventional wisdom says, ‘Don’t date your roommate.’ But this felt different.
I’ve done this any number of times — with my publishing mogul friends Paddy and Scott, theater impresarios Alan and Ronda, and my comedy writing pals Andy and Michele. And it always works like a charm.
Couples, it turns out, are bored to tears with each other, and especially so now that they’re emerging from a year-plus of shutdowns.
They’re desperate for new company, for someone who hasn’t heard their stories a million times, for someone who says, “Oh, that’s a great outfit on you.” (A compliment from a third party always carries extra weight.) All I have to do is call and invite them out, and nine times out of 10 they grab the invitation; suffice it to say, my batting average in the past, dating the traditional way, was nowhere near this good.
Plus, they love, love, love hearing my horror stories from the strange world of Singledom. The more off-putting the tales, the happier they are heading home.
Not a day goes by that I do not miss him or think about whether we might still someday have our chance.
“What? She ordered three desserts, just so she could take a bite of each one? And expected you to pay for it?”
“She made you read and buy a copy of her children’s book?” (In case you didn’t know, every unmarried woman in L.A. is writing a children’s book.)
“She actually asked you to inspect a fatty tumor she wanted removed?” (And, no, I’m not a doctor.)
The couples instantly appreciate each other all the more and thank their lucky stars they’re not out there in the vast wilderness trolling for love or simple human companionship. Frankly, I think I’ve stitched together more fraying marriages than all the marriage counselors in Los Angeles combined.
Now that I think of it, couples should pay me just to remind them of how good they’ve got it.
As I enter the original, in-person L.A. dating scene once again, I’m not going to just wait for my Saturday nights out on the town or dating apps.
What’s in it for me, you ask? True, there aren’t any passionate embraces or longing looks or steamy clinches (or if there are, I’m not involved). But when I turn down the covers at night (the housekeepers do such a great job, it feels like getting into a hotel bed) and pick up the remote — thank God for Turner Classic Movies — I am secure in the knowledge that I have seen some people I genuinely like, had a stress-free time and even did a good deed.
Nor have I entirely given up on romance. The enterprising real estate agent down the street, having given up on persuading me to sell my condo, is convinced she can broker a marriage for me with one or another of her single friends. (I wonder what the commission on that will be?)
And as for a warm, comforting presence in the bed right now, well, for that there is always Watson.
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.
It's a date
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