Dating in L.A. when your sidekick is a baby

Erica and I were waiting for coffee in front of All Time’s sidewalk service counter, Jack in his cart between us. We admire the dogs that pass by on Hillhurst Avenue, comparing them to Cassius and Trudy, our backyard couple. We compare Jack’s stroller with other strollers, discuss pros and cons. Coffee in hand, we consider continuing to the bookstore. We talk about my new favorite Showtime thriller, “Yellowjackets,” and she lets me spoil the ending because she likes twists but isn’t scared.

You can see us wandering the streets of Los Feliz mid-morning while I take a break from writing and coffee before my afternoon tutoring gig. If it weren’t for my standing no more than three feet from Erica, we might have looked like a portrait of the Eastside millennial domestication.

And that’s the problem.

this is a The barista is cute at the coffee shop, and I want to take her out on a date. I worry that she thinks I’m Jack’s father. I want her to know that I am friends with Jack’s father, who was figuring things out when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and is now living in a guesthouse when he finishes high school.

So I enforce the personal space barrier on this Hillhurst block and venture to look like the kind of father who ignores his child’s mother to make it at least somewhat clear that I’m a viable participant. into LA’s sex market.

John – one of my oldest friends – is married to Erica, and they are building a wonderful life with their son in Los Feliz, and I salute the yard. I’m living my old age: long walks up and down Hillhurst and Vermont, milk oats in my coffee. I work on my novel. I make banh tet with jalapeños at the farmers market and McCall’s rib eye steak. I browsed through Skylight Books with my classmates and we flipped through professor titles. I cooked dinner for my dearest friends and watched their beautiful child discover that he existed in a wide world.

This is Los Angeles, where the air is always dangerous, especially now, but I’m healthy and privileged to spend hours a day writing. Everything I could want – local butcher, local pho, local bookstore, local cinema – within 20 min walk.

Over a period of several weeks, we developed a relationship with cute barista – she knew our names and orders. And now she knows that I’m just Erica’s friend. I’ve switched from the goofy dad genre to the rarer “living with his married friends” genre, which is super catchy in a multi-series sitcom, but I’m not sure How well did I finish? Besides, flirting with someone makes me feel gross while being attached to a capitalist superstructure requires her to be agreeable to me, regardless of her internal experience in the public sector. my company.

Thrice jabbed, 33 years old and single, with a schedule largely determined by an 8-month-old housemate. How did my gilded age take this shape? My romantic life changed abruptly, irrevocably, and bleakly a few months before the pandemic began to close. I entered my thirties in a partnership that I thought would last a lifetime, but it ended when I was 31. In March 2020, I am two months away from finishing college and am waiting to hear back from graduate programs. The world was halting just as I finally put myself in a position to go fast.

But my friendship with John nearly two decades deep, and we’ve shown each other through tough times before. And my friendship with Erica was part of the reason that brought the two of them together to discover their chemistry. When they started dating, I was the first to realize, even before they fell in love, that they were in love. When the world started falling apart two years ago and I was already reeling from that breakup, they made a place for me.

So I should have listened to them when they told me to put myself out there. They said it would be worth encouraging me to ask for the bartender number. “Can she date my novel instead?” I answered, and we all laughed. Then again, it gets pretty glamorous, while I tend to sweat.

My main reason for shutting down was when the bartender quit to get back to her calling as an activist. Erica found her on social media and asked me to do the same. I asked her to hang out. She said yes, but only after mentioning that she was in an open relationship with room for occasional dates with other people. I was surprised at how relieved I was at this news, but it also confirmed my suspicions that I was nervous about dating.

A few weeks ago we met to buy vegan milkshakes. I spent a few minutes at Skylight before she cycled, because never in my life have I felt so nervous in a bookstore.

When I asked her if she wanted to see each other again, I made a lame joke about the purpose of first dates with the opposite sex to let a man prove he’s not too dangerous. dangerous to take the time, “You know, because I’ve proven I’m not a serial killer. “

“Oh, I already knew that,” she said. “You are friends with a baby.”

Yes, my old age is full of miracles, including a child joining me in my morning constitution. But when I start putting myself out there, future first dates may not be forewarned of my life circumstances. I would have to be vulnerable about why my life is in the shape it is in now – but I should also remember that we are all living in the same pandemic where words like “temporary” , “family” and “gratitude” have ever-changing definitions.

Maybe I should trust one day in the future to understand that I will forever be grateful for the time I spent living “in the community” with John and Erica (and now Jack), the abbreviation we applied for our unique arrangement. These are my people, and I feel better about myself when they’re around. And now, it’s home.

The author is working for MFA in creative writing at UC Riverside Palm Desert. He is on Twitter @adamszemel

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