Initially, she seemed a hot mess. And she was. Welcome to L.A. dating

Monday, 29 May 2017, 11:05:16 AM. Santa Monica hot spot a stage for all that's tricky about the L.A. dating scene

It’s difficult to explain the downtown Santa Monica bar scene to an outsider for the joy and misery it has brought me over the years.  It is often the quintessential L.A. experience: $11 beers, ocean sunset views, upscale atmosphere, Ray-Bans, perfect hair and absurd cleavage.  Full of the most beautiful people imaginable with the ugliest of personalities.  You’re likely to bump into a celebrity every once in a while, or someone who acts like one the rest of the time. 

Last time I was there, and this is 100% true, I overheard two girls making fun of a blind guy with a cane.

Still, I find myself making appearances there for birthdays/special occasions or at the end of the night, pending the typical infinite and unwavering line outside. Arriving is always a terrible experience, but after only a few overpriced beers, it transforms into something greater, like a Steven Seagal movie -- appalling yet entertaining in unintended ways. 

If you can enjoy watching the crowds without interacting, appreciate the beautiful scenery and enjoy the company you’ve  come with,  it is a great option.  The downside is the inevitable aftermath of being persuaded by your friends to commingle.  Each time I say no, that I’ve learned my lesson. But after repeated requests and some liquid encouragement, I make the same mistake.

The story of Bungalow Girl takes place on an evening I decided to drop in to catch up with a couple of recently engaged friends.    

Colin and I were standing by the bar talking when a woman abruptly barged into our conversation and threw a crunched up $10 bill in my face, apparently just for show.

“Is this all I am?” she asked. “An object to be bought, a pretty thing to be impressed with money?!”

“Whoa, calm down,” I said. “What are you talking about?”

Bungalow Girl went on to explain how all the guys at the bar were stuck-up rich jerks who believed they could impress any girl by throwing money around. 

She was clearly upset, a little drunk, younger (around 23) and something of a hot mess.  She went on to explain that, like me, she was new to L.A. and struggling to meet quality people. So against my better judgment, I agreed to hear her out.

“It’s so hard finding anyone real around here.”

“Well, your problem’s simple. You’re looking in the wrong places.  What else should you expect from a spot like this??”

“Well, where should I look then?”

“I’ve found a lot of success from clubs and athletic groups.  When people share interests, they’re much more likely to bond and be worthy of talking to.  I have to admit, though, it’s been hard ... it took a good year for me to find friends and feel comfortable in a new area so far from home.”

As we talked, I found myself warming up to her.  The more I got to know her, the more I felt we had in common.

She went on to explain how she had graduated from a reputable school and had recently come to the West Coast to take a new job. She mentioned that she was into running and looking for a group with which to train.

“There’s lots of good groups I can recommend.”

She also said she had been on a few dates, all with horrible outcomes.  Just finding girl friends seemed impossible.

“I might have some female friends you’d be interested in hanging out with.”

By this point, I had talked to this woman for 45 minutes, and I hadn’t been able to catch up with the couple I had shown up with. But I was feeling a little into her despite the rude introduction.

Offering my number versus asking for hers seemed a safe way for me to extend an invitation without the fear of rejection., or at least I had thought.

Her response: “Oh, I would NEVER call you!”

I could not believe she had to shut me down in such a rude fashion.

“I can give you my number,” she said, to which I replied, “I’m OK,” and walked off.

Hours later, I spotted her being carried out by bouncers, nearly unconscious.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I’ve seen this before.  What is it that makes a certain person feel better by bringing someone else down?  Like some twisted game of war, where by winning the battle you absorb the other’s confidence for your own.  

The realities of dating in L.A. are harsh, with the stakes high and the standards through the roof. I’ve seen beautiful women do terrible things claiming insecurity and fortunate guys take their blessings for granted, throwing opportunity away for the chance at the next thrill. The 5% of both sexes do enough damage to ruin things for the rest of us mortals.  

I used to get angry at these people, but now I feel sad for how difficult it must be for them to find happiness.  I still believe finding one good apple in a bucket of rotten ones is worth the search.

The author is a 32-year-old engineer, toy designer and triathlete living in Santa Monica.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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