Someone once said, "Convenience is the death of romance." Or maybe I just made that up. Whoever came up with it is a genius.
Based on nearly 10 years of dabbling in adult singlehood, I firmly ascribe to the theory that dating is most difficult when attempted in proximity to one's daily routine.
In my typically blatant efforts to meet a future wife within a 1-mile radius of my home, I find myself walking an attention-starved Yorkie the length of the Vermont Street Fair. Mind you, Lola's not even my dog. She belongs to my engaged friend who makes me carry Lola's leash whenever we're in public because he's done setting me up with his friends.
With dog leash in hand, the women flock one after another, "Ohhhhh, your dog is just the cutest, is it a tea cup?"
I freeze. My throat seizes, my eyes wander. "Uh ... it's a girl?"
I'm so bad at this. My friend steps in.
"No, she's not. But, if you like her, we're holding a raffle. Just write down your name and number and give it to this guy," he says, pointing in my direction.
When the "hottie" invariably lifts her gaze in my direction, I'm just as confused as she is.
From the waves of women mesmerized by small furry things, one sticks out: Sarah. She's cute, funny and intelligent. Not only that, she looks vaguely familiar. We come to realize that our apartments are on neighboring streets. Logically this can only mean one thing: we are meant to be.
When I first moved from the relative solitude of the Valley into the four square blocks of the budding metropolis that is Los Feliz, I was thrilled at the prospects of a convenient love life. I imagined it would be like the first semester of college all over again. Just on the other side of the R.A.'s room would be a hallway filled with eager women, two and three of them behind each door, studying in skimpy lingerie.
The moment Sarah escapes earshot, my friend starts in: "Didn't you get her number?"
"Nah," I reply, "I'll see her around."
"You have got to be kidding me."
Three days later, I walk into the local coffee shop and there she is standing at the counter.
"Hey," I say as if we had planned to meet all along.
"Wait, let me guess," she says, placing a hand against her forehead. "Vincent, right?"
"No. Neil. Who the hell is Vincent?"
"I don't know.... I bet you don't remember my name," she says with confidence.
Not letting that little hiccup slow me, I am uncharacteristically charming and in the end manage to get her number.
Twenty-four hours later, I'm stumbling home -- fried from work and an evening of writing -- when I bump into Sarah again. She's sitting outside what I assume is her apartment complex, conversing with a female friend.
"We're very drunk," she slurs. "We've been drinking Kama Sutra martinis."
Her sentence ends with a dangerous lingering smile. They both giggle. Lurid positions flash across my mind. I think I'm having a near-sex experience. But I'm so tired. I'm completely ill-prepared to entertain. But I talk anyway. I talk and talk. I even joke about "the Vincident."
The next day, I call and leave a message basically asking her out. On my way home from dinner with friends that night I actually pray, "Please lord, please let me make it to my apartment without seeing her. She hasn't returned my call yet. It'll be really awkward."
I consider taking different streets, but I'm all like, "What am I, in junior high school?"
It's fairly dark, yet in the distance I make out a group of guys and girls walking toward me. One of those girls is, in fact, Sarah, and for some reason she's racing ahead. On approach she appears all New York: You know, the no-eye-contact thing. Since I'm from New York, I find this offensive.
So, I call her on it: "Hey!" I say, acting utterly shocked to see her.
She glances at me as she speeds past, "Oh, hey...."
The following afternoon our paths cross yet again. She's holding hands with some guy. I don't even care.
It's one week since the street fair. I'm sitting in the coffee shop writing. Sarah is at the counter asking for change from my most recent ex-girlfriend. Sitting at my table is Kate, yet another past love interest. Our relationship ended with me not returning her phone call -- but when she entered the coffee shop 20 minutes ago, there was nowhere else to sit.
I step out for air. Within 30 seconds, a two-month relationship strolls passed, followed immediately by an awkward first date. For the first time in three years it hits me: In the name of convenience, I have literally surrounded myself in rejection.
Suddenly, I feel like I'm back in my freshman dorm again. Although, now it's the end of first semester. I've played my final round of charades. I've given my last mutual massage. Other than proximity, it appears none of us share much in common and have, in fact, grown to resent each other for it.
Similarly, my search for a future wife is enriched by a new understanding. That, unlike my grandparents back in the shtetl or my parents in Brooklyn, location alone has ceased to be a starting point for the kind of intangible commonality and shared values essential to a long lasting relationship.
Logging onto a singles Web site, I stumble across the perfect profile. I'm enthralled. That is until I notice something: Culver City.
I'm not that desperate. Am I.
Neil Katcher is a freelance writer and television producer living in Los Angeles.