Part One of My Response to The Atlantic’s “Is Your City Making You Single” Article.
Braids blogged this article Sunday, and I wanted to reblog it but I also think what she said, she said better than I could’ve said, and I didn’t want to tack on my pithy comments below her own. So go read hers and then read the article and then come back here.
Don’t lie, you skimmed it. Go read it.
Okay, so, that article is 100% accurate, at least, where it is 100% accurate, and I’m going to address some of the points it brings up below, even if I said some similar things right here and here and here and most importantly here. And then I’m going to rant for a bit. (I broke this up into two parts. Part One concerns dating in this town as it relates mostly to this article. Part Two is way more personal but still on topic.)
Okay. Here goes…
Yes, I think “Los Angeles is for loners” but I think that’s true for other reasons not relating to relationships. The vast majority of people in this town moved here (that’s not entirely accurate, but it’s a known and accepted lie) and they moved here mostly from wherever they grew up in (mostly) the Midwest or (also mostly) the East Coast and (for a surprisingly large group of people I know) from Northern California. (I’ve met native Los Angelenos, they are, for the most part, great people. But in any large gathering, be it a party or work or bar scene or concert or wherever, every one is a transplant. Though those of us who have lived here for almost eight years certainly could make the case for being a native. We can get around this town faster than most native Californians, and we certainly love this town more than most natives, albeit, in a diseased, one-sided, absolutely idealized kind of lusty love.)
My point is, we/they all moved here to Los Angeles alone, not as one mass exodus from Kansas or Michigan or New Jersey. You may know other people here from where you grew up, but you most likely didn’t move out with anyone. (Except for my friends I know who did.) (I moved out completely alone.)
So of course we’re a city of loners, because we chose, years ago, that we’d rather live alone with strangers in Los Angeles than live with people we love in Oklahoma City, OK or Davis, CA or Bellmar, NJ or St Louis, MS or Springfield, IL.
So right there, you have a city full of people who, by the very act of moving cross county to follow a dream, are used to and comfortable being alone.
Not lonely, but alone. (There is a difference.)
And we find each other here. We find coworkers and friends from our home state or hometown or college or general area of the country and we piece together friendships and social circles and relationships. And those circles overlap with other circles made up of similar thrown-together friendships and relationships.
So yeah. We’re loners, but we’re not afraid of it and we embrace it and it’s why we’re here.
If we were afraid of being alone, we wouldn’t have left the comfortableness of wherever it is we grew up. But we did and now we’re all here vying for the same dreams and the same dates and the same jobs and the same spots at the bar. (As pointed out later in the article, all us/those single people are not just competing for love but also jobs. How true, how very very true.)
Then there’s this part, about dating in relation to where you live in the city:
“In Los Angeles, everyone drives, and that presents a related logistical challenge—if New York is too big, Los Angeles is too wide. Not everyone is inclined to navigate three freeways for the chance to get laid, stone sober. And Los Angeles lacks an urban center where young, single people congregate—they live everywhere.”
Here’s what I said, on June 15th:
Which is the truth. I’ve dated girls who live across the city, and guess what, it didn’t work. A friend of mine who’s perhaps more single than I could ever be was recently introduced, in a blind date/friend of a friend capacity, to what could potentially be a great girl for him to date. He lives in Silver Lake, she lives in Venice. They’re never going to go out. He laughed/wrote it off immediately.
No one wants to spend any more time on our highways and in traffic than we absolutely have to, and you know what? I LOVE our highways. I think they absolutely work if you know how and when to make them work. It’s just that there are too many people who don’t. And crossing the 405 any time of day makes you want to shoot yourself in the face. But, other than that…
So of course nobody wants to drive across town at rush hour to make a late dinner with someone and then drive back, or stay the night and leave super early the next morning to make it home and then to work. It’s a nightmare. Relationships move faster here because you have to plan out early on in your dating life how you’re going to deal with late nights and early mornings 10 miles but two hours from home or work. The city is too big to date from one side to the other.
Which is why you tend to date around wherever you live or work, or where you go out at night. Which is fine if you want to see, flirt with, hit on, and/or date the same people over and over and over. Or the same people your friends have dated. Incestuous barely begins to describe certain dating scenes. For the most part, the same people are out at the same bars every night or every weekend. Girls and guys in Silver Lake and Los Feliz don’t travel far from home if they can help it, staying there or going to Atwater or Echo Park or, at the most, the very eastern side of Hollywood. I mean the very eastern side.
Nobody worthy of being taken seriously as a date would ever choose to go out in Hollywood on a weekend, and most days of the week, and anyone who does should be judged accordingly. That said, there are decent and great girls and guys who go out in Hollywood. Because they live there. Because they work there. So to them, it’s like going out in the neighborhood. And we’ll never cross paths because we don’t want to mess with the unbelievable clusterfuck that is Hollywood.
But if you ever go out with a girl and her idea of a great Saturday night is putting on heels and going to The Saddle Ranch on the Sunset Strip, then you might as well lose her number and lose it fast.
You should also dump any numbers from any girls or guys who love and imitate the hipster lifestyle, especially if they’re not hipsters. Why anyone would want to actively be thought of a hipster when they’re not is beyond me. Wash your hair, stop shopping by the bushel at Urban Outfitters, ditch the fur and unflattering dresses and awful shoes and mismatched clothes. Grow up. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, it’s not enviable. I have friends that are hipsters, I love them. I also have friends that are wanna be hipsters, and those people drive me crazy.
So now you’re stuck going out to all the same places. Yeah, you’ll try the new bar downtown, and you’ll hit the West Side on occasion and reluctantly, and sure, you always talk about a Valley night, and yeah, you love Highland Park and Eagle Rock, and okay, there are good spots in Hollywood…
But you’re still only going to run into the same few hundred people who see these things and like those places exactly as much as you do. Fellow musicians and “musicians” and writers and “writers” and comedians and “comedians” and people who moved out here to be an actor and who do anything but, yet are, because we’re being polite, totally working actors.
And then there’s the awful fact, well accepted, said by and meant by everyone who dates ever, across the board and across the states: Nobody wants to meet someone at a bar.
Bars are for last call girls and guys, for someone to meet to go out with but not to date. At least, that’s what we’re told and that’s what we all say when we’re not trying to actively pick up a girl at a bar.
And, I have to be perfectly honest here: my last two girlfriends were picked up not just at a bar but at the same bar, which is one of the worst bars in this town. A hipster bar for hipsters that used to be a local bar for people who hate hipsters. Your guess is as good as mine why those didn’t work out.
But it’s true. You don’t want to nor will you meet someone nice at a bar. Where you want to meet them, and where you will meet them, is beyond me. Work, I guess. The gym, they say. At a concert, sure. In the produce aisle, I think?
But you also shouldn’t date within your work (I’ve broken that one too. Many many times. And again, surprise surprise, it didn’t work out at all.) Even though it’s the only time you may be around people you genuinely like and respect and who have the actual same investments and dreams that you do. Like it says in the Atlantic article:
“In reality, these big cities are sheltering more broke singles with stoked anxieties and broken creative dreams.”
So work is out.
A lot of people date within their circle, or where their circle and someone else’s social circle overlap. The venn diagram of social circles mean occasionally one group of friends meet someone else’s group of friends, or work friends meet bar friends, or home-state friends meet LA-met friends.
And smiles are exchanged along with numbers and facebook invites and twitter follows, and a lot of time, that’s how a lot of people meet other people they find interesting, or, at least, new.
Because that’s what it is: you’re meeting someone new. You don’t even have to fall in love with them at first sight, because they’re new. They’re not the same usual struggling actor or writer or waitress you’re used to seeing at Good Luck Bar or a party at the Silver Lake house. They’re in grad school or they’re a nurse (shudder) or they’re an accountant or a lawyer or in med school or they’ve just moved to Hollywood and they’re so stoked because oh my god it’s Hollywood ya’ll this is where dreams come true did I tell you who I saw at Trader Joe’s today?
But all good things come to an end, and no brand new car keeps that new car smell forever. The longer social circles overlap, the more they merge, and the less new those new people are. You’ve gone from being excited to see, meet, and date new people to wondering if there’s another new circle of potential dates out there.
Repeat that several times a year, every year, and that’s Los Angeles. An overlapping venn diagram of social circles where everyone has met or dated everyone else in some way, and anyone new is chewed up and spit out immediately.
An example. You meet three new girls at a bar: within six months you and your friends have dated them and hated them, tried to date their friends, been pawned off on their co-workers, at least one of you succeeded and at least one of you failed, someone’s got a broken heart, and at the end of the day, you’re all back to being as single and miserable, and yet just as hopeful for something real, something new, as you were when you met them.
And when they’re gone, you go out to the next bar and you look around and you say, “What’s next?”
(End of Part One)