It was the start of summer, and I was finally, officially done with a bad relationship that had run its course. I found myself at Grand Park, took my shoes off and danced in the middle of the water fountain. Tourists took photos. Professionals in designer suits stared. I didn’t care. This was my moment.
Afterward, I walked several blocks down to my tattoo artist’s shop and acquired fresh ink (a small torch with the Harry Potter quote “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light”) from a darling friend at Little Annie Motel Tattoo Parlor. While sitting there getting blasted by a needle and colorful ink, I told her my story and began plans for a new future.
I downloaded Tinder, joining the hordes of Angelenos looking for true love in all the wrong places. In one week I had more matches than I had time to speak with. It was overwhelming; I think the number was somewhere close to 90. (Pro tip for all you Tinderites out there: Never put in your bio that you’re not looking for nude pics. All people will do is ask you about nude pics. And then you’ll find yourself having 90 conversations about nude pics. You don’t want that, trust me.)
Next came the actual dates.
A handful were good but not great. The kind of dates where you enjoy yourself in the moment but even as you’re smiling at the other person, you know you’ll never see him again. I was also impatiently waiting for a lovely engineer to finally ask me out. He was one of my first matches; he had even “superliked” me on the app. We’d been enjoying a running conversation day and night until finally I was exasperated enough to ask, “Are you going to ask me out or not?”
My engineer was shy and nervous when we met. I was smitten from the second I stepped out of the Uber. I remember the way his hands shook as he attempted to choose a bottle of wine from the menu of a Silver Lake wine bar he’d chosen to meet at. Despite the ease with which we spoke through text messages, we were both anxious (though I hid it better), and the conversation was shaky initially.
You see, there’s a certain transitory experience in stepping out from the world behind your phone screen and into the real world. Luckily the red wine helped. As the food was consumed and the wine disappeared, I realized I wasn’t ready for the evening to be over; it was still early. And because my engineer was shy, I was the one who suggested we go back to his place for a nightcap. (Later on he said that suggestion nearly gave him a heart attack, but he’s still alive so it must have been only a mild one.)
No, we did not have sex that night. I ended up calling an Uber home and sleeping in my own bed after a glass of scotch and a few passionate kisses (which I also initiated). Now that was a great first date. The kind when you can’t wait to see the other person again. We made plans to see each other later in the week, and the constant text conversations continued. Words, feelings were spilling from our fingers before our brains could say, “Shut up! What are you, stupid? You’ll scare them off.”
And then came an end-of-summer heat wave. It began the day before we were supposed to meet for our next date. I pulled into my Hollywood parking garage to find it pitch black. The entire street and surrounding areas were affected by the blackout. In my apartment, I couldn’t see, my phone battery was dying, and I’ll admit I was starting to panic. I called my engineer to let him know I might not be able to respond to him with my phone nearly dead and no way to charge it. He immediately told me to pack a bag and come over. I gathered up some necessities and drove to his place. And I sort of … never left.
The blackout lasted nearly four days, but spending every second of those four days together, and the days after that, I realized I never wanted to leave my engineer. It was at some point then that we both deleted our Tinder accounts. Within a month and a half I was officially moved in and it was no longer his place but ours.
Just over a year and an engagement later, we can safely classify this as a “Tinder success story.”
When I think about how different my life would be if it wasn’t for an arbitrary dating app, I feel conflicted. These apps bridge the gap between the impossible and the possible, connecting people who would otherwise never meet. (Even if the engineer and I had crossed paths in real-life social interaction, such as in a bar, he admits it’s unlikely he would have spoken to me.)
The missed opportunities of real-life connections do feel like a type of modern-day romantic tragedy.
While we can wax nostalgic about the old ways, I wouldn’t have found my person without the new.
The author is on Twitter and Instagram @tsiganichka.
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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