Would you rather be set up by an app, or by your mom?
My knee-jerk response to this type of question is undoubtedly “neither.” We all dream of having some awesome origin story when it comes to finding “the one” — running on the beach, locking eyes on a rooftop at sunset, blah blah blah. Being in Los Angeles, the birthplace of movie magic and perfectly scripted endings, also doesn’t help matters in the expectation department.
I have lived in Los Angeles for 10 years, before online dating was even a tiny blip on my radar. I know, I know, this ages me, which is arguably the worst offense for a 30-something woman in the City of Angels.
I’ve blown through all of the labels — very single, coupled up, permanently molded to my couch with my dog. In a greater sense, you could say my colorful decade of L.A. dating has largely reflected my colorful decade of L.A. living.
During my cocktail waitressing phase I dated a nearly pathological vegan with an unsettling commitment to Thelonious Monk. My “Malibu Period” consisted of a passionate relationship with my first real love, who mesmerized me in every way. He also had a trust fund-fueled aimlessness problem, a drug/rehab problem, a keeping-it-in-his-pants problem, and a general crushing-my-soul problem.
There have been tortured musicians and artists, sometimes talented, often times not. There was a teen heartthrob turned spiritual guru. There was an Australian scuba diver with an extremely questionable chest tattoo. There were many, many men with ungodly abs who ordered salads with no dressing or burgers with no buns on dinner dates (each time I smiled and nodded and listened to rants about the evils of pasta and the best moves for shapely glutes).
I slowly began to realize I was buying into the wrong L.A. dream and had spent far too long letting it become my reality. I was adjusting my own personality and happiness to fit with what I thought was the L.A. ideal — a spectrum of artsy, enigmatic, moody, childish bad boys. Before I knew it, L.A. had slowly warped my vision of what normal looked like, especially when it came to my bedroom.
He lives in the Valley and works in insurance? BORING.
He has short hair and wears polo shirts? Hard pass.
I had lost touch with the types of boys who had always captured my heart — the nerdy, quirky, funny guys who didn’t take themselves too seriously. How did I go from that to men who took themselves so seriously that they paid $300 for a ridiculous wide-brimmed hat and shuttered with fragile humiliation if you ever teased about it?
After my last and final stint with the aforementioned Soul Crusher, my mom came to town for a visit. As an L.A. native now nestled up in the mountains of Idaho, she still craves the ocean, the canyons, the soft light.
She mentioned that one of her friends was in town visiting her grown children, who coincidentally all lived on the Westside — and that we all had plans to grab a glass of wine. I begrudgingly agreed, with the “Yeah, whatever, fine, but I’m going on a run first then only staying for 10 minutes” attitude of the insufferable, recently heartbroken daughter.
As promised, I “popped in” looking a sweaty mess flaunting my best Scrooge scowl, which failed miserably at the lovely sight of my mother’s friend’s son.
He was tall and tan and boyishly cute with sandy blond hair and soulful, deep-set eyes that looked soft and sweet and sad all at once.
Alarmingly, he wore pleated khakis, a V-neck sweater and tortoise-rimmed glasses. He was an accountant without an ounce of creativity or recklessness in his body. He was a J.Crew-clad alien. But somehow, he made me feel at ease about my baseball cap and horrendous pit stains.
As my mom and I left, she coyly smiled and said, “I’m glad this worked out. You two seemed to get along well. Maybe you should get together sometime?” I realized then that this had been no accident. I had been duped, set up by my mom, in sweaty spandex no less.
Soon after, he called.
We made plans to brave the line for sandwiches from Bay Cities on our first no-pressure picnic date in Palisades Park. The initial jitters, awkward flubs and false starts led to easy banter.
Quickly, it became an endless summer in his Venice bungalow. He took me sailing — but as I got seasick the whole experience became about as pleasant as riding a roller coaster after three margaritas and a platter of tainted airport sushi. He held me and talked about Catalina and the technique behind different sail knots, and pointed out the dolphins playing at the bow, until I (almost) forgot how bad I felt.
During the holidays, he drove me deep into the canyons to a stretch of glittering mansions, all draped in lights. We pulled out a blanket, popped some Champagne, and laid out looking up at a life that someday would be ours.
For a few years, it was perfect, it was easy, it just fit. But then, after a time, it didn’t. Cracks started to show. Things weren’t so light and bright anymore.
“If I can’t do this with you, I can’t do this with anyone.”
“You deserve more than me.”
“Maybe this isn’t it."
The loss of love for no particular reason — no one cheats, no one breaks, nothing really fails — is a certain type of grief. A confusing, anxiety-laden fever dream, pressing on your chest.
He had and still has no social media accounts, so he was there and then he was gone, the only evidence of our relationship his things taking up all the emotional space in my apartment, and the trappings of our life in my head. Is it easier to heal without pouring salt in the digital wound? Probably.
After the smoke cleared, I still didn’t go the app route.
I find the reaction to this, more often than not, to be extremely polarizing and vehement (particularly, I think, because I’m a woman). Whenever I mention that I’m not on any dating apps and never have been, the said and unsaid sentiments are usually:
“Ugh, good for you. Don’t waste your time.”
“Get off your high horse. You’re too good for it?”
“It’s you’re fault for being single then. You clearly just aren’t trying hard enough.”
To which my reaction is usually — OK, maybe. It’s a personal choice devoid of judgment, motive, or any holier-than-thou feeling.
Maybe I’m missing out, but maybe not.
The author works in design and lives in Los Angeles.
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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