What a twenty-something serial dater in L.A. has in common with Taylor Swift

What a twenty-something serial dater in L.A. has in common with Taylor Swift
(Johanna Goodman / For The Times)

To say that millennials have difficulty committing — to jobs, to relationships, even to a full-length book — is nothing new. There's a slew of twentysomethings out there who desire a vague, amorphous, "chill" relationship with zero strings, liaisons that can end with nothing more than a semi-apologetic text.

Taylor Swift seems to understand that some of us long for something more: "I go on too many dates," she sings. "But I can't make them stay."


My serial dating began a few years ago when I was living in Portland and decided to join OkCupid. It was, to say the least, fantastic — mind-blowing, even. I started dating hotter and hotter guys, met interesting people and felt incredibly independent and sexy.

But that was then. Now, post-college and living in L.A., the novelty of dating new people is starting to wear off. I just want one of them to stay, but I've been here six months and the results of my quest for a boyfriend have been abysmal at best.

During my first weekend in Los Angeles, I was idly swiping through Tinder "about me's" that were full of inspirational emojis and height/weight details. I managed to find one fairly interesting-looking guy who didn't talk about being over 6 feet tall, and I agreed — spontaneously — to meet him downtown. (My Uber driver refused to let me out of the car until my date was in sight because apparently downtown is full of potential rapists eagerly awaiting naive Portland girls whose Uber drivers are less protective than mine.)

My "date" was short and stocky, details that had not been apparent from his photos. But I decided to go for it. He brought me to La Costeña, a bar on Main Street with loud salsa music. I loved the atmosphere, but things went downhill quickly. He turned out to be what I have since come to know as a certain L.A. "type": a rich, white "artist." He spoke loudly and condescendingly to the bartender, who didn't speak English very well, and then decided we would switch locations, moving us to a nearby, rather inconspicuous bar, where he made inappropriate jokes with guys selling marijuana candies.

I ended up hiding in a corner, FaceTiming a Portland friend and ignoring my "date's" calls. He was drunk and ended up getting kicked out. I was depressed and ended up taking an Uber home. And yet he seemed completely taken with me, texting and calling, over and over. After a week of subtle hinting, I texted him saying, "Sorry, I don't want to see you again." He responded like a brat.

That was L.A. date No. 1. Some time later, I got a text from another guy I encountered on Tinder, a wildly attractive 23-year-old. I drove to meet him in Santa Monica and spent a solid 30 minutes completely taken with him. Then the attraction started a slow fade. For reasons that are entirely unclear to me, we continued to see each other sporadically, meeting in odd locations. Sometimes I would run into him and his equally attractive friends at art shows; his greetings were always cursory.

Then I met Andrew (through real-life mutual friends — something I had never expected to happen to me again in a post-Tinder world). He had recently moved to Inglewood from Denver to attend art school and was tall and handsome; I liked him immediately. After a few months of friendship, we ran into each other at a party in Koreatown and slipped into a period of romantic bliss. We spent every weekend the same way: We'd go to parties all over central L.A., go back to my apartment, talk until 3 or 4 a.m., sleep until noon, grab burritos with my roommate at Al & Bea's in East L.A., watch a few hours of TV, shower and then repeat — until Sunday afternoon, when he would go home for the week.

At first I kept my distance — emotionally. We never talked about any rules or parameters for what we were doing and kept things intimate yet casual. But as he revealed more and more secrets, stories and glimpses into his person and past, I started to fall. And as I fell, I grasped desperately at him, trying to ensure that we were falling together and at the same speed. I was nervous and scared, possessive, clingy and desperate. I continued to fall, deeper and deeper — until he was completely out of sight.

It ended with this text:

"I feel like this is getting a little serious for you? Because I don't want that ... I just moved here ... I want a friend not a girlfriend."

I felt the weight of every guy, every vague text, every unanswered call, every excuse. This time, though, I knew it wasn't because I was fearful of making a commitment. It was because of that same, difficult to grasp quality that Taylor Swift sang about: I just don't know how to make them stay.

Elaina Ransford is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.


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