TOO MUCH TOO SOON

Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - By Ken­dra Liedle

By its na­ture, on­line dat­ing in­volves a lot of scrolling and swip­ing. Scroll, swipe, click, re­peat. Ev­ery­one blends in; no one stands out. The hope is that eventually some­one’s photo will leap out at you like a pop-up ad. It’s like pulling the crank on a slot ma­chine hop­ing to find a match.

That’s why I perked up one day when his photo caught my eye. He had a great smile, teeth that were per­fectly aligned. He seemed in­tel­li­gent enough, hand­some enough, nice enough. His pro­file re­vealed that we had a few things in com­mon and a photo show­ing him on a boat gave the sub­tle im­pres­sion that he con­sid­ered him­self to be both ac­tive and “quite a catch.” I sent him a mes­sage.

Within a week or two, B. and I agreed to meet. I sug­gested Cat & Fid­dle in Hol­ly­wood be­cause of its large out­door pa­tio and prox­im­ity to where we both live. We hit it off, con­ver­sa­tion was easy and I gen­uinely en­joyed my­self. We even kissed awk­wardly just as the valet was bring­ing his car around. We agreed to meet again.

“Where do you live?” I had asked him at one point. “Bev­erly Hills ad­ja­cent,” he said. I didn’t re­ally know what that meant. It sounded like a real-es­tate ad, but OK. When he didn’t of­fer up any date ideas, I sug­gested we go bowl­ing at Pinz in Stu­dio City for our sec­ond out­ing. I’m im­pressed he didn’t squab­ble about hav­ing to drive to the Val­ley. In fact, he seemed thrilled with the idea. We met there and bowled a few games that night, had some great laughs and con­tin­ued get­ting to know each other.

Through­out the evening, he was af­fec­tion­ate, car­ing, in­ter­ested in what I had to say and treated me very well. It was quite ob­vi­ous that he was re­ally into me. I felt like this could go some­where. It was only later, when we grabbed drinks and an ap­pe­tizer at Jerry’s Deli, that I had any twinge of dis­com­fort. This is when he leaned in and an­nounced that he had a “sur­prise.”

“It’s a lit­tle early for sur­prises, isn’t it?” I asked, clearly caught off guard. I braced my­self.

He smiled sheep­ishly and whis­pered, “I bought all your books. On Ama­zon.”

“Wow, that’s … flat­ter­ing.” I took a long sip of wa­ter, un­sure of how I felt about this.

“Some­time, I want you to au­to­graph them for me,” he added.

I didn’t know how to re­spond. The flat­tery in­stantly oozed into creepy ter­ri­tory. Yes, I’ve pub­lished books on Ama­zon, but it’s not like I’m some fa­mous writer. I’m no one. I mean, I’m some­one, but no­body you would know.

“I didn’t mean to creep you out.” B.’s smile turned into a sad frown. “I wasn’t even go­ing to tell you.”

I re­laxed a lit­tle and tried to con­vince my­self that it’s just a rookie move by a gen­uinely nice guy. He was merely try­ing to im­press a girl he liked, right?

We con­tin­ued see­ing each other. By all in­di­ca­tions, he was head-over-heels into me. He treated me roy­ally and bought me flow­ers. He also called ev­ery day, texted a lit­tle too of­ten and wanted to see me all the time. Ev­ery­where we went, he in­sisted on tak­ing pho­tos of the two of us, doc­u­ment­ing our ev­ery move.

I wasn’t quite ready for this level of a re­la­tion­ship, but when we were to­gether we al­ways had fun. In fact, any­thing I wanted to do, he wanted to do. We went to Dodgers games, art ex­hibits, the Getty Villa, L.A. Live. He was al­ways up for any­thing. That was great, but af­ter a while I be­gan to won­der. Isn’t there any­thing he wanted to do?

This made me start to won­der about a lot of things. It be­came quite clear that he had a con­sid­er­able amount of grow­ing up to do. “Bev­erly Hills ad­ja­cent” turned out to be an apart­ment with no park­ing. He didn’t have soap in the bath­room, or hand tow­els or trash lin­ers. He slept on a worn fu­ton on the floor. (Later, he bought a real bed and a cof­feemaker and said I “in­spired” him.)

For all th­ese rea­sons, I be­come in­creas­ingly hes­i­tant about him.

As B. sensed this, he be­gan rop­ing me into in­tense con­ver­sa­tions about the state of our re­la­tion­ship. He be­came frus­trated and emo­tional, want­ing so des­per­ately for me to be right for him, when it be­come glar­ingly ob­vi­ous that I was not. He wanted to get closer and said there was some­thing wrong — with me. He sent me a ques­tion­naire to de­ter­mine my level of “emo­tional ne­glect,” then called and asked me to re­port my score.

I sug­gested that maybe I wasn’t the right per­son for him, but he was set on con­vinc­ing me I was wrong.

“I want to club you over the head and drag you to my cave,” he said one day, a seem­ing joke but said with such in­ten­sity that I had se­ri­ous doubts it would end well.

I de­cided the best course of ac­tion was to be­come the worst girl­friend ever so he’d break up with me. I fig­ured it was the safest, non­con­fronta­tional op­tion.

I ig­nored his calls, didn’t an­swer his texts and avoided see­ing him again. It was a gam­ble, but it worked beau­ti­fully.

Until, one day, he caught me by phone.

“I don’t think we should date any­more,” he said.

“I agree.”

Liedle is the au­thor of “The Best Days of Ma­bel Gor­don” and “This Is How We End” and is work­ing on her sec­ond short-story col­lec­tion. She is on Twit­ter @co­co­caf­feine L.A. Af­fairs chron­i­cles the dat­ing scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have com­ments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAf­fairs@la­times.com.

Sarah Wilkins For The Times

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