L.A. Affairs: It felt like a date — but was it?
I was 54 years old, divorced for 12 years and happily alone. I was always the third, fifth or seventh wheel, depending on the group I was getting together with, but it never bothered me. I desired the company of a man and had it from time to time. For the most part, it was nothing serious or worth pursuing.
This was fine. I was raising my boys. In all that time, there was only one man whom I developed feelings for and that was short-lived. He couldn’t commit, and because I had fallen for him, I needed commitment.
The people who care for us will always advise us. Whether we want them to is another story. I had friends suggest: “Let me create your Match.com profile. It only costs XYZ to sign up, but it’s so worth it. You just meet for lunch,” or “Why don’t you go to a bar, dress sexy and pretend you are waiting for a friend?” or “Color your hair and go gray after you find a boyfriend.”
Dating in small-town Colorado didn’t prepare me to look for love in L.A.
There were a few more ideas that were even scarier. Maybe it was insecurity on my part, but I refused all these suggestions to find a mate because I believed in letting it happen when it happened. Plus, I found them all to be exhausting and requiring too much work. Also, I feared rejection.
My response to my friends’ suggestions was: I wanted that special someone to come to my door — to appear magically! I don’t think I meant it literally. I just wanted it to happen organically. You begin to bump into him regularly, so you start to do your hair just in case. There’s small talk when you meet up, and flirting, so you wear your cutest outfit just for the likelihood of an encounter. Then you tell your co-worker about him — the one who overshares and tells you about her online dating adventures — because you know she’ll be supportive.
Then come the walks on your break — maybe to Little Tokyo or Grand Central Market — arms slightly touching, and there’s coffee at the corner of Second and Main streets a few days later, followed by the exchange of cellphone numbers. The first text you receive makes your heart burst. Then he picks you up for your first date, and you cannot help but smile as you see him get out of the car.
That’s how I imagined it.
In September 2020, I lost my mother to COVID-19 complications. She was a healthy 89-year-old and the greatest companion one could ask for. By January 2021, the reality of her death had settled in, bringing with it a constant emptiness in my heart. Around this time, I needed construction work done around my house. My brother suggested someone he knew — someone he had thought might be a potential match for me.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed my world especially my love life.
I made an appointment with Daniel. He arrived on a Tuesday morning, firmly knocking on my door. He arrived earlier than I had expected, so I asked him to wait because I was in a virtual work meeting. As he sat in the living room waiting, I sensed his calmness. We spoke for about two hours, sitting in my dining room. The first 15 minutes was about the work that I wanted him to do on the house, and the rest of the time we talked about us: our childhoods, kids, work and the things you share with those you like and want to get to know better.
A week later, he started the project. I was waiting for him in my cutest outfit, and my hair was perfect. We had small talk, lots of flirting during those first weeks, and plenty of homemade coffee.
On the third week, I needed to select materials and paint. Daniel offered to accompany me, and I happily accepted. As he picked me up to go to the Home Depot, it felt like a date, and I smiled as I saw him get out of his car. Later, as we weaved through the aisles of the store, I was very forward, which is not my usual style but always a good sign. I wanted to hear what he thought of me — what he wanted. Did the flirting mean anything? He shyly confessed that he liked me but was waiting to finish the job before asking me out.
After shopping, we got ice cream at the same drive-through I had visited countless times with my mom and children. Then we walked around one of my favorite streets in the neighborhood that is canopied with lush trees. Our first date!
The following weeks, on the days I went into the office, I missed him. I missed seeing Daniel in my home — fixing, building and standing in my yard with his calm demeanor. I eagerly drove back home each time through Elysian Park. I was in the mood for better scenery and I knew I was coming home to him.
When the world began to fall apart two years ago, they made a place for me. These are my people. I make better sense to myself when they are around.
One thing I recognized is that I liked that Daniel is a native of Colombia, just like my parents. Although this was never on my list of wants, it was one of the first things that drew me to him. There was a familiarity in his ways that moved me, giving me the feeling of belonging. It was the small things, like dipping cheese in our hot chocolate, or the everyday actions that conjured up memories of my parents’ relationship that assured me this was love.
We’re now married, and my sisters and I like to think that our mother sent him to me.
The author lives in Burbank with her husband, Daniel, and her sons and works for the city of Los Angeles.
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. You can find past columns here.
It's a date
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