If someone told single-me in the spring of 2013 that three months later I would be sweating profusely in a Vegas wedding chapel bathroom, shakily applying lip-liner, and getting ready to walk down the aisle to marry someone I had met on the Internet . . . well, I’m not quite sure what I would have said.
But it was happening.
That year, I was blissfully tumbling through my first prolonged period of singledom since I was old enough to think boys were attractive rather than icky. I had managed to extract myself and my cat from a four-and-a-half-years, cohabitating relationship that had lasted too long. I was attending a university I lived on scholarship after working my ass off through my early twenties to gain admission. Above all else, I was thoroughly enjoying the feeling of not having anyone but myself to answer to for the first time in my independent, adult life. I felt healthy, whole, and self-sufficient.
During this time, my roommate and I had many conversations about his difficulty with online dating. I did my best in these exchanges to communicate the simultaneous horror/hilarity that is being a woman on a dating site, but knew that the only way he would concede to my argument was if I showed him. So, enjoying another aspect of my newfound sense of freedom, I signed up.
I don’t need to clarify that the shit-show started immediately, but I was determined to maintain a presence for long enough to prove that my roommate wasn’t necessarily the problem and that his earnest forays into girl’s inboxes were simply being drowned out by douche bags.
That was the plan, anyway. Late one night after work, drink in hand, scrolling through the silent visitors to my profile in my “views” folder, I saw a striking face peering up at me. I stopped and clicked.
He was a professor of philosophy at a small university about 45 minutes north of my apartment. He liked traveling, reading, good music, and spending time outside. He was 6'3" with salt-and-pepper hair and a killer five-o’clock shadow, dressed down in black T-shirts and textual tattoos. A veritable jackpot. I was one year removed from the bottom of his age-limit (26) and he was one year plus mine (36). A wide (but permissible) 12-year age difference.
I backed off his page and shut my laptop. I’m not here for this, I told myself. I looked around my reclaimed space, everything as I wanted it. Did I really want to fling open the door to relinquishing some of my newfound agency?
Apparently I was at least open to it, because I checked my “views” folder the next day and “The Professor”—as I had started to call him in my mind—was there. I clicked on him. He clicked on me. This standoff continued for a few days, until I got up the courage to ask:
"If you have a PhD in Philosophy, does that make you a doctor of philosophy of philosophy?"
He responded with a generous “haha,” and an animated conversation was established. We talked about our academic work and our interests. I was genuinely interested in his questions and replies. Thus, I was more than a little disappointed when he sent me a message saying that he wanted to let me know that he had realized that he wasn’t in a position to date at that particular time, but he hoped that I would add him on Facebook.
I waited a few days before sending him a friend request. I was concerned for myself at my own level of investment in this strange guy on in the Internet. Though I vowed to stay casual while sending the request, our conversation flourished on Facebook through messages of increasing frequency, and — thanks to the freedom allotted by a summertime academic schedule — we decided to meet for coffee at 2 p.m. on a Monday (May 13).
The coffee turned into a walk in the park, which turned into pizza, which turned into talking in his car by the lake until a cop drove by and told us the park was closed. Ten hours after our date began, he brought me back to my car. We gave one another a chaste hug, and parted ways.
As dates go, I think we both conceded in our minds that that first one went spectacularly well. There was an undeniable, exhilarating pull we felt toward one another — so strong, it was almost sickening. We saw each other the next day and nearly every day after. Given our shared apprehension to dating at that point, we vowed to “take it slow,” but the solemnity of those words were lost nearly as fast as we said them through goofy, ecstatic grins.
Two and a half weeks after our first date, I left for a beach trip with my family. On the fourth day, he drove the seven hours to the coast and told me he loved me as we swam in the ocean.
It was shortly after this that we began joking about going to Vegas to “gamble” — an inside joke with thinly veiled meaning.
It’s difficult for me to accurately describe the true nature of our connection and any attempt I make to do so seems woefully inadequate. It can only be described as a fully embodied attunement — mental and emotional. We cycled effortlessly from joking, to serious conversation, to having sex and back again with no stumbling, and no misunderstandings. Our long-term goals, political beliefs, and life philosophies were complementary. Our “attunement” made the motions of planning our trip to Vegas seem completely normal. Objectively, we knew it was crazy and out of character for us both, but on June 28, he proposed.
I bought a dress and shoes online. Since neither of us had ever experienced a cross-country road trip or the geography of the Southwest, we opted to skip the dirt cheap Atlanta to Vegas flights in favor of making the 30-hour trip by car. And I, being the only daughter of very conservative, Southern Baptist parents, did not tell them anything, deciding it was better, in this case, to ask for forgiveness rather than for permission.
We left Georgia on July 30, crossing the vast expanse of country that lay between us and our goal. On the third day, we arrived in Vegas and checked into our hotel. The next day, we picked up our marriage license (a process that the state of Nevada makes blessedly painless), and set up a reservation for 4 p.m. at the Chapel of the Bells.
Before leaving for the ceremony, I carefully packed my shoes and dress in the box they came in so I could change at the chapel. We left a little early and picked up a $30 bouquet. When we reached our destination, we paid and parted ways — he into the small, emerald carpeted chapel and I into the stuffy bathroom.
I struggled to button the back of my dress and apply my lipstick. The process took perhaps five minutes, but five minutes is a long time when your heart is pounding in your ears. Rather than stopping to take a long, hard look at myself in the mirror like they do in the movies, I snapped this selfie, sent it to my best friend and threw open the door.
The ceremony was short and surreal. The chapel played Celine Dion’s theme from Titanic as we said our vows. He had tears in his eyes, and my voice had an odd vibration to it, as if I was being rocketed into space.
After the ceremony, we took our own pictures in a park as the sun set and went into Vegas’s Chinatown in all of our wedding garb and had dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant. Then we went to a small grocery store, got two pieces of red velvet cake and went back to our hotel.
Our honeymoon took us through the Grand Canyon (where we got fellow tourists to take pictures of us in our wedding attire), Monument Valley, Roswell, New Mexico, and along the Gulf Coast.
When we got back to Georgia, I told my parents. They were happy, if not a little disappointed. But then they knew that I was never the type of person that would have a traditional church wedding.
As I’m writing this, it is the one year and six month anniversary of our Vegas wedding. We are still married, happy, and living in a little home in the mountains. The whirlwind that was our courtship has calmed to a steady breeze, but the intensity and excitement that predicated our marriage has only led to a deeper understanding of ourselves and one another.
When we try to imagine our relationship unfolding in a more traditional way, we can’t. Our trip and our marriage has contributed to our connection flourishing rather than floundering. For that and many, many more things, I feel exceptionally lucky.