When I’m getting ready to do stand-up, I lay my (written and rewritten) bits on cards out on the table for review. And I offer myself up to the audience. Will you laugh with me? Do you like me?
In a way, I realized, every five-minute set at an open mic is not so unlike grabbing that first coffee with a Hinge date or anyone else you meet on an app these days.
The minute he walks in, you know if the chemistry is there or not. Is he coming at you with clunky, rehearsed lines? Or is he being genuine? Do you want to see him again? Are you lucky enough to peek into a tiny crack that leads to the heart?
The difference is that I feel entirely comfortable at an open mic. I don’t care if nobody’s listening. I don’t care if no one likes what I’m doing. I’m just doing my homework. I don’t need anyone’s stamp of approval.
Somehow, I cannot seem to utilize this mind-set in my dating life. This should come as a surprise to no one but I actually really want to be liked!
Unfortunately, I’ve yet to have a first date that ends with applause. So it’s hard to tell.
But Los Angeles is a petri dish of ghosters, love-bombers, attention seekers and narcissists. I am one of them. It’s part of our devilish charm as a city of entertainers. At 26, I have been in and out of so many relationships that I look at my friends in committed relationships with the awe of a caveman looking at a lightbulb. I want what they have. But how are they doing this? Are there really people out there who actually want to be with somebody else? (And where can I find one?) Are there people who say what they mean and mean what they say?
I saw a psychic last year in Santa Monica. I told him about my foibles in love and wondered if I would ever be able to find someone in this city. As many people in the entertainment industry understand, it’s not as easy as we make it look on a soundstage. He told me that I should give up because if I want a successful career, a man would only get in the way.
“You can’t eat at McDonald’s and Wendy’s at the same time. You have to make a choice.”
I wish I was making that up. That was a real thing he said to me. But I digress.
I made a New Year’s resolution to delete dating apps for good. Why? In the month of December alone, I was ghosted three times. In the entire year of 2021, there were simply too many dating failures to count — including some glaring sexual mishaps that will probably be clinically diagnosed years down the line as the catalyst for my inevitable descent into madness.
I deleted the apps and patted myself on the back as I entered the new year. Devon: 1, technology: 0.
Two days later, I went to where I always go on Sundays — the open mic night at the Improv, where I throw my name in a bucket and fight the urge to throw up until I’m called on. Then I perform for a crowd so tepid I might as well be back to the days of stand-up on Zoom. (Like in dating, approaching comedy as a way to seek validation is a one-way ticket to getting your heart crushed.)
Then the inconceivable happened.
A real human man spoke to me. And asked — actually asked — to see me again in a romantic context. He was also there for the open mic, and we’d struck up a conversation while leaning against the same wall, waiting for our names to be called. A few hours later, he’d said, “Am I crazy? Or should we hang out again?” You are not crazy, I assured him. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
As I went home that night, I couldn’t believe it really happened. I felt like I just got to cross off a new square in a game of L.A. bingo. Now I just need to sit through an unsolicited crypto lecture from my Uber driver or get a parking ticket in front of my house, and I win. My friends were shocked too when I told them.
You see, it was the first time I was asked out by someone in real life since high school.
It felt like a miracle to be asked out by an actual human being in the physical world.
I strutted into work that Monday with an air of confidence like never before. My head was in the clouds until reality struck — I didn’t really know anything about the guy except that he works at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know his social handles; I didn’t have a witty dating-app bio to obsess over. Even worse, I couldn’t show a picture to my friends so they could make a snap judgment about him, a crucial element of date vetting.
I realized this was a peculiar new dating problem, one that my fellow 20-somethings and I don’t typically worry about in a world where dating apps are the norm: How could I properly prepare for our first date if I couldn’t cyberstalk him in advance?
The unknowing of it all was killing me. How did people put up with this in the olden days?
The first date arrived and, somehow, despite all my previous mental hyperactivity, I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed learning about this brand-new person while in person and slowly but surely letting my guard down one millimeter at a time.
Even better? We’re still dating.
It’s never been easy to find connection in this city, and the pandemic has had the entire world madly chasing that dragon to limited and spotty avail. But maybe it’s not just about looking for love. Maybe it’s about paying attention to what’s in front of you. And maybe, right now, that’s enough.
The author is a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles, on Instagram and Twitter @imkevindane. She does a monthly show, “Flambo!,” at the Silverlake Lounge.
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.