L.A. Affairs: My dating sidekick is a baby. It’s a problem

Erica and I are waiting for coffee in front of All Time’s sidewalk service desk, Jack in his pram between us. We admire the dogs that pass by on Hillhurst Avenue and compare them to Cassius and Trudy, the couple in our backyard. We compare Jack’s pram with other prams and discuss the pros and cons. Coffee in hand, we are considering continuing to the bookstore. We’re talking about my new favorite Showtime thriller, “Yellowjackets,” and she lets me ruin the ending because she likes the twists and turns but is not afraid.

You can find us wandering the streets of Los Feliz in the middle of the morning while I take a break from writing and take caffeine before my afternoon classes. If it were not for how I stand no closer than three feet from Erica, we could look like a portrait of Eastside’s millennial secret.

And that is the problem.

There is a cute barista at the coffee counter, and I would like to take her on a date. I’m worried she’s thinking I’m Jack’s dad. I would like her to know that I’m Jack’s dad’s friend, who came up with things when the covid-19 pandemic came and now lives in the boarding house while he finishes high school.

So I maintain a barrier of personal space in this neighborhood of Hillhurst and risk looking like the kind of dad who ignores his baby’s mother to at least make it a little clear that I’m a vibrant participant in LA’s sexual market.

John – one of my oldest friends – is married to Erica, and they are building a wonderful life with their son in Los Feliz, and I am setting up. I live in my gilded age: long walks up and down for Hillhurst and Vermont, oat milk in my coffee. I’m working on my novel. I make tacos with farmer’s market jalapeƱos and flank steak from McCall’s. I flip through Skylight Books with classmates, and we turn over our professor’s titles. I cook dinner for my dearest friends and witness how their beautiful baby discovers that he is in a whole world.

This is Los Angeles, where the air has always been dangerous, especially now, but I’m healthy and privileged to spend hours of my day writing. Everything I could wish for – local butcher, local pho, local bookstore, local cinema – within 20 minutes walk.

For a period of weeks, we develop relationships with sweet barista – she knows our names and orders. And now she knows I’m just Erica’s friend. I switched from the jerky dad category to the rarer category “live-with-their-married-friends”, which is super charming in a sitcom with multiple cameras, but I’m not sure how well I can handle it. In addition, it makes me feel rude to flirt with someone while I am embedded in a capitalist superstructure that requires her to be comfortable with my face, regardless of her internal experience of my company.

Three times jabbed, 33 and single, with a schedule that is largely determined by a housemate who is 8 months old. How did my gilded age come to be shaped like this? My romantic life changed suddenly, irrevocably and gloomily a few months before a pandemic shutdown began. I entered my 30s in a partnership that I thought would last a lifetime, but it ended when I was 31. In March 2020, I was two months away from finally graduating from college and waiting to hear back from graduate school. The world was pausing just as I was finally in a position to go fast.

But my friendship with John is almost two decades deep and we have shown to each other in difficult times before. And my friendship with Erica is part of what brought the two of them close enough to discover their chemistry. When they started dating, I was the first person to recognize, even before they did, that they were in love. When the world started collapsing two years ago and I was already breaking down, they created a place for me.

So I should listen to them when they tell me to sit out there. It will be worth it, they say, and encourage me to ask for the barist’s number. “Can she go on a date with my novel instead?” I answer and we all laugh. Again, it’s becoming a real charmer, while I tend to sweat.

My main excuse still stops working when the barista stops to return to his calling as an activist. Erica finds her on social media and persuades me to do the same. I’m asking her out. She says yes, but only after mentioning that she is in an open relationship that has room for occasional dates with other people. I’m surprised by my relief at this news, but it also confirms my suspicions that I’m nervous about dating at all.

A few weeks ago we met for vegan milkshakes. I spent a few minutes on Skylight before she got on her bike, because never in my entire life have I felt nervous inside a bookstore.

When I asked her if she would like to meet again, I joked that the purpose of heterosexual first dates was for the man to show that he is not actively dangerous to hang out with, “You know, because I have proven that I am not a serial killer. “

“Oh, I already knew that,” she said. “You’re friends with a baby.”

Yes, my gilded age is full of wonders, including a baby accompanying me on my morning constitution. But when I start sitting out, future first dates will probably not know my life situation in advance. I have to be vulnerable to why my life has its current form – but I should also remember that we all live in the same pandemic where words like “temporary”, “family” and “gratitude” have ever-changing definitions.

Maybe I should trust a future date to understand that I will forever be grateful for my time I have spent living “in fellowship” with John and Erica (and now Jack), the shorthand we have used for our unconventional arrangement. These are my people, and I’m better for myself when they’re around. Because now it’s home.

The author is working on an MFA in creative writing at UC Riverside Palm Desert. He’s on Twitter @adamszemel

LA Affairs describes the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the LA area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $ 300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You will find guidelines for submission here. You can find previous columns here.

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