40 First Dates

November 25, 2009

7: Forever 24

Filed under: Uncategorized — 40firstdates @ 10:52 pm

I was reading in my local coffee shop today when a random girl – normal-seeming, skinny jeans, plaid shirt, moccasins – turned to me and said, “What year were you born?”

She was holding a Chinese astrology book.

Oh no.

“I’m a dragon,” I told her.

Now, normally I might enjoy a little thrill at a bizarre conversation with a stranger. But you know when you can feel the vibes of crazy from a person?

This was one of those times.

“Oh, where are you from?” she asked, registering my accent.

“London” I said, glancing back to my book.

“Really?” she was leaning forward now. “I have English and Irish decendancies. My mother’s side of the family came from England generations ago.”

It never ceases to amaze me why people want to tell me their heritage. Do I go around saying, “Oooh! Let me tell you where my grandma’s first cousin once lived?” No I do not.

I was gripped with the need to tell this girl that a) There is no such word as ‘decendancies’ and b) An awful lot of people in the States came from the UK ‘generations ago.’ In fact I believe there was some sort of commemorative tea party and a turkey dinner.

But I gave her a closed-mouth small smile, and looked determinedly at my book as though we were seated next to each other on a long plane ride.

I always like to let people know up front that I will not be speaking to them during a flight. Apart from that one time when the turbulence was so bad I turned to the homeward-bound soldier on my right and said, “I’m going to need to hold your hand.” He seemed pleased. But then he did say he hadn’t touched a woman in ten months.

I’ve always been good at getting rid of people. Once, when backpacking, a friend asked, “How do you do it? Annoying people never hassle you.” Given that we had mistakenly chosen to stay in a remote redwood forest log cabin, otherwise occupied by Evangelical Christians on a Bible retreat, my ‘eff-off’ skills were out in full force.

My friend sat in awe as I remained unbothered and alone while she was beseiged by bespectacled, shiny-faced new friends, anxious to chat about Jesus.

As the fifth chorus of Kum Ba Yah started up, I said, “You just have to radiate hatred.”

I’ve been reading a lot about vibes lately. Dan Brown’s latest blockbusting Da Vinci Code follow-up, The Lost Symbol, is about Noetic science, actually the science of ‘vibes’. It’s the logical reasoning behind that Japanese artist who changed water particles by thinking about things. It’s the subject of the film, ‘What The Bleep Do We Know’ and the explanation behind that new-age wish-dispensary, The Secret.

I believe in that stuff, that thoughts can change the direction of your life, that you can perform a kind of magic with belief and hope. That you can draw people and things to you with vibes. God knows, I’ve been doing a good job of keeping people away with them for years.

When I was a kid, wishing and believing and hoping was a lot easier. At 15, I never worried about how I would meet a man who really ‘got’ me, or how I would combine this with my dream of living in California. When you’re little, the ‘how’ is not weighing heavy on your mind as you picture yourself walking the red carpet at the Oscars.

That came true, by the way. The Oscars thing. And the California thing, obviously. Only not in the way my child-self imagined.

My friend Ingrid says her life is governed by something called The Becret. “It’s like The Secret, only it’s a bit off,” she says. Like she dreamed of walking the red carpet, being surrounded by eager, clamouring press. Well now she is, only she’s on the wrong side of the velvet rope, holding a tape recorder.

(Please note, when asking the universe for something, be specific people.)

So maybe I’m not sending out the right vibes. Is this why much younger men keep being drawn to me? It makes sense, because I don’t give off the air of a grown-up. I shop at Forever 21, can still be found occasionally singing into a hair brush, am glued to Gossip Girl and have a ridiculous job that involves strutting around Hollywood parties in high heels.

In search of answers, I went out with the other 24 year-old at the weekend. Let’s call him Ed. A classically-trained child-prodigy violinist (“I’ve been playing since I was three”), he has a full-time job session-playing for stars like Carrie Underwood and the LA Philharmonic. He’s also witty, well-dressed and smart.

But things were a little off-balance. I, for instance, downed two goldfish-bowl glasses of Pinot Grigio. He had ginger ale. (His excuse: “I’m a musician, I’ve been drinking in session all day” seemed pretty high school). I ate the entire plate of ‘to-share’ curly fries. With two sides of ranch. He had nothing.

But the conversation flowed. It’s not that we didn’t have stuff to talk about.

“So why are you asking out an older woman? What’s that about?” I said.

“Um is it weird to say that doesn’t matter to me?”

I waved that away. “No, I mean really, really, why?”

Long pause. “Well, OK the truth is, I sent an e-mail to someone else and afterwards, you popped up as a match.com suggestion of someone I might like. I read your profile and you seemed smart and funny, and you are.”

He really didn’t care. It was me. I was the only one who had the age problem.

He dropped me home and we laughed the whole way.

As he drove off, I felt pleased. In accepting dates with much-younger guys, I’d tried something I would never normally do. And I’d learnt something else. I just wanted someone older and was going to have to start putting out the right vibes. So, instead of ignoring his second-date invite, I am currently composing him an e-mail tactfully explaining this.

It’s time to grow up.

November 14, 2009

6: Pride and Prejudice

Filed under: Uncategorized — 40firstdates @ 9:13 am

Last night I was at a boutique opening on Robertson. As I idly watched The Hills cast reapply lipgloss and take tiny single bites of cupcakes, my friend Catie told me about her latest conquest:

“So he was so cute! And we kept running into each other all over town, like five times. He was nice and funny and successful and sweet. It seemed like it was meant to be!”

I nodded. “Like serendipity?”

“Exactly. Then up at his apartment, I asked him if he ever watched True Blood. He said, ‘No. I try not to do anything Satanic.'”

It’s hard to know about people’s hidden psycho until it slaps you in the face. Like tonight, when I went out with Josh – yes, that’s his real name, he deserves it. Admittedly I had a little heads up he was going to be, shall we say, interesting, during our phone call earlier in the day.

He said, “oh my god your accent is amazing!”

I laughed, “well just so you know, I always tell people not to imitate me because I hate it. Ha ha.”

“Oh good that you told me that because I love imitating people! Now say a few words so I can guess what city you’re from. Go on.”

“Well actually” I said, “I don’t have a regional accent at all. A lot of British people don’t, even a local person wouldn’t be able to…”

“Birmingham!” he shouted.

“Er no, as I was saying, you can’t tell which city I’m from, no one would be able to tell from my voice.”

“See?” He said. “I listen to the Rolling Stones and I always try to gauge it off of the way they talk. It’s a really deep British accent they have.”

What? Ok, think of the blog, think of the blog. I have to do this date.

“So what’s the plan? I can do Tuesday drinks or tonight early evening.” I said.

“Let’s do tonight. I want to get it over with.”

Yeah I can’t wait to meet you too.

But I tried to keep an open mind, and when I saw him, he seemed nice enough, ok looking, close-cropped hair, big blue eyes, looking older than 34, but decent. A little short for me at 5’8″ but whatever, I could maybe have a fun chat with him. He might just have been nervous on the phone before.

Then as we sat down with coffee, paid for on his expense account (“if anyone asks, we talked about business! Haha!”), a woman wearing a headscarf walked by, talking to herself. She seemed a bit eccentric, so I smiled at her craziness in an ‘oh, Hollywood!’ way. Josh then opened his mouth and said the following:

“Yeah I hate all those people too.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Yeah all Muslims. She was probably saying she was going to bomb us all. You know, suicide bombers and all that shit. I’m Jewish so I have feelings about it.”

I stared. I believe non-fat latte may have dribbled from my mouth.

“You’re a liberal aren’t you?” he said.

The blog the blog the blog. “Really? That’s interesting, what made you realise that?” I asked, sweetly.

“You have tattoos.” He pointed to my wrists. “You’re in the business of entertainment and let me tell you, Hollywood is crawling with liberals, with too much facial hair. And the Jews in Hollywood! They’re the worst. My god, so fucking liberal.”

“What else makes me a liberal?” I asked.

“You’re offended. See? I could tell you were a liberal. I could tell by your face when I said that thing about the Muslim woman.”

“Yes, you deeply offend me. But go on, I’m curious. What else told you I’m liberal?”

“It’s a feeling. I bet you have gay friends.”

I sat on my hands so as not to smash his face in. My heart was pounding. My legs ached to walk out the door. But I stayed. I wanted to understand this prejudice, to tackle it.

He was still talking.

“I mean I’m conservative, but I’m not that conservative. I’m not the Christian Right.”

“You are very conservative,” I said.

“No I’m not.”

“Yes. You. Are.”

He ignored me and said, “Look, I  actually know a few gay people. I mean I wouldn’t go for a coffee with one, but my mom’s decorator is a fag and sometimes I let him hug me.”

I tried to gather a response, but he was going on.

“Let me tell you, you flew into Los Angeles with all the other little birdies and you took on their liberal ways…you got sucked in like everyone else in the industry who’s trying to be cool, liking Obama and all that environmental shit. My buddy drives a, what do you call it? A Prius? He tried to give me a ride. I said I’d rather walk.”

“So you don’t care about the environment?” I was busily pulverising my empty cardboard cup.

“I love animals.” He said. “If I saw a person shot in the head, I wouldn’t give a shit. But a little squirrel with a broken leg? I’d be crying, for real.”

“Right but what about the environment animals live in? If you love them?” I said.

“That’s all bullshit. That Al Gore movie? Bullshit. I never even saw it. It was just a campaign tool. We humans have no control over the weather whatsoever.”

I took a deep breath.

“Oh I’ve offended you again, haven’t I? I shouldn’t have brought up politics.”

Yes, bringing up Al Gore was the problem.

“What’s that thing that everyone talks about? That climate thing?”

“You mean global warming?” I said.

“Yeah. I used to work in real estate development and I loved facing down those stupid liberals with their facial hair, holding their signs to save their rare trees or their stupid insects in the rain forest or whatever. They were jobless you know? Morons. I love driving my gas-guzzling car. It runs on Iraqi oil. I love that!”

“So you enjoy fuelling the Iraqi economy?” I asked, confused.

“We took that shit over, we own it now!” he said.

“Not exactly, but anyway, let me ask you, why did you choose to go on a date with a liberal girl like me? I think it said on my profile that my beliefs were liberal.”

“Didn’t read it.” He said. “Look I only date liberal girls anyway. Conservative girls are boring. I once was on a date with a girl and I told her I hated Obama, this was during the election, and then she said she was working on his campaign. I screwed that one up. I should never have mentioned politics.”

“Maybe you should have read her profile.” I said.

“Yeah but then if I read every profile, that takes a lot of time and anyway, she was pretty.”

How did she react?” I asked.

“She got up and walked away. I don’t think she even said good bye…”

Right.

“So” I said, it seems that you’re very passionate about your faith. You’ve mentioned it a lot. Is it important to your family that you marry a Jewish girl at all?”

“Yeah, it is. I mean my brothers would kill me if I didn’t. But I don’t want to date Jewish girls.”

“Why not?” I said.

“They’re ugly.”

I stared.

“By the way I’m in AA” he went on.

“I guessed.” I said.

“Wow. How did you know?”

“Well I offered going for a drink and you said twice you’d prefer coffee and it’s the evening, so you clearly don’t drink.” I said, knowing someone on a first date will mostly opt for mind-numbing alcohol.

“You’re quite a smart little thing, aren’t you?” He smiled.

I had had enough.

“You’re like a caricature of everything that’s wrong in society.” I said.

“What?” He smirked.

“First of all, there a huge chasm between someone living peacefully as a Muslim and the extremist suicide bombers you refer to, the two are not really related. Secondly I know people, and since some people are gay, I also know some gay people. Finally, Jewish girls are like any other girls, just like you are like any other guy. They are neither one thing or another, they are people. By the way I didn’t form my liberal opinions by living in Los Angeles either. I grew up in the English countryside, I lived in London, in Australia, in Paris…”

“Yeah but you know, that’s Europe, you people are all liberal.” He waved vaguely towards the Atlantic.

“I also lived in Colorado before here. My opinions were formed by meeting people with an open mind. I’ve always tried to be compassionate, so no, I was not sucked in with all the other ‘little birdies’. You are in the minority, that’s why you see yourself as surrounded by liberals. It’s because most people are more open-minded than you.”

“Wait” he said, “is that that actor? I know him! James Franco?” He pointed to a guy a few seats away.

“No, it’s not,” I said. “It’s people like you who cause problems for Americans in this world. You’re a terrible prejudiced stereotype.”

“You racist!” he said. “You made a generalisation about Americans!”

I laughed. It was true.

“But it’s funny you say that,” he said. “When I travel, I’m sometimes ashamed to say where I’m from. And when I go to places like Georgia, I hate saying I’m from Los Angeles. They all think I’m a fag.”

He went to the bathroom. I grabbed my bag and headed for the door, but he caught me.

“Oh there you are!” I said.

“There was a homeless person in the bathroom.” He said. “You don’t know what I had to go through.”

“I’m going now. This was hilarious.” I said. I sort of meant it. I was laughing. He looked confused.

Then I crossed the street to the Red Rock bar and downed a glass of wine like a shot. It was a night to forget all that is wrong in the world.

Did I mention it was Friday the 13th?

November 12, 2009

5: Ain’t Nothing But A Number

Filed under: Uncategorized — 40firstdates @ 11:25 pm

I was on the elliptical at Equinox this morning – a Hollywood-ridiculous gym with more human growth hormone inside than a scientist’s rat cage –  having a good laugh at the Snuggie commercial on the overhead TV (www.getsnuggie.com) when a cute boy approached the 40ish woman next to me.

“Does my hair look too blond?” He asked, his spray-tanned face twisting with anxiety.

The woman looked bored.

“It’s a good look for you” she finally said, before plugging her headphones back in.

He went away, satisfied.

Now, maybe this woman was the guy’s surrogate mum after he moved to Hollywood with stars in his eyes, got a crappy apartment with mouldy bathroom tile and five other wannabe-famous roomies, but it intrigues me, the younger man/ older woman relationship.  These two seemed like just friends, but still, it was interesting.

For the past two weeks I’ve been seeing, texting, e-mailing and IMing with a very cute new guy. A journalist who’s traveled, 6’3”, amazing body (I’ve seen pictures ok?) he’s driven and successful and interesting and clever and funny. And keen. Oh and he’s 24 years old.

Why does a guy that age go out with a woman in her thirties?

I called my brother.

“Dunno. He’s probably got issues with his mum” he said.

Then I asked a girlfriend.

She said, “Men don’t think ahead about viability, they date you if they like you and that’s it. Women weigh up the future consequences more.”

But still, there was something wrong. The very fact that he’s so into this, there’s always a reason for a much younger man chasing an older woman, isn’t there? There has to be.

Another friend said, “you don’t look or act your age, he probably got to like you before he realised.”

It’s true I didn’t meet this guy online as per my blog rules, so it wasn’t until late in our first meeting that he knew. I gabbled away about places I’d lived and jobs I’d done, feeling his eyes on me and trying to put him off with obvious evidence of our age difference. Frankly, I’m so firmly on the blog-track that I discounted meeting a guy organically, a guy I might like.

“Would it be very rude of me to ask how old you are?” He said.

“I’m 33”.

“How old do you think I am?” He asked, laughing.

“25” I said.

“I’m 24. Do I look really young?” He seemed worried.

“It’s not that, I figured it out when you said how recently you started working,” I lied.  He did look young.

This is not the first time this has happened. I once met a Belgian guy who seemed intensely nuts about me. I asked him what he’d done since college.

“Just this, living here,” he said.

“When did you move here?” I asked.

“Last February.”

When I finally responded to his 17 texts (that is not an exaggeration) with ‘sorry you seem nice, but I’m looking for someone in my own age group’, he went nuts. In fact he was outside my house the next morning. He was actually insane.

See? There is definitely something wrong with these guys, isn’t there? A few years is OK, but an entire generation?

Recently I asked Ashton Kutcher on the red carpet what he loved about Demi. They started dating in 2003. He was 25, she was 40.

He said “she gets more beautiful every day.”

I mean she is beautiful, and youthful, maybe $200,000 of surgery later, but Ashton, do you have issues? What are you looking for? Is this your starter marriage? Will you divorce once Demi is 65 and in retirement and then marry a 22 year-old starlet instead? I wanted to ask these questions, but of course if I had, his rep might have bludgeoned me to death.

And what about Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry? She’s 43, he’s 33. Ok she’s stunning and could easily pass for ten years younger. Then there’s the godmother of older women – Madonna, 51, with Jesus Lutz, 23. Yes those new plastic cheeks and frenetically-honed arse enable her to pass for late 30s, but really, Jesus? What gives?

So maybe my girlfriend was right. Men don’t think ahead so much when it comes to dating, they just like what they find attractive and that’s it. Obviously there are some grey areas in these celeb examples, I mean Jesus’ career and lifestyle have gone nuclear since he enrolled as Madonna’s concubine. Gabriel has gone from hot French model guy to the celebrity Mr Berry. But then, he wasn’t doing too badly on his $30,000 a day as a Hugo Boss clothes hanger and ownership of that trendy East Village café. Ok his album is not exactly on everyone’s ipod, but what the hell, he didn’t really need a leg-up from Halle. The allure of fame may be so strong it leads to crazy behaviour – as all of us in Los Angeles know – but I’m not buying that as Gabriel and Ashton’s sole reason for dating these ladies.

Does age-difference really matter anyway?

I think it doesn’t have to matter for a while, then comes a crucial point when the chasm widens. Like in a late-30s woman with a late-20s guy, for example. Is he going to want kids because her ovaries are on the outs? Maybe not. Does he feel the impulse to get married very soon because she’s going to turn 40? Not necessarily. If she’s already 45+ and marriage and kids are off-menu, maybe he’s just in love with her elegance, her attitude, or her wisdom. But how long until some girl his age whisks him away? The point of a partnership is to be able to have a life together, in tandem, surely?

I don’t believe in lying about your age. I think you’ll only seem deeply weird and desperate when they find out the truth, like those mad facelifted Beverly Hills ladies who look like they’ve been locked in a wind tunnel.

One of my girlfriends adjusts her age from 26 to 24, because “25 is the fun threshold”. I remember being 26 and having that fear, that the fun was slipping away. It didn’t though. It’s a choice to keep doing all the things you ever wanted to in life I think. And when you’re settled, you can still be spontaneous and fun, even if you have to remind yourself to be.

I once met the British ex-Editor of Cosmopolitan, Marcelle D’Argy Smith. This woman’s career is legendary. Yet she told me how she fearlessly dropped her editorship in London to take a creative writing course in New York. Afterwards, she got a job again without trouble or anxiety. She didn’t fear an age threshold, she just followed her dreams and did exactly what she wanted to.

Last week a friend from work wrote this on her blog:

“Estee Lauder sold her first cosmetics at Saks at 36, Lucille Ball debuted in TV favorite ‘I Love Lucy’ at 40, Marian Anderson, opera star, sang at the Lincoln Memorial at 42. You have plenty of time.”

I love this idea and I believe it’s true. But when it comes to love, age is a compatibility factor – if your life-stage is radically different to that of your partner, then look out.

So back to what’s wrong with this guy? Does my demeanour say ‘Mrs Robinson’ or what?

I have yet to ask the man himself. Instead, I am going out with a different 24 year-old this week. One who approached online. Maybe I’ll ask him. There was this 22 year-old asking me too, but I ditched him after he said, “I like older chicks, I’m just going to put that out there.”

I mean, that’s no way to talk to a lady.

November 2, 2009

4: No More Mr Nice Guy

Filed under: Uncategorized — 40firstdates @ 9:58 pm

Since writing about anyone I actually know is a no go, I have to rely on dating websites for this experiment. Men reduced to words and pictures.

So, guy in the orange tank top and visor, that’s a no. And you, posing next to the Lamborghini, also, no. To the man who put an apostrophe in the word “car’s”. No.

Dude who wrote saying, “I’ve never been with an English girl, but could be into that.” They have freephone numbers for you.

And the guy who mailed me, waited until I checked his profile, gave it five minutes, then sent me this: “I saw you looked at me. Was there something you did not like?”

Great.

Also wanting to speed up this 40 dates business, on the advice of a friend, I joined plentyoffish.com. It’s free, so there’s a lot more traffic.

I may as well have posted naked photos of myself on Craigslist.  Every two minutes my iphone bings with another e-mail from Sleazebags R Us.

So what is the point of online dating? It’s not really the story you want to tell your grandkids is it? On the one hand I have massive respect for the people who are genuinely trying to find love online, putting themselves out there, being open and receptive, honestly admitting they haven’t found anyone in person.

But after paddling in the online pool for a month, it just feels like a giant bar. One that’s about to close. There are a couple of lonely guys drinking through breakups, a socially-inept geek and a slimy bottom-feeder circling the overserved chick who just dropped her keys down the toilet.

There are a few exceptions, of course. Like at the bar, you get your normal, well-adjusted people who just fancied getting blasted tonight. They happen to be hanging around, because no better plan came along.

Sadly this was not the guy I went out with last night. Last night was socially-inept geek guy.

Sweet and shaking with nerves, he seemed like he wanted to run from the moment I sat down. I applaud him for making it through a whole hour in fact. I had to restrain myself from patting him on the arm reassuringly. He had things to offer, a great and interesting career in movies, a history of adventurous travel and award-winning musical talent. He wasn’t bad looking, ruggedish, tallish, nice eyes. But he was terrified of me.

I’m not ready to forgo finesse and chemistry. I know everyone says that stuff disappears in the long-term relationship anyway, and maybe one day I’ll be ready to settle for less, but not yet. Call me unkind, immature, cold even, but I don’t ever want to coax a guy through a date.

Friends say I need to consider the ‘nice guy’. Actually scratch that, my mum said it. My friends still believe in looking for fireworks, ‘pizzazz’, or as Carrie Bradshaw put it, ‘the za za zhoo’.

Ok so my mum has turned out to be right about everything else, but for some reason I can’t give up on the kind of player who keeps me guessing, who doesn’t care that much.

Recently my brother asked me why I suddenly showed interest in a guy I’d previously thrown on the ‘nice guy’ pile. I gave it some thought, then finally traced the moment my interest flared.

“He started acting like an arsehole”  I said.

It’s not just me. Men have so often asked, ‘why do women like pigs? Why does the player get the girl?’

It’s more than simply, ‘we want what we can’t have’. It’s that we want someone who likes themselves, someone with self-respect. That’s attractive.

But what looks attractive can easily be a cover for rampant misogyny. And in women, steely resolve and high standards might be the thin paper over some serious fear. Or she could be someone who reels a guy in, only to move onto the next ego boost.

Dating is a high-risk, high-stakes game. Luckily my cards aren’t genuinely on the table.

Geek guy wants to go out again. I’m ignoring him. If nothing else, there’s plenty more sleaze in the sea.

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