I have a few different versions of the story of how Jenni and I met. Which one gets told in any given situation depends on who I’m talking to and how much time I want to spend explaining the intricacies of 21st century dating rituals. One story, reserved for making small talk with (usually older) people I’ve just met, goes that Jenni and I met through mutual college friends in the Boston area. Another story - even shorter - involves me just sputtering “oh we both went to school in Boston” with no further explanation.
But then there’s the real story. Most of my friends and family know it by now, but I’ll lay it all out for you here, the whole ugly truth. Jenni and I met…
on a dating app.
I know. Shocking! Scandalous! Unbelievable!
It was February of my junior year of college, and I was determined to dive head-first into the gay dating pool and find myself a girlfriend. It was less than a year after I first came out, and after having my very first girlfriend the previous summer (a lovely and sweet, but brief, relationship) I was anxious to try again and get more experience - any experience - in my new out-and-proud life. I had already gone on multiple (exciting, yet unfruitful) first dates and was keeping up a decent log of conversations with people on several different dating apps, but didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
And then, suddenly, there was this girl.
She popped up one day while I was swiping through Her, my queer-women-only dating app. Now, dating apps are all about judging people based on 1) their appearance, and 2) their little about-me blurbs, right? So based on just those two things, what I gathered was this: that she was so incredibly gorgeous and out of my league that I seriously doubted I should even be wasting my time messaging her, and that she was graduating soon and - disappointingly for me - not looking for anything serious.
So then I did what any sane person with an instantaneous crush does - I threw all of my previous thoughts right out the window and tapped the little heart button below her picture.
We connected instantly. We loved the same TV shows, had the same quirks, talked the same way. But even though I was thrilled to finally find someone who really ~got me~, a little voice in my head kept nagging me, saying this is never going to go anywhere. She’s leaving soon. She’s leaving. I was trying not to get my hopes up, but in all reality I was doing a terrible job.
Here's something fun. Knowing what you all know now about Jenni’s and my relationship, I’ll leave you with this final tidbit of one of our last online conversations (this is Jenni talking to me):
After we got each other’s phone numbers, we were texting and Facetiming at an alarming frequency. Finally, we made plans to meet each other in person before I went on my spring break. But, as tends to happen in Massachusetts in early March, snow got in the way. An incoming blizzard was going to make it impossible for us to see each other until after my spring break - two weeks away. But we couldn’t wait any longer. So as the weather forecast on my phone was telling me that six inches of heavy snow would start falling in the next twelve hours, I was grabbing my coat with one hand and calling an Uber with the other.
When she opened the door to her apartment less than half an hour later, I was stunned by how someone could possibly be as beautiful in real life as they were in the pictures on their dating app profile.
“Hi.” She grinned at me.
And we wrapped each other in a hug that seemed to go on forever.
She showed me around, and we ended up in her bedroom, talking. And if you know me well, you know that when I am nervous, I ramble like a nervous comedian who is starting to smell the stench of rotten tomatoes in the audience. And boy, was I on fire that night.
We went back and forth between talking about normal things - classes, Boston, the weather - and talking about what this relationship between us was going to be, and how it would be a very, VERY bad idea for us to kiss right now. But we kissed. We kissed and I still remember it like it was five minutes ago and not almost two years ago now, and it was everything, it was wonderful.
But it was painful too. I knew she didn’t want a relationship, but I had already fallen for her. And I was upset and I was mad at myself for being so stupid, but at the same time I just couldn’t let it go.
But then Jenni made the choice for me. She told me that it couldn’t happen between us, not with her graduating and moving back across the country in less than four months. We couldn’t keep this going, we didn’t have enough time, it would be so hard. We had to just be friends. And I was heartbroken. And that’s exactly the right word - not devastated, not disappointed, not upset - just heartbroken, clean and simple.
To be completely honest with you, I don’t quite remember what happened between Jenni telling me we had to be just friends and Jenni calling me a few weeks later to say she had changed her mind. I remember that I went to Disney World, and my mom kept yelling at me for stopping in my tracks every five seconds to text Jenni a meme that I thought she might like. I remember not wanting to tell anyone that we had ended things because I had been referring to Jenni as “soulmate girl” in conversations with my friends. I remember being really, really excited at the airport, shaking my phone in front of my mother’s face and yelling “I have a girlfriend!!”
And the rest, as they say, is history. We had a jam-packed, exciting, incredible few months of dating before she graduated and flew back out to California. We were determined to make long-distance work, but no one goes into that kind of thing with absolute confidence, us included. I remember the night before Jenni left, I brought her to my hometown. We got ice cream at the same place that I’d been going to since before I could walk or talk, and we went down to the lake and watched the sun set. It felt special, but also so fragile. We exchanged gifts and goodbyes, and I dropped her back off with her parents at their hotel. That night, I cried so hard I almost threw up.
Jenni and I are coming up on our two-year anniversary soon. We made it through over a year and a half of long distance after that first night we said goodbye. We made it a point to see each other in person every few months - we spent an amazing week at Disneyland together in the summer, she came back to Boston in the fall, we spent New Years together in Seattle. Long distance sucked, and it is as hard as everyone says it is. But we made sure we were always there for each other. We texted and Facetimed every single day. Jenni read through and edited my papers for class, and I flew out to see her as the lead in Peter and the Starcatcher. In that whole year and a half we spent apart, we were never not part of each other’s lives.
To wrap it all up, the story of how Jenni and I met is a little messy and very cheesy and at times it is sad - but in the end, we are just two very stubborn only children who were fiercely determined to get what we wanted - each other. And I wouldn’t change a thing.