Dear JDate,

cont-mt-mariana-michaelAround August of 2003, I heard from a friend that he was tired of the bar scene and had decided to join a personals website to make friends and maybe find a date. I was not Jewish at that time, so when he mentioned JDate, I thought that would not be my best option. So, I looked into other websites, but none of them had people I was drawn to. Since I grew up surrounded by a Jewish community in South America, as my dad worked for a Jewish family for more than 20 years, I felt I might be able to make friends on JDate even if my background was not the same. In other words, I had nothing to lose. And one night, I gathered some courage and joined the website; I said to myself that if nobody contacted me within a month, I would give up and try to find a date or a boyfriend the old-fashioned way: at a bar or a club. But I wasn’t sure that that was an option since I was a nationwide sales rep and was required to travel to a different city every week, never having a chance to go out.

Anyway, 24 hours after I posted my picture and my profile, I had about 20 emails. Immediately, I felt a boost to my ego. I had found a way to make friends even if I was never home and never went out. I didn’t even need to go through the game of flirting with anyone. Oh! I was so happy. I can’t even begin to describe it.

Around week two, I got an email from this handsome guy who lived in South Beach and was tired of going out (the bar scene) and was looking for a down-to-earth girl to spend some time with. I could not help but wonder how in a million years a successful, great-looking, sweet, funny guy would be on a personals website? Why was he single?

So, I responded to that email with little or no expectations, thinking I would soon find out that he was not what he claimed. First, we emailed for about 10 days. With every email, I got more and more curious. He was so nice that it was hard to believe it was real. He asked me for my telephone number. (I was in Atlanta for work and was supposed to stay there for a couple of months, and he was in Miami Beach where he lived.) I thought I would be safe if I gave him my number, but still I decided to ask for his instead and promised that I would call him when I was comfortable and ready. He gave it to me, and I spent three days looking at the number and gathering the courage to make that first phone call.

Finally, I called. His voice was soft and inspired in me this sense of familiarity. It was like I knew him before; we spoke for about half-an-hour, and we hung up with my promise to call him back that night. We went on like that for a week, emailing back and forth and me calling him once a day. After that, I knew enough about him to give him my cell phone number, and as soon as he had it, he started calling me.

We became friends, but I could tell there was this incredible attraction between us. I asked him for more pictures besides the one on his profile, and I sent him my pictures. By week two, we were both desperate to meet in person. Funny enough, Michael’s best friend since elementary school was living in Atlanta, and we decided that as a first step, I would meet Greg so he could tell me more about Michael and give his thumbs-up or not about me to Michael.

And so, I got all of Greg’s information so I knew I would be safe; I told my co-workers where we were going for dinner and what time I was supposed to be back in my hotel. Nothing in this world is worth compromising my safety. Anyway, I went out to dinner with Greg, and he adored me. He said that I was going to like Michael and that Michael was going to like me — that we were a great match.

By the third week, I started making plans to come to Miami, where my home office was, to celebrate my birthday with friends and family. This was the perfect excuse to get to know Michael in person. So, day after day, our excitement grew. We counted hours and minutes until September 12, 2003, when he would pick me up from the airport.

Finally, the day came. I thought I was going to die. When I landed at Miami International Airport, my heart was pounding so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I came out, and there he was. He was blushing. I knew he was nervous too. In the car, we could not stop looking at each other. It was so nice to put the voice and the face together. Even though we had seen each others pictures, there is nothing like face-to-face contact.

That night, we went out for a nice dinner. We talked about everything. I was so attracted to him it was amazing. The next morning, we met up for coffee, and he asked me jokingly if I would marry him! I laughed and told him I probably would once we got to know each other better. I did not take it seriously at the time, but it sounded promising.

I was in town only for the weekend, so we tried to spend every possible minute together. When he dropped me off at the airport on Monday morning, he told me he was going to miss me a lot and hoped I would miss him too. I went back to Atlanta wishing I didn’t have to go. It was heartbreaking to go back to being by myself, away from Michael.

As soon as I landed, we started making plans for our next meeting. He invited me to go on a weekend trip to New York where his brother was doing a residency. I thought it would be fun, and two weeks later, I was on my way to La Guardia. We had so much fun. I think by then I was already falling in love. After that weekend, I pushed my boss to let me come back to work at the Miami office, and he accepted. I would still have to travel a lot, but I was going to spend my days off at home… and that meant I would spend them with Michael.

After I moved back, our relationship got serious very fast. We were dating each other exclusively and hated every time I had to go out of town.

Six months later, he took me on a long weekend vacation to Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and while we were sitting on the plane, he told me that he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, that he wanted to show me he was serious and that he was going to buy me a “promise ring” with the intention of replacing it with an engagement ring in the near future. He also mentioned that it was getting harder and harder to let me go on business trips, and if I agreed, I could quit my job and work with his family in one of the pharmacies he owns. At the beginning, I panicked; I thought I was risking everything and giving up my life by putting all of my eggs in one basket, but I also knew Michael was serious about it. I knew I was going to be safe no matter what happened with our relationship. So, I quit my job officially, moved in with him and moved on with our lives.

Working with him and his family allowed me to accompany him on several business trips which allowed us to spend a lot of quality time together. We grew closer. It felt almost like we had been together for 20 years.

In August 2004, he went to Bolivia with me to meet my family. Everybody loved him, and he loved them. Over the following months, we spent time talking about going a step further and getting more serious. I think we had reached that point where we wanted more commitment, and on December 16th, he took me out for dinner to a nice restaurant in Biscayne Bay. He knows I love boats so he suggested we go check out some beautiful yachts docked by the pier. When we arrived at the gazebo at the end of the pier, he went down on one knee, told me I was the love of his life and asked me if I would marry him. I started crying as I held the engagement ring he had just given me. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I forgot to say yes, so he asked me again… and then I said yes between tears and laughter.

The rest is a long story. We love each other deeply, and we are the bests of friends. We were married in a beautiful synagogue in South Beach on July 3, 2005. As you can imagine, I did convert. I am a proud Jew and could not be happier to have married Michael. We had a big party after the ceremony, and it was a lot of fun and very emotional. At the end of the month, we went on our honeymoon to Europe and a 12-day cruise through the Greek Islands.

What started with our profiles on JDate is now the beginning of a long love story. Thanks again for making this happen.

Mariana & Michael
Miami, Florida

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