I initially created an OKCupid account on a lark my sophomore year of undergrad. I chatted to a few people then — mostly interesting foreigners — and never met with anyone in-person. My hands were full with academics, hobbies, and a fairly robust social life, and I mainly used OKC to read other people’s profiles (how they chose to represent and market themselves was really interesting!), answer questions and quizzes, get occasional ego boosts from unsolicited messages, and refine my own self-presentation. I sporadically browsed the site for a few months, but my curiosity and amusement eventually died down and I deactivated.
Some years passed. I lived abroad, bummed around, wrapped up undergrad, decided to do a PhD, and went to Europe to travel and work on a summer dig. Upon my return, I’d be moving to a new part of the country and was brainstorming ways to meet people when I remembered OKC. Touching down in the US, I reactivated my account, asked a friend for feedback, updated a few details, and was ready to go! Messages came trickling in, and I sent a few to interesting-seeming people myself. 4 days back stateside, I’d made the long drive to my new home, interviewed a bunch of prospective roommates, utterly failed to overcome jetlag, bought some kitchen supplies, and messaged Kate with a dorky compliment on her lifting form and a link to Dave Tate’s “So You Think You Can…” series. We clicked instantly, and where all my other conversations had ended with tepid boredom after a dozen messages, we exchanged 50+ — each a few paragraphs long — over the next 2 days (later on, she’d recall my profile as “confusing, pretentious, and intriguing”, which, to be fair, describes me pretty damn well). At first we agreed to meet for coffee, but after exchanging a couple dozen more messages we upgraded to dancing, which led to a long walk and a few hours of conversation over late night frozen yogurt. This was to be our first “date” (at the time, she was looking for “new friends (only)” and I for all the options available, so it took me until “date” 3 to realize we were actually dating, and not just having friendly outings and lively conversations. It turns out she’d unwittingly made that selection when filling out her profile, and had indeed been on a few OKC dates since joining the site some months before).
We hit it off like gangbusters and agreed to meet again that Saturday for a long day of hiking, wine tasting, and food, and then again the following Wednesday for a corn maze, picnic dinner, and meteor shower. Cuddling out in a field on a blanket that Wednesday, I reflected on our physical proximity and my own habitual obliviousness (weren’t we walking arm-in-arm at the wineries? hand-in-hand in the labyrinth?) and realized her intentions toward me were more than just friendly. Dropping her off that night, I lifted her up against my car and we kissed for the first time.
The next few months blurred by. Tuesdays, I would make her dinner at my flat and she’d spend the night. Fridays, she’d make me dinner and the following day we’d drive a few hours to nearby towns , cities, canyons ,mountains , forests , lakes , deserts , oceans , etc. for a day of exploration and fun. We’d talk for a dozen hours straight, both on topics that emerged naturally and on those provided by various books of questions and thought experiments (highly recommended! We’ve gone through a bunch of them, and while some were duds many were great! We’ve especially enjoyed those written by Gregory Stock, though occasionally his can be goofy or weird), and our conversations were always pleasurable, insightful, and easy. The next day, we’d hit the gym, do chores, get groceries, work a bit, and relax , all to longer postpone our inevitable separation Sunday night.
She spent a week (and got along swimmingly) with my family that winter (we’re all from Russia and some of my relatives don’t speak English, so communication was mostly gestural, but Kate’s since made good progress learning the language!). The following spring, I introduced her to one of my favorite hobbies – backpacking. Though a fairly avid hiker, she’d never spent longer than a night in the wilderness, and after getting gear squared away we began going on 2-3 night trips in preparation for a summer hike that had long been on my bucket list – the John Muir Trail (JMT). As our permit dates grew closer, I recognized more and more that this was the person I wanted to spend my life with, the partner I’d been hoping to find over many years of relatively casual dating. Not only was she exceedingly kind and adventurous, but also a fantastic conversationalist, wickedly smart (she’s a superstar graduate researcher with a fellowship valued at ~1M USD in an extremely competitive, world-renowned dual-doctoral-degree program, has written a few books, etc. I could brag about her all day!), funny and mischievous as hell, unbelievably sexy, and had similar hobbies and interests (including but not limited to various outdoorsy stuff , travel and tourism, sci-fi and fantasy, cooking and baking,foraging food to cook or can , singing and dancing, creating marvelous works of art , books, anime, biking and bikepacking, potlucks and parties, board games and video games, human and animal welfare, navel-gazing, exercise, science, the list goes on…). She pushes me to be a better person, and our relationship is founded on the basis of mutual adoration, support, and respect. So marriage was not a difficult topic to broach, and sooner or later we were looking through thousands of engagement rings (with repetition and across a few months, to account for intra-observer variability) and discussing long term plans. We also moved in together at some point here, but our weekend activities didn’t change (and still haven’t! But we no longer have to part ways on Sundays!).
We embarked SOBO on the JMT that summer, and having discussed our preferences for the proposal itself some months prior, I’d decided to pop the question at the southern terminus of the trail — Mt. Whitney. Unfortunately, Kate took a pair of nasty falls that left her knees in intense pain 30 miles from our next resupply point. A few days of tears and agony later, she’d hobbled back to civilization, where we hitched some rides outta there and back to our car in Yosemite. Having told our PIs we’d be gone for a 3 weeks, we figured to make the most of it and went road-tripping, and after a particularly delightful morning of freshly baked goods, painless knees, and breezy parks, I sat down beside her on our motel bed as we were packing up, withdrew the engraved wooden box (stuffed in a sock, wrapped in a ziplock, stuffed in another sock, and wrapped in a waterproof bag with the words “SECRET BAG NO KATE ALLOWED” sharpied on it) I’d been carrying in my backpack those past few weeks, and handed her the ring we’d chosen together.
A few months later our small family grew by one as we inherited an Italian Greyhound rescued by my mum half a decade ago. He’s a hardy fellow – his favorite things are long walks, pissing, treats, cuddles, naps, and acting far too cool for school , in that order, and he easily outpaces us on our 10-20 mile jaunts most Saturdays . We’re having a very small wedding ceremony this upcoming December (in my mum’s backyard), and backpacking around the British Isles and Iceland next summer for a honeymoon (and a few smaller weekend-to-week-long trips later this fall, during winter and spring breaks, etc.). We’re in school for another ~four years (me finishing up my degree and she her two), and though it doesn’t pay super well — by real life standards, at least — we live pretty frugally and so can save/invest a good third of it, give a decent fraction to assorted charities, and still go on tons of weekend and holiday trips. After grad school I’ll probably end up following her, since she’ll be way more desirable by employers and needs a shit-ton of lab equipment where I’m doing computational biostats-y stuff and really only need a computer. We’ll probably have a kid in 5-10 years, though whether we make one from scratch or adopt is still undecided. Overall, the future’s very bright and I’m happier than I’ve ever been!
(Header Photocredit: Bon Miller)