He was the best I’d ever had. But that wasn’t good enough

Sydney Nicole Sweeney
7 min readMar 20, 2020
Echo Park Lake. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.

A rejected essay submission specially written for the L.A. Affairs column of the Los Angeles Times.

Our almost-relationship combusted on my 23rd birthday. He was too broke to take me to dinner — or even gift me a one-dollar greeting card. That night, I ate shitty pasta in my little San Pedro apartment and cried myself to slumber, wishing his inaction was unexpected — but secretly knowing such oblivion would disappoint.

“Just so you know,” I said to him the next day, “you’ve still treated me better than any other guy.”

And that was the truth. But it wasn’t enough to hold on.

I first saw him at The Echo in 2016. He and his bandmates were opening for an act from the Valley that my friend and I were devout fans of, and they were shaking out indie rock with a southern twang that didn’t belong to LA. Charmed by his jawline and white jeans, my friend and I sleuthed his identity on Instagram the next day. To my surprise, he followed me back a few months later.

I never intended to meet this dude IRL, and the thought of doing so was unnerving. He was nice: our earliest Instagram conversations were sparse and feathery, mostly revealing where we lived (he in Eagle Rock by way of Austin, Texas, me in San Diego for school), what I was studying, where in the world he would go next as a touring musician with just a suitcase and guitar. And of course, there was some flirting — a concept I hadn’t mastered in person, but managed online with proficiency.

Yet, no matter how cute or likable I was on Instagram, I was an awkward, inexperienced 20-year-old in real-life. He, on the contrary, was an insanely gorgeous specimen capable of full-beard growth. So for two years, I dodged his expressed interest to kick it, citing our distant locations. He never took offense.

I dated a lot of terrible men over those two years — all of whom gifted me cringe romantic and sexual experiences to wax poetic about. I was ghosted by the machismo dude I lost my virginity to in San Diego; I was dumped by a rock-climber from Chino who wanted an outdoorswoman rather than a writer; I shaved my head after things soured with a stylish bad boy/keyboardist from Carson; and between those episodes, I survived other, unremarkable…

Sydney Nicole Sweeney

Sydney Nicole Sweeney is a journalist based in Los Angeles.