I’m a New York City girl. I’d never camped overnight in a tent in my life—the closest was when I was 18 and slept in a van at a festival—until a couple of years ago, when I got a chance to see one of my favorite bands, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state. I was excited for the show, but also not in the best shape for a first camping trip: I was nearly eight months pregnant, and I was getting married just two weeks later.
In hindsight, our decision to go seems a little ridiculous—cavalier, even—but my soon-to-be
husband, Preston, and I knew it’d be the last chance we’d get to do something like that before the baby came, so I packed a pregnancy pillow and hoped for the best. We drove south from our place in Vancouver, picking up a tent and provisions along the way. When we arrived at the Gorge the night before the concert, everybody looked at me like, Do you even know where the nearest bathroom is? And where was the nearest doctor? Not even close.
Still, when we woke up in the morning to a bright, sunny day, it was everything I thought it would be—the mountains were epic. It was the end of the summer and incredibly hot, so we decided to go swimming nearby, in the Columbia River. I didn’t have a bathing suit, but I was pretty sure I could get away with swimming in my black underwear. We headed to a remote part of the river, but as I swam around, I looked over toward the shore and saw four hipster-looking guys about to come in. I told my husband, “I think that’s the band”—and it was.
I was really excited to meet them, but I was also wondering how I was going to get out of the water without them realizing I was in my underwear. To be fair, they didn’t have bathing suits either—nobody was naked, but everybody was definitely in their underwear. This, I realized, was what camping was all about. Besides, I was pregnant; I figured that if they saw me getting out of the river in my underwear, they’d look away.
I got out of the water and covered up with a towel so I could go say hi, but as I was putting my shoes on, I realized that my engagement ring was missing. I shrieked—and that’s how we met the band. They introduced themselves, and then the conversation went something like: “Oh my God, I really love your music; oh my God, I can’t find my ring.” One of them, either the piano player or the guy following them around getting documentary footage, finally found it in the brambles.
The show itself was terrific, and we ended up keeping in touch with the band. The following summer, my husband and I were in Nice working on Riviera, and the band came to play the Nice Jazz Festival, so after their show, we all decided to go swimming in the Mediterranean. Believe it or not, while we were at the beach, Preston lost his wedding ring. The band thought that was hysterical. We went to ask the lifeguards if anyone had found it, only I mixed up the French words for “lost” and “found,” so instead of telling the lifeguard that I’d lost a wedding ring, I told him I’d found one. He responded enthusiastically, which made me think that he’d found it.
While this might sound like it was frustrating, I actually didn’t feel the same sense of panic as when I’d lost my engagement ring at the Gorge. We had put off getting married for a long time because, even though I’m an actress, I find the idea of planning an event and getting dolled-up and being the center of attention to be really stressful. Losing the ring just added to that. But the second time, when we were married, I was in a place where I had much more of a sense of peace and security. Also, it was easier to have him be the one that lost it.
Mostly, though, there was something poetic about it being lost—the idea of this gold ring sinking to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Would it end up on another continent? Or in a whale’s mouth? Or would someone on the beach with a metal detector find it and cash it in for a sandwich? I’ll never know.
Emmy Award–nominated actress Julia Stiles stars in the comedic crime drama Hustlers, which is due out September 13.