Countdown to Bliss

Stephen Kramarsky and Elise Mac Adam

First Met: 1983

Engaged: June 7, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Jan. 25, 2003

Young Stephen Kramarsky attended St. Bernard’s on the Upper East Side (not “one of the cool boy schools where you got to hang out with the Brearley girls or Spence or Chapin girls or whatever,” is how he described it) and was then shipped off to the crunchy Concord Academy in Massachusetts, which he found “kind of a Pollyannaish place, like a little Eden. Everything was peachy and happy, and even the most angst-ridden kids there kind of seemed silly.”

Whenever he could, he’d head back to the city to visit his best friend, a Trinity student hanging out with a clique of slightly Goth theater types. They included Elise Mac Adam, a wiry, birdlike, bronze-haired adolescent who enjoyed lighting candles and mooning about with her friends in their parents’ Upper West Side apartments. “It was,” she said, “a very fraught crowd. We were very sarcastic, and in retrospect probably very unpleasant to be around.”

But Mr. Kramarsky was immediately smitten with this daughter of intellectuals (her father is a professor of Spanish and Latin-American literature at Barnard; her mother is an editor at Artnews ). “I was completely taken with Lisi from the start,” he said. “She had a real brain and a kind of dark outlook.”

When high school ended, though, so did their relationship. Ms. Mac Adam went to Columbia to study 18th- and 19th-century English literature-she’s particularly interested in the odd diseases rampant in those periods-and then stayed on to get an M.F.A. in film while she wrote the screenplay for Office Killer , a 1997 horror-film-slash-comedy directed by photographer Cindy Sherman and starring Molly Ringwald (it flopped). Meanwhile, Mr. Kramarsky got engaged to a moody coed during his senior year at Cornell, but called it off after commencement. Then he went to law school at the University of Chicago and married another law student, whose name was also Elise. But being married to another lawyer proved “basically impossible,” he said.

Soon after separating from Elise bride No. 1, he heard from an old mutual friend that Ms. Mac Adam might have a film screening with some other Columbia grad-thesis projects. He snuck into the auditorium and sat right behind her as her movie-a short, dark comedy about a girl sneaking a boy into a house ruled by an obsessive-compulsive mother-unspooled before them.

Ms. Mac Adam, who is 34 and sports cat-eye glasses, was thrilled to see her high-school lover again.

“I didn’t think she’d changed at all,” said Mr. Kramarsky, 35, a dark fellow with a beard and a unibrow, who now has his own commercial-litigation firm with three other partners.

By the time his divorce was finalized, the former teen lovers were ensconced in a Tribeca two-bedroom, where they enjoy watching Law & Order with their pint-sized terrier, Sheridan.

They designed a ring together at Reinstein/Ross on 73rd Street: chunky gold, with an oval sapphire flanked by two diamonds nestled in fleurettes (Ms. Mac Adam, currently a freelance researcher, likes its Victorian flavor). After they picked up the bauble, he proposed to her formally by the wooden giraffes outside Clyde’s, the Madison Avenue pharmacy.

They’ll be married at the Americas Society, where her father edits a Latin American literature magazine called Review (her mother copy-edits it). A neo–Weimar Republic–style cabaret group called Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks will perform. Ms. Mac Adam is planning to wear a Wearkstatt gown with gray beading and a bustle.

Robert Cornfield and Pamela Judson

Met: 1995

Engaged: May 2, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 5, 2002

We’ve all been on those double dates where we’re just sitting there awkwardly while the other couple makes out all night. This happened to Robert Cornfield at a ’95 Rolling Stones show. He was with a person he was “unhappy” about; meanwhile, his lucky pal was mashing lips with a tanned and tight-bodied blonde they knew slightly from their gym memberships at the Vertical Club. “She didn’t get to see much of the concert,” said Mr. Cornfield dryly.

Five years later, he was at the wet bar in the lobby of the midtown W hotel with some buddies from work-he’s in the wholesale jewelry industry-and saw someone stunning. “She was gorgeous from afar, and better from close up,” he said. “Great hair, great teeth, great body.” And there was something oddly familiar about the back of her head.

Sure enough, soon after he’d bought her a drink and found out her name-Pamela Judson-he realized, Hey, this is the blonde from the Rolling Stones concert!

A few weeks later, they went- à deux this time-to a muggy outdoor screening of The Graduate in Bryant Park, and wedged themselves onto a two-by-two-foot square of grass with some pâté, salmon, cheese and wine. “There wasn’t room that we could sit side-by-side,” said Mr. Cornfield, “so she leaned up against me the whole night-between my legs with her back against my chest. I loved it! I was considering myself very lucky!” He went in for a kiss. “It wasn’t a peck …. It was like we melted. It was like being in high school.”

After the movie, they went to the top of the Empire State Building and smooched some more. “The economy was good back then, everyone was riding high, and that was just the capper!” said Mr. Cornfield.

Ms. Judson, 38, is a financial adviser and account vice president at UBS Paine Webber, as well as an avid runner who’s marathoned in Australia (the two like to go jogging together, but he always lags behind). She’s half–French Canadian and half-Parisian, fluent in French and Italian, and proficient in Hebrew. But “she’s a little innocent,” said Mr. Cornfield, also 38, who was raised in Cincinnati and likes John Wayne movies. “If you mention Sidney Poitier, she’ll know the name, but if you show her five pictures, she won’t know who it is.” He finds her cultural naïveté charming, however. “I think she’s real , and that’s a very big adjective for me,” he said. “‘Real’ means genuine to me, and genuine means that what you see is what you get, and that’s nice.”

Ms. Judson said that she likes Mr. Cornfield’s “expressive” green eyes and the gray in his dark hair, which she called “distinguishing.” She gushed further: “He’s got an amazing heart. He’s just a great man. When I’m with him, I don’t want to be anywhere else. Every night, we cuddle together in an armchair, even though it’s not really big enough for the two of us.”

One night, after they went to see Panic Room , Ms. Judson returned home to find a massive bouquet of wildflowers and a two-foot-tall silver knight-in-shining-armor sculpture holding a platinum ring with a princess-cut diamond. “She was screaming hysterically,” Mr. Cornfield said with a laugh. “She cupped her hands over her mouth and just started screaming and shaking and crying.”

Amy Frank and Hector Gomez

Met: Dec. 13, 2001

Engaged: June 2, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 2002

Amy Frank, a spunky redhead with a green nose ring, was enjoying Cuban Night at S.O.B.’s on Varick-alone and proud of it. “I knew that I wanted to stay out really late and dance my ass off and have a great time,” she said. You go , sister girlfriend!

She was catching her breath by the bar when a tall guy with café-con-leche-colored skin, a shaved head and yellow-tinted glasses sauntered by and flashed his big teeth at her. “You have to dance with me later,” he said.

Ms. Frank, who has a Ph.D. from Stanford in medieval studies, rolled her eyes. But as the night wore on, her attitude softened. “I hadn’t danced quite enough,” she recalled. “I hadn’t gotten my groove on yet.” She looked around and saw the shaved-head guy, Hector Gomez, by the stage area. Cocky asshole , she thought. Then she reconsidered.

“There weren’t that many other people there,” she said. “It was like between him and the guy on the dialysis machine.”

Soon the two were coupled in some complicated salsa maneuvers. Ms. Frank regularly attends African-dance weekend retreats, but found herself outmatched. “He wanted to do these kicks and these little leaps , and I’m trying to bite my tongue so that I don’t laugh,” she said. “I’m thinking, ‘How did I end up dancing with such a drama queen?'”

“I thought, ‘She dances O.K.-for a white chick,'” said Mr. Gomez, who was born in Cuba, raised in New Jersey and has an ex-wife and two daughters back in Antigua.

After last call at S.O.B.’s, they moved on to Centro Fly, and then went for omelettes at the Empire Diner, where they flirted in Italian (they’d both spent some time in Bologna in the 1980’s-she as a student, he when he was in the Navy).

Later that week he returned to Antigua, and she prepared for the possibility of never seeing him again. Less than a week later, though, Mr. Gomez’s best friend since childhood was killed in a car crash in New Jersey, and he returned to the States. Literally hours after the funeral, Ms. Frank was helping to console him as they wandered through the Giacometti show at MoMA.

“It was one of those ‘click’ things,” she said.

Mr. Gomez pushed his return flight back to spend New Year’s Eve with his new lover. Then he pushed it back another week. Then another month. By the spring, he had moved into her East Village apartment and gotten himself a membership at the Turkish baths on East 10th Street, where he likes to shvitz , pumice his feet and submit to mud masks. “It’s just so relaxing,” he said. They are both 38 and take a lot of vitamin supplements.

He proposed to her one morning while in bed (he offered to get her a ring, but being liberated, she doesn’t want one). “We’re both pushing 40, and we’ve both been through the relationship wars,” said Mr. Gomez, a financial-services consultant at the Manhattan branch of an international Spanish bank. Ms. Frank, who used to work in client services for a Web-site localization firm, is in between jobs right now-and so she’s thrown herself into the plans for the wedding, which will take place at an Italian restaurant, with the D.J. from that fateful night at S.O.B.’s. Her gown is heather green and low-cut. “Bodacious,” she said. Countdown to Bliss