Since my husband, Peter, died three long years ago I have had only a handful of dates.
There was the online service I used that ripped me off with four of the worst dates imaginable. One man even lived out of his car, I kid you not. The first dude lied about his age, lied about his political leanings and thought separate checks at the Upper West restaurant on Pico was a grand idea.
The second man dressed in clothes that looked like they came straight from the 1970s. They smelled stale and musty, like they were just purchased from the local thrift shop and never washed. Worse, the off-putting smells collided in a frenzy in my nostrils as I was trying to enjoy our meal together at Bel Campo in Santa Monica. The third guy kept boasting about his wealth, ordered two glasses of wine (I wasn’t drinking) and two desserts for himself (I’d passed) at Toscana in Century City — and then wanted to split the bill down the middle.
The final guy was the capper. He literally lived out of his car on the streets of Koreatown. He told me his favorite things were chewing Nicorette gum while lying in bed, while also betting on the horses on an app on his iPhone. We were at Caulfield’s Bar & Dining Room in Beverly Hills and, believe it or not, he was the only one who paid for my meal.
Goodbye, dumpster-diving dating service.
Later, I was fixed up with a guy who was pretty good-looking but had bad breath and not a lot of Benjamins. He had been divorced for many years, was about my age, was attractive, but it was like dating Oscar the Grouch. On the cranky meter, he was a 9.5. We did have a lot in common. We both liked exploring museums, particularly MOCA downtown, the Getty and LACMA. We also liked to listen to jazz, which we did at a few summer concerts. We both enjoyed dining well and loved eating at Redbird in downtown L.A. and Forma in Santa Monica, where we had the cacio e pepe pasta finished off in a wheel of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, but I knew the meals were stretching his budget.
In hindsight, I probably could have fixed the breath, but the grumpiness and the money issues were stumbling blocks that I couldn’t find a way to hurdle.
One friend suggested that I meet a widower who was supposedly “about my height.” Now, I used to model at 5 feet, 9 inches. Give a little for the shrinkage factor, but I am still pretty willowy and tall. Well, this guy made Danny DeVito look like Shaq. I could literally look down at the top of his head. I must remember to give my friend the name of my eye doctor.
I was also set up with a man who was four years younger and quite attractive, although he did pick me up in a car that dated back to the ’60s. It was very hot that day. When I asked about getting some air conditioning going, he told me to lower the hand crank on the window. We went to the California Science Center to see the King Tut exhibit, which was a good start, but after it felt like an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” when he dropped me off without even buying me a beverage. Not a cup of coffee. Not even a glass of water. I can practically hear Larry David screaming, “You have to have a beverage on a date!”
A few months ago, a friend fixed me up with a widower. He was tall, generous, very nice and of my political affiliation. It all checked out on paper, especially the widower part. He got my feelings instantly. He understood what it was like to date again after an epic love. We went out several times — to local hangouts in Beverly Hills like Via Alloro, South Beverly Grill and Piccolo Paradiso — but I just didn’t have a glimmer of a spark.
I was married to such a handsome man — and he was funny too — that I still swoon when I think of him entering a room. He was my soul mate until he had a heart attack and died in my arms during a trip to Vail.
After living with such an amazing partner for over 47 years — starting in Manhattan where we were married and then moving to a house in the Beverly Hills area where we raised our son — I found myself uttering the word “settle,” and not in a good way.
I was definitely compatible with the widower. Our lifestyle choices and values were in alignment. But where was the stomach churning or the flip-flops of my heart? Where was the chemistry?
To put it simply, I tried but couldn’t conjure the passion that I had once sadly taken for granted. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in being thunderstruck by a bolt of love. Peter walked into my life and I was transformed into a lovesick teenager. We met by chance on the streets of New York City and married four months later. I really believe that if the spark isn’t there, you can’t manufacture the fireworks.
You probably think my expectations are off the charts. I want attractive, smart, well-off and lacking in bad-breath syndrome (I have a keen sense of smell, which can be a curse in the dating world). My future mate must also be like me politically. I hope anyone I date likes rom-coms and British television since I binge on Acorn TV, which is British and Australian non-stop. Since I come from a theatrical background, I would like a companion who would enjoy going to live theater. I love the museums in Los Angeles, and I insist that a future partner would love good eats and good vino too.
Tall order? You got it.
But I would certainly settle for just some of these attributes (although the breath thing is a no-no) if I could find just a trace of a spark.
The author lives in Los Angeles and wrote a book about life after the loss of her husband, “The Joke’s Over, You Can Come Back Now.” Her website is lauriegrad.com.
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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