One day when I was about eleven or twelve a girlfriend I was playing with suggested we play bride. “Bride?” I said, “like, child bride forced into a marriage to an older man, but he’s hot like John Stamos?”
“No, just grow up and marry someone type bride,” was the response. We had played together for years, before this point our games included “tag you’re it” and making pretend cigarettes out of construction paper so we could walk around in my sister’s heels and pretend we were schoolteachers on break. But I remember that day we looked at each other with mutual confusion and pity and didn’t play together too much longer.
Maybe it’s because of the train wreck that was my parent’s marriage and the free floating rage that seeped from it and into every corner of our home. Or maybe it was my natural tendency to just simply not give a shit but whatever it was, growing up I never once considered getting married. I didn’t understand the big rush to get older, get married and begin reproducing. To what end? In my childhood home even the carpet smelled like disappointment. Why seek that out? For the most part where I come from young men and women follow the script handed to them: pair off, get married, begin complaining, gain weight. I’d smile in wedding photos thinking, “better them than me.” Every baby shower was a silent goodbye.
In my eyes your twenties, and, let’s face it, most of my thirties were for exploring, for testing all sorts of waters, and trying to have sex with rock stars and actors. Or, more likely, actually having sex with people trying to become rock stars and actors. Not marriage and children. Besides, I always liked dating. Everyone would show up looking their best, smell good, stories were fresh, sex was new. I was young, decently attractive and completely broke. I never hoped for love, I hoped for free meals and alcohol.
Then when I was thirty-somethingmumbled I met Dan. He was funny, smelled good, had great stories and by our third date we began talking about what the rest of our lives would look like. We married the next year and celebrated our first wedding anniversary cooing over our six-week old daughter. We are happy. I am happy. Still I can’t help but miss the thrill of the chase sometimes. The wondering, the flirting, the agonizing over where, what and who. The purposely not returned phone call, the sweet excruciating wait time before responding to a text. It may have been maddening but the pursuit had its thrills.
“You’re a serial dater,” my hair stylist told me one day as she struggled with my (and I quote) “color resistant” grey roots in her Los Feliz salon. “Old habits die hard but let ‘em die, dating in LA is a disaster these days.” I had heard that before but it was usually coming from my own mouth being said to one of my long-married friends. And usually it was after telling them about a date like my very first one in LA. I had just moved from the east coast and as I sped along the PCH in my old Toyota Celica a cute guy in a shiny BMW pulled up next to me at a light. He shouted that I was beautiful and I shouted back my number. I laughed at how quintessentially California the moment was but to my amazement he called and told me he wanted to show me the west side. He gave me an address in Brentwood that turned out to be his apartment, which was lit solely by candles when he opened his door dressed only in yoga pants and a mala bead necklace. I turned on my heels and took the stairs by twos down to the lobby. Giggling. Dating was always a disaster but that was part of the allure.
My stylist is young, beautiful and has the type of body that reminds other women that they should go to the gym more often. She is fiercely independent and decidedly not in the market for marriage and babies. She once told me she ended a date midway through a meal simply because the guy mentioned he might want to have kids one day. Not even with her, just one day.
“Here,” my stylist said, “go though my Tinder account and see what’s out there.” Tinder? Really? Forbidden fruit for a married lady. An irresistible stranger dropped right in my lap in the form of an iphone6. So, so foreign….
After she and some of the other younger stylists in the salon explained swiping and general rules, I dove right in. If Tinder existed while I was single I would have never left my apartment. Imagine sitting in your jammies, drinking a bottle of wine and experiencing the exhilaration of the pursuit without having to actually talk to people and put on make up? That’s heaven! Ruthlessly judging yay or nay based solely on a photo. Giving thumbs up or down, swipe right or left, live or die, while sitting there with a facial mask on in dirty sweatpants. I love the future! Forget jetpacks, this is better!
There were guys squinching in selfies, guys smiling after yoga by Echo Park lake, flexing in front of the Hollywood sign, guys cuddling their pit bull rescue or hiking (yes hiking) in Griffith Park with their snake. Plenty of outdoorsy guys camping in Yosemite, that’s a popular one but my favorite was the “business entrepreneur” with his ex’s face pixelated in each photo.
My stylist mostly just rolled her eyes at me and let me have my married lady fun. This was way better than any podcast or anything on tv. Ultimately I found her some pretty cute guys that she actually followed up on. It even led to a few good dates and one brief but fun affair. No one she really clicked with though. No bother, we weren’t in it for happily ever after. I wanted to remember the hunt and she was happy to have someone do the vetting. I admit I may have become slightly addicted. I’d swing by the salon for an unneeded bang trim and get to see who was dtf in Silver Lake.
“Knock yourself out,” my stylist would say as she handed me her phone while attaching a knot of purple dreads to some dude. And then it happened. She met a guy. A smart, attractive, motivated, hardworking, funny guy who had great stories, smelled good and made her happy. Worse yet she met him the old fashioned way, through a friend. And then she deleted her Tinder account.
“Deleted? Whyyyyy? Can’t you date him and still be on Tinder? You’re not married! What about me?” She explained it was wrong to pair off and still keep a cyber foot in singledom territory. The stylist at the station next to hers offered me his Grindr account and while eye opening it just didn’t have the same thrill. It’s no fun fabricating a pursuit with someone when you know deep down he would be disgusted by the thought.
It wasn’t a complete loss. Telling him about all this has prompted my husband to institute an official date night where we get a sitter and try out a new restaurant once a week. And while I might have heard most of his stories before they’re still funny and come to think of it he even still smells good too.