Finding an exotic local in L.A.

Finding an exotic local in L.A.
(Illustration by Sarah Wilkins / For The Times)

"Great news! This amazing guy's wife just left him," Sarah chirped one January morning. She was calling from her Hollywood office, where she and Amazing Guy were writers on the same TV show. "I'm gonna give him a few months to be sad, then I'm introducing you to your husband, in, let's say … May."

"Sounds great," I quipped. And it did: I was 37, never married and living in a city full of leggy 20-year-old singer/actress/model types who, mysteriously, seemed delighted to scoop up men who were 20 years their senior. In other words … my men. And I was starting to get asked out by men in their 50s and 60s, who somehow seemed to think we were in the same dating pool. So a 43-year-old grown-up with a job who knew how to commit to a woman his own age … in Los Angeles? That was a find.


Armed with the news that I might meet my future husband in May, I promptly made plans to meet my Same-Time-Next-Year Argentine lover in Cartagena, Colombia, in April.

I did this because I had learned after several years of dating in Los Angeles that these things don't usually work out. As a working sitcom writer, I was going out fairly regularly with unemployed, unhappy men who wanted me to read their spec scripts.

The city and its men were wearing on me, so a decade earlier I'd started running away from home for a few weeks a year, to far-flung cities where the men were less exhausting. I found it was as easy to fall in love abroad as it was impossible in Los Angeles. The lack of a common language helped tremendously — who knew if the men were boring or unfunny or unemployed or vaguely racist? I could just fall madly in amore or amor or even liebe with a local for a few days or weeks and then jet on home before they asked me to come to their open-mike night.

My first trip alone was at 31, when I got an apartment in Argentina and met Juan, who became my most important vacation romance. We'd been getting together every couple of years ever since, but this visit was going to be different. After Colombia, he was taking me home, and I was spending a month with him, going to friends' weddings and spending Semana Santa (Holy Week) with his family. We were really trying each other on this time.

Maybe I was supposed to leave L.A. and be a calm, quiet señora del campo and have Spanish-speaking babies who say "Hola mami!" every morning over medialunas.

But a real-life month at home in Buenos Aires with Juan made me miss the speed and weirdness of my life and people in California. I couldn't banter in Spanish. Juan couldn't banter in English. My Internet password is my cat's name. His is the name of his favorite saint. Say what you will about the adult children that populate Los Angeles, they are open-minded weirdos and adventurers, and I love them.

I came to realize that I had been just another one of those adult children, afraid to grow up and pick someone who could legally reside in my country. So I came home from Argentina and called up that friend with the Amazing Guy. Sarah brought him to the 326 Bar in the middle of the Original Farmers Market, half a mile from my house, and introduced me to my future husband.

He had dreamy curls, a leading-man smile and a sweet, optimistic heart still beating after a divorce that had almost broken it. He was a TV writer, but a working one. He was creative, but not depressive. Hollywood made him happy, but he was about to go climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. He was a grown-up and had kids, which, for the first time, didn't scare me. Our conversation zipped around the room like a hummingbird. And I didn't run away.

We bought a house last August, and I packed up all of my foreign souvenirs and love letters and said goodbye to the baristas at Kings Road Cafe who taught me how to have Sunday breakfasts alone, and then I moved with my cute boy and his two cute sons into a Victorian in Santa Monica that the neighborhood kids call the Cinderella House. We got married in Santa Ynez last month, a week before I published a book about my international single adventures. And then I took my incredibly supportive new husband on a book tour instead of a honeymoon. He dubbed it "our honeymoon junket."

Sometimes L.A. can surprise you. Just like my trips away made it clear that Los Angeles was my home, those single years with the foreign men made it clear that a Cinderella house in Santa Monica filled with noisy boys is my home as well. You can find an exotic local in Los Angeles — even if that's the last place you look.

Kristin Newman is the author of "What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding."

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