L.A. Affairs: I date by smell. Online dating has no sniff test.


I needed a plus-one. My daughter was getting married, and I needed an escort — arm candy. But I would be amenable to meeting a nice dentist from Encino.

I had never gone on a dating site because of the experiences and nightmares I’d heard about from my friends who have done it for years. My hesitance came because I like something that you can’t get from a dating app: man musk. I like the scent of a man. Pheromones are my kink. I’m attracted to how someone naturally smells. That’s something you can never get no matter how many times you swipe right. I guess you could say that I pick with my nose.

All my serious relationships have synced with my smell meter. All my long-term romances were with men who were olfactory satisfactory.

After not being able to sniff out any prospects in real life, I was getting frustrated. Then my therapist mentioned that several of his clients are on the dating site Hinge (you might have seen the Hinge TV commercials), and that they like it. He mentioned the perks, and I reluctantly took a look.

If you’re not familiar with Hinge, you post six photos and you answer six questions based on more than 100 prompts. You can list your basic info for all to see: age, height, where you live, if you’re vaxxed, and if you drink, smoke or do drugs. You can set your preferred age range. (As for preferences, I set it so that it would show me men between the ages of those getting their first AARP postcard and those who are not quite Social Security age, who are less than 30 miles away and are nonsmokers.) Not really intrusive. Also Hinge has a free option. Therefore, I thought I’d break down my preconceptions and give it a go.

First of all, I liked the Hinge motto: the dating app made to be deleted. I built my profile with pictures that captured my life. My six questions let anyone know that I am a stand-up, a writer and mom, and I’m pro-abortion rights. I finished setting up my profile and went to bed.

I woke the next day and had 89 likes on my profile. Woo-hoo! Plus-one, here we come. Then I opened the app. Even though I had set my preferred age range as 50 to 64, 75 of the likes were from guys under 25 years old, with the majority writing variations on the same thing: “I’ll be your sugar baby” and “Will you be my sugar momma?”

Excuse me, but this momma still needs her own sugar. One of my hard and fast rules is that you have to be older than my children. Otherwise it’s just downright creepy. Not to stereotype or be an ageist, but the profile pictures for most of the 25-year-olds had one thing in common: abs. So many shirtless gym selfies with tight, bulging, rock-hard abs — four-, six- and, yes, even eight-packs — so hard they could break a hip.

I could practically smell the Axe body spray through the photos, and I couldn’t delete them fast enough.

But on the other end, there were 10 men who were way older than my age range, and similar to the under-25-year-olds and their abs, the over-70 men have their boats. Every profile pic of a senior included a yacht or a fishing boat. “Look at me. I’m holding a fish I spent $500 to catch.” Not only do I get seasick, but I could smell the Bengay and Old Spice through the picture. It’s as if the older men think, “Who needs abs when I’m the captain of the SS Lucky Lady?”

The young ones saw me as a meal ticket, and the older men saw me as their Lolita. The 89 likes quickly turned into two viable choices, whom I did go out with and had a fine time. They just didn’t pass my smell test. Where were all the men in my age range?

I know men like to pursue women, but my chances were starting to stink. I decided to take the initiative and make the first move. On Hinge, I started liking men in my age range. Several. And guess what? Not one response from guys my age. Then I figured it out. I saw the pattern.

And that’s when the rumor I’d heard about men in L.A. became real. It’s known as the half-plus-seven rule. This rule states that the perfect-age woman for a man in Hollywood is half his age plus seven years. For example, half of 60 is 30, and then add seven to calculate that the perfect-age woman for a 60-year-old male is 37. The guys are looking for that “new wife” smell. If that theory really proves true, what are my options? Date a dead guy?

Then I thought about the wedding. What would look more pathetic: twerking down the aisle with my 25-year-old boy toy or pushing my 90-year-old date wearing his jaunty captain’s hat in his wheelchair? Neither sounded appealing.

Until they come up with a dating app with a scratch-and-sniff option, I’ll keep on keeping on. What can I say? The nose knows.

The author is a stand-up and TV writerproducer living in Valley Glen. She’s on Instagram: @jenvally

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.

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