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The 15 words that brought them together

The 15 words that brought them together
(Dan Zalkus, For the Los Angeles Times)

Before Internet dating and after phone numbers on public bathroom walls (just kidding), there were personal ads in newspapers. It was 1999, and my best girlfriend bet me that I could meet the love of my life with a personal ad in LA Weekly.

I said no.

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At this point, three years single, I didn't trust myself to choose a man, let alone trust that some great guy would randomly pick up the newspaper and find my ad.

She hounded me for a week, because she secretly wanted to be found by Mr. Classifieds, I mean Mr. Right, herself. But she would never do it alone, so after she offered to clean my apartment and do my wash, I gave in, and we did it. That same day, over bagels and coffee, I wrote her future husband's want ad on a napkin.

But me? For days I stressed over what to write. I wanted to be me, not some walk-on-the-beach sap, although that's exactly why I loved L.A. — walking on the beach. It was time to meet someone reliable, kind and grown-up, someone with health insurance. But he would have to be funny, cute and, more important, happy upon arrival. I had tried to fix or change too many depressed, egomaniacal men and was finally ready for an equal … and it wouldn't hurt if he was cute.

I made a list of my attributes:

Red Hair ... Blue Eyes ... Smart ... Funny ... Fit ... BORING!

Arrgh! I turned on the television and there was Larry King interviewing Jessica Lange. He asked her about the movie "The Postman Always Rings Twice" with Jack Nicholson, and she answered, "I love Jack, he called me part Bambi, part Buick. I guess because of my strengths and vulnerabilities."

Done. I had the title for my personal ad.

It described me perfectly; tough as hell sometimes and soft as an egg yolk, others. I wanted someone to get this about me, to cheer on my strong, big-mouthed side while snuggling and protecting the feminine and, often, scaredy-cat me.

I moved on to content, toying with an actual recipe for love. A cup of laughter, whisk together with a dash of joy, add just a pinch of sarcasm and a sprinkle of wit — you get the idea. Yuck. Who would answer that? Maybe Mario Batali.

I finally settled on these 15 words:

Part Bambi – Part Buick

Loves Scorsese, sushi, yoga. You be happy. Sing in the shower.

Two men answered.

The first was a smart, funny, self-involved, my-just-the-wrong-type, who kept me on the phone for an hour talking only about him. I hung up and had a drink. The next message was a nice voice, saying something about his name was Virgblrrr and he'd like to talk, please call. I was nervous when I called him back, but he sounded, as I said, nice. My girlfriend, who owned a small restaurant on Fairfax Avenue, call-interrupted. I shrieked about who was on the other line, "He seems normal — what should I do?" "Tell him to come tomorrow night to the restaurant and I'll be there and you'll meet." I hung up on her, told him exactly what she told me, and that I had bright red hair. Then I hung up on him. The phone rang again. "Could you tell me your last name?" I did. "Italian. Intriguing," he said. I kid you not.

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I sat in a booth with my girlfriend for an hour. I had no idea what he looked like, no texting or messaging, no emailing or sexting. There were guys at the bar, but they couldn't be him because I said I had bright red hair and he would've found me, right? Not so. He was drinking shots and feeling stood up.

My girlfriend liked his smile, felt the vibe that he was the one, and asked him outright if he was meeting a redhead. He said yes and that it was too dark to see hair color. Really?

She disappeared, he was drunk and adorable, and I went in the kitchen and made him a sausage sandwich. He says with mustard. I don't remember. We talked about nothing, giggled at everything and before I knew it, I was making out with him in his '72 dark cherry Mercedes like it was high school and we were at lookout point.

I found out later he'd never seen a Scorsese movie, didn't like sushi and yoga was not for him, but he loved cars and soft furry animals … and redheads.

We've been through it all since then: deaths and illness, a gorgeous beach wedding, many pets and tons of laughs. He's introverted — I'm not. I'm right-brained emotional — he's left-brained technical. He believes in God — I don't. We are nothing alike, except for our mutual devotion to New York pizza and Los Angeles tacos and, yet, by magic and newsprint — we found true love.

Giovannitti is a licensed esthetician in Los Angeles (www.ninaface.com) and blogs at www.bewitnessed.net.

L.A. Affairs chronicles dating and romance in contemporary Southern California. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments or a true story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

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