Yael and I met on JDate in November 2001. At the time, I was living in Philadelphia working as a sports agent (ever see Jerry Maguire?) and dating casually. I met women out at bars, through friends and, of course, the random set-ups (“Wait! You’re a single guy and she’s a single girl…you’ll be GREAT for each other!!!” Ever hear that one?). Being the outgoing salesman that I am, I attempted the Internet dating scene as a way to create more options for myself. After all, you only need one to close the deal, right? With my ever-present optimism in mind, I logged on to JDate.com and created my profile. I stuck my best two pictures out there for all to see and began surfing the profiles of Philly’s most eligible single Jewish women. I was thoroughly in the singles mix and looking for THE ONE.
One evening in November, while checking my email, I saw the message from “YR” (her mysterious profile name) pop up in my Inbox. It was a short message introducing herself — that she was new to Philly and looking for some new local friends to hang out with. Short, sweet, and not desperate! Nice! Before I got too excited, I checked her profile just to make sure the attraction factor was a go but… no picture posted. I responded with a quick note congratulating her on her new job and politely asked for a picture. Hmmmm. No picture. What did this mean? Was she ashamed of her looks? Was she shy? Maybe she was so good looking that she couldn’t possibly handle the onslaught of emails she received when her picture WAS posted! Either way, my past reliance on creative prose only and no picture had failed miserably. Thus, the picture was necessary.
The next day, “YR” again appeared in my Inbox with the little paper clip next to the message. Open this, double click that, and wow!!!!
We emailed back and forth, and before long, we spoke on the phone and arranged our first date. I picked her up at the hotel and we headed off to a nice jazz café for dinner. We laughed and talked for hours. I could sense the connection had been made.
Yael, a transplanted Manhattanite, had just been assigned to a new consulting project in Philly. To hear her tell it, she was looking for the “anti-Manhattan guy” and thought Philly would be a perfect alternative — smaller city, smaller social scene, smaller egos. Over the next few months, we became closer and soon realized we would be spending our lives together. No specific conversation, no promises, just a feeling. Once I knew she was the one (and sensed she felt the same way), I went on my ring hunt. About 3 weeks before I was to receive the finished ring, I began to brainstorm about the proposal. Though my details were unclear, I knew this had to be well thought out, unique and, most important, CREATIVE.
I decided to bring the proposal back to the beginning. Back to the grass roots. Back to… the Internet. After all, that is where it began. Whereas some proposals are pretty obvious from the start, I wanted this to catch her by total surprise. I wanted the shock factor!! So, I devised the following plan: I created a fictitious contest where couples were to appear on a television show exploring the successes of Internet matchmaking!!
On Tuesday afternoon, September 17th, Yael called me at work and excitedly told me to sit down and brace myself for what she was about to read. The email contained the following details:
* We were selected, along with 5 other couples, to participate in Stage #1 of the contest: an online “interview,” moderated by one of the show’s producers. We would be asked questions about how we met, why try the Internet, etc.
* If we “passed “Stage #1,” we would participate in Stage #2: a telephone screening with additional producers.
* Finally, if all went well, we would be flown out to California to meet with the show’s producers for the “in-person” interview.
* Details about where to go for our online interview on Friday night, September 20th.
I told her I didn’t know what to make of the email. I told her I wasn’t crazy about going on television and didn’t think it was such a great idea. She sounded disappointed and tried to convince me it would be fun. After all, we might actually win and be able to visit my brother in California. I gave in, and we decided to give it a try.
I had typed the email several days before and had contacted JDate, asking them to send the email from their terminals. I even misspelled my own name (with a “y” to read “Jayson”)!! After all, the believe-ability factor had to be preserved. And I am proud to say, she never doubted the letter’s authenticity for a moment!!
My contest, I decided, would be different. The “couples” I chose were our close friends and family members whom we had spent lots of time with leading up to the big day (no parents!), not just random JDate employees helping me out. They were all over — Florida, Toronto, Philadelphia, Los Angeles (love modern technology!!). As I called each friend/family member, I told them they had to keep this totally confidential. I had a hint I was onto something good, especially when one of her best girlfriends (whom I hadn’t met yet, as she was in Florida) almost started crying on the phone when I told her the plan.
Now for the “moderator.” The moderator had to be sharp and humorous and someone who could keep the session moving. My good college friend Marc was perfect for the job. An aspiring movie writer, this was material for his next script!! How could he say no?
I spent Wednesday and Thursday writing the rough script. The script called for the moderator to ask general questions throughout the session (tell us about the first date? Where did you go? Why did you try Internet matchmaking? How long did it take before the first kiss?) My script also called for other couples to give answers similar to what actually happened with Yael and I. (Looking back, she picked up on none of these similarities as she was so focused on winning the contest!!! Oh well, I tried!!) Marc and I reviewed the details, and everyone received the final version Thursday afternoon.
Friday night was here before I knew it. I had the ring in my pants pocket and was on my way over to her office (she had been working on a graduate term paper and had stayed late). We logged on promptly at 7 p.m. only to have our access denied!! Something was wrong with our computer, and we couldn’t get into the chat room! Finally, at 7:10 p.m., we got in. We proceeded to the room marked “Interview 1” and introduced ourselves to the moderator and five other couples. Over the next 40 minutes, we were caught up in a whirlwind of “chat.” The moderator playfully kept the session moving along. Yael was getting excited as the session went on, especially when the moderator would single her out for specific questions. She’d say, “He’s picking on us!!! He likes me! We’re going to win!!” She was really into the whole thing.
About 30 minutes into the chat, it comes out that all couples except for us were engaged. It also was determined that all couples were dating anywhere between two and seven months. We were dating for 9 already!!! “What was I waiting for?” the moderator wanted to know. Yael looked at me and typed in: “Maybe you should ask Jason what he’s waiting for…”. I smiled at her and typed, “Hasn’t been the right time…lots of things going on, etc.” The moderator then typed in “Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today?” At that moment, all the other couples began to type “Turn around” over and over again. (If you’ve ever been in a chat room, you know when messages start flying fast and furious, it’s pretty tough to read.) But this was cool. Yael was reading over and over “turn around” and was asking me (as she’s staring at the screen) what the hell was going on. She finally took her eyes away from the screen only to, yes, turn around and see me on one knee with a tiny black box sitting atop my quivering hand. Her eyes widened, her face got flush, and she said, “Jay, what are you doing!!??!!??” Over and over again…”WHAT ARE YOU DOING???!!!???” (Yeah, I think it’s safe to say she was shocked.)
I composed myself and told her “I’ll tell you if you give me a moment.” I then said my part, and she gave me a huge hug while crying her eyes out. As we’re hugging, I’m asking her, “Hey, I just asked you the most important question of my life… what’s the answer?” “Of course!! YES!!” she said.
I went back to the keyboard and typed in, “She said…..YES!!” All the couples offered us congratulations and lots of luck. I then asked everyone to introduce themselves. And then she really lost it. One by one, the couples disclosed their true identities only to have her scream louder and louder after learning each one. She couldn’t get to the phone fast enough. She called everyone, thanking them for their help, for making this moment so special.
I had a limousine waiting downstairs that whisked us downtown for a terrific dinner at Blue Water Grill in Union Square, a trendy jazz club in Manhattan (see, getting back to the roots again…). We then headed uptown to our hotel at the Marriott Rhiga Royal on 54th. The bed was covered in rose petals in the shape of a heart, cold champagne waiting with beautiful gifts and treats from all of the online chat participants. Truly, a night to remember.
Several weeks later, Kathryn (her friend from Toronto) printed off the entire chat and presented it to Yael and I in a beautiful cherry wood collectibles box as an engagement present. Wow! We were shocked!
We were married on Sunday, June 15, 2003 at the Hyatt Regency overlooking the Hudson River.
Yael & Jason