Jess column 2

Photos: Jacob Tovar

Stylist: Reagan Zimmerer

What is the most embarrassing thing I could admit to you? The fact that on multiple occasions I have paid $9.99 for the “boost” feature on Hinge. This “boost” claims to show your profile to 40 times more users, increasing your chances of matching with someone new.

Now before you go judging me, we are in a pandemic, and I have begun to forget that there are in fact, single, great men out there. So yes, after a few glasses of wine, clicking that “boost” button not only pumps up my profile, but also my ego.

When I am extra low, I expand my location to the max of 100 miles. I wait and watch as the “likes” pile in from all over the state. With every “ping,” I hear the fear of never finding my person fade a little.

The romantic in me wants to believe that I will find love checking out at Trader Joe’s, or while I am reading a book at a coffee shop.

I have never read a book at a coffee shop, but you get my point.

We are in a world where going out is not a thing anymore, masks are always on and meeting someone has become abnormally difficult.

One added feature to the wild world of app dating is that you can change your location to anywhere in the U.S. No longer traveling for work constantly, the ability to virtually move around and see what each state has to offer is extra appealing.

One episode of “Yellowstone” and my profile is in Bozeman, Mont., in search of finding the Rip to my Beth (if you know, you know).

This method has gotten myself into hot water only once.

Shortly after catching up with my best friend who just moved to New York, my location jumped to the other side of the country and BOOM, I was in Manhattan.

*Ping* New message from a match on Hinge: “Jess?! You didn’t tell me you’re in New York right now?? I thought you were still in California”

Oops. I came clean.

Like my living situation, my dating life has always felt like an odd mixture of a variety of ingredients that few like the taste of.

In LA, you don’t settle down until your 30s.

At my private Nazarene college in San Diego, I lived in a house with seven girls: three are married and two are engaged.

In Bakersfield, I am 23 and am reminded daily that my eggs are drying.

My small-town values still ring true to me, but my world views have expanded and I refuse to settle for unaccomplished dreams.

What is a girl to do? Like many, part of the past seven months has been some major self growth.

Pre-pandemic, I was a car driving 100 miles per hour, moving too fast to notice the damage I was causing to others on the side of the road or to myself under my hood.

One major problem that I found while at the repair shop is a little something called anxiety.

You can probably tell from my writing, but anxiety for me looks like being 10 steps ahead, so I am never behind. It is too much of everything, so I never have to worry about being too little. And it is exploring all that is out there in the world, so that I never miss anything during this life of mine.

Anxiety and what helps ease it looks differently for everyone.

For me, being as present as possible with where I am at reminds me that I am exactly where I need to be.

Now back in Bakersfield for a bit, I have been applying this to my dating life. Rather than virtually dating across the country, I have been exploring my IRL surroundings.

From what I have observed, dating in Bakersfield has three routes:

1. Reconnecting with someone from high school

2. Being set up by someone you know

3. By chance

I began my three step program and connected with someone from high school.

I asked to meet up for (socially distant) drinks, and he countered my offer by taking me to church instead.

Apparently I left the church clothes portion of my closest back in my storage unit in L.A. I wore a bubble gum pink polka dot dress that was probably a few inches too short for the setting.

Forgetting that church now takes place outside, and that I was up against the forces of nature, my dress continually flew up in the back as we sang “How Great Thou Art” with his parents a few seats down. Being the gentleman that he is, he placed his hand to block the wind from my exposed behind. Needless to say, I am not holding my breath to get another church invite.

Step two came from my new neighborhood's weekly women’s wine night. A break from the usual conversations about potty training, home renovations and husbands, the women were eager to set me up.

“The cutest guy came into the office today, he would have been perfect for you!!” My dental hygienist neighbor tried to remember his name as I briefed the women on the art of the DM.

After a quick Instagram search, I handed my phone off and let my new friends do the work. Ping.

We all squealed and stared at the phone in the middle of the table as the guy, who hours earlier was getting his teeth cleaned, was now asking me out to dinner.

Dinner lasted three hours and he was kind enough to send a picture in our neighborhood group chat as the women were eagerly awaiting updates.

My favorite part about this date was our talk on fracking.

His dad works in oil, and I was able to gain a very personal perspective on the issue that I never had before.

Among all of the other dating obstacles during this time, the extreme political climate may take the cake. While running errands around town in a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, I was quickly reminded by some comments and stares that I’m not in L.A. anymore.

Regardless of how you vote, what scares me the most is the fact that people have lost the ability to talk to anyone who thinks differently than them. With every difficult conversation I have had, my compassion and understanding for why people believe what they do, grows a bit more.

People vote and believe based on their worldview. Your set of truths are going to look completely different than mine. It is a mixture of how we were raised, who we are surrounded by, what we have experienced and our current life situation. I may not always agree with other people’s truths, but the more I get to know someone’s life, the less I feel my own personal truths are being attacked.

Our second date is this week; I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

The last method of my calculated local search for love is chance. While this method rarely works, I know it is real. Chance is how my mom found love.

A flight from Atlanta to Denver led her to sitting next to a man who also lives in Bakersfield. This man is now my incredible stepdad.

Much to my dismay, I cannot plan or prep for this. So until then I am simply going to keep working on my car, staying present where I am at and maybe taking a few extra trips to Trader Joe’s this week.

Jess Druey was born and bred in Bakersfield. After living in Los Angeles for the past few years and working in the entertainment industry, her world was turned upside down when she decided to move home. Now back in Bakersfield, she is seeing the town in a whole different light. Follow her on Instagram: @jessdruey.