Swift Rejection to Dream Connection

When crossing paths 15 years later proved to finally be perfect timing.

Unlike most love stories, this one started with a swift rejection.

Mary was a grad student performing in a musical at Northwestern University. Drew was an undergraduate assistant stage manager. When he tried to make his move, Mary remembers “just sort of flicking him away like an annoying insect.”

Over the years, the paths of this week’s Love Letter couple would cross uneventfully, with both working in the entertainment industry on the west coast. That is, until a fateful afternoon 15 years after their first meeting when Drew and Mary ran into each other while taking their children to Universal CityWalk.

When Mary learned during that fateful run-in that Drew was getting a divorce, she says it “was like a curtain raised in front of my eyes and I saw my person standing there.”

Within a week, they had their first date. They’ve been together ever since.

Here’s their story.

How’d you meet?

Mary: We met in college at Northwestern University. We did a show together, a big musical. I was one of the leads and Drew was the assistant stage manager.

I was a graduate student in the English department and he was not, so we had no way of meeting otherwise. We did the show, and I remember him hanging out over my shoulder at a party and just sort of flicking him away like an annoying insect because he was so much younger than me.

What were your first impressions of each other?

Drew: I remember her being what I experience today: beautiful and funny and smart and talented. That was very appealing to 18- or 19-year-old me.

Mary: I remember he had curly hair. And he had a persistence about him.

Why did you as an undergrad think you had a shot with a grad student?

Drew: Well I got batted back pretty quickly. But I think I had an awareness that she was relatively new there and didn’t have a wide circle of friends. I might have perceived that as a vulnerability I could exploit. The fact that she didn’t know that many people I thought may have given me a better shot.

What did you think getting hit on by an undergrad?

Mary: It was irrelevant to me. Also, I did have a couple of friends.

Drew: So my judgement was also impaired, is what you’re saying?

Mary: Some things don’t change! But I didn’t have much of an impression of him. It was only as the years went on that I became a little bit aware of him.

What was the show?

Mary: It was Mame. I played a character who had lived a sequestered life and went out to live as Mame encouraged her to do, and she came back pregnant. That was an ironic foretaste, because I did end up becoming pregnant on my own and had a baby without the benefit of a partner.

How did you get together?

Mary: We were both seeking careers in the entertainment industry. Drew was on the production side and I was a story analyst working as an assistant in story departments early on. He worked with a friend of mine. There were a few run ins.

Drew: But very brief and casual.

Mary: Fifteen years after the show, we both had little girls. His was three and mine was probably five. We were both at Universal CityWalk on a Saturday morning waiting for the witchy balloon animal lady because it was Halloween. And I looked to my side and there was Drew. We started chatting while our little girls were wearily eyeing one another and circling one another like “Who the hell are you?”

And we were chatting and I said something like “How’s your wife?” And he said “We’re getting a divorce.” And it was like a curtain raised in front of my eyes and I saw my person standing there. It was the combination I had always been looking for of humor, intelligence, career ambitions—

Drew: Messy divorce.

Mary: Yes, it was the baggage that drew me in. But I thought to myself, There’s my person. I’d been dating for quite a while. I was 36 by that point and nobody had gotten close. So I was thinking If he calls me by Wednesday, maybe he’s interested. And at 9am on Sunday morning and we talked for hours. We had our first date that week and it was a done deal.

What did you do for your first date?

Drew: We went to dinner and talked. The conversation was so easy.

Mary: There was something he said on the first date that really sealed the deal. I had suffered a violent sexual assault maybe 12 years before, and it was very traumatic. I lost a lot of friends who couldn’t handle the size of the trauma. And certainly men that I dated, who I felt impelled to tell because it was a very important piece of information about me at that time, couldn’t handle it.

And so, out of the blue without me prompting anything or saying anything, Drew said to me “I saw from a distance how you handled your situation. And I just wanted to say how proud I was of you and how strong I think you are.”

And that was like a bolt from the heavens telling me if this guy can handle that and bring it up and be so evolved about it, then this is really truly my person.

How did things grow from there?

Drew: We were pretty all in at that point. And I'd add that I was at the beginning of a divorce process that wound up being difficult. I wasn’t quite as on solid professional and financial footing.

She had every reason to not want to invest emotionally in someone at that point in their lives. But that was a sign the connection was so strong. She was unhesitant and completely supportive during what was a very difficult personal time. There were so many indications that the relationship was as strong as it was. There was no hesitance.

Did your 18-year-old self feel vindicated for his college crush?

Drew: It was definitely closing a circle. It felt preordained at that point.

How do you feel reflecting on your Meet Cute?

Mary: I think there’s a combination of a sort of magic and an intellectual connection between us that was totally fueled by humor. I didn’t think I could find that combination in another person.

We’re the perfect partners because there’s things he’s good at and things I’m good at, and they’re not the same. And I think that’s great in a relationship, to be able to complete each other. That to me just makes live worth living.

🤔 Poll

How well do you handle rejection from a love interest?

Click below to vote!

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

📊 Last Week We Asked…

  • [poll] “Do you think it’s possible to escape the friend zone?”

    • 59% said “Yes, with effort and change”

    • 11% said “No, it’s forever”

    • 30% said “It’s a myth/oversimplification!”

And one meet-cuter shared: “It's definitely not rare to develop affection for a friend seeing as you're probably keeping them around due to their good traits/personality. Especially if you're attracted to them physically (which can also build as you spend time together) and they feel the same.

Do you or someone you know have a meet-cute story for the Love Letter? Get in touch here!

Did someone you know forward you this love letter? Subscribe Here

Interviewed and transcribed by Nicolas Vega. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.