Our first date started at a trendy wine bar drinking rosé. At our next bar, grinding to early 2000s throwbacks, he asked if I wanted to go home with him.
Normally I would decline, making up some nice girl excuse. But the combination of wine, music and Los Angeles made me bolder. In New York, I had been at an all-time low — single, burned out on auditions and having just gone through a falling out with my best friend. But this monthlong stay in Los Angeles felt like a fresh start.
So I kissed him and said, “Let’s go.”
At his apartment, as we took off our clothes, I felt like we were in a movie. The instant butterflies. The spontaneous way we had hopped from one bar to the next. And all I wanted was to be in a movie.
Being an actor is a constant state of putting yourself out there, hoping to be loved and hearing “no” a thousand times — “No, you’re not right.” “No, someone else is a better fit.” It’s like dating but paid (hopefully) and without sex (though sometimes there is sex). And that was before the strike made the entire industry a “no.”
In the morning, we made plans to get dinner the next week. He suggested L’antica Pizzeria Da Michele, famous for being the restaurant from “Eat, Pray, Love.” Not the original in Naples, Italy, where Julia Roberts fell in love with her margherita pizza, but the new franchise that had popped up in Hollywood. I couldn’t wait for date two.
I was staying in a friend’s mother’s guest room in Beverly Hills. I had just gone through a big breakup — a falling out with my best friend, which felt like a worse kind of heartache. For almost three years, she and I had been a duo. We spent so many nights dreaming up comedy sketches, scheming about crushes, crying over silly boys who didn’t like us back, and planning our bright futures. I loved being a part of the dreams she wrote on her giant whiteboard wall, and she made me feel like they were all possible.
But our similarity got between us. We wanted the same things and were constantly pitted against each other. On one of our last good days, we both auditioned to play a girl with such debilitating acne that she was canceling plans with her friends. Every comedic actress I knew in New York auditioned. She got it. And soon she was canceling plans with me.
The breakup was slow at first. She was late to the monthly comedy show we did together, coming from an influential birthday party I wasn’t invited to. She didn’t want to grab drinks; she was headed to a diner with friends who were podcasters then but household names now. When we were in a room with shinier people, I felt invisible. I didn’t know how to tell her, so I would drink. I was hurting and tequila helped. I started to appear less on the whiteboard.
The ending was fast. She dumped me via email; she was moving and wanted some distance. I wasn’t surprised it was over, just that it was in my inbox. Our friendship wasn’t making us happy anymore.
I wrote, “I hope you have an incredible time in LA. I have no doubt that you’ll be amazing because you are amazing.” And I meant that, even though it hurt me.
Half a year later, I wanted to get away from New York and the feeling of being left behind. Los Angeles is a big city, and maybe there would be enough space for my dreams too. I’m an actor because that’s what you’re supposed to say, even if you’re almost 30 with an empty IMDb page. Blink and you’ll miss me on “Blue Bloods” because my role was cut in the edit.
This guy and I had matched on Raya, the celebrity invite-only dating app. He wasn’t a celebrity, and neither was I; two DJs put in a referral for me. Hollywood is who you know, and I knew two DJs.
I liked being a part of something exclusive, swiping past a DJ, another DJ, a photographer, an art gallery owner, Trevor Noah, another DJ. Pete Davidson is rumored to have a profile, though I never saw him.
On Raya, you make a slide show to attract matches, choosing a dozen photos and a song that showcases your personality, bat mitzvah-style. If there is one thing that straight men are bad at, it’s slide shows. But not him. With photos on film and a song from “Summer Heights High,” his profile was the perfect mix of hot and funny. He had BSE, or big slide show energy.
When he first texted me, he wrote, “Hey, it’s the person who’s either going to kill, ghost or fall in love with you.” He was responding to a prompt in my profile laying out what I was looking for in potential matches.
“When you murder me,” I wrote, “this exchange will be a very good clue for the police!”
But I liked option three best.
It had taken me less than a week to run into my ex-best friend at a house party full of comedians. I hadn’t known she would be there, and when I saw her, I froze.
Luckily, the house was Hollywood enough for us to ignore each other for three hours on opposite ends of a huge pool. As I left, I couldn’t avoid her without being an ungrateful guest because she was wading next to the hosts. I thanked them for having me.
“Nice to see you,” I said to her.
“You too,” she said.
We were acting the hell out of those two lines. I went back to my room and sobbed. I wondered if she did too.
My new guy and I scheduled our second date for after my pay-to-play class with a casting director. For a little less than $200, I would have the opportunity to make a good impression in a gray classroom on a person who could change my life. Just a few of these and one was bound to lead to a three-line role in a sitcom.
After doing a scene assigned from “Superstore,” I walked to the pasta place, arriving 20 minutes early. In the bathroom, I changed into a sexier top, then texted my date that I couldn’t wait to see him.
He texted back that he was having a hard day at work and was running late, so I ordered a cocktail and passed the time chatting with the bartender, who was also an actor, of course. In LA, bartender means actor. Barista means screenwriter.
Twenty minutes later, my date texted that he was leaving work. Perfect timing, I was about done with my cocktail. Fifteen minutes later another text: “How mad would you be if I said I really wanted to go home get high and go to bed?”
He had said that he would either kill me, ghost me, or fall in love with me. Well, option two is better than option one. I texted: “I’ll be a little mad. I’m here.” But I wasn’t a little mad. I was devastated.
I had left New York with the stupid hope that maybe a change of scenery would make “it” happen for me — love, a career that wasn’t my day job. I wanted to be chosen just once after a million embarrassments — telling a guy I was excited to see him, paying $200 to do a scene from “Superstore” in front of 20 other hopefuls. I was depleted from putting everything out there and being rejected: by strangers, by Raya dates, even by my closest friend.
“wait, you’re there??? what,” he texted.
Of course I was. I had been waiting for 45 minutes! I’m a New Yorker — I had walked on a weird unwalkable street in a non-walking city! I had put on a skimpy top in a bathroom stall — I’m from New Jersey!
He texted, “I am so so so sorry. I feel awful.”
Not as awful as me. I was causing a scene — loud, heaving, crying alone in the restaurant, not unlike Julia Roberts. The owner came over to console me. He had doughnuts brought from the kitchen.
I was too tired to act like everything was OK, and the doughnuts gave me the strength to tell the truth, so I texted: “I was trying to be nice, but I am mad and my feelings are hurt.”
After I sent it, the owner, bartender and I waited. Nothing. He really did pick option two.
The next morning, I started over. I kept going — to bad dates, OK auditions and house parties with cinematic pools. “It,” whatever “it” is, didn’t happen. I went back home to New York, still full of my stupid, beautiful hope.
There are thousands of Nos, but they say it only takes one Yes. And I am worth a Yes.