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L.A. Affairs: We dated for 3 months before moving in together. Were we asking for trouble?

Illustration of a woman in profile. Behind her are symbols of a wild life and in front of her symbols of love and romance.
(Ellen Surrey / For The Times)
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Reeling from an unrequited relationship with a bartender-actor and tired of being a broke substitute teacher-actor, I decided to take a full-time teaching job in Pacoima. I was filled with trepidation and wondered if I was ready to give up my acting dreams to become a junior high English teacher. Like any endeavor that I set my mind to, I gave it my all despite the relentless sarcasm and procrastination of my students.

One day during class, a whole stack of newspapers was delivered to my room. I didn’t order them or want my rowdy students getting their hands on them so they could make paper airplanes and who knows what else. All of a sudden the seventh grade math teacher, Steve, came running into my room looking for that stack of the Los Angeles Times. I asked him to leave me one copy that I could read on my lunch break and told him he could take the rest. Apparently he used them for some kind of financial literacy lesson.

Every week after that, he would bring me one copy. I wanted to believe that Steve’s actions were a cute and kind gesture. But at 30 years old, I was jaded and thought that he was being manipulative as a way of trying to get a date with me. I was both right and wrong.

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Because I was the newbie at the school, I wanted to get to know everyone, so I organized a dinner with my colleagues at a fun rock ’n’ roll sushi bar on Lankershim Boulevard. Steve was obsessed with sushi so he attended, and we sat across from each other, vibing to the blaring music and talking and flirting all night. Tokyo Delve’s was just crazy that night with great rock music, and I went wild and danced on the chairs. I hoped that my co-workers — especially Steve — didn’t think I was too overzealous.

At the end of the evening, Steve and I hugged, and later I told our mutual friend, “I think Steve is so cute. Will you give him my number?” He laughed and said he would be happy to play matchmaker.

Steve called the following week and left a voicemail message asking me out for the weekend. I called him back to say yes. Then I didn’t hear anything from him. I thought that this quiet, unassuming teacher would be different from the bad-boy actors and musicians whom I usually dated and that he would actually follow through. I was disappointed, and my mom and I commiserated over the possibility that I had met another noncommittal dude.

It turns out Steve had unexpectedly gone on an adventure with his brother and later apologized to me. I gave him another chance.

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I’m so glad I did. After our first date in Pasadena, we were inseparable. We introduced our dogs to each other, and both sets of families got along so well. When my landlord announced that he was selling his home and I would need to move out of the guesthouse, Steve valiantly offered that I could move into his home. But we had only been dating for three months.

Things were tough at first as we didn’t really know how to establish boundaries or communicate well. He hated that I left granules of detergent all over the washer and garage floor. I was exasperated that he could not cook anything at all — not even scrambled eggs!

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Those things aside, nobody has made me laugh like Steve does. He’s warm and caring and would do anything for anyone in his life. I once joked early in our relationship: “Wow, you’re mature, kind, responsible and loving, so you must not be the one for me!”

I wasn’t used to being treated with respect and kindness, and he certainly wasn’t used to this crazy, vibrant rock ’n’ roller chick who loved going to concerts at the Forum and the Troubadour and eating pizza at the Rainbow.

We found a way to make our opposites attract and got married on July 8, 2000, at a gorgeous outdoor restaurant in Ojai after three years of dating. Steve’s proposal was cute and unconventional. He got down on one knee and encouraged my little dog, Destiny, to run to me. On her collar was the engagement ring.

My ex-boyfriend and I met up at a party. We chatted and almost kissed in the elevator. That night he surprised me with a diamond ring.

May 17, 2024

Initially we weren’t sure we wanted children but later we decided that we had so much love and compassion to give so we gave it a try. After three brutal miscarriages, we were exhausted physically and emotionally. Many of my friends were having babies and were joyous from creating their new families. It just didn’t seem fair that two strong, loving teachers who gave so much to the world could be so relentlessly devastated for two years.

Steve and I always found Las Vegas to be our special oasis where we could forget about our worries. In January 2002, we stayed at what used to be the Hard Rock Hotel. We bought tickets to see my favorite band, Aerosmith, from the front row at the Joint. It was exhilarating and just what we needed to make ourselves whole again.

I’d never met anyone like my co-worker. Everyone loved him. Would being around him change my feelings about work — and him?

May 10, 2024

As for expanding our family, my OB/GYN suggested taking progesterone for the fourth try. That really would be my last attempt at getting pregnant. It worked and resulted in our beautiful rainbow baby, Logan! She’s now a stunning, feisty, compassionate 21-year-old who gives us indescribable joy.

Steve is retired from teaching, but I found my passion in teaching and still go to work every day trying to instill knowledge and influence the lives of my amazing high school students. I don’t leave the laundry room a mess anymore, and Steve makes the most scrumptious scrambled eggs.

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The author is an English teacher at Mission View Public Charter in Valencia. She lives with her husband, daughter Logan (when home from college) and two dogs in Valencia. She’s on Facebook: facebook.com/keri.leiner

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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