LA Affairs: I made a pact to go on 10 dates in 2021.


My boyfriend and I were sitting in a cozy restaurant in Pasadena and toasting our luck: Not only did we finally eat in a restaurant (on the terrace, of course), we also got new jobs. A few months earlier, we had made a pact to start new career adventures in 2020. While COVID-19 had dampened our search this year, we had it done.

On the same high rise, I asked her, “Well, what should our next goal be?”

We mixed up a few ideas before I said, “I think 2021 should be the year we meet.”

We were both in our late twenties and neither of us was together much. (Thanks, pandemic.) I was in grad school and had a job on the weekends and she was a nurse, which didn’t leave much time for a typical dating plan.

She used to laugh at me when I started talking to Dating, but this time she said, “Sure, why not?” I think the pandemic made us all realize that life is short. I went one step further and set myself a measurable goal: “OK, 10 dates”. That sounded like a lot to our pandemic ears. And there were still details to be clarified. Where would we even meet men? Which dating apps? And could we meet her in person? Even so, we made our pact and thought we’d see how things play out in the new year. My best friend and I teamed up with two other single friends and persuaded them to take part in the challenge.

It didn’t take long for my best friend to text me, “A guy at work asked me out on a date.” Soon she was going on one date after another with this new man. I was happy for her, but secretly I also worried: Would I get stuck in the dust before our year 2021 had even begun?

If I’m honest, I’ve been more attracted to guys with a natural expiration date. I met my first boyfriend during a summer internship, and I didn’t even tell him I liked him until we were both back in our respective states. We tried long distance calls but it quickly fizzled out. And there was the guy I met on a two week vacation. Sure, flirting was fun. But when he started saying he was going back to the US with me, I freaked out. Somehow I felt freer to be myself than I knew it would eventually end.

I was determined to change that pattern.

At the beginning of the new year, I started downloading Hinge. I started a lot of chats, but only a few of them bypassed the app.

Then I landed my first date, and we ate ice cream on an unusually warm January day. It went well and I loved it. Then he haunted me. If you think back, it was probably all a dopamine rush from a long, lonely 2020.

The next man checked all the boxes on the paper, but he left me exhausted.

Another day a drummer decided to show me his extended drum performance on YouTube. While we were FaceTiming, I found myself bored.

Was that like that for the rest of the year?

A few more weeks passed and I was almost halfway through my challenge. It was the middle of February. I started to wonder how many times I could answer “What are your quarantine hobbies?”

My brother-in-law advised me: “Get out of the app. Go out with the guy who invites you right away. ”What did he know? He and my sister were together before smartphones existed. I felt tired.

It was around this time that I got a message from a new man, Moshe. His profile wasn’t obvious at first glance, but I was intrigued by the way he responded to his prompts and had read mine.

But did I want to start another pen friendship?

Something about his big smile and kind eyes made me take a second look. I responded with my attempt at a funny answer and was surprised when he replied quickly and then invited me over for coffee. I tried to keep it easy: “Yeah, sure, I like coffee.” I told him I live in Pasadena. “I live in South Bay,” he replied. He might as well have said he lived in another country. But I stayed open. We agreed to meet halfway.

“If this date is a flop,” I said to my best friend on the day of our date, “I’ll take a break.”

Our date was at the Chimney Coffee House in Chinatown. Moshe was taller than I expected, well dressed – oh, and did I mention, very handsome.

His calm presence unnerved me and made me calm at the same time. I found that I overcompensated by being super talkative. When he got our coffee order, I told myself to relax. He came back and I admitted, “I’m nervous.” He offered that big smile and said, “Me too.”

The rest of the date we talked about the usual things and bonded over growing up in religious Latino families and our favorite comedy TV shows. I remember thinking how familiar he felt, like I’ve known him for a long time and we met again after a period of separation. I realized I didn’t want it to be over. But after only an hour he said, “Well, I don’t want you to get too much sun, so shall we go?” I was disappointed. “I don’t know if he likes me or not,” I said to my friend later. But the next day he texted me to let me know that he had gone to the library to read the book I had just finished.

We met on our second date on the beach in Redondo Beach. After poke bowls for lunch, we walked down the sand and talked for hours. I didn’t want this date to end. Finally he said, “Well, I don’t want you to be cold, so shall we go?” Was he considerate? Or did he want to get rid of me?

On our third date, he met me for dinner in Pasadena. I confessed everything about the pact. “Wow, no pressure,” he joked.

We’re still together and I’ve lost sight of the numbers.

In many ways we are both old souls. We like to listen to jazz and send each other Spotify “mixtapes”. We take turns writing letters and postcards. We take long walks when we have to process things. When he first picked me up from the airport, he brought flowers. The second time he picked me up, he brought a watermelon – because it’s my favorite fruit. I took him to his first Dodgers game. He taught me how to eat crabs.

I once asked Moshe how many app dates he had in front of me. “None,” he replied. “You were the first.” While each of us has spent more time in traffic than we’d like, we can’t think of a better reason for it.

Oh, and the friends I made a pact with last year?

Their new relationships are also going well, and the eight of us recently celebrated the new year together. The party was hosted by my nurse friend and the guy who invited her at work.

The only question now is, what will our next pact be?

The author is a program coordinator and lives in Pasadena. She is on Instagram @nataleemore.

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