Los Angeles, like Chicago or New York, is a city that has the power to permanently alter your state of mind no matter how hard you resist. Eventually we all become so Angeleno that ideas which would literally be maniacal anywhere else—like making a right turn when you’re firmly situated in the left turn lane—seem not only normal but absolutely justifiable. The way we think about dating is no exception. Perhaps you, like me, moved from the Midwest with a set of checklist items that could as easily apply to a love interest in Bassett, Nebraska as they could to one in Oak Brook, Illinois: must be employed, preferably a non-smoker, would be convenient if they loved Zac Efron’s oeuvre as much as I do. (Come at me about Charlie St. Cloud. I will destroy you.)
But living in L.A. introduces an entirely new and totally site-specific set of deal breakers to the already-impossible-to-navigate dating scene. Some of these are intellectually and logistically concrete. Some are not, and yet they automatically render any person a sexual non-entity. All are 100 percent valid*.
Living More Than Three Miles Away From Someone
No one wants to be in a long distance relationship. An Angeleno who claims they’re “not flaky” is almost as absurd as one who claims they’ll “eventually move back home” to whatever flyover state they came here from. It’s just not true. We are a town of Bumble/Tinder/The League/Hinge profiles that read, “This is super harsh, but like, don’t contact me if you live east of the 405. srsly. no offense.” If love is going to find a way in this town, it’s not going to be via any of its highways or major arteries.
Casually Trying to Pronounce Los Feliz as Los Feh-LEES
True life: I was this person when I first moved here because I was all, I double minored in Spanish and Latin American Studies in college! But then I was treated like a leper, so I stopped. Is it kind of Gaslight-y to make people feel insane for wanting to pronounce Spanish words correctly? You bet. But is it even more insane to pronounce it Los Feh-LEES and then not pronounce it Los AHN-hey-leys? Yes.
No Street Parking in Front of Their Place
Dating someone who lives on a street littered with PERMIT PARKING ONLY signs is kind of like playing a video game on Expert Mode and your health bar is nearly at zero and you’ve unwittingly stumbled into the Superboss’s lair (the Superboss being Permit Parking) and the only weapon in your magic pouch is something utterly useless like the Giant’s Knife from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or maybe the single banana peel from MarioKart which is actually a real banana peel that has been shoved into your cup holder, the exoskeleton of a snack you brought along because in your heart of hearts you knew that a salad from Whole Foods would never be enough to sustain you while you circled the block for 45 minutes looking for an open meter or a rare Loading Zone space or a parking garage that takes credit cards or even a valet who’ll settle for $2.73 in loose change because no, you don’t have cash, which is why you were looking for the garage, and then the valet will look other way when you don’t enter the restaurant you’re parking at, which is three miles away from wherever you were trying to go in the first place [please refer to number one on this list].
Using a Headshot on Dating or Social Media Profiles
This is the same person who consistently ruins your rom-com dreams of a coffee shop meet-cute because when they stop at your table—where you are reading a book hand-selected to be a conversation starter with good-looking strangers—it’s only to fix their hair in the reflection of the window.
Incompatible Texting Styles
Textversation is a benevolent mistress. Unlike face to face interactions, you can edit yourself over and over again via text, and you can take as much time as you need in order to achieve the desired result (buy yourself extra time by tacking on something like, sorry driving!). Even so, it is possible to blow it over text. For example:
Reasons: “u” (gross); aggressive emoji usage for an introductory text; no need for the huffy interrobang. So yes, that’s it.
Reasons: Legitimate question.
Reasons: Lack of reverence for grammar, blaming anything on a scientifically unfounded phenomenon.
Reasons: Clear on the difference between your/you’re; enthusiasm; future plans; who doesn’t love the raised hands emoji.
Reasons: Am I texting my grandfather?
Reasons: The Goldilocks of textese. No exclamation point (too rah-rah); no period (only a monster would do that). If you’re not going to ironically type “lawl,” then “lol” is just right. [Also acceptable: “haha”, “hahaha”, “hahahaha”.]
Asking For a Ride From LAX After 8 p.m. On a Sunday
Unless you are my mother, a beloved friend, my boyfriend, or anyone who is on the same flight to L.A. as Zac Efron, this is a wholly inappropriate request due to the time commitment it requires. No one enters LAX after 8 p.m. on a Sunday and leaves before 11, nor do they leave with their sanity in tact. No one.
A General Millennial Apathy Towards Dating
This category merits an imagined (but all too real) scenario describing the dating landscape in Los Angeles, scored on a points system. Here we go:
It’s Monday. You guys are having a lively textversation (+10 for compatible texting styles). He says, “When are you free this week?” (+45, follow through is bae). You offer up your Friday night. He says, “I’m actually only free on Wednesday at 9:30” (-50, why even bother asking when you’re available, then? Additional -10 for being so transparent about wanting to keep his weekend free. Additional -5 for the 9:30 call time, because you’d really rather be catching up on Westworld at that time of day. Or maybe sleeping, because by the time you’re in your late 20s or early 30s, meeting strangers at 9:30 on a weeknight feels ambitious. But you go with it). “OK,” you say. “Let’s grab a drink!” “Cool,” he says. “Where do you want to go?” (-20, he asked YOU out. He should plan this ish). “You pick!” you say. He comes back at you with, “Maybe it’d be better to grab coffee instead of drinks since we both have work the next day, LOL! 😜” (-40, coffee is noncommittal in both time and effort, which is annoying. Additional -110, LOL!). You begrudgingly agree. “Let’s meet in the middle,” he says (-35, there is no “middle” in this city, which means he’ll pick somewhere close to his house). The conversation ends with him texting to say he’ll “let you know where tomorrow.” You don’t hear from him until Wednesday at 7:40 p.m. (-150, what, you’re just supposed to assume you have plans when you haven’t heard from this dude? You’re out). “How’s Intelligentsia in Silver Lake?” (-70, basic). “Didn’t hear from you,” you say, “so I made other plans” (Westworld). “Maybe next time.”
Grand total: -472
Let’s do better.
*There is, of course, a major caveat to this list: it all goes out the window when applied to a person we really like. Spend time with a quality human and suddenly their Facebook album of 110+ headshots is all you can look at slash show to your friends at brunch (isn’t that one of him in the maroon V-neck me-ow?!), and someone mistaking “your” for “you’re” is easily excusable (she was probably just typing fast). Dating is hard and love is weird, so when you find someone in this city worth holding fast to, hold tight—no matter how long it takes you to find parking in front of their place.
Marielle Wakim is the Arts and Culture Editor at Los Angeles magazine. She went viral once, which is not how she thought she’d spend her 15 minutes of fame. You can follow her on Twitter @mariellewakim, on Instagram @marielle.m.n.o.p, and on her website. She wrote Rachel Bloom Is Going to Alienate New Yorkers If She Feels Like It.