Caught in the Haze of the Dating Maze


Forget wooing. Now it's all about wondering, 'Is this a real date?'

There are blind dates, there are speed dates and, unfortunately, in Los Angeles, there are vague dates.

You know the kind: the painfully squishy kind; the outing that makes you ask yourself (and whatever girlfriend you can get on the phone), "Was I just on a date?"

This may seem like an insignificant problem, but consider this: The very future of our species is at stake. That, and my dignity, most of which I left at a comedy club last month when a date was so vague, only I knew I was on it. Let me explain before I continue to outline this scourge on romantic relations.

A comedian I dated casually a few times invited me to see his act. I got dolled up on a Saturday night, drove myself there, sat in the audience, figured we'd have a cocktail after the show - just the two of us, date-like. When the lights came up, he was clearly on a date, but it was with an impossibly tall blond wearing a star-struck grin and cargo pants. I skulked out of there all alone with only myself to blame. Well... myself, him, both of my parents, two 12-step programs, three therapists and society.

Dating used to be courting and wooing; now it's hanging out and chilling. That's part of the reason I ended up on that unilateral date. With all this quasi-romantic lunching and hazy drink-grabbing going on, how is a girl to know what gives?

These ambiguous dating scenarios are becoming alarmingly common. As I type this at a coffee shop on Beverly, I'm sitting across from a weathered-but-dashing actor who has taken to calling me lately with intentions that I think are platonic. Of course, if you follow the doctrine first put forth in "When Harry Met Sally," there's no such thing as men who want to be just friends with women. I could be on a date right this very second. I really have no idea. I'd say the majority of my single friends have found themselves similarly vexed.

Dating nebulosity intensifies when it comes to situations that are potentially professional. At least a dozen times since I've lived here, I've been out with a man and wondered: Is this guy really interested in hiring me for a project? If so, is that project in his pants?

When it comes to dating, I want the 1950s. I want men to be men, the way they used to be before they had to eat Pinkberry and know the difference between Fantasia and Melinda.

In my fantasy - based largely on "Happy Days" - it would all be so gloriously retro. A guy would ask you out in advance, pick you up in his freshly washed car with a handful of daisies and a head full of pomade, take you out on a date that he planned, pull out your chair, order for you, pay the bill, get you home at a decent hour, give you a kiss and make sure you got in the door safely before driving away. Just to give the fantasy a contemporary touch, he would text you on his way home: "Had a swell time. Let's do it again."

I guess I can't order from the retro menu a la carte.

If we went back to the 1950s, I'd probably have to keep my opinions to myself, wear orthopedic hosiery and eventually spend my afternoons at home making Salisbury steak and smoothing out the plastic covers on the sofa while dulling the feeling of suffocation with a daily fistful of Valium.

That sounds unbearable, except maybe the Valium part. Vagueness is actually pleasant in 5-milligram doses.