I Shadowed A Dating Coach For A Night, And This Is What Happened

Gabi Conti

"Herpes is not a big deal. Everyone has them. Genital warts, though, those can be a problem. I had to laser those off a patient," says dating coach Dr. D as he smoothes his man bun and sips from a tiny bottle of absinthe.

Dr. Donald Davidson (so I guess Dr. D is not a euphemism) is a dating coach and an actual doctor. These are the first words I overhear as I join his table. I'm shadowing him as he coaches his client, a 40-year-old divorcee, who sucks on chicken wings while wearing a newsboy hat, a baggy striped shirt and ill-fitting jeans.

Gabi Conti
My undercover ensemble, do these glasses make me look smart?

Dr. D reveals to me in a text later that this isn't the standard wardrobe of his clients. Typically, they must do a style and fitness makeover, a stipulation his current client (let's call him Newsboy Hat) has been resisting.

Gabi Conti
Text from D after shadowing him. He does truly care for his clients.

We're seated on lofty cognac leather couches at a speakeasy-style club called The Edison in downtown Los Angeles. Behind us, burlesque dancers in lingerie beg for attention as they slither to Cher's “Welcome to Burlesque.” An aspiring actress dressed like Tinker Bell with light-up green wings pushes around a mini cart stocked with absinthe, like a high-class shot girl.

It's only 9:30 pm on a Saturday, but the place is packed with bachelorettes, birthday parties, tiaras and broken dreams.

Gabi Conti
The class that is The Edison.

I'm sure you've heard of dating coaches, like the title character of "Hitch," starring Will Smith and Kevin James, or like that TV show "The Pickup Artist." Dr. D falls somewhere in between. He studied Neil Strauss, the author of "The Game," and added his own experience.

After working for other dating companies, D found that most dating coaches are “con artists,” and he's one of the few who's actually a licensed doctor.

His website tells his story on a page peppered with #TBTs of a young Donald posing by girls with blurred faces and captions like, “clueless at 22” and “total dork.”

He writes that he used to live in “khaki pant and collared shirt hell” until he realized he “sucked beyond belief with women.” Next to this is a picture of him slimmer, rocking a fauxhawk, cuffed pants and boots. The caption reads “from zero to hero,” as he holds his now girlfriend.

Gabi Conti
D's website.

“I always get table service, so cool girls come up,” Dr. D explains to me as though he's letting me in on a huge secret, like the meaning of life.

But no girls come up. They all have their own tables. After all, it's 2015 and feminism is rampant. “But I don't let my clients drink, until the end of the night. I want them to be in control.”

Dr. D looks exactly how you'd expect a dating coach to look. He wears a black button-down shirt with an extra button unbuttoned, displaying a freshly manscaped chest. When he turns around, I notice a giant, embroidered cross on the back of his shirt that makes me suspicious he's wearing Ed Hardy.

He has piercing blue eyes that see through you and that general, captivating aura all good dating coaches or guys you sleep with who you know you shouldn't possess.

Gabi Conti
A sex columnist, a client, a dating coach and his girl. Like Gilligan's Island, but not at all.

“Here's one,” D says to me with a smile. “If you could be an insect what would you pick?” he asks me, rehearsing one of his lines.

“A butterfly,” I say obviously.

“Everyone picks that,” he rolls his eyes. I guess I should've picked a cockroach.

But when I see him in action, it's not about the rehearsed lines or making women feeling inferior with their choice of bug.

“Let's take him for a walk,” D says pointing to his client, like one would suggest walking a dog.

We go to the table next to us (so it's more of a hop than a walk). I play along with him as we make up a story to the group of girls about how we're dolphin trainers, and I was one of those rare people who actually studied marine biology in college.

The table laughs. D has his clients do this approach so they avoid bragging about money or their job and instead get their love interests to laugh. “You would be surprised how many girls go for it,” says D.

Back at the table, I meet Annie, D's girlfriend, who works as a porn star and his wing woman. While this may seem a little unorthodox, D explained to me he prefers working with porn stars over models because his clients can “ask them anything. They've seen everything, so they're not shy about sex.” He says models, on the other hand, can be a little more “reserved.”

“I let my clients practice flirting with her. They can ask her anything they want.”

This all begs the question: Is Dr. D training his clients to get laid or to fall in love? It seems to land somewhere in the middle.

According to his website, The Dr. D Lifestyle is aimed at giving clients the skills to “create your ideal lifestyle, learn dating skills and have melt-the-paint-off-the-wall sex.”

After all, sex is a key element to dating, no? (See: the downfall of Charlotte and Trey in "Sex and the City.")

He's worked with men ranging from shy 20-year-olds to 50-year-old divorcees. He and his team claim to help clients with everything from how to have an interesting conversation and getting her number to having an open relationship and a threesome.

D seems to be a fan of threesomes and open relationships -- he and his girlfriend were talking about the crazy threesome they'd had the night before without a hint of jealousy.

“They talk about sex like most couples talk about getting the mail,” observed D's client.

I questioned D and his pro open relationship mentality. Does that really work? I feel like most women I know (including myself) couldn't handle that.

We're constantly being told from the guys we like they're “not in a good place right now.” What does that even mean? So, we stick around, feel unfilled and hope to someday find out.

“Instead of focusing on what they want in this moment of time, accept the grey zone and the lack of exclusivity, and that can lead to still being together.” He smiles at his girl, who smiles back.

D met his girlfriend at the porn star awards about a year ago. While their relationship is open, they seem happy. They do coupley things like paddle board at Seal Beach and gush and laugh that they tried the rarely-ordered spiked apple cider at the bar.

Gabi Conti
D and Annie paddle boarding.
Gabi Conti
D and Annie elated after ordering spiked apple cider.

“I don't like dating, dating sucks,” Newsboy Hat wines. “I'm not attracted to most women.” Dr. D explains to me it's because he's been hurt and advises his client to lower his standards.

“I lowered mine and then worked my way up to porn stars,” says D as he beckons the bartender over and orders an Adios Motherf*cker, a drink that more appropriately matches his outfit.

“Everyone deserves to be happy. Unless you're really weird,” D says finishing off his absinthe. I take this as my cue to leave and excuse myself, blaming my deadline.

I plan to meet D again at his Crossfit Speed Dating event happening on October 3. I hope he still has his man bun.

If you're interested in Dr. D's help, check out