My boyfriend planned a secret trip. Was I invited?

When my grandmother died five years ago, my mother asked my eldest brother, Marc, to invite his friend to wake him up. Not because he knew my grandmother (he didn’t) but because my mother saw him as a possibility of love for me. He was a doctor who, in my mother’s words, “had his eye on me” at Marc’s wedding. She also saw him as a bait to lure me back home to Michigan.

Marc, who works in finance, didn’t ask me to give up the idea. But my mother has a point. She did just that a few months ago when she mailed my maltipoo, Benedict, a turquoise handkerchief with the message in white font: “My mom is single.”

She knows my condition. I was fascinated by one person, a man 16 years older than me, who used to live in a different ZIP code during the years we dated here and there. At that time, Jack called Myanmar home for half a year. I lived in Hollywood. Most of our conversation happens via Gmail.

I mark the time with his visits. Once, when I knew he was staying with me for New Year’s Eve, I created a PowerPoint and saved it as “Attractions Coming.” In it, I attached pictures of Benedict, chess and Yai (his favorite Thai restaurant). The final slide includes a photo of me paired with a side note: “Clothes optional.”

He stayed with me in Franklin Village for a few days the summer before my grandmother died. He solved crossword puzzles while we sipped Bulleit in bed. We took Benedict to Griffith Park as usual. Jack cooks dinner. Then he did something new. He had a ticket back to Los Angeles in December. He left some of his belongings in a plastic bag on the storage table in my living room. I jumped.

I vowed to respect his privacy until my mother visited a few weeks later. Side by side, we sat on my sofa and stared at the table. She directed me to investigate. Anyway, I’m a journalist. We also have wine, so I open the chest and pull out my bag. It consisted of the usual stuff: several shirts, one with tassels. Then my mother discovered the tickets. The Greyhound tickets kept popping out of her hand, spreading across the floor of my living room. His return to me was just a few days before taking off on a journey filled with bus stops across America. She smiles. I scoffed. Then I cried in the corner of my bathroom.

I can do it: fall in love with someone who lives 17 hours or so away on a plane without any commitment. When I first met him in my 20s, I was ignorant about having a regular boyfriend. Over the years, it’s all too easy to attend events like New Year’s Eve solos and control the dancing cockroaches on your own. (My hot pink Dyson vacuum makes them noisy; my squeal drowns out the sound of the vacuum, but my walls are thick.)

When Benedict collapsed on my floor, I put him on a leash and drove the wrong way to the vet. But we made it there. I took out the trash by myself for many years. Usually no garbage bags. Once, I threw trash down a building’s chute on a windy day in Santa Ana. Q-tips and toilet paper fell three floors, and the wing from the Stayfree time pad smacked my cheek before I closed the trough.

Some signs were too obvious. I fired Hinge, which I resisted for many years because I believed I was only connected with a man who lived in Yangon.

I went to the wrong person on my first date at my local bar in Franklin Village. The real date, who watched me approach other people, was unimpressed. We had a drink and said goodbye.

I swiped right again and in 2019 I met Chris. In my Hinge profile, I mentioned that I would know I met someone when he sent me meatballs at a bar. So when Chris wrote, “How is your meatball availability in the next few days,” I smiled. I took a moment and chose Musso & Frank, a Hollywood venture where Fitzgerald and Hemingway had been.

We sat at the bar. It’s easy to play around with martinis and meatballs. He just moved from Orange County to apply for a job and owns an apartment a few miles away from me. For the next few months, Chris will be planning everything: movies, restaurants, the new year. Often that feels like an overwhelming commitment for someone who hasn’t. I asked many friends if he was the right person. After that, Chris’s owner started sending him to China. Often.

I bought us Sugarfish when he officially called us out of work in February 2020. He doesn’t eat it. Later I will eat sushi alone.

Something of mine She said to my mother when she was dying, “Tell her to be tough.” She means me.

When we were urged to start quarantine next month because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I put on a makeshift mask and walked out with Benedict. We are praised by the church of Scientology, Oaks Gourmet, Gelson and a cul-de-sac. He barked at passers-by. I wrapped his handkerchief around my nose and mouth, which read “My mother is single”.

The author is a senior editor at Bankrate and the FinTech Check organization on LinkedIn. Her on Instagram: @mmwisnie.

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