Photo Essay: V-Day Portraits Of Raw, Real Love In All Its Different Forms

Love is a splendid, multifarious thing.

Love is a splendid, multifarious thing.

 

Love, in all it's various forms, can't always be articulated with words, but we asked nine groups of friends and lovers to give it a try anyway.

Whatever you think about Valentine's Day, we can all agree that chosen families, romantic partners and best friends are worth celebrating. Least of all in 2018, when hate, distrust and ignorance seep through every level of politics, media and public discourse—that's when “love” might be one of the most radical acts we can commit to.

Below, we're sharing the stories of a group of people we know and love—partners, parents, roommates, and best friends. Because love is as personal as it is all-consuming and oxygen-vital. And we're here for it, today and everyday.

 
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Aaron BaggaleyDeena Drewis and Riggins

Age? 
A: 37
D: 31
R: Almost 2

What do you do? 
A: I’m a builder and musician, with secret aspirations to create a space on Instagram for middle-aged, fairly hairy male Instagram models.
D: Editor at Girlboss and editor and founder of Nouvella.

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you? 
D: Aaron is my partner of 14 years, and Riggins is our almost-two-year-old son, who is in fact a dog. They’re both extremely good boys.

How did you meet? 
A: I met Deena 14 years ago. I was living in LA at the time, but went back to my hometown of Folsom for the weekend. My best bud was a manager at a coffee shop there, so I went in for a free cup of coffee. I walked in and Deena was at the cash register. You don’t believe it unless it happens to you, but it was love at first sight. I fell for her immediately. 
D: I was working my first job at a Starbucks in Folsom (yeah, like the prison). Aaron and I both grew up there, though he’s almost seven years older than me, and he was living in LA at the time. But he was up north a lot for work, and when he was in town he would come every day to visit his best friend, who worked there as well. Our age difference back then was highly scandalous, of course. But I could tell he was the best kind of person, and he still thought I was cool even after I told him my favorite movie of all time was Orange County, starring Jack Black. (It's not, I swear. I just panicked.)

Describe the other person in 5 words? 
A: She is my everything. Which is only four words.
D: He’s everyone’s favorite, especially mine.

Song most reminds you of them? 
A:Lover's Spit" by Feist. We broke up for about a year about seven years ago, and I would go to my local bar and play this song over and over again while crying in my beer and smoking a million cigarettes. I was a real wet blanket. There are a ton of songs over 14 years that remind me of her, but when you spend that many quarters on "Lover's Spit," it’s really pretty hard to forget.
D: Sweetest Kill” by Broken Social Scene.

What are you getting them for Valentine's Day (if anything at all)? 
A: We’re not real big on Valentine's Day presents—maybe flowers, and definitely a letter. Letters are a big deal for her. We’re going to make each other dinner and either drink in the backyard or else head out to a bar in our neighborhood for a couple drinks.
D: We’re going to keep it pretty low-key this year, with some crab legs at home and a couple bottles of “party wine,” which is just wine, but more fun.

What's the absolute best part of loving them? 
A: We both have strong opinions, but manage to find common ground. We don’t always see things the same way, whether in our daily lives or in politics, but we’ve always set aside time for ourselves to get together and talk and listen. 
D: His big heartedness is something special. When I would rather curl into myself (which is pretty much always), he reminds me that there’s, like, a whole world out there, and everyone depends on everyone else. 

What's their most annoying habit? 
A: She won’t leave me alone in the bedroom. And it's like, jeeze—super annoying. 
D: He has misophonia—that condition where you can’t stand the sound of anyone chewing or slurping or otherwise masticating—and I really wish he would just let me chomp some chips in his ear every once in awhile.

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why? 
A: Bunny, obviously. Look at her—she looks exactly like a bunny.
D: A cross between a tiger and a bunny. 

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years? 
A: We've got really high hopes for Riggins. Hopefully, by that time, he will be finishing up with his undergraduate degree from Harvard. He’s already learned how to stand up like a real boy, shake, and give high fives, and he’s only one and a half, so I’m pretty sure he’s on the right track. 
D: It’s hard to picture; we’ve intentionally never been big on planning our big moves. But I’d be incredibly happy to have just a small, quiet place with washer and dryer hookups and a bathtub, where we can read a lot and relax and relish the fact that we were able to take advantage of whatever forthcoming technology is going to allow dogs to live forever.

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you? 
A: I can't control whether or not I love Deena, it just is. In theory, I like the idea of a partnership, but it just sounds like shared household duties and bills to me. If, instead of "partner" or "wife" or "husband," we all went back to saying "lover" or better yet, "love-ah" like the SNL skit, I’d be so much more comfortable with that. Everyone and anyone can be a lover.
D: Part of why we haven’t gotten married is that we both hold this belief that you have to earn it every day. That’s really important to both of us, so I don’t know if I really believe in unconditional love. Unless we’re talking about Riggins, in which case, it is absolutely unconditional, because dogs are really just hairy, perfect cherubs.

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life? 
A: She’s always there for me. Sometimes, I walk in the door from work and don’t even realize something is wrong, and she'll ask, "What happened?" I'll tell her that nothing happened, but then immediately realize, "Oh man, that was a shit day and she’s already on to me, and now I have to talk about it." I can’t hide shit from her. She always knows when I’m going though something and she always knows how to bring me back to being the best version of myself.
D: Well first of all, he makes me a smoothie every morning. But beyond that, he’s just a really patient and empathetic person that puts up with my, uh, ~occasional moodiness~, and is constantly trying to configure our lives in a way that makes more space for doing what makes us happy.

 
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Jihaari Terry and Essence Harden  

Age?
J: 35
E: 33

What do you do? 
J: I’m a deejay and I produce music.
E: I’m a curator and PhD candidate at UC Berkeley. I basically write a lot and look at a bunch of art all day.

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you?
J: Essence Harden is my love. She keeps me focused. 
E: Jihaari is my number one boo. He’s my point of possibility and departure from the known world. He’s the brilliance in my dreams and the pleasure in my experiences. I love him, a lot. 

How did you meet? 
J: We met thru a mutual friend. 
E: We met at this dope little coffee shop, Cro, in Oakland. Jihaari worked there and I would read in the back part of the alley where it’s located. At some point I popped in when he was working and he figured out I was a teacher (at that moment) and in graduate school (I still am). I told him I studied black masculinity and he said, “That’s me!” then asked for book recommendations. I brought him James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and then Jihaari was in love. 

Describe the other person in 5 words?
J: Comforting, Loving, Giving, Spirited, Determined
E: Very black, very talented dood. 

Song most reminds you of them?
J: Be Real Black For Me” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.
E: “Be Real Black For Me” by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack.

What are you getting them for Valentine's Day (if anything at all)? 
J: We don't really celebrate it. But if we were, I would plan a special trip to Paris and we would redo our night there from last year. This time she wouldn't have the flu. And we would wander around the city until the sun came up. 
E: Ha! Probably nothing but my regular love and adoration.

What's the absolute best part of loving them?
J: I love to watch her sing to her cat with such joy. And when she falls asleep on me while we are laying on the couch. I love her young spirit. 
E: Transcendentalism. We’re in the cosmos as much as possible.

What's their most annoying habit?
J: Not putting her clothes away. 
E: The type of stubbornness that come from his being a Virgo with a Capricorn moon. 

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why?
J: She'd be a cat. Because she loves 'em.
E: Jihaari would be a turtle with the heart of a cat. He’s very slow moving, but has incredible endurance, much like a turtle or a jar of molasses. But that heart of his has the ancient wisdom and self assuredness of a regal cat.

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years?
J: Hopefully in our summer home in Paris. Talking about how we need to have a retrospective show. Centering all the black artists we have met over the years. 
E: Gardening, traveling, and meditating together at least two hours a day! 

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you?
J: I believe it means sticking it out. Being vulnerable, asking for what you need and knowing that everyday your partner will change. And it's OK to not know everything. 
E: Patience, endurance, empathy, and vulnerability seem like my key tenants.

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life?   
J: It comes in a lot if different ways. But I love how she shows up for my deejay events. It gives me the confidence because I feel like I'm playing every song for her. 
E: We spend a lot of time together, so the recognition that time apart is needed is this really enriching aspect of support I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy with Jihaari. Making time to chat, and I mean really talk it up, along with playing music and resting together are parts of our everyday support system. 

 
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Karen Spector and unnamed “Baby Boy"

Age?
37 years and 34 weeks

What do you do?
I’m an artist and designer. I work in the Arts District as creative director of Otto Design Group. I do a lot of strategy and branding.

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you?
My loved one is this 34-week-old mystery, who is currently kicking me in the ribs! He means everything to me. He is about to rock my world in the best way.

How did you meet? 
Chance!

Describe the other person in 5 words?
Tiny, fresh, kind, imminent, joyful.

Song most reminds you of them?
I’ve been singing Brian Eno’s “Spinning Away” to him in the car on my way to work. It also reminds me of my mom. It's such an amazing song.

What are you getting them for Valentine's Day (if anything at all)?
I’ll probably get him chocolate. But let’s be honest, I’ve been getting him lots of chocolate.

What's the absolute best part of loving them?
It’s totally new every day!

What's their most annoying habit?
He starts dancing and kicking as soon as I try to go to bed, but it’s pretty cute.

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why?
He really is a person! It’s wild that we’re fancy mammals and we all arrive this way. 

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years?
I hope he’s strong and smart and loving—and in college—and that he remembers to call his mom.

 
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Ariel Katz  and Jerico Mandybur

Age?
A: 32
J: 32

What do you do?
A: I’m a freelance writer and ideas angel so I make content for everybody (but mostly for EVERYBODY.WORLD). 
J: I’m the editorial director of Girlboss and do Self Service

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you?
A: My loved one is twinkly star, Jerico Mandybur! To me, she means inspiration, excitement for the future, and growth. 
J: My girlfriend, Ariel. They mean vulnerability, optimism, communication and conviction.

How did you meet?
A: We were introduced over email :)
J: Over email, through a friend.

Describe the other person in 5 words?
A: Scorpio, Taurus rising, Aquarius moon. 
J: A Hufflepuff with added Gryffindor. 

Song most reminds you of them?
A: We heard "Rip It Up" on our first date and it’s followed us ever since, which always feels like a good omen. That said, the title isn’t very romantic so I’m going to lock in Evelyn “Champagne” King’s smooth lil bop, "I’m In Love". 
J: Brian Eno’s “Always Returning” and “Rip It Up” by Orange Juice.

What are you getting them for Valentine's Day (if anything at all)?
A: Omg, I don’t know!!! So far I have only organized a card!!
J: Skincare products.

What's the absolute best part of loving them?
A: Feeling stronger through our partnership than I could have alone. 
J: Learning to trust and uplift someone without reservation and learning more about myself through their eyes.

What's their most annoying habits?
A: Not applicable, she is an actual angel. 
J: Falling asleep watching every TV show and movie ever.

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why?
A: Wow, I extremely don’t know... A bird? (She's majestic!) A poodle? (She's got a lotta curly hair!) A powerful cat? (She's Egyptian!)
J: A puppy.

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years?
A: Together and offline?
J: Being totally normal. Living near the ocean with animals, friends/family and loving nature sick.

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you?
A: Trust, respect, emotional support, and a lot of communication. 
J: Seeing the whole, complete human (that I simply compliment) and being seen back. Not taking the concept of “unconditional” for granted.

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life?
A: It looks incredibly sexy and feels staggeringly fulfilling. 
J: It looks like smiling all the time and feels like a warm, never-ending hug.

 
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Lajoie and Lilah

Age?
Lajoie: A lady never reveals her age (but I might be 27)
Lilah: 27

What do you do? 
Lajoie: I’m a development executive of scripted television.  
Lilah: I’m a senior account manager for a national advertising company. 

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you?
Lajoie: My loved one is my best friend Lilah. She means I’m being rewarded in this life, or perhaps did something very right in a previous life, if you believe in that.
Lilah: Lajoie is my BFF, former roommate, chosen family, cheerleader and constant Gchat accomplice. She makes me feel not just loved, but understood.   

How did you meet? 
Lajoie: I went to Santa Cruz for a year. She was visiting her best friend and I just fell in love with her hair…and the fact that she offered me almonds as a snack. She also laughed at my jokes so I immediately noticed her.  
Lilah: I visited our mutual BFF Alex in her first year away at college. The two of them were neighbors, so we naturally all hung out. I offered Lajoie almonds, and we bonded over Portishead and Massive Attack, like true exploratory freshmen. In a twist of fate, she moved to LA shortly after and we realized this was the real deal. 

Describe the other person in 5 words?
Lajoie: A rare stroke of luck.
Lilah: Never gonna give you up.

Song most reminds you of them?
Lajoie: Together Again” by Janet Jackson
Lilah: Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” 

What are you getting them for Valentine's Day (if anything at all)?
Lajoie: Sexy lingerie.  
Lilah: I was contemplating sprinkle-covered pretzel sticks… but we may just treat each other to breakfast at Sqirl.

What's the absolute best part of loving them?
Lajoie: Best part is being able to experience the kind of love I feel for her. It’s unusual. It’s so whole and true, and non-judgmental.
Lilah: Lajoie is so damn dedicated and smart, I feel like we’re always challenging each other and trying to make each other laugh even in the darker hours. She would make a great stand-up comic. She’ll take a shitty day or a bland night and make it this fully enriching moment. Her tenacity and generosity are unprecedented—nearing Oprah levels, TBH. 

What's their most annoying habit?
Lajoie: She insists I don’t have to bring anything when I’m an invited guest!  
Lilah: She works out every damn day and her room is always sparkling clean. COME ON. 

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why?
Lajoie: Definitely a bird (of the exotic variety). First of all, they’re striking, beautiful and very auspicious. They evolved from dinosaurs, so you KNOW they’re wiser and have been around longer than most species. And finally they can fly…there is literally no other animal that can do that. That’s magic.
Lilah: A loris. She’s big-eyed and cuddly but FIERCE if you mess with her or her loved ones.

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years?
Lajoie: Probably Oprah. 
Lilah: Probably on a girls trip in Alexandria! 

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you?
Lajoie: I don't know why patience is always the first thing that comes to mind. Because it's all about having the capacity to accept and tolerate someone even when they're not at their best. 
Lilah: Communication (non-verbal included) at 5G speed and being nonjudgmental. 

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life?
Lajoie: TBH I was having some trouble answering the previous question (about unconditional love) so I went to Lilah for some guidance. And of course, she was there and helped me through it. Now that's just a tiny example...
Lilah: She believes in me more than I do myself, and always encourages pizza.

 
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Maggie Renshaw, Amanda LaFranco, Pat Lambert and Jane Kang

Age? 
All: 27

What do you do? 
M: EA at Girlboss.
A: Assistant at BOOM! Studios (Comic book publisher).
P: TV producer.
J: Producer.

How did you meet?
M: We met in LA through the Emerson College circle. I actually lived with Jane and Amanda when I first moved out to LA. 
A: I was a last minute reserve to the team—moved into an empty spot in their house.
P: I met my friend Kate my first day freshman year of college when she was getting into a private battle with a cardboard box she couldn’t break down. From that friendship in college, I met the larger group.
J: In college and through mutual friends.

Describe the other person/s in 5 words? 
M: Real, blunt, goofy, intuitive, strong.
A: Oh man...determined, laugh-out-loud funny, adventurous, awe-inspiring, energetic.
P: Fucking funny, hilarious, smart, kind, home.
J: Energetic, gregarious, diverse, loyal, and powerful.

Song most reminds you of them? 
M: Anything Lionel Ritchie, but mainly “All Night Long,” "Mr. Brightside,” and “You Don't Own Me.”
P:Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer and “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie.

What are you getting them for Valentine's Day (if anything at all)?
M: Chocolate. JK. You KNOW I already finished all of it last night. 
A: A lifetime of my presence.
P: We are going to dinner and seeing Margaret Cho stand up. So spending a real GAY time with them.
J: My presence!

What's the absolute best part of loving them? 
M: They are always, always open to trying new activities. A year ago, we went to play bubble soccer. You may be wondering what that is....just take a peek. Each player wears a bubble suit while playing soccer. What they don't tell you is how much you sweat in those hot plastic round ovens. We were all so fatigued from the influx of sweat and lack of endurance.
A: Never a dull moment, and the hardest laughter I've ever had.
P: Oh my god...being loved back? You almost feel undeserving, but I think I’ve always hidden pain with humor so I’m not very emotive, but I know they are there for me and I know they enjoy me (not always but...arguably often). It feels truly like a gift. 
J: They make me feel whole.

If the other person/s was an animal, what would they be and why? 
M: Wolves. We are the wolf pack, for sure. Things can get hairy and definitely sassy, but as they would say in Twilight, we're “imprinted” on each other. Basically attached at the hip.
A: Could I collectively say we'd all be sea otters? Those guys just love a good time.
J: Flamingos, because we are colorful, fun and really do not take ourselves too seriously.

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years? 
M: We will be the new/hip First Wives Club. We will still be as goofy as we are today. Only difference is we will be wearing chic white power sweatsuits, comfortable shoes, and will be loyal members of the Movie Pass program. Wherever we are, we won't take ourselves too seriously. We will be happy. We will be successful. If not, there's always wine and puppies.
A: Like a younger version of Grace and Frankie. With some detours to multiple wineries.
P: In jail. JK. Running shit, being the female leaders the world needs, hopefully great and happy moms. Drunk on red wine in Ojai. Hopefully single, because I will be.
J: Hopefully, we are all happy and fulfilled.  I imagine us going to each other's houses with our own families and having epic dinner parties, drinking some cocktails and laughing so hard that it hurts.

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you? 
M: Unconditional love is being yourself at your worst and still feeling accepted and free. It's a feeling, a comfort, a vulnerability. Life can be messy and stressful, but unconditional love is there without you even asking. It keeps you sane when everything goes to shit. It's a healthy reminder that life is beautiful.
A: Unconditional love just means being there for someone in any circumstance. The good and bad. Knowing they have your back as much as you have theirs.
P: I think love has conditions because it takes work. I actually think “unconditional love” is sort of problematic—you have to be present. But real love, the kind that—if something scary happened your base instinct would be to think of someone else—I think that means life is worth living. It’s better when shared.
J: Being there for each other spiritually and physically.

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life? 
M: FUN and exciting. Our group has the ability to make anything fun. Literally anything. We could wait in every line at Disneyland for hours and maybe take two rides and still have the best time. We laugh hard (and even ugly sometimes).
A: The group chat is always buzzing. Day to day, it's knowing I can talk to them anytime about anything. 
P: Laughter. When I think about my friends I think about laughing, I think about their big smiles and cackles. So their support and love feels like that moment right before you’re about to laugh when your smile starts.
J: It feels constant and whole.  I never am truly alone, which I am eternally grateful for.

 
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Olivia Pincince and Samip Jung Khadka

Age? 
O: 22
S: 28

What do you do? 
O: High school teacher
S: Skateboard nonprofit

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you? 
O: My loved one is my partner Samip, and it’s impossible to sufficiently capture what he means to me, but I’ll try. To be honest: I actively start and stop poems about it on a weekly basis).
S: Olivia Pincince is my loved one and she is my soul.

How did you meet? 
O: We met in a tattoo studio in Kathmandu, Nepal.
S: I used to work in a tattoo studio where she was a client. We got to talking and it led on to her researching the local skate scene. This was obviously a pretense to steal my heart all along. And it worked.

Describe the other person in 5 words? 
O: Selfless, silly, compassionate, empathetic, candid.
S: Powerful, kind, feisty, beautiful, intelligent.

What's the absolute best part of loving them? 
O: Samip is the most selfless person I have met and I am so lucky to love and support him in his life and endeavors. Moreover, loving Samip has taught me to be vulnerable with myself. Knowing that you are absolutely supported by someone is an unparalleled feeling.
S: She’s a superhero and it’s the best part for me to hear how she saved the day.

What's their most annoying habits? 
O: Sometimes he pretends to not know what things are like podcasts or sweet potatoes to mess with me. He finds it hilarious for some reason.  
S: She fixates sometimes on things.

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why? 
O: A monkey because he is obsessed with the idea of having a prehensile tail.
S: They would be a monkey because I would be a monkey, so we would have to be monkeys together.

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years? 
O: In 20 years I would love to be living someplace that is new for both of us (preferably by the beach). I would love to be teaching and help him run his dream business of skate shop/restaurant/community center.
S: In 20 years we will be living together, probably at a beach, running a cooperative workspace/restaurant/school.

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you? 
O: Unconditional love means knowing I can be whoever I am and grow into whoever I want to be with the support of that person. It’s no fear.  
S: For me those words feel very inconsequential. I knew when i was in love with Olivia it was unconditional. There was no other way for it to be. I love all of her, every little bit.

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life? 
O: We call twice a day each day. Once in the morning on my way to work on speaker phone and then for a few hours most nights on video. We have a time change of 12-13 hours depending on daylight savings. So I am asleep when he is awake and visa versa. We send messages throughout the day so the other person wakes up to updates and photos. I usually wake up to 2-100 photos of our dog Karl Barx.
S: She is always there to support me. Life is kinda weird and hard in Nepal and a lot of things don’t make sense. She is always there to keep grounded. We talk twice a day religiously and it gives me the courage to face the day with positivity and the strength to end it the same.

 
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Elizabeth Gu and Eva Grant

Age?
E: 22
Eva: 22

What do you do?
E: Student, pursuing animation
Eva: Production assistant at Girlboss

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you? 
E: Eva Grant. She’s a soul sister
Eva: Elizabeth is my roommate and friend, and she has a light in her that always makes me feel like I’m really coming home, even if our apartment is tiny and weird.

How did you meet them? 
E: A stroke of good luck freshman year. My random roommate.
Eva: We were randomly assigned as roommates for our freshman year at USC

Describe the other person in 5 words? 
E: Validating, insightful, silly, artistic, kind.
Eva: Lovely bean, full of love.

Song most reminds you of them? 
E: Team” by Lorde.
Eva: “Team” by Lorde.

What are you getting them for Valentine’s day (if anything at all)? 
E: Gift card specifically for Trader Joe’s frozen food section.
Eva: I mean, this photoshoot is a pretty cute gift.

What’s the absolute best part of loving them? 
E: She’s so validating in return.
Eva: Knowing that I wouldn’t have found her in any other universe than this. If we hadn’t been randomly assigned as roommates in our 40,000 person school, we definitely wouldn’t have met. I love that I get to live on the plane of existence where we met and loved each other immediately, and got to grow with each other. I always feel safe and joyful around Elizabeth. 

What’s their most annoying habit? 
E: Sometimes she scares me when she screams out of joy because she just saw a dog.
Eva: She’s got gorgeous long hair that sheds everywhere.

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why? 
E: An otter because they’re cute, hold hands with each other, and the puppies of the sea.
Eva: The kitty named Bonny we met at the Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz. That was one of our happiest days together, and I think Liz and Bonny are kindred spirits. Also, living at a vineyard up in the mountains of northern California would be a perfect place for animal Liz.

Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years? 
E: Conquering life and also being happy and supportive of one another.
Eva: Our kids will be friends and we’ll be pressuring them to be college roommates too.

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you? 
E: Being there every step of the way.
Eva: That I always forgive her for shedding all over the apartment.

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life? 
E: Endless affirmation in our love for puppies and dogs
Eva: Sometimes, she’ll just randomly say “I am so happy you are my friend.” Completely seriously. And I’ll feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

 
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Chloe Parks and Sara McGrath

Age?
Both: 27

What do you do?
C: Art director, Girlboss
S: I'm a writer. I work for Jenni Kayne and write editorial content for our blog, Rip & Tan, and basically any line of text you see on our website and in our stores.

Who is your loved one/s, and what do they mean to you? 
C: Sara McGrath is my best friend, roommate, and writing partner! She means so much to me, and has brought an incredible amount of laughter, inspiration, and support to me since moving into our place a little over a year ago. I am so proud of her and incredibly grateful to have her in my life. You know when you look back on the good ole days and you're like, "damn those were the good ole days"? I feel that I am living in mine now in our little place. 
S: Chloe Parks is my best friend, roommate, and co-conspirator (seems sinister but honestly, probably accurate). Where to even begin to describe what she means to me...I don't know what I'd do without her. This past year was a big time of change and personal growth for me, thanks to Chloe seeing things in me that I couldn't see myself. She has a really special way of making other people feel like...awash in her golden glow, I guess, you know, to be casual about it. Chloe's spotlight has room for everyone. She looks out for me and takes really good care of me, often in the ways I can't seem to take care of myself. We balance each other out in that way.

How did you meet them? 
C: Sara was the college roommate of one of my closest friends. When she wanted to move down to LA from Oakland I suggested she move into my apartment and boy am I glad she did!
S: Chloe and I met through our other best friend, Rebecca, who I lived with when I went to college in San Francisco. I was looking to move out of Oakland for work and just a change of pace, and was asking her about jobs in the fashion industry. She had a roommate who was moving out and offered the space to me. I immediately agreed and sent her rent money without even visiting or seeing the place (although she does a great home tour video). The next month, I packed everything and moved to LA and it was probably the best decision I've ever made.

Describe the other person in 5 words? 
C: Generous, uproarious, gifted, imaginative, hot.
S: Hilarious, magnetic, outgoing, strong (physically, mentally and emotionally!) and...innocent, because I know she'd like that.

What are you getting them for Valentine’s day (if anything at all)? 
C: Haven't thought about it yet, ah! I love to cook so maybe a little meal.
S: For Christmas we were going to buy each other tattoos but that never happened because we both hate the holidays and the whole season is tainted with misery for the both of us. Maybe we'll do that for Valentine's Day, but I think we should go away this weekend and treat ourselves to some glam retreat (Chloe, text me).

What’s the absolute best part of loving them? 
C: Being able to sit back and watch her go. Her imagination is unparalleled and it is such a treat to watch her create, perform, etc.
S: Being privy to all of her brilliant ideas, how much she makes me laugh, and how both of us use our unique set of strengths and skills to make cool shit together.

What’s their most annoying habit? 
C: Being too hard on herself.
S: Sometimes she wears her sweatpants over her heels while she's wearing socks and walks around and I hate it!!!

If the other person was an animal, what would they be and why? 
C: Oh gosh maybe like....a rambunctious golden retriever puppy. Not a puppy-puppy but like, 6 months old. 
S: A bunny, because she has one, but also she's the spitting image of this cartoon bunny putting on fake eyelashes:

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Where do think you and your love one/s will be in 20 years? 
C: Writing, drawing, researching, and creating in some lovely abode with some overgrown vines. Tending to little plants. Being a loving partner to someone and a mother if she damn well feels like it! (Though in an alternative dream world perhaps hunkering down Grey Gardens style with me. In a chic way?)
S: Well I'm extremely morbid so I think I'll be dead, but if I don't croak by then, I think we will be drinking chardonnay and smoking cigarettes on a patio while our unsupervised children find porn for the first time and we'll have to sit them down and give them a super sex-positive conversation but because we're a bottle of chard deep we end up giving them way too many details of our intimate lives. 

What does unconditional love and/or partnership mean to you? 
C: It means being on their team. Backing each other up, helping one another grow and heal, and providing creative inspiration and support. 
S: The people who love me most in my life know my brain best. They let me talk it out when I need to but can also tell me to STFU when I'm giving something too much of my energy. I am not always the best at this, but I think one of the most loving things you can do for someone is let them make their own decisions, follow their own path, and live their truth. If you see someone for their true, authentic, self, it's a lot easier to support them without judgment when they make mistakes. Put your ego aside and try to never say, "I told you so."

What does your partner's support look/feel like, in your daily life? 
C: Laughter, music, art, joy, phone chargers. 
S: Last summer we took a trip to New York together that was awful for both of us for different reasons, but was the first serious test to our friendship. When we got back to LA, we had an immediate need to be comforted by fast food. We drove to the Wendy's drive through but weren't satisfied by our surroundings so went to our favorite parking lot and parked behind a taco truck to eat our nuggets and fries. We both share an affinity for the banal and both have a strong need to create or retreat to places that feel safe. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Chloe's support in my life feels like my favorite parking lot. 

Words: Jerico Mandybur
Photos: Isabella Behraven