HELL: So much for the casting couch
At 39, when I moved to Los Angeles, I went on my first blind e-date. A beautiful woman showed up. With a script. It was an "Ally McBeal," a show I'd specced myself -- with some success even -- when it was on the air.
Brief backstory: We TV wannabes tap out "spec" scripts, hoping to get an agent, a staff job or, at the very least, laid. I was pretty naive about L.A. I smugly presumed that if I offered this doe-eyed "writer" some good honest feedback, well ... you know.
OK, I'm a guy. Shoot me.
I read the script. It was OK. I'd read worse, but it needed work. On the whole, it gave off an amateurish vibe. I marked it up in standard writers-groupese ("check" for "good," "better" for "not so good," and well-intentioned, helpful comments in the margins). I handed it off after dinner on our second date, kissed her cheek goodnight, and drove home.
When I got there, there was a message on my machine. A terse, icy one -- all four words "never," "call," "me" and "again" in the same sentence. Ego bruised, I called my best male friend, looking for some sympathy. He bellowed, "You told her the TRUTH?? You IDIOT!!"
A few months later, he introduced me to a woman from Central America who didn't write, had never been online, and didn't own a computer. We married and are expecting our first child in July.
-- Eric Klein, Glendale, CA
HELL: Well, at least Ill never get her pregnant
I have a membership to JDate, which is an online dating service for Jewish singles. I figured that since my friends weren't doing such a stellar job setting me up, I might as well let an impartial computer do some work as well. I met this one woman, we corresponded, we traded pictures, it seemed like we matched up pretty well. So we decided to meet in person.
I took her to a decent restaurant not far from where I lived at the time. It's a cool tavernlike place; I used to go there every so often. Conversation was going decently, we're getting along, I'm thinking "This is good." The topic turns to our upbringing and she asks me, "So, what do your parents do?" Casually as always when I give this response, I said, "My dad's a doctor, and my mom works for Planned Parenthood."
In the middle of the restaurant, among many other perfect strangers and other assorted restaurant staff, this woman stands up and delivers a full-on rant in a very loud voice for around three minutes about what a horrible person my mother was because she was a baby-killer and how could I even associate with this monster?
I didn't want to leave because I frequented this place every now and then and I didn't want to stiff them with the bill, but I had no other idea of what to do, so I just kind of sat there like a deer caught in headlights. She finished her rant and sat back down after a few minutes. I changed the topic to something innocuous, like what movies we'd seen recently, and ended dinner shortly thereafter. I never called her again.
-- Keith Berman, LA
LIMBO: Salon, help me find her
After about a year surfing the Salon personals with little success, I found one entry that fascinated me. A nonsmoker, roughly my age, living, like me, in the Seattle area. She had red hair, she read a lot, there was just the hint of an eye in a picture that was blurry and yet enticing. Hoping that the uniqueness of her picture would ward off the deluge of responses that bury most users of the service, I decided to make one last attempt at finding someone through this medium.
She wrote back later that night, and we settled into a pattern, probably not unique in this regard. She would write in the mid-morning and then I'd respond around midnight that night. Back and forth we went over the next week or so, writing long e-mails about this and that. Cartoons. Taste in music. The awkwardness of telling friends who have just broken up how annoying you thought their former partner. She revealed her name to begin with B, I one-up'd her and gave up that mine started with "Ai".
More similarities emerged. We're both avid readers, we're both politically aware and politically intelligent (read: liberal), both first children, and we're both avid Salon readers. Moreover, we're both, for lack of a better word, dorks.
And we're both midnight wanderers, content to meander about in the dark in cities, beaches, forests.
As time went on I waited for my damnable flu to subside so that I could actually meet this person. Yet my phlegmatic nature remained, and I was still somewhat under the weather when I was struck one morning with an abrupt message.
"I just don't have the endurance for meeting strangers. I've enjoyed our chats, but this just isn't for me. Sorry to have wasted your time."
Struck for a moment, I immediately started writing a reply. "I understand, but let's compromise. Let's get coffee and some kind of pastry, twenty minutes tops, and then if you're interested let me know." After revising it a couple times, I realized that there was no reply button. The profile had been deleted.
And so now I'm standing in this in-between realm, a limbo between the heaven and hell buckets. The conversations were enjoyable, and without a real beginning there can't be a real end, so on the whole I certainly came out ahead. But I do find myself wondering what could have been.
And so I write, hoping that she'll get her Salon fix one day and find this message and decide to give the ocean another chance. She knows where I can be collect-called. With luck she'll find this. With even more luck, I'll write another of these letters with better tidings.
Now to move on, and hope that I discover that I actually live in a Hugh Grant film rather than a Woody Allen movie.
HEAVEN: One slight detour
My first Craig's List personals experience taught me two things -- most men were saturation bombers, replying to every ad. "We should do something," spoken enthusiastically at the end of a date, meant you would never meet again.
Never again, said I.
I started planning to move out of state, but then thought up a good ad and posted it for the hell of it. The next day I had all the same tired retreads ("I'm cute," "My penis is long and thick," "I think we might be meant for each other").
The day after that, I got C.'s e-mail.
I read it twice, then stood to pace, my cheeks warm and my head light. Not only had he read what I'd written, he'd understood it, responded in kind. I knew -- without a doubt, without being able to say why -- I knew this man would change my life. If I had the courage to meet him, I would not be leaving. Was it worth it?
C. and I were nuts about each other after a few dates. Too afraid to ask him to move away with me, I chose to move closer to him, but I would need a roommate.
Enter S., a recent émigré, here on a work visa. After meeting through a mutual friend, we decided neither of us seemed likely to go psychotic after signing a lease. The first night in our shared apartment, S. went through my CDs, convinced he could know me by my musical tastes. We learned about each other by playing our favorite music in the dark for each other. There was the Candlebox song that reminded me of being 17; the song from a "Star Trek" episode that reminded him of the wonder of possibility; "Samba Pa Ti," which I wanted played at my funeral; the Dixie Chicks, his personal favorite. (I didn't know about the Mariah Carey CD until much too late.) Our conversations in the dark lasted for hours.
I was right that C. would change my life: In the end, he was not the man for me, but lovely enough for me to pack up and move in with a stranger on the chance that it would bring me love. And it did. If I had never written back, I wouldn't have chosen to share an apartment with this Australian. Coincidence is a favorite topic of S., who wonders where he would be if he hadn't gotten that visa and moved in with strange American woman. And I was right that meeting C. would mean I wouldn't leave California:
S. has a year or two to go before he can leave his job, so if I want to be with him I have to stay until then, when S. says he'll follow me anywhere. I'm thinking Seattle. Or Sydney.
-- Jennifer, San Mateo, CA