I always get to the bar 10 minutes before a date so I can buy my own drink. But S. was already waiting for me.
"I can't believe it!" I said, "we're both early to a date in L.A."
"It's because I respect you," he said, and smiled shyly.
I had high hopes for this one. Santa Monica lawyer, Midwestern roots, nerdy but cute. When our drinks arrived they were like flavor poems contained in a glass. But round after round of small-talk fell flat and I slowly deflated in my seat into silence. He looked stricken and confused, and impulsively I leaned into his shoulder. With our side bodies touching I could feel his heart beating hard. And a fancy entered into my head that the conversation was so stilted because he liked me too much! I had made a Stanford man tongue-tied. Surely if we removed ourselves to a less stressful situation things could unfurl.
"Let's go back to your place," I said, "but I want to be clear. We're not having sex. I just want to go somewhere where we can relax more. Can you respect that?"
On the ride over, he talked about how terrible it is to date in Los Angeles. How, in any other city, he'd be married by now. And he really wants to be married because he really wants to buy a house. Not that he couldn't buy a house on his own. But he's worried that if he did, his new wife might not like it and then they would have to sell the house and it would be a hassle. We pulled up at an antiseptic bachelor's pad. He apologized for the ironing board being out. "I didn't think you'd come back with me." The bathroom door stuck in the doorframe. "I should have replaced it, but I never thought I'd be here for more than a year." It had been six.
As I looked around, I thought that maybe we could bond a little bit over food. I have my own catering company, and I noticed that he had a fancy flour mill, a Hobart mixer and the six-volume “Modernist Cuisine” by Nathan Myhrvold. But it became clear they were more for show. When I opened his fridge, it was full of neat rows of protein shakes, one shelf for chocolate, another for vanilla.
"I swiped right on you because of the cute owl, you know," I said, trying to inject a little levity. His profile picture was taken in one of those owl cafes in Tokyo, where you can take a picture of an owl on your arm. "Why did you swipe right on me?"
"Well," he answered in all earnestness, "You went to a good school. This means you're smart. And you have a job. I've lowered my standards a lot. I'm not asking for more than that. But can't be with someone who doesn't have a job." He told me that over the summer he dated a doctor's daughter who’d never had to work. She loved him, but he ended it because she didn't have anything going on in her life. "She didn't even have hobbies. Even if she did something I didn't care about, like yoga. It would have been something. She'll be alright though. She's a pretty girl."
We cuddled awkwardly, like if you tried to disentangle two pretzels and remake them again into one big pretzel. "Do you want to take any of our clothes off?" he asked. I told him no, reminding of what I said at the bar. "I respect that. It's not that I don't. It's just that when a girl comes home with me from a bar we'd usually have sex. And I don't know what to do now, since that's not what we're doing." I said I hope he wasn't disappointed. He replied, no. It's nice, he added, since it's not very often that he gets to touch a lady. "Usually you just buy them a drink and … nothing."
I extricated myself and called a Lyft. "Sorry … I just don't think we have much in common."
"It's OK … at least I got to touch you."
"Uh … in the future make sure you don't do it like that without asking, OK.?"
"Oh … I'm sorry. It was that bad, wasn't it?"
"I mean, just for future reference. And, uh, I'm sure you'll get married soon."
"Ha ha," he said hollowly, as I scampered out of his apartment at the speed of light.
I imagine him after I left, finishing his ironing after yet another disappointment. He's used to them by now, of course. But he can't help but wonder, what is wrong with all the girls in L.A.?
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
MORE L.A. LOVE STORIES …