L.A. Affairs: Was the hottest guy at the gym really interested in me?

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They say your 30s are better than your 20s for myriad reasons: better sense of identity, more financial stability, less defined by ego-filled standards. For me, I was completely satisfied in every department in my life except romance.

I met Dave, an attractive 37-year-old man with salt-and-pepper hair and a contrasting red-colored beard, at the Toluca Lake CrossFit gym where we’re both members. He was a fit, recently divorced white male with children.

I was a 30-year-old, semi-fit first-generation Latina who had never been proposed to. It was like a tale of two cities if you will.

I instantly thought Dave was alluring, but pursuing him meant facing my fears; in a past life, I was the anxiously attached girlfriend who was always worried about male-female interactions and those extreme fictitious scenarios that led to self-destruction.

I kept thinking, “Me? Dating a divorced man with kids — and risking societal judgment for dating him?” I couldn’t bear it. Even worse, his ex-wife was still a member of the gym.

Out of all the CrossFit gyms in Los Angeles, I just had to walk into his.

I had small talk here and there with Dave, but taboo kept encroaching on the possibility of an “us.” After a year of moseying around each other, divine intervention skewered us better than Cupid’s arrow, and we were brought together.

It’s widely known in the CrossFit community that on Memorial Day weekend we all commit to honor fallen service members by challenging ourselves in completing the Murph Hero workout. It’s a one-mile run with 100 repetitions of pull-ups, 200 repetitions of push-ups, 300 repetitions of squats, capped with another one-mile run. Typically barbecue and brews are had afterward. I did the 8 a.m. class; Dave did the 9 a.m. class. We stayed for hot dogs but found good company with each other.

In my attempt at flirting I asked him, “How does it like to be the fittest guy at the gym?”

He responded, “Do you want the real answer or the short answer?” It was daring, a bit provocative, yet simple enough to open the doors to let each other in.

The connection post-workout might have stemmed from the intensity of pushing our physical limits or possibly from the delirium of not knowing what had just happened. Or maybe it was just “excitation transfer.” No matter what it was, after we started talking, we never stopped.

His undeniable intelligence complemented my sharp-focused wit. I knew this connection was something different. The gravitational pull between us could have kept a small moon in orbit.

After moving from the barbecue to the bars with friends, he asked me out on our first official date, marking the beginning of summer. At Laurel Tavern in Studio City, where I’m sure many first dates begin, Dave and I exchanged laughs and stories on a majestic June evening as friends gathered for happy hour and families celebrated their loved ones’ college graduation. The drinks were flowing, and we — two acquaintances — soon became love interests who had second and third dates.

As high as we had our head in the clouds, everything soon came crashing down. Dave was leaving L.A. for a planned trip to Europe with his ex and their children. As Dickens put it, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

My greatest fears began to unfold as I crept back into the only defense mechanism I’ve ever known. But Dave wasn’t the men of my past. He was something much greater.

When my friends asked why would I date a guy who had been previously married, there wasn’t a second thought. It wasn’t beyond me that Dave’s previous life looked completely different from my own.

I was able to see him for who he was. After all, he’s the type of man who would be the first person to make you feel welcomed if you were to walk into a CrossFit gym for the first time. He’s the type of man who goes to Europe with his children and their mother because it’s the children’s first time and he doesn’t want to miss it. And if he does have a commitment like that, he calls you every night no matter what time zone or country he’s in. He also remembers to bring back a souvenir for you.

There was nothing I could do to change his past, but I was in control of how I navigated our future, especially when he made an effort to build trust. It was this simple thought in which I found solace. Suddenly the new chapter in Dave’s life was one in which I became a new character.

When he returned from Europe on July 4, our gravitational energy brought us back together, and our story as Dave and Jillian began. We coalesced, making our way through L.A.; having drinks at Casita in Sherman Oaks; or going on morning bike rides through Griffith Park. We navigated his life as a co-parent while dodging awkward situations at the gym. We still enjoyed 7:30 a.m. class time together — the class where we met. Then in October, we became an official couple. Those intrusive thoughts were nothing but an emotional scar beginning to heal.

Dave and I met at the precise time in our lives. Admittedly, we both like to say that everything in our past was in preparation for us to meet each other. Now, almost a year later, I can’t imagine a life without him. Something tells me that my 30s are going to be just fine.

The author is a publicist for a sports and live entertainment company in Los Angeles. She loves to cook and write, but only when she feels like it. She’s on Instagram: @jilliansalas12

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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