My sister and I set out for a walk through my Sierra Madre neighborhood on an early spring evening. Both of us past 30 and single, the conversation inevitably drifted to the topic of men. I’d always assumed 30s would involve a husband, a house and a couple of kids.
But as I told my sister that night, I had recently had an epiphany.
After several months of dedicated effort on sites like Jdate and Match.com, forcing myself on one lousy date after another, I’d had enough. I wanted off the merry-go-round. Sure, I knew I was likely squandering my last best chance at the family life I wanted. After all, you can’t win if you don’t play (as my statistician father likes to say). Staring down the years-long process of meeting Mr. Right, getting engaged, married and growing a couple of human beings in my belly, I had to face the facts. Fertility doesn’t last forever. But neither does sanity. An introvert by nature, I simply wasn’t cut out for meetups with strangers several times a week.
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I was choosing sanity. And in that spirit, I had taken down my dating profile. “I’ve made peace with it,” I told my sister; maybe my life will have a different path than the one I always imagined. “I’m OK with that.”
And I meant it.
But there was one date left on my calendar. This one was a set-up. The grandmother of one of my piano students had seen a “nice Jewish doctor” at the Doheny Eye Institute and had taken it upon herself to find him a match (as some Jewish grandmothers are prone to do). Unfortunately for him, I had just struggled through several dates with the last Jewish doctor I’d been set up with, before finally telling him my heart wasn’t in it.
As far as I’m concerned, rejection is a miserable business from any angle. I was opting out. Avoidance seemed like a much better strategy. So when the eye surgeon called, leaving a message on my answering machine, I simply ignored it. I ignored his second call a few days later.
By his third message, I relented and begrudgingly agreed to meet him “just for drinks” at the Twin Palms restaurant in Old Pasadena.
And that is how, just two days after telling my sister I was done with dating, I walked into the Twin Palms to find, sitting on a bench waiting for me, the love of my life.
Some things I remember: how impossibly long his legs looked sitting on that bench (all 6 foot 4 inches of him). How artfully he dodged the question of where he’d gone to medical school (later admitting sheepishly that it was Harvard). How he was the first person to ever mention, let alone compliment, the small pockmark on my left cheek, a souvenir from a case of chicken pox. He told me it was adorable. On our first date. I mean, who does that? By the time he walked me back to my car, kissed me and announced matter-of-factly that it was the best first date of his life, I had to agree it was mine too.
The next two months we were inseparable. He wanted to know everything about me, and I him. He was smart and funny, ambitious and kind, self-assured yet surprisingly vulnerable. He was interested in feelings, ideas, values — things that mattered. And he never seemed to mind when I talked too much or too loudly.
After returning from an out-of-town conference one weekend, he called, asking me to come over right away. I was sweaty from a workout but said sure, I’d shower and be right over. “No, that’s too long,” he said. “Come now.”
I arrived in my workout clothes, no makeup, hair hastily pulled back in a scrunchie. He said I looked beautiful. Then he took my hand and got down on one knee, ring box in hand. I nearly fainted.
I’ve been accused of many things. Impulsivity isn’t one of them. I’m the person who’d tell you that it takes a couple of years at least to know someone well enough to marry them. I still believe that. So I cannot explain the absolute certainty with which, two months after our first date, I answered yes.
But I have never looked back.
We were married 10 months later, on the western patio of Caltech’s Athenaeum, having bought and moved into our first home in Pasadena a few months earlier. Six months after the wedding, I was pregnant with our first child; three years later, our second.
Never had I imagined it could all happen so fast.
This month, we celebrate 20 years of marriage. And it has only gotten better. Of course, ours is just one story. Finding love in L.A. is anything but easy. And keeping it alive requires dedication and hard work.
But in these challenging, isolating times, I’d like to offer this: Sometimes, with a little luck, love finds a way. Maybe even when you least expect it.
The author is a musician and composer living in La Cañada Flintridge.
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.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.