Sheila pours herself another cup of coffee before sitting down at the dining room table. “I’m going to help Lu, if it’s the last thing I do. And she’s gonna like it. I’m going to make that daughter of mine realize that giving up on love isn’t the way to go,” Sheila tells her sister Tooty while flinging her arms out dramatically and knocking her coffee mug onto the floor. As it shatters, she thinks, great, just another mess to clean up—a perfect metaphor for her offspring’s life. “It might be the last thing you do because I’m pretty sure Lu will run you over with her car if you interfere in her life anymore,” Tooty replies. “Anymore? You make it sound like I’m a busybody,” she grumbles while bending down to pick up the more prominent shards. “You know I love you, hon, but you’ve been on Lu’s back nonstop about her wanting to have a baby on her own.” “Having a baby is hard work. You know that as well as I do.” “Not all of us are as lucky as you, sis. Phillipe is the perfect husband and father. What if Lu winds up with someone like my first husband, Chuck?” Before Sheila can answer, Tooty adds with a shudder, “She’s better off on her own than procreating with a jackass.” “Your point is well taken.” Sheila dumps the pieces of pottery into the garbage can.
“But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up trying to help her find someone. Everything about Lu’s life is my business and I’m not going to stop until I know she’s going to be happy.” “She’d better buckle up then. Poor girl.” Waving her hand dismissively, trying not to break any more dishes, Sheila says, “Please. She’s going to thank me when I’m through with her and you know it.” Lutéce Dating in Los Angeles is about as much fun as duct taping your ankles together right before going for a swim in the Pacific. Don’t let the mermaids fool you, it’s work. Hard work. I’ve let my friends set me up; I’ve let my co-workers give it a go; I even let my mom’s neighbor talk me into meeting her nephew—thanks for the tacos, Brad, but they weren’t good enough to listen to you talk about your workout for two hours. My unfortunate dating history notwithstanding, I’ve decided to give love one more chance before heading back to my fertility doctor for a second round of in vitro fertilization. I prefer not to dwell on that first, unsuccessful attempt. Brushing through my auburn hair, I realize that I really do want a partner to share my life and children with. Either that or all the hormones that have been racing through my body have forced me around the bend of Sane Town right into Crazy Place. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, single men in LA have one of two problems.
They’re either players who are always looking for the next best thing, or they’ve recently discovered it’s okay to come out of the closet and embrace their love of men. Like my last boyfriend, Daniel. I cyberstalked him after our breakup and discovered his new boyfriend was a bald South African bodybuilder with a Fu Manchu and multiple tattoos. In other words, nothing like me, which confirms that Daniel was only with me to further his pipe dream of becoming a singer. He wasn’t a country music fan so he was probably hoping Romaine would give him a leg up. If that isn’t traumatic enough, sixty-year-old men with receding hairlines, halitosis, and pot bellies somehow think they’re entitled to date twenty-year-old bikini models. It’s beyond gross. While putting on my new dangly earrings with the feathers and crystals, my phone rings. “Hey, Liza, what’s up? I’m getting ready for my date.” Liza and I have been friends since we were in grade school. She’s currently married and raising her three delightful children in the Valley with her gorgeous cameraman husband. Barf. “Don’t despair if tonight’s encounter isn’t the one,” she announces brightly. “Dillion just met a great guy on the set of Evil Geniuses. He sounds pretty amazing.
” My friend is downright giddy with excitement. How she can still be optimistic about my love life after what she’s watched me go through is anyone’s guess. Although, I suppose I should be happy that one of us is optimistic. “Ah, so what you’re saying is that Dillion’s gay, too?” I can’t help but tease her. Liza’s husband is as gay as I am twenty. I’m thirty-six. Ignoring me, she says, “His name is Beau and he’s never been married, nor does he have any children. He just moved here from the Midwest and when Dillion told him about you, he was super excited to meet you.” “Did Dillion tell him how old I am? Because you know that always makes them turn tail and run.” Men seem to think that single women in their thirties are only after one thing—their Y chromosome. I’m not judging because in my case that’s one hundred percent accurate. My biological clock is ticking like a time bomb. The trick is not letting them know that before the first date. “Thank Dillion for his concern, but if tonight doesn’t go well, I’m washing my hands of the whole dating thing. I’ll just go back to the fertility doctor and hook up with some nice anonymous sperm and start my family without any more drama.
” “Oh, Lu. You are the prettiest, smartest, most talented woman I know. It’s unfathomable to me that you aren’t already hitched with a half-dozen kids at your feet.” When we were kids, Liza and I used to talk about how much fun it would be if we both had big families that could grow up together. “Now, I could only have two, three tops. I’m too old for more.” “Who’s tonight’s lucky guy?” She thankfully changes the subject before my watering eyes can turn into full blown tears and ruin my eye makeup. She is the kindest, most loyal friend. “His name is Benedict, and he’s a restaurant supply guy. I met him on JDate.” “Don’t you have to be Jewish to use JDate?” “No.” I finish putting on my lipstick before telling her, “You only have to be open to dating a Jew. I’ve decided a man of faith might be less superficial and more interested in a woman my age than, you know, every other man in LA.” “I’m sure Benedict is lovely. I can’t wait to meet him.
” Liza’s optimism is exhausting. While I’m truly grateful for it, it often feels like she’s standing behind me cheering while I try to climb Mount Everest stark naked. In other words, it’s hopeless. Although, at least with dating, I won’t lose any fingers or toes to hypothermia. “I’m off,” I tell my friend. “Give the kids a kiss for me.” “Are we still on for brunch on Sunday?” I’ve been going over to Liza’s for brunch nearly every week for the last ten years. “You bet,” I tell her. “I’ll bring the fruit salad and champagne. Now, I really do have to go.” “Love you, Lu. You’ve got this.” Slipping my phone into my purse, I give myself one last look in the entryway mirror. Ben’s profile says he’s five-ten, which I know means five-eight. As I’m five-ten, I’m wearing flats so as not to make him uncomfortable.
While driving over Laurel Canyon Boulevard to meet my date at Chow’s—the latest West Side hotspot—I think about how online dating is really performed in code. Men lie about their height, their weight, and their net worth. Women lie about their age, their desire to start a family (men don’t want to hear the word “baby” come up until they’ve been married for five years), and how many boyfriends they’ve had. Men want a young woman with minimal baggage and no obvious desire to procreate. Women want a guy who isn’t always looking for a better option. I almost turn my car around in the next driveway. Instead, I flip on the sound system to distract myself from thoughts of bailing on tonight. My favorite Spotify playlist blasts vintage Enya through the speakers, causing my throat to fill with so much emotion I feel like I’ve just swallowed a bowling ball. I love Enya and her ethereal melodies about memories from past lives where she was a princess and love spanned multiple incarnations. Thank God for playlists. I’ve already burned through five Shepherd Moons CDs. By the time I pull up to the valet at Chow’s, I’m full-on bawling—damn these hormone shots! Oh, Enya, I long for the love you sing of! I can’t have always been the social pariah I am in this lifetime. Someone had to have loved me somewhere down the line. “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to step out of the car.” Am I being arrested? I look up and am jolted back to the present by a surfer-looking dude in a valet uniform.
With a sigh worthy of a Disney Princess, I put my car in park and get out. Then I take my ticket and make my way to the front door. Weaving through what can only be described as a throng of fashionable people—the extremes Angelinos will go to be seen at the latest, hippest, coolest place is legendary—I finally make my way inside and up to the hostesses stand. “Hi there, I’m meeting Benedict Solomon.” The Baywatch babe wannabe looks up from her reservation book and excitedly declares, “Are you Bennie’s mom?” I’m either totally delusional about how old I look, or this girl is a cow. “His grandmother, actually,” I tell her with a smirk. Then I raise my left eyebrow with my most intense I’m-gonna-shiv-you-in-a-dark-alley-if-you-don’t-take-me-to-my-date-right-now look. She takes the hint and leads the way. Bennie is waiting at a table by the window. From a distance, he looks a lot younger than his JDate profile pic. A lot younger. Like twelve. The hostess says, “Bennie, your grandmother is here. Remember, order whatever you want, and Jocko will comp the bill.” Staring at my date, I announce, “I think there’s been a mistake.
” He jumps to his feet and comes around the table to pull my chair out. Whistling under his breath, he says, “No mistake. You’re hot.” “That’s very nice of you to say, but who are you?” Bending at the waist, he replies, “Benedict Solomon at your service.” “What I mean is, you can’t possibly be the guy I’ve been corresponding with online. That guy is in his forties.” “Oh, yeah, that guy is my dad. They won’t let me get my own profile until I turn eighteen.” “Which will be in what, six years?” I cannot believe this. This is a new all-time low, even for me. “Four,” he says very seriously. “I had my bar mitzvah last year, so in the eyes of God, I’m already a man.” OMG. “Ben,” I say, sounding like a schoolmarm, or you know, his mother, “I’m thirty-six years old.” “Perfect.
You could teach me all kinds of things.” “I could teach you how to tie your shoes, but I’m guessing you already know how to do that.” At least I hope he does. I resist the urge to glance down to see if he has Velcro sneakers on. This kid can’t be for real. “I want you to teach me the ways of love.” His eyes are glazed over with possibilities. “I’d go to jail if I did that,” I tell him plainly. I don’t have the heart to tell him that what he’s suggesting is an abomination. “It would be our secret.” He waggles his eyebrows in such a way I can’t help the bark of laughter that erupts out of me. “Ben, why aren’t you dating girls your own age? You’re obviously a young man of great refinement.” Lies. His shoulders slump, causing him to look like a lost little boy. “I want to date girls my age, but they’re not interested.
They like guys like Robby Stein, whose palms don’t start to sweat at the very thought of kissing them. Robby has already kissed a bunch of girls. I haven’t kissed any.” “I didn’t have my first kiss until I was sixteen,” I tell him while opening my menu. It looks like I’ve decided to have dinner with this kid. In a totally platonic big sisterly way, of course. “Really? But you’re a total Veronica.” “I wasn’t when I was a teenager. We all go through an awkward stage, but we all grow out of it. You will, too, Ben.” “You don’t know what it’s like,” he says, sounding defeated. “I go to school with all these kids whose parents are agents, directors, and lawyers. My dad does well but nothing compared to the other kids’ parents.