Writer Lindsey Kelk's experience of dating in LA proves that love isn't like it is in the movies (at all)
Dating in LA is an interesting concept. When I first moved to California, I was given two pieces of advice: when it comes to online dating, never swipe right on someone with a professional headshot as their photo and never, ever even contemplate agreeing to a date with anyone who lists ‘improv’ as a pastime. This was good advice and I would have been smart to listen to it. Of course, I didn’t.
With a teenage reading list heavily weighted towards the Sweet Valley High oeuvre, I was excited to start dating in Southern California. Whether it was sharing a sundae at the malt shop or a moonlight drive up to lookout point, I was certain it was going to be fun. It’s possible I was a little over optimistic. Instead of shoulder-robing a letterman jacket as the sun dipped over the Pacific, I was rattling through dates that never went on to a second, sipping on cocktails, smiling and nodding and listening to thirty and even forty-something men in well worn band t-shirts tell me all about their latest project. Everyone in LA is working on a project, everyone. A screenplay, a short film, their directorial debut, it feels as though there isn’t a single person who doesn’t have something else going on as well as their job and it is exhausting. Impressive but exhausting nonetheless.
One time, I was forty-five minutes into a conversation before my date asked me what I did for a living. Upon discovering I write books and not screenplays his emotional chain reaction was intense. At first there was confusion, followed by disappointment, followed by encouragement. He patted my forearm (just in case I wasn’t already certain he wasn’t interested) and assured me I could maybe write a screenplay someday, that it wasn’t too late for me just yet. When I explained I actually liked writing books and wasn’t trying to break into Hollywood, he looked at me like I was insane.
I soon learned there are tricks to dating in LA, other than dodging headshots and wannabe comedians. Anything more than two miles from your house is considered a long distance relationship. Traffic is famously bad here and no one is prepared to spend two hours in rush hour on a ‘maybe’. It’s the same premise as choosing a wedding dress or buying a house, if you live in Los Feliz, don’t even think about swiping right on Santa Monica, you will only end up seeing something you like and you will not be able to have it. I also learned there are two very distinct types of dates; skinny jean wearing hipster dudes who will take you for whiskey drinks at Thirsty Crow or meet you for coffee at Intelligentsia and the suit sporting Hollywood guy who wants to grab a quick lunch at Craft in between meetings at Fox and Sony. You cannot dress the same for both dates. Trust me.
In the beginning it’s exciting to meet so many beautiful, interesting and creative people but to be entirely honest, that wears off pretty quickly. Self-doubt creeps in incredibly quickly and unless you’re a size zero or you’ve got balls of steel, it’s hard to look around your yoga class and see your competition. The women here are intimidating, it’s the difference between regular Bake Off and Champion vs Champion Bake Off. The scale starts at a ten (and the sizes start at 00). Thankfully, if you stick to online dating, you won’t have to worry too much. The rich and famous and beautiful have already filtered you out, using their own app, Raya. Commonly known as ‘Tinder for celebs’, you can only join once you’ve been vetted by their internal team which should in theory, weed out any undesirables. Unfortunately it’s a system that only really benefits rich dudes and women looking for a sugar daddy. One of my more photogenic friends managed to get past the virtual velvet rope but told me she was only ever matched with an assortment of sketchy middle-aged dudes and Matthew Perry. And try as I might, I could not get her to take a chance on Chandler.
All of this aside, LA is truly a city of couples – I’m not saying those couples will last forever but while New York is a complete player, LA is a serial monogamist. Whether it’s the heinous traffic, the constant professional rejection or the fact only your one true love will pick you up from the airport (no one night stand is trekking all the way out to LAX) it felt as though all of my friends here were in a relationship. My feet had barely touched the ground before they began hurling eligible men my way; ‘Here’s Mark, he’s a set designer!’ ‘Meet Brian, he’s in marketing!’ ‘Did you talk to Jeremiah yet? He’s a magician.’ And that was exactly how I met my boyfriend (no, not the magician), after we were introduced at my best friend’s Superbowl party. No headshot, not even a passing interest in comedy – improvisational or otherwise – and a home library to rival my own. I mean, obviously he’s not Chandler but he’s still pretty great.
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