Keil and I met on OkCupid exactly 1 year ago today. At the time, I had no idea the trajectory of my entire life had just changed.
Technically, I found him first. After getting nowhere fast with LA and Orange County men, I expanded my search to 250 miles and started to scroll. “Nothing,” “No,” “What?,” “Come on!,” “Stop it,” “NO,” “Really?,” and then, “Hmm.”
His profile picture was just his bare chest. He had his incognito reasons – of which I still make fun of him for. Normally if I saw a freaking chest shot for an opener, I’d literally say “Douche” out loud and not give the person behind the picture the time of day. But Keil has an incredible chest piece tattoo and Lord knows I can’t pass up ogling art.
So I clicked. He had no written information filled out, a couple hundred multiple choice questions answered – of which I had more than one red flag in a department I am extremely self protective of – and a few photos of his actual face. He even had a photo of himself with his little girl. And despite a 90+% match and hotness for days, I sat on my bed and thought, “Next.”
In my previous career, I had been around men on their worst behavior in excess. My professional life bled over into my personal life (not to mention my most recent ex was all kinds of awful) and my standards were admittedly damn near unattainable. When you see so much bullshit, it’s damn near impossible to not swing to the opposite end of the spectrum and expect damn near perfection.
So I moved on – wished the hot guy with the killer tattoos was everything I ever wanted, but left him lie.
The next day I got a message from him.
He saw that I’d looked at his profile and started chatting me up immediately. My literal thought when I got his message was “Oh, what the hell? He’s hot.”
For the record, that line of thinking is COMPLETELY out of character for me. But I figured since he lived 4 hours away and there was no real shot of us ever meeting, what’s the harm in being pleasant and saying hello?
By May 31st, we’d been talking on OkCupid extensively. We’d also exchanged social media accounts and I stalked him hard. I mean, I wanted to know who I was talking to, right? I’d also started falling for him. Truthfully, I fell for his daughter Saiana before I fell for him, but he was a close second.
I remember one night laying on my bed watching the two of them sing, “I’m a little frog and my daddy loves me” for the first time and bursting into tears. Up until that point, I’d only gotten mama bear emotional over my best friend’s little girl who she’d been planning on having since we were little girls. I remember thinking to myself, “What is going on right now? Why am I having this reaction?”
Looking back on it, I think my spirit knew long before I did that I’d just found my family.
The night before the 31st, I was aching to talk to him, so in a fit of feminist fury, I messaged him and presented myself as the picture perfect model of demure little woman femininity. I believe phrases like “Just so we’re clear… I’m interested in getting to know you,” “I’m not talking to anybody else,” and “I’m not half-assing interest or playing some kind of ridiculous field” were thrown around.
Subtlety is totally my strong suit.
He asked me to meet him for our first date in Hollywood that night.
I didn’t tell anyone I was going. This was another out of character moment. What rational woman goes on a date an hour from home with some guy she met on the Internet without telling anyone? But I wanted to know for myself that if he was the one for me that I could say I trusted him from the very beginning.
I still don’t regret that decision.
We met at a little Mediterranean restaurant that showed black and white silent films on the back wall called Puran’s in Los Feliz. He got there before I did. I saw him leaning against his car with his back to me when I pulled in, took a deep breath, gathered my purse, and slowly stepped out of my car.
By the time I got out, he was standing at my rear bumper with a huge smile on his face. My initial thought was, “Holy shit, he’s even hotter in person.” But rather than say that out loud, I met him with an equally huge smile, walked up to him with my arms outstretched, said, “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you!” and entered into the only hug in my entire life that has ever thrown me totally off guard.
His arms felt like home.
I say this without any flair for the dramatic. Hugging this perfect stranger felt like the few and far between instances when I get to hug my best friends of 14-30 years who all live in different states. There was something so familiar, so joyful, and so known about that moment.
We walked into the restaurant together where he already had our candlelit table waiting for us, didn’t even bother looking at the menus, stared at each other with those huge smiles still plastered on our faces, and started talk, talk, talking. We eventually ordered burgers – because who needs pretenses? – and shared more intimately about our lives.
He shared his testimony of his love for Jesus and teared up. I saw his heart and then marveled at all of his crazy dare devil stories.
After dinner, we hopped in his car and rode to Griffith Observatory where we walked around, talked, and overlooked Hollywood at night. After Griffith, we drove through my old stomping grounds and landed at my McDonald’s on Sunset Blvd., got McFlurries, and sat and talked in his car in the parking lot until 2AM.
When we hugged goodbye, I told him I wanted to show him around Hollywood sometime and felt extremely positive about the whole experience, but didn’t really know what to expect because we lived so far apart. As I drove home, I started praying and asked the Lord to give me a word about him.
Immediately, I heard, “Tender.”
My eyes welled up.
Less than a week later, I turned 32. The day before my birthday, he asked me if he could send me an email to share some things. The contents of that email broke my heart and handed me more pain than I’d ever hoped to encounter from someone I had such high hopes for. It also served as a peek into this tender-hearted, very human, vulnerable, brave man who wanted me to decide for myself if I wanted to move forward with him because he knew the caliber of woman I am.
It turned out that my initial reservations about him that made me say, “Next” were dead on. It also turned out that this was the first moment I started to fall in love with him – even though I had no idea at the time.
We’ve had many conversations over the contents of that email and I have done a lot of learning about grace. Keil understands grace more than anyone I’ve ever met and continues to be a teacher to me in this area. He also taught me to skip a quarter across a pool once, but that’s another story.
We talked over the phone for another month before he asked me if he could see me over the 4th of July weekend. He rented a hotel for himself and proceeded to take me on a 3 day multi-date extravaganza. Every piece of it was a surprise that he’d preplanned.
We drove 3 hours into the desert to behold the spectacle of Salvation Mountain, stomped on fish bones at the Salton Sea, hiked around Mt. San Jacinto, saw the Cabazon Dinosaurs, laid around on 1000 Steps Beach, played at PuzzleMazement, ate out a bunch, saw Jurassic World, and went to my New Yorker friend’s house church because I told him up front that I wouldn’t consider anything serious with him until my friends signed off on him.
It was perfect.
And my no bullshit New York friends were the first of many to love him.
We continued to talk on the phone at night, he’d text me first thing every morning, and 3 weeks later, I asked him if he’d be interested in me coming to visit him. He was stoked. I got to meet Saiana for the first time and also stayed at his mom and stepdad’s house the first couple nights.
On July 19th, at 3 in the morning, after we’d been laying around his room singing for hours, we relocated to the couch, laid in opposite directions, and continued to talk. All of a sudden, he leapt up, sat on his haunches, and started talking rapid fire about how well we were getting along, something about how I was fine putting my legs over his, and other nervous/wonderful things that I just don’t remember because I was so caught up in him.
Then, equally rapid fire, he asked, “Will you be my girlfriend?”
I laughed and said, “Yes!”
He leaned down to kiss me and I (like a champ, the poor guy) instinctively turned my head and said, “Cheek.” He gave me a quick peck on the cheek and two on my neck, sat back, and beamed.
I continued to lay there without a stitch of makeup on my face and suddenly found myself backpedaling. “I know I just said yes, and the answer is still totally yes!, but do you think this is too soon?”
He laughed, said “No!” and proceeded to list all the things we have in common and all the ways we compliment each other. I wish to God I had that moment recorded to relive over and over again.
He let me have his bed that night and he took the couch. We were both toast and I was way too exhausted to drive to his mom’s across town.
The next day, we took Sai to the public pool and he called me his girlfriend in front of her for the first time. We were sitting in a CVS parking lot when he said it. She sat up in her car seat and said, “Wait. Is she your girlfriend?” He told her that we’d just decided to make it official the night before and she said “That means she’s one step closer to being my step mom!”
A week later, I flew home to Pennsylvania to visit my parents and best friends for a month. One day, I was walking around my parents’ pool and caught myself singing, “I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in loooooove.”
They say when you know, you know.
Sometime during that trip home we were texting about the outdoor boudoir shoot I was getting ready to do with friends and I teased him that he may be the lucky recipient of those pictures one day. He texted back and said, “You’re crazy if you don’t think I already want to marry you.”
Turns out that whole thing about hearts skipping beats is real.
I told my mom what he said and she told my dad that I was getting married. I reminded her that we’d only been official for like a month and we both tried to ease off the freak-out-with-girl-joy train.
On that trip, Keil and I started going through a book called 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged. I also created Candy Ass during this time. I guess creativity and love are uniquely intertwined.
After I came back to California, we’d see each other for weeks on end because I’m lucky enough to have set up my life to work remotely and could stay with him and work.
Early on, we flew to Colorado where my BFF of 30 years had just moved and hung out for a few days. She approved immediately.
It’s been beautiful.
Things haven’t been perfect. Neither one of us are perfect people. We both have varying degrees of trauma and poor choices in our pasts that we’ve had to tango with and actively love each other through. And we’ve done just that.
The level of respect I felt from him when we first became serious until present day has been unwavering and unmatched. We didn’t even kiss until 4 months in because I didn’t want to rush anything physical. When it finally happened because he couldn’t wait any longer, it took my breath away. My heart was pounding so hard, I felt like I was going to have to gasp in his face and completely ruin the moment just so I could breathe.
I managed to hold it together. But like, barely.
He told me on our very first date that he didn’t throw the word “love” around and so it became important to me to wait for him to say it first. Since I knew at 3 weeks in while walking around my parents’ pool, it just about killed me. But I waited.
Right before our 6 month anniversary, we’d flown to PA together so he could meet my parents and my two other best friends. In the early morning hours of our 6 month anniversary, hours before we had to get up to hop a bus to NYC for the day, and moments after a solid make out sesh, he told me he loved me for the very first time.
It happened in my childhood bedroom that I grew up in. I, of course, gushed because I’d been holding back for such a long ass time. It was perfect.
While in PA, we even went to a premarital class at my home church taught by one of my longtime pastor friends. We were the only couple there who wasn’t engaged. We also secretly thought we were the best couple there. Later, we took a relationship assessment test with the same pastor and his wife and found out that we were kind of right. We’re basically perfect for each other, even in black and white.
We’re coming up on our 10 month this month. It’s wild to me to know though that exactly 1 year ago today is the day I met the man I’m head over heels in love with – and that I initially passed on him.
The reason I share this story is because just like our wildest, most heartfelt dreams, the moments in life that have the capacity to rock us most and best often come unannounced. We may even be so focused on what we think we know is best for us that if we’re not careful, we’ll pass on what actually is best and will bring us the most wild, rampant, longing-fullfilled joy.
Keil is just as human as me and he doesn’t live up to all my old expectations – and thank God for that. His presence has taught me about right expectations, joy, love, grace, and surprise. The gift of who he is in my life has taught me that what I need is not just more important than what I want, but what I need actually reveals what I most want.
There is profound beauty in the laugh lines of divine surprise.
Our story is one of those laugh lines.
I adore him. Together, we are one of my deepest, longest held dreams come true – and I never even saw it coming.
Babe, thank you. I should be over all the butterflies, but I’m into you. I love you.