When a Right Swipe Leads to Love
How I found my fiancé on Tinder
Yes, that Tinder. The dating app that people have called everything from revolutionary and addicting to superficial and fleeting.
I’ve had some interesting experiences on Tinder. I’ve been propositioned for a threesome, offered drugs, and even conducted an ad hoc job interview, all on my Tinder dates (for the record, I politely declined all three offers).
But the most interesting date I’ve been on is ongoing. For about a year ago, I swiped right on someone who’d unexpectedly transform my life, to the point that I can’t imagine being with anyone else as long as I live it (forgive the corniness, but you tend to talk in clichés when you’re in love).
In The Beginning…
Let me start by making this clear: I did not go on Tinder to look for a soulmate. I was well aware of its reputation as a hookup app; it was a place to find casual swings, and nothing else (though my own data refutes this sterotype).
I was also a few months out of a long relationship, and very much enjoying my newfound freedom and (ahem) options as a bachelor in San Francisco. Out of all the things I was hoping to get out of Tinder, a relationship was near the bottom of my list.
However, I was open to the possibility of meeting someone special, and told myself that if I were to meet someone good enough to settle down with, I would. But considering how much I loved my single life, I set the bar very high.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I swiped right on Jenny. But I know why: her bio struck me (she was an English teacher, aka “wordsmith’s kryptonite”), and she had a great picture of her sitting in her classroom.
She was very different from anyone else I’d seen on Tinder, so I swiped right. And then didn’t hear back for weeks. I figured, like so many unrequited right swipes (oh, the woes of the single male), that she’d simply swiped left and forgot about me.
By this point, I knew Tinder was a numbers game, and guys get spurned a lot more than girls, so I shrugged and kept swiping. But a few weeks later, we were matched!
It turned out that Jenny just didn’t go on Tinder that often, and hadn’t logged on in a while. But she loved my profile — specifically, that I was from New Orleans — and I seemed to exude a dorkish charm she found endearing.
Interestingly, she was not a fan of my profile picture, which was endorsed by several female friends and colleagues. But again — we’re not talking about your average Tinder user.
The Texting Phase
We exchanged a few messages on Tinder before exchanging numbers, based on a mutual assessment that we weren’t axe murderers. Problem was, the weekend I got her number, I was camping in Big Sur for Memorial Day, and had to check my wireless reception at the forest line.
But I loved talking (sorry, texting) with her. Not only was she different, she was smarter than anyone else I’d met… online, or off. We shared common interests in books, current events, history, and philosophy.
Even before we met, she felt like a kindred spirit: someone so different, on such another level, so much smarter than average, that she felt a certain loneliness being out in the world. I could certainly relate.
I got around the lack of wireless reception by bouncing around different camping lodges, asking for their wi-fi passwords. This greatly annoyed my friends, who at one point scolded me for it, saying my “Tinder dates can wait” until after the weekend. But I didn’t care — if I was able to grab a signal, I texted her back.
Upon my return to the City, we set a date and time to meet. She lived in Vacaville (more on that later), so we decided to meet in Berkeley the following weekend. It seemed like a good middle point, with plenty to do (Berkeley always has, and always will be, one of my favorite places in the Bay Area), and I couldn’t wait.
I’d cleared out my “Tinder calendar” for my visiting friends, but I made a big exception for her. I hope they didn’t mind.
We couldn’t wait to see each other. So I called her — yes, by phone — on a late Thursday night. I didn’t even know what she looked like (online daters are notorious for taking aesthetic “liberties” with their profile pictures), but once I heard her voice, I knew what kind of person she was: sweet, smart, strong, and hopefully cute.
Over three hours later, we finally said good night, and would’ve gone on for longer if we didn’t have to get up in the morning. Not that it was a problem, as we’d have plenty of time to carry on in just a few days.
On Sunday, June 1st, 2014, at around 10:00am, I rode a BART train to the Ashby Station in Berkeley.
Once I got off, I couldn’t find Jenny. I kept looking and looking, but ultimately, she found me. In her own words:
“I kept calling his name — “Jay! Jay!” — and it felt really awkward, because what if it wasn’t him? Meanwhile, he was bumbling around like a wind-up, robot toy: *whizz* *whizz* *bump* *turn* *whizz* whizz.* Finally, he looked up, and walked towards me.”
Indeed, I finally looked up, and I saw her, even better than her pictures: a cute, small girl (an even five feet tall), with beautiful, long, dark hair, brown eyes, wearing a black-and-white striped dress and brown sandals. I was relieved — finally, a girl who didn’t misrepresent herself! — and walked with her towards her car (another plus).
For the next twelve hours, we simply enjoyed each others’ company. We started off with brunch at Rick & Ann’s before laying down on the grass at Tilden Park, where we talked, kissed, and drifted in and out of our food comas until the sun set.
(Side Note: At Tilden Park, we came across the Brazilian Room. Upon realizing we were about to walk into a wedding, we grimaced at each other, and walked briskly in the opposite direction. We’re now considering that location as a possible wedding venue. Life is funny like that.)
At night, we drove back to San Francisco for the second part of our date. We ate dinner at Ristorante Franchino and had a drink at Vesuvio, both in North Beach. We went back to my apartment in Twin Peaks to watch Game of Thrones (now I really knew she had potential), before she went back to Vacaville to rest up before work.
She left at around 11:00pm — I wasn’t kidding when I said “twelve hours.”
We agreed to keep it going, and set a date for the following week, this time in Vacaville. I took the ferry to Vallejo, where she picked me up to spend the weekend. The rest, as they say, is history.
Summer Love, Fall Strife
We spent a wonderful summer talking, traveling, and hanging out together, getting to know each others’ families, colleagues, and friends. We traveled to Chicago, Napa, Sacramento, and San Diego, and discovered new nooks and crannies in both San Francisco and the East Bay.
But as the summer drew to a close, reality sunk in: we lived very far apart, and school was about to resume, limiting our time together. We agreed to alternate weekends together (one in Vacaville, the next in San Francisco), but we didn’t realize how tough it’d be, or how much it’d test our commitment.
They say that with chemistry comes explosive reactions, and we were no exception. We got along great most of the time, but when we did fight, it was brutal and exhausting. It even brought us to the brink a few times.
But even after the worst fights, we always came through with a newfound appreciation for each other. Strangely, I always felt closer to her after we fought and made up, and we were always good about taking stock and learning from our tiffs.
Most importantly, I always felt she was special. A voice, deep down within me, kept telling me so. This was beyond infatuation, lust, or even regular attraction. This was love, in its purest form. It was beyond emotion; it was a very visceral, gut-level feeling that’s very hard to explain if you haven’t felt it (those of you who are engaged or married know exactly what I’m talking about).
In any case, it was enough to get me to bear the two-hour Amtrak ride every weekend (and back) to see Jenny.
Pretty soon, I knew she was the one. We had casually talked about things like marriage and children, and the fact that I didn’t bristle at them indicated that they may well be in the cards for us. We “hypothetically” talked about what sort of ring she’d like, and places where I could potentially propose.
I had the ring custom-designed from 18-karat gold and a big, Burmese ruby (Jenny had, to my wallet’s relief, made it clear that she didn’t want a diamond ring), and carried it around for months, until the time was right.
I finally proposed to her in New Orleans, over Thanksgiving weekend. It didn’t go exactly as I’d planned. We went to four different locations before I finally popped the question: the Sazerac Bar (too kistchy and fake), the French Quarter (too crowded and cliché), the Christmas Lights at City Park (wrong date), and finally, the Columns Hotel on St. Charles (filled with loud drunks, but I was quickly running out of options, so I asked her outside).
She said “yes,” of course— and I knew that as soon as she did, we’d start going down a rough and bumpy road. People were mostly supportive, but I knew they thought we were crazy. We were engaged after only six months, and our biggest tests were yet to come.
Countdown to One Year
Trials and Tribulations
Once we arrived back in the Bay Area, we had to contend with resistance from friends and family, being priced out of my San Francisco apartment, and seasonal depression… on top of another layer of stress that came with our status as a newly-engaged couple.
I now refer to December and January as “The Winter of our Discontent,” and it’s something I hope we never, ever have to go through again.
People always caution you about the “honeymoon phase,” but I disagree with that. If you’re truly compatible with someone, the beginning is (by far) the relationship’s hardest and most turbulent time. If you can make it through that, you can make it through anything. And we did.
Dawn Arrives with Spring
Fortunately, things got much better: I finished my Master’s degree (freeing up time and money for us), Jenny got a new job closer to the Bay Area, and we finally solved the distance problem.
We moved into a wonderful apartment in Benicia (that’s in the East Bay, for the uninitiated), with a water view, for about half what we were both paying for our own places. I still take BART into the City for work-related meetings and outings with my friends, and make our apartment cozier and homier in my spare time.
I finally feel like I have a place I can call my own, and it’s been wonderful for me.
Just as important: we don’t fight nearly as often or as intensely as we used to, even though we’re facing even greater stresses: the ones that come with planning a wedding (on a budget, at that).
The Road Ahead
Four Seasons Later…
Now, it’s summer again. The sun’s setting at 8 o’clock, people are grilling in the parks, and the fog’s billowing in over the bay. It’s been a year, to the day, since the first time we met in Berkeley, and we are happier than ever together.
Nothing brings us more joy than spending time with each other. We take nice, long walks through town (every night, after eating one of Jenny’s delicious, healthy, home-cooked meals), go to the City on the weekends, and take road trips during long weekends — including a wonderful drive down the California coast for spring break.
Now, as the school year ends, I’m looking forward to spending even more time with her.
…And Many Seasons More
Now, it’s time for me to say what I’ve been leading up to all this time (for you stragglers still reading this, thanks for sticking around!):
Happy Anniversary, Jenny!
I love you. I have loved you ever since I first saw you, and will continue to love you as you love me. Your sharp mind, your cute face, your delicious meals, and your complete and total love for me — even after I’ve messed up so much — have given me a renewed purpose and zest for life.
I’ve never felt healthier or happier than I am now. I really, truly mean it when I say thank you: for making my life amazing, for touching the lives of those around us, and helping us set an example for others who may have given up on love. We’re living proof that love is real, that it’s out there, and it’s attainable to anyone who’s open to it.
I look forward to our days ahead: our hipster wedding, our tiny house, our future family, our many road trips throughout the Golden West. I look forward to spending my life with the girl of my dreams, in the state of my dreams. I look forward, each and every day, to being with you.
Last year was one hell of a ride. Here’s to many, many more with you. ❤
For the rest of you, here’s the moral of the story: be open to anything and anyone when dating. You never know when a right swipe will lead to love.
I was open to meeting someone special, and I did. It can happen to you, too!