The Vaper

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald

Many thoughts filled my mind when I took off for Thailand with glimpses of LA, my family, Christmas, and a fading memory of my ex in the rear view mirror. What am I doing with my life? This isn’t where I expected to be. How do I take control again? How could I have been so blind for the last 4 years? Did I waste that time completely? 

Three weeks later as I headed back to Los Angeles I stared out the plane window and contemplated those same questions. Much like the majority of the trip I did not have the urge to cry. I didn’t feel panicked and I didn’t dread going home. I felt open to the challenges that lie ahead. I vowed to focus all of my energy into finding a new job. This is something I COULD control. I held the key to my destiny as long as I was willing to work for it. I didn’t want to be sad anymore. I wanted that sadness to fuel creativity and motivation in other aspects of my life that I had forgotten about. I wanted to take what I learned from the monk, from the elephant trainer, from Thon, from my uninhibited friends and apply it to my western life where so many simple things are taken for granted. 

Lampang, Thailand

Lampang, Thailand

One month later, I landed my dream job. The new position gave me something to focus my energy on without distractions or blinders. I felt reinvigorated. I felt redeemed. If I had to choose between a committed long-term relationship or achieving a goal I had worked toward for close to two years, I would have selected the latter. I know we don’t always have to choose and we want to have it all, but in a moment in my life when that just wasn’t possible I realized I felt more complete and more fulfilled by this new challenging job then I ever would have felt if my previous relationship had worked out. 
After I settled in and was pleasantly surprised by my new reasonable hours and ability to maintain a social life outside of work I considered giving the dating apps another shot. After all, before Thailand the wounds were still dangerously fresh. I wasn’t happy at work or in my personal life, and I could barely sleep without the aid of pills or some of California’s finest greens. Now I was at least confident with my career and feeling a little more like myself again. In the comfortable presence of Alyona in case my phone decided to self immolate I made my Tinder profile visible once again, took a deep breath, closed one eye, and began to swipe. 

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Life is to live, guys.

Swiping through Tinder in Los Angeles is like flipping through the menu at Buffalo Wild Wings except instead of choosing the sauce flavor and spice level, you're deciding the level of douchebagary you are willing to tolerate. Every single penis-owner fits into one of three categories: the predictable surfer/adventure seeker/work-to-live bro, the narcissistic gym selfie taker/aspiring actor, or the smug investment banker/home owner/car lover (who also enjoys taking selfies, long walks on the beach, and indoor rock climbing). A sweeping generalization of a diverse and dynamic group of ambitious dreamers, you say? Nope, not in my emotionally unstable cynical opinion. I found myself making this face 😫 a lot more often than this face 😍. I was unimpressed and overwhelmed.

 Based on Alyona’s advice I never reached out first to matches; I waited for them to initiate conversation and would respond only after determining if they were worth my time. I determined this by revisiting their profile to look at their education, job status, any mention of hobbies and relative attractiveness. (Even as I type this out I feel shallow and judgmental, but unfortunately this is the premise for the modern and fairly fucked up way of dating). Within a week I had my first date planned – a lunch date, in the light of day, without any alcohol. WTF was I thinking?

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I met Michael* at Kreation Kafé on Montana Avenue, an affluent part of Santa Monica crawling with toned white women pushing strollers carrying a Louis Vuitton on one arm and an almond milk matcha latte and 4 carat diamond ring on the other. He was 35, had a full head of wavy hair, and a job. I suppose that’s a start. I was already a bit skeptical since he managed to turn me off before the date even began by texting me “my tummy is starting to grumble, want to meet at 12?” TUMMY. Ugh, I still cringe. This word is unacceptable to use as an adult man unless you are referring to the stomach of someone under the age of four. 

Moving past the tummy feax pas, I mustered up more courage than I knew I had and marched into the kafé (that’s café with a ‘k’ since we’re in LA and we’re edgy) for my first blind Tinder date. My heart was pounding and even after we locked eyes I contemplated an about face and running toward my car. My tummy was rumbling too, however, and I was already within whiffing distance. The conversation flowed easy enough, but since we opted to sit outside I found myself distracted by the hundreds of tiny sweat beads forming across his forehead and the piece of napkin that stuck to it as he tried to wipe away the condensation. In between sweat dabs I discovered that he recently moved here from Denver, lives with his sister and her husband in Santa Monica and comes to Kreation Kafé often because it’s within walking distance and he doesn’t have a car. “Oh, do you prefer biking?” I asked optimistically, observing his potential for environmental compassion. “No, I lost my license after I got a DUI last year. But, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I wasn’t THAT drunk.” If only I was drunk right now. When he excused himself to use the restroom I had the waitress verify that the organic juice bar's shot of "Feel Better" is not just a shot of vodka. Sadly, echinacea and Himalayan salt was not the remedy for this first date bomb.

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At the end of the meal he insisted on walking me to my car even though I assured him it wasn’t necessary. He didn't try to kiss me but I also made it very clear I was going in for the hug. He pulled out his vape pen as soon as the embrace ended and continued to vape as he walked away from my car and on his path back to his sister’s. In spite of expressing his interest in seeing me again soon, I never heard from the car-less sweaty vaper again. A relief it was, but so begins the mind fuck of why someone like THAT wouldn’t even try to pursue a girl like ME. And so too begins my long and apprehensive path of dating flawed men so incredibly wrong for me all across Los Angeles. 

Vaper lessons learned: No more outdoor lunch dates on sunny California days; no more agreeing to meet at places that do not serve alcohol (kombucha doesn't count); do NOT ignore irksome vocabulary - those should immediately indicate a spike on the douchebagery scale. Finally, do not underestimate the legitimacy behind the douchebagery scale.

*all names have been changed to protect privacy in the event that my blog reaches more than my current 6 subscribers

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