Guest columnists: Sarah Brown and Abby Kincaid

(Joe’s note: In honor of France, I am taking most of the month of August off from the column. I will be traveling, visiting family and attending a wedding. While I’m gone a few of my friends have volunteered to guest-write The Joe Donatelli Column. They are all very talented people and I hope you enjoy their work.)

Nobody dates in L.A.

The following situation actually happened to Abby:

“This is such a date,” said the 31-year-old man-child as we shimmied into our seats and awaited the start of the movie. “I can’t remember the last time I went on a date,” he continued with a touch of bewilderment. “What do you mean you can’t remember the last time you went on a date?” I asked, mirroring his tone of surprise.
“I mean usually, you just get together and hook up,” he responded. I had been in Los Angeles a mere six months. The dating language he spoke was foreign. But eight months later, when he started “hooking up” with another girl, and explained to me that eight months of what I thought was dating was something quite different, I realized I wasn’t in the proverbial Kansas anymore.

It’s a fascinating thing, this dating Petri dish we call Los Angeles. In addition to the “Baywatch” promise of sun, surf, boobs and blondes, Los Angeles offers one of the most diverse dating communities in the world; and with diversity comes difficulty. Why, in a city loaded with attractive, talented, and available singles, is finding even a nice, simple one-on-one date, let alone (gasp) –a relationship!– so challenging? We posit the following theories. 

1. Dating distracts you from your goals of fame and fortune
Los Angeles is where America’s most insecure people come in droves in the hopes of flipping the proverbial bird at their high school tormentors through the achievement of fame and fortune. Dinner with someone you like is a mere distraction from the single-mindedness required to achieve ultimate payback at your 20-year high school reunion. We think, “If I go to dinner, and I like this guy, and he likes me, I’m going to have to make time for him. If I have to make time for him, I’m going to have less time to flat-iron my hair and experiment with new Sephora products. If I have less time for these things, I’m going to look less hot. If I look less hot, I will feel even more insecure than I already do and some other hot girl will get the kernel of fame that I might have gotten … and then this guy will cheat on me with her!”

This scenario works for guys as well … just simply replace hotness with money or success. The point is, dinner is simply too intimate, and the ultimate possibility of rejection too great. So, instead, we get drunk and randomly make out at parties a few times before taking the “date” step. This way, we already know hot tongue action is just a bottle of pinot away. No need to fear rejection, which not so surprisingly, is the crux of our second theory.

2. Fear of rejection
To add insult to injury, these people, with self-esteem so epically low that they actually care about getting the last laugh at their high school reunion, have masochistically chosen a career path with built-in, repeated opportunities for rejection … i.e. actors, musicians, writers, comedians, etc. They are routinely told things like “You have a ‘Simpsons’ chin,” or “You need to tighten up your muffin top,” or “Your script … it’s just not that funny … and we’re going to go in a different direction.”
The absolute truth is that these inconsequential things really do matter in the entertainment industry. That “Simpsons” chin WILL look weird on camera … your muffin top WILL look horrible in the Speedo scene … and your script, even if it is a freakin’ hoot, WON’T get financing if that stick-in-the-mud in the suit doesn’t get the joke. These are the realities of the daily rejection we artists face in Los Angeles, and it becomes part of the baggage we carry with us. As such, we’re not only carrying the standard, “I’m a geek in designer clothing who hates his father” baggage that everyone carries. We’re geeks in designer clothing who hate our fathers and who were told two hours before the date that our noses were too Moe Szyslak and we’d maybe work in this town after rhinoplasty. Since the date itself offers even more chance for rejection, we develop heightened anxiety about “dating” and again choose to get drunk and make out. Seriously, nobody wants to hear “I’ve decided to go in a different direction” twice in the same day.

(Above: Typical Los Angeles woman on a Friday night. dragonflaiii/flickr.)

3. Opportunists in sheep’s clothing
Or hot mini-dresses, in this case. A male friend who has since fled Los Angeles summed it up like this – no one wanted to go out unless he could do something for them or introduce them to someone. Our guess is that men encounter this more than women; however, the rise of Ryan Reynolds suggests that this practice is not limited to either gender.
Perhaps the real problem here is that there are simply too many people in Los Angeles who CAN offer some sort of career advantage, and who will do so for the chance to play with a hot young thing. But then, dating is always a game of give and take … and because many people in Los Angeles are career-driven, dating becomes a tool used for career advancement, rather than a step to finding a relationship. To quote Kanye, “I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger…” – but she may like you a little bit more if you can introduce her to the head of new talent at CAA. And if you can’t, but you are willing and able to buy her Louis Vuitton, then you’re golden too … because, well, maybe we are sayin’ she’s a gold digger.

Don’t let all of this push you over the edge. You know they’re out there – those girls and boys who look at the scenarios described above with utter disgust. The question is how do those boys and girls find each other? Maybe you need to hang out in different bars. Maybe you need to go to the Laundromat more often. Maybe you men should take a yoga class – but stay away from Pilates. Those girls are out for blood. Anyway, they’re there. Don’t give up. There’s just a lot more crap to sift through in this town. The logical solution, then, is for people to go on more dates. So get out there, single Los Angeles. Go forth, in pairs, to modestly-priced yet tasteful sit-down eateries, movie theaters and mini-golf courses.

(Abby Kincaid appeared on the Feb. 14, 2008 podcast “Abby Valentine’s Day.” Sarah Brown is a loyal column reader and podcast listener. She is married. She did not meet her husband in Los Angeles.)

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Chris

    Thanks for tackling this topic, which I find so fascinating I wrote an academic research paper about it during college. On a personal note, I’ve lived in LA for seven years, had two wonderfully old-fashioned LTRs, and never once hooked up (nor wanted to). Keep on keepin’ on, Angelenos.

  • Joe Donatelli

    Chris, you are a credit to the great city of Los Angeles. Thanks for the comment. Would love to read that research paper!

  • This is very good, but is obviously slanted towards downtown LA, Hollywood, and the West Side.

    Living in the South Bay (also in LA County) has taught me that most people also don’t date here, but it’s for completely different reasons.

    First, the scene is very animalistic. Just as Joe has written about us being “moblacons”, our sex lives ‘move around’ in this sense too. Being tied down is simply not how our generations work.

    Second, the competition is brutal. Everyone is ‘talking to’ or ‘seeing’ 3 other people. We’re not opportunists in a professional sense, but opportunists in a sense that something hotter/better/cooler might come by any time (and it often does!)

    Third, nobody grows up out here. You grow down. I know 36 year olds that party harder than I do as a 26 year old (or worse, as a college student). It’s unbelievable. And with that comes a lack of serious relationship as well.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: