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L.A. Affairs: Why my search for love had to start with me

The LA Times logo The LA Times 9/12/2020 Charles G. Thompson
My path seeking love had been long and circuitous and took me through many L.A.-area neighborhoods. (Camily Tsai / For The Times) © (Camily Tsai / For The Times) My path seeking love had been long and circuitous and took me through many L.A.-area neighborhoods. (Camily Tsai / For The Times)

My dating life, if ever charted on Google Maps, would have red location dots (broken hearts) all over the Greater Los Angeles area. By age 48, I’d allowed too many Angeleno men to stomp on my eager, open heart. Emotionally, I felt like the doormat outside my Atwater Village condo. My path seeking love had been long and circuitous and took me through many L.A.-area neighborhoods.

It seemed each man I’d dated possessed a personality unique to the area where he resided. The erudite graphic designer, patrician in looks, still married to his wife, lived in a grand house in Hancock Park. The block had leafy green trees, a wide street and immense yards — a stateliness that hid the confusion he struggled with in reconciling his homosexuality.

Our torrid affair lasted four months. During that time I’d decided he was "The One." I was deep in love. Bummer for me, but I wasn’t the one for him. The graphic designer told me he still had a few things to figure out.

Next came the super sexy repertory theater actor who lived in Silver Lake. I ignored the universal admonition to never date an actor. Sure enough, as with his eclectic, mercurial, artsy neighborhood, I never knew how he felt. His flighty ways reminded me of the breezes blowing this way and that across the Silver Lake reservoirs. They could shift at any moment. They could also stop suddenly.

He broke up with me after five months of hurt and despair. He might as well have ground my heart into the sidewalk on Rowena Avenue while wearing a pair of black leather boots from a production of "Othello" in which he played Iago. I continued to run into the actor and his next boyfriend at the gym on Hyperion Boulevard or shopping at Trader Joe’s. The hurt kept on giving.

Still licking my wounds from the actor relationship, I got sober. I realized I needed to confront my addictive behaviors. My drinking had been a problem for many years. It probably affected the men I allowed into my life. A side benefit to sobriety? It took me all over Los Angeles.

I attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in West Hollywood, the Fairfax district, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, the Valley and Silver Lake. At each of the hundreds of meetings I frequented, I looked for my next boyfriend. The rooms were full of good-looking men.

I never found love, but I learned to appreciate more of L.A. while remaining sober.

I kept on dating too. I still had a few neighborhoods — and men — to explore.

There was a brief dalliance with a cute, younger guy, a trendy home goods designer, who lived in the hills of Echo Park. He had his own TV show and several books published. There were plenty of "anti" signals, such as changing plans at the last minute. Still, I decided, as with others before him, he was "The One." He strung me along before dumping me. At least I’d spent quality time in Echo Park.

I also tried to get in touch with my erotic self. This experience took me to a canyon in Sierra Madre for a weekend workshop put on by the Body Electric School. A group of gay men attended a touchy-feely gathering aimed at integrating our sexuality and spirituality. Magical experiences I still treasure, but none led me to him.

The closest I got was meeting an oversexed massage therapist whom I fell for, even though he was clearly unavailable. He drove up from San Diego to visit me in my new condo in Atwater Village a few times. But San Diego and Atwater Village were too far apart — as were he and I — for anything meaningful to develop.

All those red hearts on my dating Google Map remained broken.

Still, I learned from all those bad dates that I needed to adjust my outlook to find a suitable mate. I had to clean up my behavior so I could be a person someone else would want to have a relationship with. And that wasn’t a man who drank too much, nor one who accepted each man he met as relationship material before even getting to know him.

Then one March night I opened my front door, and there he stood. His name was Robert. We'd met on a dating website, and this was our first time meeting in person. I noticed he had curly brown hair, soft brown eyes and a beguiling smile. Then I noticed he remained on my doorstep. I stepped aside and invited him in.

Our dating life took us between my condo and his place in Burbank, a city I didn’t know well despite working in the area as a feature film marketing consultant for many years. We took our time getting to know each other. But he fast became my "One and Only."

Unlike the others, he was available, he didn’t play games, and he was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met. I knew he was the one for me when my 78-year-old mother told me during a phone call, “Tell Robert he gives the best hugs.” Need I say more? We’ve been together for 13 years and live in Glendale, another city I didn’t know well then but do now.

On my Google Maps love tour, a final (unbroken) red heart can stay pinned right there.

The author writes fiction, nonfiction and plays. He is on Twitter @cgregthompson and Instagram @cgregorythompson

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary — L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles, and we want to hear your story. The story you tell has to be true, and you must allow your name to be published, We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.

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