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Date, date, date, date, date, date, date, date, date, bingo

August 28, 2003|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

There's nothing like hard-core statistics to get to the heart of the matter. These arrived via e-mail from a reader named Sam who happens to live in my neighborhood and has hosted about a dozen "Sexless in L.A." parties in hopes of meeting The One, or at least, Someone. They reflect Sam's dating history over 18 months, ending in July. We'll get to August in a bit.

Of 19 dates, not including subsequent dates with the same person: Two resulted in sex, two led to multi-month relationships (the longest lasted eight months) and six ended with the boy and girl making out. On 10 of those dates, Sam generally had a good time; on three it was pretty ugly. Seven of those interactions grew from the Internet; none of them derived from Gold's Gym, where Sam has worked out six days a week for 14 months, nor from the singles parties he hosted.

When Sam sent the numbers, he wrote that his soul was tired. But he was only kidding. Sam's soul is not weary; it's evolving and he wants to share what he has learned. In a nutshell, it's this: Dating, especially in a flaky, sprawling city like Los Angeles, is a numbers game. The more you are willing to sample, the higher the chances of meeting someone special.

Even though it felt like he had dated quite a bit in 18 months, when Sam crunched the numbers, he felt like a slacker. So he turned to the rational lawyer inside of him and decided to approach his love life the way he has handled his law career. When he was looking for a job last year, Sam applied for dozens of positions, figuring the more bases he covered, the better his chances.

"I'm trying to professionalize my dating experience," he says. "I'm dating more but not in a playerish kind of way. I know how to go on interviews and find the right job, so I'm treating my personal life like that now."

So, here we are in August and Sam is on a different kind of hunt. How many dates had he had in 25 days? Eight. Of those, two were second dates, three were e-meetings, and one emerged from his newfound friendliness at the gym. One woman made it clear in the first few minutes that her dog would always come first. Another couldn't decide whether she would rather take a nap or go out with him a second time; she has taken to e-mailing him his horoscope every day.

In case you are wondering, nothing seems defective about Sam. I took him out to dinner, and I found an attractive, intelligent, soulful, 35-year-old who would love to meet the love of his life but is more at ease being single than he's ever been.

The more women Sam meets, the more he is able to see them for who they are and not through lovelorn-bleary eyes that elevate them to potentially The One before he's even spent 30 minutes with them. As a result, if a date doesn't sizzle, Sam doesn't feel disappointed. And if it works, he doesn't make more of it than it is. (And, no, he is not commitment-phobic. He dated one woman for seven years.)

"I'm no longer looking for false romance," Sam says. "I've learned that romance comes through a longer interaction. By taking the fake romance out of it, I'm able to see the longer view and it makes it easier to go out with people."

When Sam blasted his statistics on the Internet to his friends, he was surprised that many were unable to find the humor. One guy warned him his note was too revelatory; a few girlfriends wrote him offering their support and urging him not to change who he is.

"I meant to be funny," he says. "I was poking fun at my situation, but I realized that they were having those reactions because they are single and are worried about their own situations. They couldn't find the humor and some of them thought I'm giving up on finding that special love. But that's not how I see it at all. Dating is a tragicomedy. It has its tragic moments but it's still a comedy."

Maria Elena Fernandez can be reached at

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