I messaged her on a Sunday morning. We’d matched the previous day, and I was curious to get a chat going — I actually felt motivated to try and physically meet someone off Tinder. She wrote back, addressing me by my first name instead of a more generic “girl” or “lady.” Veronique was her name. I swiped yes to her because she seemed to have goth vibes but not actually be a goth. So, she was a little dark, but not creepily so. I liked that. Based on her photos, I liked her.
We messaged back and forth for a bit on a Sunday morning. I had a feeling that Veronique knew what she was doing — like she’d done a lot of online dating. I had not. Our chats circled around, from music to movies, eventually leading to the suggestion that we meet-up. I was feeling it. I invited her to come to the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, meeting me at a dive-bar-turned-vintage-feeling-hipster-paradise called Hermasillo on York Avenue. Its luscious patent red leather booths would make for a perfect cozy place for us to chill and talk deep thoughts, like all about her poetry — she told me that she was a poet — and our shared interest in the weirdness that is the internet because it is 2015, and we did meet on Tinder.
Our Tuesday evening meet-up arrived. I was in the mindset that I may as well just meet people quickly rather than drag out a potentially awesome connection. Plus I was busy and didn’t really want to chat with strangers on the Internet. I would rather chat with strangers in retail outlets, half-improvising half-flirting as I ordered a coffee and asked them their name and did not hit on them but instead acted in a way that I hoped would be an exchange that they would remember. It was more fun that way, I felt. But on Tinder, everything just felt awkward, forced, without a clear context.
Our plan was to meet at 8pm. I was at home and psyched myself up, listening to gothy music like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus at home, and talking to my roomies.
“Don’t have any expectations!” David said in his usual cool but detached way.
It’s true. I didn’t have any expectations that evening, not even that she would show up for the date, which proved to be a good thing because at 7:35pm I got a text asking if we could push the meeting back to 8:30pm, and was that okay? Yes, of course that was okay. At 8pm I got a similar text, asking if 8:45pm was okay. Sure, why not?! I thought to myself. Then at 8:30pm another text asking if we could do 9pm, or could I just come meet her in Koreatown? No, I explained, I didn’t have a car and I wasn’t willing to spend $40 on a roundtrip Lyft. By then my goth-y excitement vibes had already started to wear off.
When I did show up at Hermasillo at 9pm, I found a black-clad lady with a woman-woman symbol tattooed onto her forearm sitting at a bar stool. The fun chats about movies and music and writing dropped off when she told me her story of moving to LA from Portland to be with her long-distance girlfriend who lived in Los Feliz. I assumed that she was an actress, but I didn’t ask. As it happens, the relationship didn’t work out but she was glad that it helped her get out of Portland, where the queer community was starting to feel increasingly small. Then she disclosed something else that surprised me.
“I’m looking to get into porn copywriting,” she said, as if confiding in me. “So much of LA is the adult entertainment industry. It’s so big here!” she said, as if this were news. I kept a straight face.
“Do you know of any porn copywriting jobs?” she asked me. I did not, I told her.
Then she asked me a question that completely threw me: Did I know of any life coaches?
Oddly I did because the previous day David had mentioned that his friend was training to be a life coach and needed to get in more practice hours, and did I know of any potential clients? I told her I did know a life coach and I’d text her some info later. We hugged a little and then I bolted, bummed and ready to decompress at home with David about this horror of a not-date date.
I strolled into the house at 10pm feeling the opposite of turned on. David looked up from his swiping, which he was doing from the comfy purple couch in our living room, and asked me how it went. He admitted that he was surprised to see me back so soon. I jumped onto the couch and put my head on his shoulder, and asked to see how his matches were going. Nothing new, he told me — just some ladies looking to chat. He was sick of how not-forward women were, and that he always had to make the first move because he was the guy. I assured him that gender roles were not performative and in fact completely real, so if he wanted to meet a lady he’d better man up already. He reassured me that he was a lesbian, to which I agreed.
A few days later, we sat in similar positions on the couch, playing Tinder together. Increasingly on Tinder, it was just fun to look — a digital sexual gaze across screens. I was still weirded out about my Tinder date with Veronique. I never did message her about the life coach.
Then David suddenly paused from the repetitive finger actions, and turned toward me. His eyebrows shot up and he twitched his chin, his red beard shaking a bit. He turned his smartphone toward my face. Veronique’s profile looked back at me.
Images: Bryan Ledgard / Denis Bocquet.
Read all of Crystal Paradise by Alicia Eler.
Crystal Paradise is a weekly column published every Tuesday by Los Angeles-based writer Alicia Eler that navigates the naturally occurring weirdnesses that spark at the intersection of art, technology and travel.