Shortly after I moved to L.A., my friend Emily, my old Gawker co-worker, came to visit for a couple of days. She brought a housewarming gift with her: a tarot deck called the Wild Unknown. “I like to just draw a card every day,” she said, showing me the cards and the book that revealed their meaning. “It’s just kind of like, a guide for the day, something to focus on, how your day is going to go.”
We had a great time — we went to a party hosted by a writer we both admired in the hills above Studio City, we sang karaoke downtown with a few other friends of Emily’s who lived in L.A., and we ate delicious Japanese food. I was sad to see her go.
The morning after she left, I drew a card: the Ace of Cups. It represented love, joy, happiness, emotional fulfillment. I texted her a photo of it and wrote: “Feels auspicious.”
“Holy shit!” she wrote back.
My auspicious tarot card draw notwithstanding, I was reenergized about getting back on the apps. I had a theory that when you deleted Tinder and then re-downloaded it, it gave you “better” options than it might have previously, and one of the first guys who popped up was a guy named Matt who looked kind of familiar. I scrolled through his photos. He had a handsome, friendly face, a really nice smile, big brown eyes. He was holding a guitar in one of the photos. No photos of him with fish, or doing shirtless headstands, or in front of a microphone. His profile was charming and funny, but not in a way that said I’m funny, laugh at my jokes, even though he was a comedy writer and was thus professional-level funny and good at jokes. Instead, it bragged self-deprecatingly about how he’d been quoted in his hometown newspaper in Massachusetts about the best lobster rolls. Oh! He was from Massachusetts. That was a bonus. My only reservation was that he was only thirty — a full six years younger than me. Better a mature thirty than an immature forty, I thought, and swiped right. I immediately got the notification that we had matched.
I got a message from him a few minutes later. “Hey, I’ve never used this app before so I’m not totally sure what I’m supposed to say, but hi.” I rolled my eyes. I felt like guys claiming that they’d never been on the app before was a common opening salvo, meant to be disarming, and I debated simply not responding. But in the spirit of attempting to be more open-minded, I messaged him back. We went back and forth a few times, then started texting, and then a couple of days later I asked if he wanted to talk on the phone. He did.
He called later that night. It turned out he worked on a late-night show on Comedy Central where my friend Steph also worked. It was a relief that he wasn’t a total stranger, and talking to him felt so comfortable, like I’d known him for ages. He told me about his family — he was the youngest of four, and his next-oldest sibling was seven years older — and about coming to L.A. “I moved here when I was twenty-three because I wanted to write comedy,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone except my roommate.” They lived in Pasadena, he said, and he’d applied to work at the Apple Store and at Starbucks, and the Apple Store got back to him first. So he’d become a Mac Genius at the Apple Store at the Grove and worked there for almost five years.
“Didn’t you get discouraged?” I asked. “Five years is a long time.”
“I had given myself five years to get a job in entertainment, and I did,” he said.
“That’s amazing,” I said. I found Matt’s self-made career extremely attractive. Hollywood was full of people whose parents had worked in the industry for decades, who got them their first jobs as production assistants or in the mailroom at an agency. Matt had done it all on his own, without even graduating from college. He explained that while he was working at the Apple Store, he met people, some of them famous, who’d brought their computers in to be serviced, and he started a podcast with one of them. Eight years later, he was still podcasting, he’d done a lot of stand-up, he’d been a host on a daily TV show, and now was a staff writer on a nightly game show on Comedy Central. I was impressed.
It wasn’t just his résumé, though. There was something about the ease of our conversation that felt . . . different. And the way that he told me he was impressed with my job was also attractive. I’d gone on way too many dates where I belatedly realized that I had been subtly downplaying my accomplishments or my job because I thought that would make me more appealing. I hated that I had done that. So it was refreshing to feel like not only did I not have to downplay my own résumé, but also that it was attractive to Matt. It made me think he would celebrate my professional accomplishments, not feel like they threatened him in some way.
We went out for the first time a couple days later. It turned out he lived down the block from me, so we decided to go to a bar near both our apartments, and he walked over to pick me up. As I descended the stairs from my apartment, I saw him standing in the courtyard, beaming. He was beaming — at me! “You look really nice,” he said, and I smiled.
“So do you,” I said. He was very cute in person, with big brown eyes and a wide smile.
And he was easy to talk to, sweet and funny and disarmingly personal. “I worked in a funeral home for four years,” he said. “My two best friends, they’re brothers, their family owns a funeral home and so I worked there. I also worked in an ice cream shop and once almost got locked in the freezer and all I could think about was that the headline in the papers would be ‘Fat Guy Dies in Ice Cream Shop.’” He saw my confused face — he wasn’t skinny, but he didn’t look fat, either — and added, “Oh, I lost a hundred pounds in the past year. In high school I weighed four hundred pounds, then I did gastric bypass surgery and lost weight, then gained some back, and then about a year ago I decided to start working out and eat better.” He was matter-of-fact about this.
“Wow,” I said. I thought back to the summer after Jon and I had broken up, when I became obsessive about exercise and everything I ate, and yet I had never moved through the world as a fat person — just as a straight-sized person who had internalized a lot of messaging about the “ideal” body.
We talked some more — about my family, and my job, and living in Los Angeles, and then, perched on barstools, we kissed. I didn’t even care that it was in front of the bartender.
Matt walked me home, and we kissed goodbye outside the door to my apartment. “When can we hang out again?” he said.
“Um . . . Friday?” I said. I usually tried to play it a little cooler. I’d also been burned by guys who seemed really eager at first, and then as soon as I showed real interest, they withdrew. So I was slightly wary, but I was also trying to listen to my gut, which was telling me that Matt was different. I was also more willing to take a risk I might not have before because I knew I liked him.
“Great,” he said.
“You choose what we do,” I told him. “I’m leaving it all in your hands.”
From the book Thanks for Waiting by Doree Shafrir. Copyright © 2021 by Doree Shafrir. Published by Ballantine an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.