When I was 45, I decided it was time to try online dating again. My hair had finally grown back from the chemotherapy that made it fall out a year earlier, and I had been pronounced cured of the cancer that had tried to kill me. During the long, hard struggle leading up to that point, I’d had an epiphany.
If I wanted to find that special someone to spend the second half of my life with — the life it looked like I was going to get to have after all — I’d have to do something about it. None of my previous relationships had worked out, but I still hadn’t given up on finding “the right one.” If I was going to meet this right one, it wouldn’t happen because he showed up at my door — not with the gated entrance at my Mar Vista condo complex.
I created a new online dating profile and started going on excruciating coffee dates with the guys who were supposed to be my matches. I didn’t click with any of them. After six months, my determination was starting to waver. Maybe I could just be happy as a single gal with my cat, my friends and my condo. Then someone who hadn’t shown up as my match reached out to me. His profile name was Romeosolo. He looked attractive — in his photos, at least. His profile was charming and he showed a sense of humor.
So what match criteria didn’t he meet? Then I saw it. He was outside my acceptable mileage range. He lived in the San Fernando Valley. I lived on the Westside. This could never work out, I thought. But what’s one more coffee date?
I met Romeosolo at the Cow’s End Cafe in Venice. His real name was Robert. He looked just like his photos. He hugged me. It should have been awkward, but somehow it wasn’t. He said to me: “You’re so much better-looking in person.” That should have struck me as overly eager, but he was too genuine about it. I asked him if he liked cats, and he told me the story of how he rescued three feral kittens he found living under his deck.
After coffee, we walked around the Venice canals, and he didn’t mock me for talking to the ducks — in fact, he joined in. As I drove home, I realized I had enjoyed myself on a coffee date.
The next day I started trying to think of everything that could possibly be wrong with this cute guy who was so genuine and fun and cat-loving. Well, he lived in the Valley — that was a deal-breaker right there. I decided to give Robert a chance anyway.
For our first real date, I agreed to venture over the Mulholland Divide to have dinner at a French bistro on Ventura Boulevard. Over dinner we talked about our lives, our passions and our families. When the evening ended with a gentle kiss, I knew I was falling for him.
In the days and weeks that followed, we settled into a calm, easy love. I knew I’d found the right one. But, why, oh why did he have to live in the Valley? I loved the Westside. I worked on the Westside. All my friends were on the Westside. The beach was there. My cute little condo — that I actually owned! — was there. To me, the Valley was a land of trailer parks, billboards and bad takeout. And it was so hot, sometimes hot and windy at the same time. I could never live in the Valley. Or so I thought.
For the next year, we saw each other twice a week, switching between Mar Vista and Lake Balboa. Then the following summer, I temporarily moved in with Robert while my building was being tented for termites. We discovered that we really liked being together all the time. Our opposite-sides-of-the-Sepulveda Pass arrangement wasn’t going to work anymore. A decision had to be made, and I had to make it. He was the one with the three-bedroom house with a front yard, backyard and pool. I was the one with the 850-square-foot condo.
“I’ll do it,” I told Robert. “I’ll rent out my condo and move in with you.”
Robert was so happy. “Now I can have you and my stuff all in the same place.” He assured me my commute to UCLA wouldn’t be so bad. He knew a top-secret shortcut through the Encino Hills.
Three months later, I officially became a Valley dweller. My commute to UCLA turned out to be awful despite the top-secret shortcut it turned out everyone knew, and it really was hot and windy far too much of the time. I sometimes miss my condo in Mar Vista.
As a California native raised in the South Bay, I definitely miss being able to hop on my bike and ride a mile to the beach. I can’t just drop in on my dear Westside friends. Now we have to make a whole plan, one that usually involves me making the long drive south on the 405.
However, I’ve come to love the Valley because that’s where my love lives, and the Valley has its charms. We enjoy the Lake Balboa Recreation Area with its swan-shaped paddle boats, as well as those pleasantly warm summer evenings by our pool. I’ve made good friends too. Valley residents are just plain nice, and people actually talk to you in the grocery store. Oh, and I got married in the Valley.
Robert and I got married in the backyard of our Lake Balboa home on a freakishly hot day in May 2008. Our Westside and Valley friends and family were in attendance. The Santa Ana winds blew the wedding tent into the pool, and our cake melted in the heat. But we didn’t mind. We were together — and still happily are.
The author is a retired UCLA administrator currently working on the next great American cat mystery novel. She lives in Lake Balboa. She’s on Instagram: @lakebalboagirl.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.