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L.A. Affairs: I almost kissed my ex-boyfriend. Did I have feelings for him again?

Various elements from a date including a cocktail ring, drinks, a skyline and lips.
(Chanelle Nibbelink / For The Times)
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As we walked back to our cars after the party, my ex-boyfriend said, “I have something for you,” and dropped an object into the center of my palm.

I unfurled my fingers and was delighted to find a large diamanté cocktail ring. “What’s this?”

He grinned. “Isn’t this what you always wanted? For me to give you a big ring?”

I laughed. His sense of humor was like kryptonite. We hadn’t been together in five years, but once you’ve had it, funny is hard to forget.

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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

“What’s the catch?” I knew there had to be one. I studied the tiny pavé diamonds covering the elaborate flower design. It was lovely, if not exactly my style. But I couldn’t get too lost in the moment. I knew he hadn’t purchased this trinket for me.

“Where did you get it?”

“I found it in the co-ed bathroom,” he said. “Sitting on the sink.”

Suddenly things made a lot more sense. “So do you mean we’ve just run off with someone’s ring?”

“Pretty much,” he said.

The party we’d just left was held after-hours at a high-end retail store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. A fashionista had inadvertently left it behind.

“Don’t you think we should return it?”

He shrugged. The store had closed. The ring was my problem now. Maybe he was right about the ring. I didn’t want to give it back — even if it wasn’t rightfully mine. It was thrilling.

His comments sent me into a spiral. I was no longer sure of myself. I turned to friends to get their thoughts: What kind of salad was I?

May 3, 2024

I could have trekked back to the store and banged on the window, as a reasonable person would have done. Instead, I slipped it onto my finger and admired it. The thing is, I was raised to want a ring from a man. When I was a kid, my single mother played the song “Diamonds Are Forever” by Shirley Bassey, and we danced around the living room to it. It was basically our theme song.

Diamonds are forever, they are all I need to please me
They can stimulate and tease me
They won’t leave in the night
I’ve no fear that they might desert me …

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I never thought much of it, but in retrospect, what was helpful about that messaging? Get the diamond because the man might not stick around? My mother kept an ad from Harry Winston featuring an engagement ring taped to her fridge. For a woman who didn’t care for marriage, she certainly savored the symbolism.

As much as I enjoyed the fantasy of a ring from a man — that is, one purchased with me in mind and not procured from a toilet — experience told me that getting one was often the beginning of a new set of problems instead of the end of them.

Sometimes the ring is the simplest part of a weighty emotional equation. It could become a glamorous placeholder: I like you enough to consider marrying you and I don’t want you going anywhere while I continue to think about it. Or even: This is what society tells us we should do next.

I’d adopted this cynical view because I was used to things not working out. I’d had one divorce in my 30s. Then my four-year betrothal to a handsome, wonderful man had been called off, and I was left considering that I might have deliberately blown it up. Commitment after a certain age was messy and complicated. Perhaps I inherited that ambivalence from my mother.

After my divorce, my self-esteem was low. The idea of dating in Los Angeles terrified me. Then I met a saucy Italian chef who managed to fire up my burners.

April 26, 2024

I still had his beautiful engagement ring, sitting in a box at home. My former fiancé had not asked for it back yet, which gave me hope that we might still find a way to work it out. But then again, I’d heard he was dating.

“Good,” my mother said. “Let him see what else is out there.”

So when my kryptonite ex emailed and invited me last-minute to the party, it sounded better than watching reality TV while my daughter was at her dad’s. “Maybe I’ll stop by,” I casually replied.

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An acting teacher of mine once said, “Whenever you’re doing a scene with a former partner, no matter what, you still want them to find you hot.” I thought of that statement as dresses accumulated in a pile at my feet. Why did he want to see me now? There was a lingering connection, some fun history and a flutter in my stomach whenever I saw his name flicker on the screen during a movie’s credits.

It was enough to compel me to drive over to meet him for a quick drink. He was easy to find in a crowd. I typically searched for the most famous person in the room, and he’d be talking to them.

He scooped me into a hug when I found him, and we fell into an easy rapport. I talked about my broken engagement, and he showed me vacation pictures of his lovely (young) girlfriend.

Later as we left, there was a brief moment when we almost kissed in the elevator, and we could have ended the evening the way we’d spent plenty of others. But we didn’t. It was a test. He had a girlfriend, and I was still in love with someone else. Perhaps we needed one last look before moving on.

The two-hour drive I didn’t want to make became the drive the two of us did willingly, almost every weekend for five years.

April 19, 2024

We hugged goodbye. I had no use for a man whose heart didn’t belong to me, and I certainly didn’t need someone else’s ring. What I longed for was a true connection, to be all-in; the ring was incidental.

In the morning, I called the store and told them I had the ring. They didn’t ask questions, but one of their patrons had been looking for it. I dropped it off and wondered about its owner.

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Months later my former fiancé, Rob, came to me and said, “I can’t imagine my life without you in it.” I felt the same. We’ve been married for 12 years now. A surprise I didn’t see coming was that Rob admitted he’d seen the jewelry ad on my mother’s fridge and assumed it was my dream ring. He had that sapphire cut in mind when he designed mine. So in the end, I manifested my mother’s ring — or maybe she manifested it for me.

The author is a freelance writer and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. You can read more of her work at taraellison.com.

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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