"Carolyn's stories are like a cozy blanket, a pair of stretchy pants, a lifetime movie, and a pint of ice cream to come home to after a DUMB! dating experience. It makes you breathe a sigh of relief and think "Phew! Its NOT just me!!!!!!". -- Ozlem (my hairdresser)

Love the blog Carolyn!! Just read every entry - it's all great! really interesting and a lot I could relate to-- it's hard for me to imagine you having any trouble meeting guys, but I love the honesty and openness of your voice.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Horror in the Hills

Kenneth contacted me on Facebook, "Is it really that hard to date in L.A.?" he asked. Whenever I travel to other states or abroad, I meet men fairly easily. However, Los Angeles and New York are tough cities to date and I have lived in either Los Angeles or New York for the past 25 years. "How about if you bring a friend and I'll bring a friend and let's meet."

Kenneth and I emailed back and forth for about a month before he we settled on a day and he invited me over to his place for a blind, double date. I asked Liz, who recently moved here from Chicago, to come with me. Kenneth is a film producer and his last movie was a big budgeted studio production, starring two of my least favorite actors.

Liz texted me shortly before I left for Kenneth's house. "Are we still on? Wish it was out and not at his house," she wrote. I disagreed. It's infinitely more interesting meeting someone at their home. I learn much more about who they are and how they live. Plus, I've seen enough of the insides of bars and restaurants from all the dates I have been on lately, that it's nice to be able to relax at someone's house and get to know them in their own environment.

I drove up the long, winding road to Kenneth's house, which is situated on a hill facing downtown Los Angeles. With few places to park, Kenneth and his friend, Mark, took the two available street spots, so that Liz and I could park in his driveway. "How unusual," I thought, "this guy is really considerate".

Kenneth greeted me at the door, taking the bag of ice I picked up on my way. I walked into his tastefully decorated home and saw the breathtaking view of Los Angeles. He gave me the tour of this updated 1950s style 2-story home, starting with the view up top and ending in the downstairs living area, complete with an indoor circular stone fireplace, bar with nicely laid out snacks, large screen TV and a deck that runs the length of the room. Within ten minutes of arrival, we were having cocktails, overlooking Los Angeles at sunset, as a red-tailed hawk circled in the air before landing in a tree a few hundred feet away. I love L.A.

Kenneth and I discovered we are both from the same hometown in the Midwest, although he grew up further out in a farming area. Neither one of us visit much, however we are both still in contact with a few childhood friends. "Some of my old friends are racists," he said. "I said to one of my guy friends, "Dude, you can't keep saying shit like that. It wasn't fine to say years ago and how can you even think that shit now. I can't want to be friends with you anymore if that's the way you think."

We grew up in a racist environment. When I was 20, I dated a guy who had a white mother and a black father. Checkers at the grocery store stared at us with disdain. A couple of waitresses would not serve us. My own mother did not want me to invite him to her home for Thanksgiving that year and my father said, "I don't think it's a good idea for the two of you to keep dating. The thought of you together makes some people feel uncomfortable." However, once my mother actually met David, she was relieved. "Oh, he's so handsome. I was picturing a gold tooth and a Jeri curl." And, ironically, my father's third wife happens to be African-American. Our lives in Los Angeles could not be more different from our lives growing up. Kenneth exclaimed, "Some of them live such boring lives and I live in Hollywood and produce movies."

"Why do you go out with the guys you go out with?" Kenneth asked me. Kenneth has had three girlfriends in the last two years. He can take his pick of the women lining up to meet a studio movie producer who walks red carpets. A single woman in her mid-40s, producing independent film does not garner the same kind of glitz and attention. I have been pursued by a couple of young handsome actors, who just haven't quite figured out that indie film is not a big money ticket, especially now. Guys my age (and older) in Hollywood, are dating girls in their 20s and 30s because they can. I had lunch with a publicist who was talking about a 60 year-old producer we both know, who is getting divorced. "Oh please, there will be a line around the block of young girls wanting to date this guy because he's got so much money."

When I started dating again, I was really gung ho about the prospect of meeting interesting men. However, as the dates racked up and no significant relationship developed, I became weary. "You will marry as soon as you want to marry," Kenneth decided. "You just don't want to be married right now. I mean, come on, why go out on date number two with the 'orgasm guy'?" I went out with 'orgasm guy' a second time because he was completely unique and so far out there with his ideals and beliefs, that the date was an interesting ride-- and a completely different experience from the men I meet, who are typically bored and looking for someone else to make their own lives more interesting.

The men who described themselves in their profiles are usually wildly different from the men I meet in person. "I just took a class," said Kenneth, "It's all about discovering how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you." This class should be offered to everyone living on this planet. "How do people perceive you?" I asked. "People see me as an asshole. But if I'm 100% asshole, I'm trying to discover how I can be 25% less of an asshole." Kenneth turned to Liz, "You'd be a much better actress if you took the class."

I can understand why people think Kenneth is an asshole. He's smart, opinionated and speaks his observations freely. Many people aren't comfortable enough with themselves to hear criticism without thinking the person who is giving it to them, an asshole.

Kenneth is a lean, wiry and smart guy. His mind is constantly churning with thoughts, ideas and opinions, while at the same time observing, recognizing and scrutinizing the details of everyone else's body language and reactions to his words. He constantly pushes the boundaries of conversation to see how far he can go before you're uncomfortable, and how quickly (or not) his audience will follow. I suspect this a regular exercise for Kenneth, especially on dates, testing to see if the woman is interested, oblivious to this exercise, potentially his equal, or retreating in horror.

"Does anyone know you are here?" Kenneth asked. The four of us sat outside on the deck as he began to spin an idea for a movie that involved a girl meeting someone for a date. Words like, "bludgeoned," "tortured" and "tied up" were spoken. Liz's body language tightened up, which Kenneth quickly noted, as he headed down a dark path.

I glanced over at Liz periodically, checking in to see if she was comfortable with the new turn the evening was taking. Her tightly crossed arms and legs suggested she was in protective mode, a stance not lost on Kenneth. However, she never returned my gaze, so I assumed she was fine and not secretly devising her escape.

Kenneth dabbled back and forth, occasionally going a bit too far until, at one point, Mark stopped him. "Don't continue with this part because you're just going to reveal a fantasy that's never been played out for you, and you just met these girls. Kenneth paused before he remarked, "But wait, I'm in the black hole where it's infinitely more interesting and fun than the level playing field. Really? You want me to stop now and come back up here?" he said, while reaching over and fixing my lapel. He checked in with his audience to see if we were still captive, or politely thinking of an excuse to leave. "Is this too far out for you?" he asked. "Are you rethinking your choice of plans for this evening? I would totally understand if you wanted to leave."

Kenneth had walked so far out on the plank and dove in, completely focused on his film idea, until Mark stopped him, making him surprisingly aware that he was exposed and being observed. But we were with him the entire way, even as he described the terrifying and deadly ending to his serial killer story.

I thought about Dennis Bulloch, who is also from our hometown. He murdered a woman he met online by binding her to a chair in her garage with a hundred feet of electrical tape, shoving a rag down her throat and lighting her on fire. He is a free man because his attorney came up with the "she made me do it" defense, which set precedence for the Preppy Murder Trial and for other men who killed women who couldn't testify since they were dead.

Ideas of who I would cast, the director and cinematographer I would want, as well as the potential budget for Kenneth's movie danced in my head. Then I went into the kitchen with Kenneth who opened his cabinets and showed me his rather extensive spice collection, as he prepares to become a master chef. Sunday evening was thoroughly enjoyable with Liz and two guys who were total strangers a few hours prior.