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L.A. Affairs: After 20 years of absurd romances, was dating my neighbor worth the risk?

Two years ago, I ditched any semblance of cheesy dating apps in favor of meeting the love of my life organically, like in the olden days.

On a chilly, spring Friday night, I scanned my monochromatic closet in an attempt to select an upscale casual lewk that would pair with “comfortable walking shoes,” which my bookish neighbor advised me to wear for our first playdate.

That’s when it hit me. I was hoping that he knew this wasn’t an actual date. I wanted to text him to manage his expectations. But it was already 10 p.m. and it felt inappropriately late.

The next day, we were en route to brunch at Perch, the rooftop restaurant in downtown L.A., when he told me that he worked in finance. I mentioned that I had a book underway.

“I don’t want to be in it,” he stammered.

Utterly befuddled, I asked him to clarify.

“You’re writing a love and dating book, and we’re on a date …”

My cinnamon brown skin flushed hot red. “I thought we were neighborly hanging out … because I don’t date my neighbors.”

“I don’t either, but I figured since you live on the other side of the building and I never see you, it’d be fine,” he said.

I clenched my teeth and mentally kicked myself for not listening to my intuition. His rationale was flawed, but my blood-sugar level was dropping rapidly. Plus, he was in the driver’s seat.

I’d met him two months prior on my hellish moving day that commenced in Orange County, just as the sun set and darkness crept in. The management office was closed. My garage keys were in my apartment, and I didn’t have a way to maneuver behind the ironclad gates until my neighbor came to the rescue.

On two more unexpected run-ins we exchanged surface-level pleasantries, but romantic sparks never ignited for me. However, the lack of fireworks didn’t halt present-day, 37-year-old me from taking a leap of faith by giving a new potential beau a chance.

After dating one too many fun boys, toxic boys and all-the-wrong boys, I’ve yielded to the hard-earned wisdom gained from 20 years of absurd romances — heeding psychologists’ suggestions (and a nagging intuition) — to choose a partner who calms my nervous system instead of someone who gives me a flurry of butterflies that dissipate.

Because I was essentially trapped with my neighbor, I pivoted my focus to tallying up his admirable qualities, including our shared love for well-seasoned healthy cuisines. In between bites of my mushroom omelet at Perch, we bonded over our dysfunctional families, perfectly depicted in our favorite binge show, “The Bear.” Later, when the chipper waitress asked if we’d like to take my neighbor’s extra plate of food to-go, I declined. Upon second thought, my face brightened.

“Let’s give it to a homeless person,” he said.

“You stole the words out of my mouth.”

His generous heart earned him a gold star on my invisible “potential lover” chart.

Also, my comfy sneakers proved practical as we meandered each cavernous nook at the Last Bookstore, took a quick ride up and down Angels Flight and quenched our afternoon thirst by sipping pressed juice at Grand Central Market, where we aligned on feeling like outsiders fantasizing about moving abroad one day. He’s Italian, Jewish and Mexican but bemoaned that none of the cultures embedded in his DNA accepted him as such. I’m Black, white, Cape Verdean and Indigenous, and I’ve never fit into any singular box I check.

I initially resisted ending the night savoring Ethiopian food, but I admired that he intently listened to me rattle off my peculiar long list of chronic ailments as we stuffed our faces using our bare hands.

“Well, you look healthy.” He grinned.

“Thanks, but I don’t always feel like it.” I searched his baby face, which appeared younger than 41.

Confusion swirled from that candlelit moment onward. Would I be open to a second date? He proposed we head to Solvang, the Huntington Library or attend the L.A. County Fair — all of which I declined. I’m a die-hard nature lover who prefers serene botanical gardens or pristine beaches.

Later, my girlfriend, who’s a therapist, asked if I’d consider dating him as a “one-off” — an exception to my dating rule.

“Unequivocally, no.”

Under idyllic circumstances, oh yeah! After all, there was a dreamy guy at my old O.C. residence who had warm chestnut eyes and olive skin. He sported crisp suits and had a billion-dollar smile that emerged whenever we’d cross paths during my morning strolls as he sped off to work. A glimmer of him was the highlight of my day. He was someone I’d absolutely break every prudish rule for.

My L.A. neighbor followed up on second-date details. I asked for a day to rearrange my schedule. Within minutes, he jumped to asking, “Are you sure you want to date me?”

In that moment, “Let It Go” from “Frozen” echoed in my head. I crave someone who’s patient, kind and understanding. Frankly, I didn’t want to run into my neighbor while he was on dates with other women or have him see me while I was on dates.

Ultimately I settled for the old “let’s be friends.” I also texted him a dating tip: “Ask a girl her interests.”

He sniped back with several irrational paragraphs and a spicy “here’s a tip for you.” His unfavorable response sealed the romance coffin.

The next morning, I rounded a corner in the lobby of my building prepared to conquer Costco on a holiday weekend. That’s when I saw an unfamiliar person wearing thick reading glasses and a newsboy cap. He was sauntering ahead of a burly woman who appeared more familial than sexual. Then again, I knew little of my presumptuous neighbor’s tastes.

“Hey, Fawn.”

“I didn’t recognize you.”

It was quite awkward. Crossing paths with my neighbor and his female acquaintance solidified everything. It’s never a good idea to date your neighbor.

The author is a writer and creative producer living in Los Angeles. She’s working on a humorous love and dating memoir. She can be found on Instagram: @writteninstone

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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