Last night, I arrived at Jinya Ramen Bar in Studio City to have dinner with a group of friends. As soon as I arrived, they turned to me and said, “Justin told us to make you tell us that online dating story!”

“…which one?” was my response. Years back, I never thought I’d sign up for online dating. Here I am now, with multiple logins and having accrued multiple horror stories.

I kid. Online dating is fine and dare-I-say necessary in a big city.

Anyway, the story they were looking for was a first date I’d had with a fellow I’ll call Dan.

Dan was nice enough…he wasn’t pushy, was older than the set I usually settled for, and had a job. Great! He was hard to pin-down because of said job, but eventually, we found a night and location that worked. Good Luck Bar in Los Feliz. Great. I was a few minutes late, so I sent him the following text, and got the following reply:

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I walk in and scan the crowd. This is the awkward part of online dating; I always get nervous that I’m going to forget what they look like in profile pictures, or that the lighting is too low to easily recognize them, or that I might walk past them…and would they be offended if any of those things happened? Oy.

Good Luck Bar is a lot of fun. I’ve searched, but there aren’t any great pictures of it online. Imagine speakeasy meets Temple of Doom’s Club Obi Wan. Ya feel? It’s not pretentious, it’s cozy…but it is dark, which added to my “Oh, YOU’RE my Tinder date!” anxiety. Upon entering, there are a slew of booths on the right, a big bar in the middle, and a lounge in the back. I crept in, looked through the screen that divides the lounge from the bar, and didn’t see him. Maybe he meant the bar?

I turn and lo, sitting at the tail end of the bar is a young man that waves at me enthusiastically.  I smile and wave back, he stands up, we hug.

“Sorry I’m a little late!” I say.

“No worries! What would you like to drink?” He hands me a menu.

“Oooo, Iunno.  Something not too sweet, for sure.”

“Really?” He sounded genuinely surprised, which kind of surprised me, as he was 34. To me, a 34 year old isn’t frequently craving grenadine or anything else with a high-fructose corn syrup base.

I order, and we smile nervously at each other. What nice teeth! I think. Great skin, too. Man, he’s a young 34. God bless Los Angeles. Everyone here looks young.

“So, how was your day?” I ask.

“Good, tiring.” Right, work.  He was an audio engineer, recording an album for a commercially successful rock band. “You?”

“Oh, you know! Unemployment on the horizon…”

“Huh?” Again, the surprise.

“I haven’t told you about my demanding boss?” I was talking to a few guys on Tinder at the time. I didn’t share my career frustrations with all of them, so as not to come off as a disgruntled bitch.

“Nope…”

“Ahh, well, he’s just very…  It’s a long story. I’m not happy there. It’s my last week working for him.” He nodded. “What did you do today?” I was interested to hear exactly which band he was recording for.

“Just a lot of GRE studying!”

“…oh!” He hadn’t mentioned taking the GRE to me. But then again, I hadn’t told him about my boss. But then again, he did look really young. Hmmm.

There was a pregnant pause before he asked, “…Allison?”

Fuck. “You’re not Dan, are you?”

“I’m Ben.”

A girl siddled up on the other side of him. “I’m Allison…” Fuck.

“OH HEEEEY, ALLISON!” I exclaimed.

Ben turned to me, “You’re meeting someone here for the first time, too?”

“HA, yes…”

The two were very sweet. “Maybe he’s not here yet!”

“Oh, no…but he is.” I showed them the text message, and quickly sent him another. “The likelihood that he’s seen this whole exchange is very high…” I scanned the restaurant again. I still didn’t see him! My phone beeped. I got the following reply:

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Fuck.

“Where is he?”

I sat stiff. “I don’t know. I’m assuming in the lounge directly behind me, but…okay, guys. Here’s the deal. If he did see this…you two are my old friends from college.”

“Oh, we’ve got your back!” said Ben. I liked his sense of duty and his willingness to participate. And Allison? I just appreciated that she didn’t hold it against me that I’d hijacked her date for the first five minutes.

I turned 180, and there he was. Suddenly materialized!

I left Ben and Allison, they wished me much luck. Another awkward hug with an unfamiliar dude.

Dan told me that when I looked into the lounge, he thought that I saw him and jokingly hid behind his menu. He then told me that when I turned and hugged Ben, then greeted Allison, that he just assumed that I was friends with them. “Are you?” he asked.

“…yes.”

“Really?”

“No.”

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