Three months after things ended with a man seven years my senior but none the wiser, I was ready. Ready to embrace my new life in San Francisco and leave my native Los Angeles behind.
My time with him had been filled with boarding passes and airports as I flew down back and forth to Los Angeles. SoCal landmarks became synonymous with lovers' spats. The Griffith Observatory, appreciating the view to take a breather from arguing about his jealous nature. A concert at the Staples Center, where a brawl broke out and I was left behind in a stairwell in 4-inch heels. (I finally found him and reamed him for abandoning me. In response, he broke the miniature Staples Center model in the lobby.) Manhattan Beach, the spot where I promised I would try harder to make it work and fly down more than my usual bimonthly trips. Then the final time at LAX, specifically the ever-under-construction baggage claim area. That's where I cried for 45 minutes as we fought bitterly — by cellphone — after he failed to show up to get me.
Trying to make that L.A. love work had made me bitter and exhausted. I had no idea I would soon find my true L.A. love — and that he would be from San Francisco.
I signed up for Plenty of Fish, a dating app. After 20 minutes of questions and profile updates, I had my first message, and then a second, third and fourth. By the end of the first night, several men stood out. I tried to pace myself, it was only Day 1. I figured it would take a while to find a worthy soul. I got a message from "IamGGG" on Day 3. "Did you go to UCLA too?" It was a commentary on the background of one of my profile photos.
I recoiled at the thought.
I scoured my profile to see where I mentioned my alma mater, USC. But no, I'd made no mention of it at all. This person was obviously baiting me. Still, I was intrigued and the trash-talking started.
"I'm insulted. Proud USC grad," I responded.
It went back and forth, coincidentally right before the rival USC-UCLA football game, which made for even more entertaining banter.
That year my Trojans lost. I heaved a heavy sigh reviewing the final score, yet I looked forward to the witty insults that awaited me on the dating app.
I was actively dating other men, but the clever trash-talker was the one that truly piqued my interest.
Two weeks of online jabs and jokes later, I finally met Mr. GGG in person. The handsome man towered over me when he stood up to greet me. His green eyes sparkled as we sat down, probably anticipating who would take the first shot. It never came. We talked about everything but our schools until it was too late for the late-night dive bar and they kicked us out.
That's when Los Angeles came alive for me.
On road trips to Southern California to visit my family, we explored L.A. together. He introduced me to the retro classic American restaurant, Apple Pan. Another time, he abruptly pulled over in front of a discreet Korean restaurant, Tofu Ya. He implored that we take advantage of the "short" line. That line was almost out the door, but we waited and feasted like kings. Passing by Pasadena, we discussed our Rose Bowl football game experiences, each hazily remembering the tailgates well stocked with alcohol and details of the game as we recalled them from different sides of the stadium.
Our rivalry really only came into play when we drove by each other's campuses. Each of us stubbornly refusing to get out for a tour, muttering insults under our breath as we stayed true to our college roots.
I did however oblige to pass by his old campus apartment, Tree House. Designed by architect John Lautner, the ill-kept but beloved building housed countless artsy and aloof UCLA students. In return he got to see the downtown haunts I frequented as a barely-of-age undergrad. We shared the same annoyances: Bad out-of-town drivers and when those out-of-towners confused our two colleges, a betrayal of the worst kind.
The jabs, veiled insults, muttering and annoyed exchanges only took place when we were in enemy territory during our tours of each other's L.A.
But it hinted at our love and admiration for the other's passion to play along in the truthfully trivial rivalry.
Our love to hate eventually crept into the bedroom during one of my earliest sleepovers. I woke up to find his shirt (which he'd given me in the dark) had UCLA faintly printed on the front in blue and gold. I responded by proudly wearing the dozen or so USC shirts I accrued over the years to every dinner date and hangout after that. That's when he wisely conceded to keep the rivalry out of the bedroom.
Eventually our tours stretched beyond Southern California. First exploring Croatia's islands, a tour of Sweden, then there was Italy. He astonished me from the moment I stepped off the plane and found myself in Rome. Each day a new surprise awaited. I was love struck over the grin he flashed every time my eyes lit up when he revealed the itinerary he had planned.
After just barely over a year of exploring, my Bruin proposed on top of a mountain peak, the same one where we shared our first kiss. When his college friends heard, they celebrated but resigned to the fact that one of their own was now permanently linked to a Trojan.
Our wedding is in September. Yes, our home will be a house divided, but mutually filled with love, humor, respect, admiration and an insatiable case of wanderlust.
The author is a writer currently living in San Francisco.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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