This is an essay published in the LA Affairs column in the LA Times on February 24th, 2018
On the last day of my marriage I made an elaborate posole. (Had I known it was the last day of my marriage I would have made a much simpler recipe.) My husband came home from work, walked through the kitchen of our Sunset Park home and announced he'd rented an apartment. He was moving out.
I was sad and distraught, in a state of shock. Even if the "known" wasn't so hot, I would now be forced to step out into the unknown, which felt unmanageable.
My divorced friends' lives were filled with strife. One friend and her husband abandoned divorce because it was too expensive, so they just decided to live separately. When I talked about the emotional pain I was going through, my friend Lauren said the only way to go through it was to go through it. It took her years. Dating was the next obvious step, but it felt like a crazy idea.
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I was terrified of dating. Probably because I imagined the pressure and the stress of finding the perfect "One" all over again before the music stops and you're standing there like a schmuck without a chair, without a china pattern, without someone to stick with the duties of wearing a neon vest and blowing the whistle on the sidelines of the soccer game.
I fretted about online dating. It was hard to imagine making myself so vulnerable — exposed in every way. Surely all the amazing "husband material" guys had been scooped up decades ago. I was going to wither away, lonely and alone, in some Writers Guild retirement home in Burbank for which I had been on the waiting list for a decade.
Then one day in Trader Joe's I ran into a woman I knew from the preschool my kids had attended. She said she knew it was going to be hard steering my boys through all these changes. But as far as she was concerned, she was happy to hear the news. She said she never liked my ex. She also added:
"Here's what they don't tell you: You're going to have a lot of sex. It's going to be really fun."
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As I navigate this uncharted territory, I am starting to see the wisdom of her words. I don't exactly have a boyfriend — I have what my writing partner Katie described as "a boyfriend quilt."
The quilt at the moment comprises two men, let's call them M. and J.
M. is the professor I dated for nine months, who ultimately morphed into the Jerry to my Elaine. We talk and laugh on the phone at night as we lie in our separate beds. We email and we still meet up to write at Café Bolivar in Santa Monica. But my favorite thing is the texting. I might be sitting in the car waiting for my 15-year-old to finish his guitar lesson or sitting in a meeting when my phone will ping with a random message from M.: "I'm experimenting with leave-in conditioner." Or one of the many messages obsessing about his quirky neighbors in West L.A., the entire cast of characters I know by heart.
And then, meeting none of these emotional needs is J., the acquaintance I had a crush on for years who is now a friend with benefits. Really, really good benefits.
J. is a semi-employed manchild who lives in Venice with a couple of cats. We meet up for inventive drinks at Rose Café near his home, or margaritas at Lula on Main Street in Santa Monica. I talk about my divorce mediation, he tells me about the camp he runs at Burning Man (I had not known that camp for grown-ups was a thing). He whispers suggestions of things he thinks we might be able to do that night. After drinks we walk, his hand in my back pocket, to his rent-controlled hovel on the beach. Afterward, there is no cuddling or canoodling. I call a Lyft and he walks me downstairs, barefoot. There is a shameless display of public affection and then that is the end of that, until our next meet-up.
As for dating sites, I have my profile up on one site and if I get any interesting bites I check them out, but I am not attached to any particular outcome. I realize I am not getting any younger, but I also realize there is no endgame here.
Removing any expectations has allowed me to live in the moment. I devote time to my writing, relish the time with my kids, and enjoy the hell out of that boyfriend quilt.
Last week in a restaurant on Pico I saw posole on the menu. I dared myself to order it. It was delicious.
The author is a screenwriter living in Santa Monica.