Beauty

L.A. Affairs: Dating lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

I found myself at yet another bar on a Saturday night, searching the room and asking the same question: Will I meet someone tonight?

Going out and trying to meet “The One” had almost become a chore. My friends and I would spend hours getting ready, only to be faced with disappointment and frustration when the cute guy across the room couldn’t muster up the courage to talk to us (or perhaps had too much of an ego to initiate conversation). And the guy who did get a phone number merely became a pen pal for a few weeks before ghosting. It was exhausting, to say the least.

But then the world changed. I was in law school as the pandemic seeped its way into California and took hold of Los Angeles. I had no idea that I would be finishing my last semester online at “Zoom University” and taking the bar exam months later remotely.

What proved more shocking was how my personal life transformed overnight; my social calendar packed with birthdays, weddings, networking events and the like vanished. And then it hit me: Where and how was I supposed to meet someone now?

I had never been fond of online dating. Although I had met some guys over the years on apps and even had some matches grow to become relationships, I preferred meeting someone in person. On apps, conversations lacked substance and swiping left and right became a mindless game without purpose. Despite my convictions, the optimist in me kept swiping because, well, what did I have to lose?

As the L.A. dating scene came to a drastic and unprecedented halt, I was back on the apps in full gear with updated photos and prompts, hoping the new norm had drawn a fresh crowd of suitors to my swiping queue. Within days, conversations over drinks at the Huntley Hotel and Harlowe took a back seat to a mere “Hey” and superficial “What’s your Insta?” on Hinge, and chatting with the locals and tourists at Bungalow was replaced with waiting for matches to respond back to me on Bumble.

If dating apps were supposed to make the process easier, why did I find them so frustrating and difficult?

Exasperated by conversations that were dead before they even started, I found myself driving the empty streets of my city and recalling memories at bars and restaurants around town from what seemed like another lifetime. As I drove past E.P. & L.P., I thought of the sweet guy who complimented me on my smile and kept me entertained for over an hour with his jokes — although he never asked me for my number. Turning down Sunset Boulevard and passing by the Den and Skybar reminded me of all the conversations I had with fellow Bruins and other students who were taking a study break and enjoying their night out. Driving past Bacari and Toca Madera on 3rd brought back memories of dining indoors with my girlfriends and asking the table of cute guys next to us what they were ordering, a tactic that never seemed to fail when we needed an excuse to strike up a convo.

Reminiscing ultimately led to a revelation.

In a period of my life when each day seemed to drag into the next and time had no meaning, my aimless drives around town gave me direction.

While it might sound cliché to say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, I don’t believe there is a more fitting phrase.

I was fortunate to be born and raised in L.A. and to attend undergrad and law school in this diverse and thrilling city with a bustling nightlife. I had the opportunity to explore hot spots and hidden gems all around town — whether in Hollywood, Pasadena, Echo Park or Beverly Hills — and to meet incredible people at the countless bars and restaurants nestled in these neighborhoods. It was the power in personal connections that made these experiences so fun and memorable, and that’s something I had taken for granted.

In retrospect, these encounters were not chores, but rather chances — chances to meet “The One” (and some interesting people along the way).

And so, as life begins to return to a semblance of normal and virtual events get replaced once again by in-person gatherings, I am embracing a new perspective on dating and meeting new people, a perspective I may not have gained had this pandemic never occurred.

The next time I’m waiting in line at Blue Bottle, I’m going to boldly ask the attractive guy next to me what he recommends. I’m going to tell the guy paying at the cashier next to me at Zara that I like the jacket he picked out. I’ll say hi and introduce myself to the guy working out across the room at Equinox.

As I enter the original, in-person L.A. dating scene once again, I’m not going to just wait for my Saturday nights out on the town or dating apps. Chance encounters surpass the boundaries of bars and restaurants. Their possibility exists everywhere, and I’m going to fully embrace that.

Because that’s how I’m going to meet my someone.

The author is an attorney and writer in West Los Angeles.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.



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