February 07, 2011 12:00 PM

Just about everyone would say 2010 seemed like a pretty lousy year for Jesse James. His marriage to Sandra Bullock collapsed, details of his alleged infidelities went public, and he agreed to give up parental rights to Louis, the infant son Bullock went on to adopt as a single mom. But a funny thing happened along the way: James fell in love again. “[Last year] was actually the best year of my life, because I fell in love with my best friend,” he told PEOPLE on Jan. 20 of his whirlwind romance and surprise engagement to tattoo artist Kat Von D, 28. “[She is] an amazing woman who stood behind me when the world turned their backs.”

Von D, for one, doesn’t care what the rest of the world might think of James. “There is no one else for me. He’s the one!” the LA Ink star tells PEOPLE of James, 41. A longtime friend, he first stepped out with her as a couple last September and proposed with a 4-plus-carat Neil Lane diamond ring over a game of Scrabble a few months ago. (He asked her “stoked” dad for permission first.) “It’s amazing how easy it is to love someone and to be loved in return when it’s real,” she says. “It’s just simple.”

Well, not exactly. James’ comments-which included saying he had “never met anyone so kind and loving” as Von D-struck some as insensitive to Bullock. The motorcycle mogul remains persona non grata in Bullock’s circles in Austin, where James lives quietly with kids Chandler, 16, Jesse Jr., 13, and Sunny, 7. But as Bullock moves on with her life-she’s settling into New York City with Louis as she starts filming her first movie since the split, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close-James is challenging naysayers to do the same. “Oh Jeeezz. Hating on me is Sooooooooo 2010,” he tweeted on Jan. 21, the day after the engagement news broke. “But, Loving me is the new Black!”

For now, James has all the love he needs. Relying on Twitter PDA (“Impossibly trying to sleep without my @thekatvond. Not working, miss her,” he wrote Jan. 22) and regular commutes between L.A. and Austin, the tattooed duo are all about the future. Says James: “Growing old with her is going to be a f—-n’ blast!”

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