I’d sketched out my move back to Australia. It was going to take me six months to end my lease, get my dogs their travel shots and sell all my furniture. Even though I had grown to love Los Angeles over the years, it seemed like moving back was the only logical decision after the end of my engagement. I was terrified of being single, in Hollywood, for the first time, in my early 30s, while all my friends had long since been married and were having kids.
The breakup was still fresh but the grieving had started much earlier, when my ex and I realized that despite having a great friendship, we couldn’t agree on some really important life decisions.
I had decided there was no way I was going to spend the last few months of my time in Los Angeles swiping a screen and meeting strangers. I was going to do me. Free of the responsibility to accommodate a partner, my evenings and weekends were mine to catch up on CW shows, read books (really exciting, I know), soak in the bath, take online courses and dance classes, visit the Harry Potter world at Universal Studios and get in some weekend getaways and daytime margaritas with friends.
The pressure was off. My immediate future was sorted out, and I was certain I had a better chance of meeting a family-minded man back home in Melbourne than in L.A. — if I was going to meet one at all. Besides, I was more interested in a relationship unfolding organically than playing a game of show and tell to see if I fit the other person’s preconceived checklist.
Embracing my newfound freedom at a friend’s Fourth of July BBQ, I spun around from the food table with my mouth full of corn chips and peered up into two dark blue eyes. He said he liked my navy blue dress with stars on it. My first thought was “Wow, tall.” My second was, “OMG he’s flirting with me and I’ve forgotten how to do this.” So I ran away.
You see, the dating system in L.A. scared me. I’d never even been on a dating app. Later that evening, after more conversation, more wine and a feeling of undeniable chemistry, I defensively explained that I didn’t date. I relented and gave him my phone number.
A few days later, Robert picked me up for dinner.
The rebel in me wore a T-shirt and jeans out of protest, and I noted that he was a little taken aback. Despite this, he behaved like an old-fashioned gentleman by opening the car door for me and treating me to a candlelit dinner. He was the opposite of every boyfriend I’d had, in looks and demeanor.
Had we been set up online we may have approached each other differently and perhaps wouldn’t have progressed beyond the first date.
Instead, I admitted upfront that I was feeling a little out of my depth and would be more comfortable with less romantic pressure and more casual conversation. It wasn’t long before I caught on to the fact that he was smart, as in eligible-for-medical-school smart. I enjoy asking questions and learning about new topics, so our compatibility in this area allowed the conversation to flow effortlessly.
With truly no expectations and nothing to lose, I decided to be brutally honest. I voiced my aversion to multi-dating and explained that if someone were truly interested in me, and vice versa, we deserved each other’s full attention, free from the distractions of other options. This way we’d give each other a proper chance.
Even though it was our first date, I also told him I wanted to have a family in the near future... while traveling to exotic places and working for myself.
I expected him to laugh and walk out of the restaurant. But he didn’t, and a couple of weeks later he called me and said he couldn’t stop thinking about me. And that he wanted all the same things I did.
He also said he was deleting all of his online dating profiles.
At first I didn’t see it, and then it hit me all at once: Underneath his guarded exterior and hipster attire was an adventurous old soul and well-mannered family man.
I’m still in disbelief that I met my Prince Charming in Hollywood. He even bought me a necklace with stars on it to match the dress I was wearing when he first saw me. The stars also remind me of my beloved second home, America.
I’ve since moved back to Melbourne — and I brought my Prince Charming with me. (As a musician, he can work anywhere, and the live music scene is thriving in Australia.) We’ve now been together two years, and last week he proposed. I said yes.
The lesson I learned about dating in L.A. is this: The more you share your truth, the more likely you are to attract the right fit.
The author is an actress (“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee”) and creator of The Self Renewal Journal. She is on Instagram @becasha.
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.
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