I’m honest enough to admit that I’ve had a few dates where one or both of us wanted to flee the jurisdiction as soon as it was over. This was the first one where I went in knowing that would happen.
Her profile said she just wanted some company while she was in town for a consulting gig. Our first text exchanges had an ease that came with knowing that, no matter how things went, she’d head back to Philadelphia in two weeks.
In the meantime, we could have some fun. All I had to do was not be the kind of idiot who expects a woman to move 3,000 miles for a guy she just met.
Her ignorance of local geography also worked in our favor. I became aware of this when I arrived at UCB Sunset for our first date. A text informed me that she’d decided to get a drink at a bar “around the corner.” I walked around the corner. Then another. After two more corners I realized “around the corner” meant six blocks away.
I’ll admit to finding this frustrating at the time but, in retrospect, going on an online date where the party selecting the location had not cased the joint to an “Ocean’s”-heist degree was highly refreshing.
Prior to this, I had been on a date with a woman who selected a Thai place in a Chatsworth strip mall because, as she told me when the waiter brought our order, it was across the street from the apartment where she was babysitting her niece.
“Are her parents home already, or are you headed over there after this?” I asked, wondering if this was a new bad-date escape excuse for me to file. She waved this off with a phrase that now comes to mind whenever I see papaya salad. “Nah, I just told her that I’d be a couple of hours and that’s, like, four ‘SpongeBobs.’ ”
Philadelphia and I got to the show late, but we were both going a bit out of our way for each other, which seemed like a good sign. Also a plus: Neither one of us was endangering the welfare of a child.
Of course, for me, the big test is when someone learns I live in Van Nuys. I’d grown up on the East Coast and knew that, for her, a 15-mile trip would seem routine. Such journeys are also routine in Los Angeles, but in the way Mad Max might find a jaunt from Gastown to the Bullet Farm routine. I was hoping to ease her into this before our next date, but events have a way of mocking our hubris.
That weekend, temperatures moved into apocalyptic territory. I got a series of all-caps texts from an under-ventilated Airbnb in Culver City, which were all some variation of “TOO HOT!!!!!”
This really should have been my moment. I have a condo. It has central air. Schlepping out to my land of (slightly more) affordable real estate wouldn’t seem so daunting with a little climate control at the end of it. It was perfect.
Except, my AC was broken.
“The complex has a pool though,” I told her.
“That’ll do,” came her text.
I am aware, of course, that if she had only wanted to take a swim, she might, perhaps, have considered a well-known body of water that is both more impressive than my shared pool and much closer to her location. Here I benefited both from the perks of dating an out-of-towner and my capacity for obfuscations like, “I’m just a straight shot up the 405 from you.”
The much bigger geographical challenge, the one that had seemed like a benefit, became more apparent. We were only on the third date before I observed: “This is really nice. I think we’re in trouble.”
She sputtered out a laugh. “Oh, we’re definitely in trouble.”
We didn’t exchange any more words on the matter for 10 days. Right up until we found ourselves hugging goodbye before she left for the airport. That was supposed to be the end of it. We had fun, but this was the grown-up thing.
Of course, there were grown-up reasons a person might swap coasts. We kept texting and, as the Philadelphia winter set in, I began talking about the weather more than I ever had before in my life. On both hands, you could count the number of times I’d been to the beach in the 15 years since I’d moved to California. The possibility of going now became part of daily conversation.
Sometimes, I played to her Philly interests, sending pictures of a Tastykake display at the Ralphs. Anything could be fodder for my selling of life in Los Angeles, which is how I ended up casually mentioning a sighting of the host of “Bar Rescue” at the W Hotel, to my eternal shame.
Five months after we said our goodbyes, I was chauffeuring her to tours of one-bedroom apartments in West Hollywood, Los Feliz and Silver Lake. Unfashionable neighborhoods were not considered. Dating me was a plus, sure, but the choice to move was all about L.A. She wasn’t choosing me so much as better weather and access to cool bars. I was fine with that.
The following year, when she moved in with me in Van Nuys, that was love.
The author is a writer living in Van Nuys. He is on Twitter @OwenCroak.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene 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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