Photography by Rob Howard
Ryan, Photographer: Jeff was the first and only person that I messaged on OkCupid because he was the epitome of the guy I thought was really attractive but would never, ever date me. He just seemed a little more straitlaced, not the kind of person that’s ever been interested in my personal style, and I thought that he’d be put off by it. I come from a very difficult family life, and I’ve always been very particular about who I let in, but with him, right off the bat, I was spewing out my dirty laundry. There’s a real honesty about the way he deals with people, and there’s something about him that’s not jaded, able to find joy in very simple things. He’s a very, very generous person in really unexpected ways. He’ll randomly pick up a unicorn figure because he knows I love unicorns, or a book on animal behavior because I love animals.
A year into dating I was in L.A. I had just started shooting regularly for The New York Times. He had a box of cookies delivered to my hotel room to congratulate me. It was very out of character—he’s not a materialistic person at all—but he knew that would be really important to me. I still have the card he sent with it.
Both my parents were drug addicts and alcoholics, my mom had cancer three times, and I was bullied all through high school, so any idea of security was foreign to me as a child. I grew up with a constant fear of losing things—that’s why I started photography. And, with Jeff, within a month or two I had no reservations about him. He made me feel so comfortable, and loved all the aspects about me—even those I was uncomfortable letting people know about. It made me feel like I finally had a sense of security. It was an emotional thing for me to have his whole family at our wedding supporting us—it was the first time, since I was a kid, that I felt like I had family.
Jeff, Teacher: When Ryan messaged me on OkCupid, the voice in my head was, like, I’m just normal, I’m a teacher—this guy is alternative, he’s never going to be into me, but I think he’s really hot. I wasn’t expecting a lot before the date, but I felt so completely comfortable with him, more than I had with any other person I’d been on a date with in New York City. He’s extremely talented in his work, but at the same time he has absolutely no pretension about it, and no attitude. New York is full of these artsy types, but he’s kind of a nerd, and into video games, comic books, reality TV. I’m very self-deprecating and think my humor is very dorky, and he actually liked that about me. I could tell he was paying attention and not waiting to go on to the next thing that night.
We always thought that I’d be the one to propose, but I wanted us to move in together before talking about marriage, and then Ryan beat me to it on our second anniversary. We went to Montauk for the weekend. We were alone in this little cottage out in the middle of February, and he called me out from the room: “Come here, I’ve something to show you.” He’d set out Scrabble tiles on the table, spelling will you marry me jeff? At first, I just started laughing. Then I realized that my needing to wait was a reflection of my past insecurities and relationships, so I just looked at him and just said, “Of course I’ll marry you.”