My phone buzzed. The queen bee was interested, again. I’d been swiping on Bumble for a girl like her all year. Outgoing and social, like me. A runner, like me. An entertainment industry professional, like me. Mixed race, like me. Thirtysomething, like me. An undergrad institution like mine. Politics like mine.
A face to make the heart flutter — she was my queen bee. The first time we matched, she flitted away without initiating conversation. This time the queen bee was ready to talk.
The year had been an experiment in dating. I’d set a goal for myself: Find a meaningful relationship by my 37th birthday. And I was going to do it by testing two theories. The first was the Can’t-Force-It Theory of dating. Second was the Numbers-Game Theory of dating. See, my brother believes it’s statistically impossible to go on 100 dates without finding someone you like who likes you back.
So my plan was to force Cupid’s hand through romantic blitzkrieg — as many as seven dates a week, stacked three to a Saturday. My life became an ’80s action-movie training montage. Up and dressed by 9 a.m. Out the door for a 10 a.m. coffee. Reread her profile and texts while waiting for her to arrive. Gone again for a 2 p.m. coffee date. Home and changed in time for a 7 p.m. dinner date. Rinse and repeat.
I don’t know exactly how many women it came out to but certainly a few dozen and a multiple of that in second, third, fourth and fifth dates.
Through the onrush of pixelated infatuations, streams of texts, night calls with strangers, coffees at Verve, dinners at Ostrich Farm, movies at L.A. Live, laps on the 10 Freeway from the Arts District to Abbott Kinney; through all the made-up faces and sundry personalities, stilted or flirty chatter, the flakes, the hookups, the ghosts, the politely declined second dates and the bruising rejections, the queen bee stung my guarded hope most deeply.
My birthday came and went.
I deleted the apps in defeat only to pick myself up, dust myself off and get back on the horse a few months later.
And somehow, out of the multitudes of L.A. lonely hearts, I found her profile again.
There she was, smiling up from the screen. Her, frozen in exuberant celebration of a race finished. Her, decked head to toe in school spirit at her alma mater. Her, that one-in-a-million woman who held out the promise of uniting the disparate areas of my life like a missing puzzle piece. I imagined us tackling the days together and supporting each other through the daily grind, then spending our evenings in fun and easy conversation. Perhaps after work we’d go for a run and catch up with friends at a bar, or we’d dress to kill for a black-tie business affair, her in a slinky black dress, me in a three-piece tailored suit. We would love each other through the hours and days of our complicated lives.
The algorithm must have thought I was onto something because it matched the queen bee and me again.
“So when are we going to Sweden?” That was her opening line. She teasingly invited herself along on my dream vacation, something she had figured out by scrolling through my dating profile.
“Tonight,” I volleyed back. “Grab your passport and let’s go. What are we karaokeing on our way to the airport?”
“Cool, I call the armrest. Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody.’”
Then she was gone again.
For three weeks I told myself she was busy and forgot to check her app. Bright hope faded to black rejection. My friends listened with the patience of saints as I kvetched about the great girl who slipped through my fingers. Silly, I know.
It was December by now. My dating experiment was long over. Cupid, I’d learned, can’t be carpet-bombed into submission.
But every so often, after crushing your sense of control over your romantic destiny, he offers a solacing gift.
My gift arrived on a chilly Friday night at a bar on Melrose decked out in Christmas trees, lights and cheer. I stood by the bar, catching up with a buddy as a large group entered.
Of all the places we could be in L.A. at this very moment, the queen bee was walking my way. Her face jumped out at me instantly. There just aren’t that many mixed-race people our age, and our features are distinctive (And, I’m a little ashamed to admit, I recognized a friend she was with from one of her public Facebook pictures).
Cupid had taken his time, but all was about to be forgiven. My heart mainlined a gallon of adrenaline, my body went taut and coiled like a jungle cat. I pounced.
She and her friends were taken aback. My normally easygoing style was halting, jagged, as I stepped into her path.
“Do you recognize me?”
“Not even a little?”
“We matched on Bumble twice.”
How silly it sounded, how meaningless a connection to the stranger in front of me. But I’d looked at her picture so many times that I would have known her, instantly, anywhere.
“I deleted all the apps. I don’t like them,” she shrugged and flitted off to join the rest of her group.
I saw two paths leading away from this moment. Only one led to the queen bee. Soon enough most of her friends got up to grab another round in the warmth of the bar. I mustered all my courage, shut down my doubting mind, and strode across what felt like an eternally vast and empty patio lit in the dim twinkle of Christmas lights.
“Hi again. Just wanted to reintroduce myself. I know I was a little intense. I’m actually a normal person.”
She mumbled a vaguely friendly, hesitant response and fidgeted a little in her seat. Her friend cut in.
“I’m so sorry but we’re kind of in the middle of a serious conversation. I haven’t seen her in a while, and she’s helping me through some relationship stuff.”
Thanks for nothing, Cupid.
As the night came to a close, she averted her eyes as she hustled past me into the darkness of Los Angeles. I let her go. These things can’t be forced, online or in person. I’m welcoming the new year with the peace and clarity of mind that comes from surrendering to my romantic destiny.
Love is an act of freedom that cannot be willed into being.
The author lives in East Hollywood and is a senior analyst at the Writers Guild of America West. He is on Medium @garrettandrewschneider and Twitter @g_a_schneider.
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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