At the foot of Big Bear Mountain, in a cozy, rented cabin after a long day of inner-tubing, window-shopping, feasting and soaking in a hot tub, a group of old friends gathered to share their "gratefuls."
One by one, we gave thanks. For the fun day on the slopes. For the delicious dinner everyone devoured. For a good glass of red wine. But mostly for the simple fact that busy schedules and freelancing jobs aside, everyone was able to get together for a weekend away.
As the newcomer to the group, I looked around the room at all these fresh faces in my life and I was grateful too.
A year before this Big Bear getaway, I met my boyfriend. Then quickly, as things were going well, I met all of his friends. There are a lot of them, and they are truly great people, a wonderful sign.
Our first date, after meeting online (OKCupid), was at Golden Road Brewing in Glendale. Over two fresh salads and many pints of porter, the usual questions were brought up: What do you do? Where are you from? How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
Then came the question I dread: What do your parents do?
This is the part where I have to explain that my dad passed away when I was 16 and then five years ago my mother died too. But Josh understood. His father died when Josh was just 3; his mother passed away the same year mine did.
Surprised by this coincidence, we talked about the different reactions we receive when others find out we are young, orphaned adults. We talked about that awkward moment when someone apologizes for your loss and you, in turn, comfort them, assuring them that though it's been difficult, you will be fine.
We talked about friendship, how our small families mean that our friends are our main source of support, our non-blood-related chosen people. My social calendar is full with happy hours, writing groups and storytelling events. Throw in a couple of yoga classes and wine walks (it's a thing) and my non-work hours are booked. I thought I had a lot of friends, but Josh has tons of friends. He told me that 10 years ago he and his 50 closest pals moved to Los Angeles from Florida, many in pursuit of jobs in entertainment. It's more like there are 87 of them. It's almost like a cult except they are wonderful and some of my favorite people I've met in Los Angeles.
Before we even met in person, Josh was making me laugh — the fastest way to my heart. I turned my phone back on after flying to Seattle for a friend's wedding to find his text: "I'm sure you're in the middle of wedding madness but I just wanted to say DO NOT GET MARRIED before our first date."
Later, an email arrived in my inbox suggesting a few different seafood spots we could try for dinner: Red Lobster, Long John Silver's or my favorite, SeaWorld (this after I told him I'd eat anything but fish). He also suggested Chuck E. Cheese, if we felt like dressing up.
Losing both our parents may have helped Josh and I expedite our relationship into the commitment fast lane. Having experienced loss, we have a deeper understanding of each other. Friends found it to be a strange commonality, some even believing I subconsciously sought this out.
Maybe it brought us closer but I believe we'd be this close even if our parents were happy, healthy, alive and well. I think it's our humor, our shared interests, our chemistry and our appreciation of the time we spent with one another that brought us together.
"Tell me something," Josh would say when we were first getting together. I'd try to think of a clever response. I knew what he meant — tell me something I don't know about you because we were still getting to know each other. It was a frequent request then, like a mission to find out every detail of each other's lives before we met.
"Tell me something," he'd say and I'd begin a monologue about a memory from my childhood or an opinion about a book or article I'd read. I'd ask him to "tell me something," and he'd describe an odd job he did one time while pursuing acting, or an idea he had for a movie. Eventually, we just started saying "I love you" — what we both wanted to express all along.
A year later and we have vacationed in Palm Springs, gone to a wedding in Paso Robles and a birthday party at the Magic Castle, won oversized stuffed animals at the L.A. County Fair, visited Disneyland, ate at a crawfish boil, took a haunted hayride through Griffith Park, went wine tasting in Solvang with friends (not all 87, but there were 12 of us), thrown dice in Las Vegas and slid down the slopes inner-tube-style in Big Bear. And those are just the highlights.
We live together now, a loving family with our cats, Louie and Cat Benatar. Louie's name is a tribute to Josh's mom, Lois, and Cat Benatar is named after rock legend Pat Benatar, who sings my favorite karaoke song, "Love is a Battlefield," a war I've finally won.
The author is a writer and actress living in Los Angeles. She and Josh are engaged to be married in September.
L.A Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments, or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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