Mr. Right goes wrong with 'The List'

Mr. Right goes wrong with 'The List'
(Johanna Goodman, For the Los Angeles Times)

I don't remember his name. It was something simple, like Paul or Mike. I'll call him Pike. I'd moved from Virginia to Los Angeles for graduate school, where I assumed most male students would be ripped blond surfer boys. When I met Pike in the music library, he was about as un-surfer as you get — thin, dark-haired, wearing an oxford shirt, khakis and deck shoes. But he reminded me of the East Coast, of home. He asked me out and I said yes.

The first bump: He didn't have a car. Or a driver's license. Pike grew up in New York City. "We don't need to drive," he told me. I nodded but wondered how Pike would survive in Los Angeles.

We got together at an Israeli restaurant in Westwood, and he talked about his favorite econ professor and how he'd picked UCLA to get away from freezing New York winters. I told him about my MFA screenwriting program and how stressful it was reading scenes out loud in class and being critiqued. I joked about my roommate dramas — why did we always run out of toilet paper, and thank goodness our stoner roommate was generous with his stash.

For a first date, this was going well. Until we hit the second bump: After dinner, when I offered to split the check, he agreed quickly. Too quickly. Of course, I would have been happy to pay my share, but he had asked me out, and I was the one driving, so I expected at least a token protest on his part.


But he was smart, funny, cute. Serious potential. We — well, I — drove back to his apartment in Santa Monica, and he asked if I wanted to come upstairs.

He lived alone in a small one-bedroom. It was neat, but not neat enough to worry about obsessive-compulsive disorder. We sat on his lumpy sofa, had beers and talked baseball. He preferred the Mets to the Yankees. I was loyal to my father's hometown team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. "Maybe we could go to a Dodger game some time," Pike said.

I relaxed and smoked a cigarette on his balcony. So what if he didn't drive or pay for my dinner. Pike had a lot of things going for him. Plus he wore deck shoes, not like my last date, who showed up in Birkenstocks. I imagined myself with Pike at Dodger Stadium, eating Dodger Dogs and yelling, "Go, Blue!" Maybe I could persuade him to take driving lessons. Or teach him myself. That might be fun.

When it got late, he walked me to my car. He hesitated, and I assumed he was preparing for a kiss. Instead he reached into his pocket and took out a piece of paper.

"I made a list of the things you'll have to do if you want to keep going out with me," he said.

He looked down and read. "Number one: No smoking. I won't date a smoker."

He'd made a list.

"Number two: You talked about your roommates. A lot. I'm not interested in them."

He made a list.

"Number three: You're neurotic. Being nervous about people criticizing screenplays? So what? You need to get a handle on that."

He gave me the list. "There are a couple more on here, you can look at them later."

He smiled. "So, do you have a list for me?"

When did he do all of this? While I was driving to his apartment, did he pretend to look out the window while scribbling notes? Back at his place, did he race to the bathroom to write everything down?

"I don't like lists," I said, shoving the paper into his hand. "Or people who make them."

He looked surprised, and yet he still moved in for the kiss.

I stepped back. "No," I said, and I got into my car.

Was I the only girl to get a list? Or was this how Pike approached every date? Did other women, when handed a list, say to Pike, "Wow, thanks. I've been hoping someone would point out my flaws"?

What was he thinking? That women would be flattered that he'd taken the time to itemize their insecurities? How many women were impressed by his lists? Or just kicked him in a very special place?

I wish I'd kept mine. The list would have made the perfect punctuation to a cocktail party story. "And here's the actual list," I would say, pulling it out with a flourish and waving it in front of my amazed friends.

I haven't smoked in years, and I don't have roommates, unless you count a husband and children. The neurotic thing — it's a work in progress.

But sometimes I wonder, what were the other things on the list?

Ann Lewis Hamilton is a writer for TV and film whose first novel, "Expecting," will be published next summer.

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