Same Love

Last weekend I went to a wedding in Malibu for which much preparation was required, i.e. a solid round of stretching and the ingestion of copious electrolytes and carbohydrates. Any wedding with an open bar has the potential for debauchery, but when the wedding involves a group of friends I now like to call Spain Gang & Associates (SGA), you really have no choice but to up the anti-hangover ante.

Bride Nicole and groom Manny are a lovely couple who were brought together when another lovely couple, Victor and Leandra Negrete, asked each of them to be part of their own wedding party. Nicole had known Leandra since middle school, Manny had known Victor since studying abroad with him during undergrad in Spain. The Negretes apparently knew exactly what they were doing when they paired up these two crazy kids because they hit it off damn near right away. They may or may not have been spotted making out the night of the very wedding.

 A couple of blissful years of dating later, Manny and Nicole announced that they’d be moving to Virginia as part of Manny’s military commitment as a Naval Psychologist. Mere days before packing up their belongings to make the cross-country trek from SoCal, a group of us were invited to a beachside rendezvous under the guise of celebrating Manny’s 30th birthday. We drank Malibu and rum from reusable Starbucks cups and jumped around in an illegal bounce-house, then Manny proposed to Nicole with a ring pop while he and a group of his closest friends reenacted the “Nightman Cometh” musical from “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” That sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know, but allow me to take you back a bit further.

My first time hanging out with Manny was back before he or I had ever met Nicole. I was living in San Diego and had come up to LA to visit Leandra and Victor for the weekend. Manny was in town from Northern California so we went out to dinner in Hollywood, and thus began an evening that culminated in Manny’s shirtless Flamenco dance-off with a stranger at a local bar. Afterwards we all went to McDonalds and Manny climbed onto the roof of said establishment; meanwhile Victor asked the drive-thru dude for a McNugget for Caramia, Leandra’s pet Chihuahua who we’d picked up for the short ride to Mickie D’s. Back at Leandra and Victor’s place, Manny and Victor purchased the domain name . They made shirts with this WWCSD slogan and later wore them proudly for Victor’s bachelor party kick off: Tough Mudder. (It should be noted that this all went down years ago during Charlie Sheen’s “winning!” days, for as I sit here and edit, some unfortunate news of Mr. Sheen’s health has just been revealed).

Not long thereafter, Manny moved down to San Diego to commence a rotation at MCAS Miramar. Little by little, other members of SGA became San Diego residents as well and I was pleasantly surprised to have a new set of friends in my hometown. Soon Nicole was a part of the bunch and the good times kept rolling: examples of pre-gaming activities includes zombie shoot-outs, Call Me Maybe dance parties, or a fun little game wherein participants take a drink each time Sting says the name “Roxane” during the song of the same name.

Two years ago, SGA made its way to Palm Springs for a post-holiday Gatsby-themed celebration at the home of Nicole’s grandmother. We played Jenga and Twister and got iced in between, then came a round of Cards Against Humanity fueled by shots of Fireball. I was somehow delegated to yell “I VOLUNTEER! I VOLUNTEER! I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!” each time someone volunteered to take a penalty drink in someone else’s stead. Our friend Jefe had to take a drop of bubble-bath to the eye, proving that the whole “tear-free” bit on the label is a giant pile of lies. Later we ordered pizza and jumped in the hot tub in our costumes. At some point, Manny put on a Spiderman suit and gave his favorite William Wallace freedom speech to an audience of tipsy faces that had been painted Braveheart blue.

Then there was the time when my friend Celina quit her job and sold her house to travel the world for a year; her going away party entailed an entire weekend of 90s themed shenanigans. SGA strolled the campus and surrounding streets of she and Manny’s Alma Mater UC Davis, clad at all times in items like homemade light-up sneakers, pagers with troll doll accents, acid-wash jeans and all the flannel you could ever hope for.  We took over a local dive-bar, hijacking the juke box to play strictly 90s hits – that is, with a small interlude for the Harlem Shake and Elvis Crespo’s Suavemente. At one point during the weekend, Manny and Nicole sat us all down for a special surprise – a reenactment of sorts of the Baywatch theme song, red swim trunks and high-cut one-piece included.

How then could this wedding of dynamically fun-loving people be anything short of amazing? Set to the backdrop of a picturesque Malibu beach around sunset, the bridal party walked down the aisle to a medley of songs that included Mariah Carey’s Fantasy and Billy Idol’s White Wedding. Our place cards were each hung delicately off bottles of everyone’s favorite sweet and syrupy beverage: you guessed it, Smirnoff Ice. Groomsmen Robbie was the wedding’s surprise Sexy Sax Man, whose rendition of Careless Whisper had half the room roaring on its feet and the other half going, “Who the hell invited this guy?!”

The DJ had us screaming the lyrics to Don’t Stop Believing like it was last call, except it was only 7:46 PM and the night had quite literally just begun. I busted out Britney and Beyoncé choreography like I had any business doing so and a group of the fellas proved that Ace of Base is the best music to grind (with each other) to. Friends Romo and Tyler tried to recreate the famous leap from Dirty Dancing only to be one-upped by the groom who fully committed to that leap and ended up with a facial bruise as proof. There were photo booths and props, non-stop dancing, and parking lot parties at McDonald's afterwards. My friend Julie and I ate half a package of Double Stuft Oreos at 1:00 AM that we may not have paid actually for… and all of this was documented via an epic 500+ second Snapchat story.

Before the bacchanalia and dance-floor frivolity though, Victor and Leandra gave a lovely wedding toast in which they took turns speaking humbly of their role in Manny and Nicole's union. Victor shared hilarious anecdotes of their first arranged meeting (thanks for taking a bathroom break Vito, we owe this wedding to you). Then Leandra summarized their compatibility with one perfectly eloquent thought: Manny and Nicole are so, so different in so, so many ways, but the way they love and approach the things they love is the same. Swoon.

Nicole probably wasn’t looking for a man who on the eve of his wedding would gift warrior spears to his groomsmen after cutting a Star Wars groom’s cake with a Samurai sword to the tune of The Final Countdown. She got one though and he’s perfect for her, for he loves passionately, outrageously, and genuinely – just like she does. I raise a glass, a Smirnoff Ice even, to that same love, the kind of love that makes these two wonderful and distinct personalities such fierce friends, gracious hosts, empathetic listeners and lovers of life. Congratulations to you, Manny and Nicole. May we each find someone who loves like you do, like we do, and never let them go.  


Linked In

Buenos Diaz! So, it was a couple of years ago that a tall, slender, red-headed beauty in the state of Arizona joined an online community called for professional networking. A friend suggested she join to make some connections that might aid in her pursuit of landing a job in sunny southern California. This site seemed like as good a start as any in her search for new employment and a new direction, so join Linked In and cross her fingers Miss Ginger quickly did.
It wasn’t long before a strapping young specimen of the male and Polish American persuasion took interest in Miss Ginger’s profile. He was tall, he was dreamy, lived here in San Diego, and worked in a field related to her own. For the latter reasons alone and not at all because of his dashing good looks, she reached out to him via InMail and picked his brain about the job scene. The InMails became Face Time calls, then Face Time lead to texts. It started out platonically enough, but soon the tone began to shift. The convo became a little less “Have you seen this job posting?” and a little more “Hey sexy fox, how many baby foxlets do you want someday? What are your thoughts on Jesus and immigration reform? And do you like cats?”
He liked her, she liked him; he was moved by her passion, she found him endlessly hilarious. He played soccer, she wrote in journals. They both liked cats and country music. They agreed to meet in person and BOOM! CLAP! WOW! Sparks flew, angels sang and trumpets sounded in the distance. Ginger soon packed her bags and joined her beau in California. It was obvious early on that this shit was for real.
This weekend Ginger took another trip, this time down an aisle. There her lover stood waiting to make her a wife. She’s joined Linked In to find a job, she ended up with her soul mate. She’d wanted to connect, and connect she sure did.  
Inspired by their the love and commitment, I’ve reflected a lot on how I’ve come to feel about love. So, here we go: Ginger and Kulpa, this one’s for you.
Lesson 1: Your love’s not my love and my love ain’t your love.
Whether you’re falling in love are deep in the throes of it, inherently someone (and probably multiple someones) will tell you what steps to take next. They’ll tell you what worked for them, or preach about what didn’t; they’ll tell you when it’s too early to do or say or want something, and also when it’s too late to consider such a thing. They’ll offer up a formula for how many days it takes to really know someone. Everyone has two cents to offer you if you want to be happy.
We’ve all been through this; one person will have a friend whose cousin’s dog walker married her husband after knowing him for 3 days and has been married for 50+ years, but someone else will know a girl who knew her man for a week when they walked down the aisle and was divorced quicker than Kim K dumped husband number two. The world will tell you there are certain rules, terms and conditions that you must adhere to and obey or else be destined for loveless misery and a life as a spinster with cats. This just isn’t the case, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m new to this like of thinking- love is truly different from person to person.
I myself spent years thinking people who get engaged before dating for at least a year were absolutely out of their effing minds. My philosophy has been that it’s easy to be dazed and googly-eyed in the first year. It’s what comes next that really sets the tone. Then I met Ginger Spice and the Polish Dream, and I was forced to eat quite the healthy portion of humble pie. They’d dated for a grand total of seven months when they got engaged and there is nothing about that which makes any less than perfect sense to me.
Now, do I think this whirlwind romance makes sense for everyone? Nah, playa.  What works for Couple A may spell disaster for Couple B. There are no universal rules, no blueprint or foolproof recipe that ensures a particular outcome in a relationship. Yes, there are certain truths about love that I think we can all agree on; overall though, I think that love is just too complex and delicate a thing to be or mean the same thing for the millions of people on this planet and their various DNA combinations. Love is too beautifully wondrous and mysterious a thing to be approached so methodically, so practically. I’ve vowed recently never scoff at love just because it’s packaged a little differently than the common ideal. Your love is different than mine, and that’s how it should be.
Lesson 2: Love is a choice.
How many times have you heard the words, “You can’t choose who you love?” If you’re anything like me, the answer is “a f*ck ton.” Your wording might be different than mine. Sorry about that.
Accepting that this adage is not indeed true has been one of the greater revelations of my life. It is a concept first brought to my attention by one of my best friends Daisy after attending a very spiritual wedding treat with her fiancé a few weeks ago. The realization that love is actually a choice has been sobering and at once liberating in turn. If you think about it, “you can’t choose who you’re attracted to” is far more accurate a statement. Chemistry, sparks, butterflies, chills- those are the feelings and sensations that you can’t fake or force. They may take time to develop but they’re either going to be there, or not. If they are, you may fall in love if the timing, lighting or alcohol by volume is right.
Falling in love, however, is not the same as actively loving someone- that’s a horse of a different color. You fall without thinking or planning, you stay because you want and then choose to. Loving someone, especially after the gloss and sparkle of a new relationship has waned, is indeed something we can choose to either pursue or abandon. We choose whether to continue down that path, to give of ourselves, to make time for this other person, to consider their existence as it affects and fits in with our own. We choose to compromise, to listen; to forgive, to understand; to engage, to be present; to be honest, to be patient. It is not an accident or the result of dumb luck when love endures. It is a voluntary, physical practice that we have to work at, and it isn’t always easy.
This may sound burdensome at first; to me, it’s rather beautiful and empowering. If love is a choice, then we can choose to keep the flame burning. When two people make that courageous choice to say “Hey, so, you’re the one. You make me all kinds of stupid happy. So sit down and strap in, because we’re going to remember our love for one another even when the going gets tough,” that is invigorating and noteworthy. It is my sincerest hope that if I do find someone crazy enough to handle my particular brand of crazy someday, that he be brave enough to choose to love me, actively and honestly with all that he has to give.
Love is friendship on fire.
If there is one thing I know to be true, it is this indeed that love is friendship on fire. I have it engraved on a necklace and I tout the phrase every chance I get. People say this so often that it begins to sound banal, but your partner really should be your best friend. Love works best, in my observance, when it takes on the form on a deep, meaningful, laughter-filled friendship.  The couples I know who have persisted and continue to thrive are the ones who are notably each other’s most trusted companion. When my mother has some great and exciting news, my father is the first one she thinks to call. When my friend has a hilarious story to share, she can’t wait to call her boyfriend to tell it. That seems to be the key, to see in your partner not just a person to eat with, sleep with and go to the movies with, but as your favorite person in the world with whom you can’t wait to spend your day.
In closing, to my newlywed friends- I applaud you for daring to making your own rules. They are your own and no one else’s. Own them, live them, thrive in them off into the sunset. I hope you will choose to love one another every bit as much tomorrow as you do today, and every other day as much as the one before. Value your love and the friendship that exists at its core, then set it on fire and let it be the force that binds you. Remember the meaning of the bands you each wear on your fingers and the vows you spoke to each other but a short week ago; I salute your connection and wish you even more happiness that you’ve already known. You’re all linked in and ready to go.; go be happy forever.
Bookishly yours,

They seriously give each other looks like this all the time.
Maids in Waiting.

This chick. Ugh. Making bridal look effortless.

Ginger and the Bookworm