Countdown to Bliss

Alysia Abbott and Jeff Howe

Met: Summer 1999

Engaged: Dec. 12, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Spring 2004

Alysia Abbott’s mother died in a car crash when she was 3 years old, so she was raised by her father, Steve Abbott-a gay, handsome, chain-smoking member of the San Francisco literary scene. Young Alysia took tea with William Burroughs and was considered “a brat” by the radical lesbian novelist Kathy Acker. “I love you … more than Reagan loves to lie,” she wrote in a postcard to her father when she was 12.

He died of AIDS in 1992, and loving anyone else that much wasn’t easy to do. The slender, raven-haired Ms. Abbott moved to the Lower East Side, got a job as a marketing coordinator at the New York Public Library, and developed a bookish, downtown-single-chick persona: black-rimmed glasses, vintage dresses, snug denim jackets. One night, Jeff Howe, a contributing editor for Wired magazine, noticed her at Barramundi on Ludlow Street, firmly telling off an old boyfriend. “It was a cool, hard-ass thing to do,” said Mr. Howe, 32.

A few months later, he showed up at A Different Light, the now-defunct gay bookstore in Chelsea, for a reading that Ms. Abbott was giving of her father’s letters. Edmund White, author of The Joy of Gay Sex , showed her the broad-shouldered, blue-eyed Mr. Howe in the audience. “I was like, ‘Yeah, he is cute!'” she said.

On their first date, they went to a poetry reading on St. Mark’s Place, then to Veselka, the Ukrainian coffee shop. She told him that if she ever wrote a personal ad, it would say, “Smokers need not reply.” Once outside, he lit up a cigarette. “I was like, ‘I guess he doesn’t want to kiss!'” she said. “I did ,” Mr. Howe said. He was jittery that his middle-class Ohio background hadn’t adequately prepared him for such beatnik company. “I wasn’t born on a farm or anything,” he said, “but I’ve always had a bit of a hick complex. And here she had these very boho roots.”

On their second date, they watched The Matrix in her apartment. “He started walking over to the door by the hallway, and there was this green fluorescent light there,” Ms. Abbott said. “I was like, ‘Could you come back over here? I just don’t want our first kiss to be in that light.'”

“It was cute in this very Woody Allen, teenage, awkward-but-sexy way,” Mr. Howe said. “It was very writerly.”

Ms. Abbott, also 32, is getting a master’s in creative writing from the New School and working on a book about her father; Mr. Howe, a New York City history buff, is writing a biography of a 19th-century local bank robber. The couple, who live in a DUMBO loft complete with a swing, are big fans of the Lord of the Rings series. Recently, Ms. Abbott got to work on the movie premiere of The Two Towers at the library and took her swain to an advance screening. Afterward, digging into a bag of swag, she discovered a small box wrapped in a T-shirt. Inside was a ring of rose quartz and wire that Mr. Howe had made during a workshop at F.A.O. Schwarz.

“My first thought was, ‘Does someone at New Line Cinema have a crush on me?'” Ms. Abbott said. But then she read the accompanying note, which ended with the words “Boo, my Boo, will you marry me?” “Wait,” she said. “Aren’t you supposed to be down on one knee?”

Before their wedding, which will be at her maternal grandparents’ house in Kewanee, Ill. (the Hog Capital of the World), Mr. Howe has vowed to replace the rose quartz ring with a diamond one, and to suck on cinnamon sticks instead of cigarettes.

John McNaboe and Joanne Petro

Met: May 2000

Engaged: Oct. 4, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: July 2003

Football: the great dividing line between men and women. But not in this Upper East Side relationship. “It’s always been my favorite sport,” said Joanne Petro, a 5-foot-2 Notre Dame graduate and account manager at Grey Worldwide, where she does advertising for Starburst. “I know plays, I know positions, I own like three footballs.” She was at the gemütlich coffeehouse DT·UT on a recent evening with her hearty, 5-foot-11 fiancé, John McNaboe, a civil-defense lawyer who didn’t go to Notre Dame, but is so nuts about their football team he’s what they call a “subway alum.” They’re both 30, yet their apartment on 72nd Street is crammed with blue-and-gold Notre Dame paraphernalia.

They were restocking their supply at the college bookstore one day, and Ms. Petro felt something was off. “He just wasn’t buying a normal amount of stuff,” she said. After the shopping expedition, Mr. McNaboe gently steered his sweetie over to a reflecting pool near the school’s library, which has a large mosaic of Jesus with his hands above his head. “He’s called Touchdown Jesus,” Ms. Petro said. “When you’re in the stadium you can see him, and he’s positioned directly behind the goal post and it looks like he’s going, ‘Touchdown!'” she added, her arms flying up to demonstrate. With the Lord- cum -Referee at his back, Mr. NcNaboe knelt down and began to get “mushy.” Just then-interference!-a little girl came over and asked if they wanted to buy a candy bar for her school.

At the game the following day, Notre Dame beat Stanford, but the real winner was Ms. Petro, now sporting a shiny 1.5-carat solitaire diamond set in platinum-talk about a touchdown, honey! The nuptials will be on a Long Island golf course, and guests will get CD favors that include Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and, of course, the Notre Dame fight song. Give ’em a few beers and the couple will sing it for you.

They met at Brother Jimmy’s Bait Shack, a Third Avenue dive known for a murky cocktail called the Swamp Water. She was there for a bachelorette party. He was just stopping in with some buddies, and began hitting on her friend’s younger sister. “I’m the oldest of three girls, so I have that protective-mom side,” Ms. Petro said. “I went over to him and said, ‘I’d appreciate if you’d tone down your testosterone a little bit. She’s underage.’ And when I walked away, he asked his friends, ‘Who was that obnoxious girl?'”

He overheard her “talking football” later in the evening, though, and the tide shifted. By the time he left, the burly-linebacker type was already joking about their future wedding to her friends.

“I’ve dated a lot of girly girls,” he said. “I can’t believe I found a cool girl who likes football-who can sit on a couch on a Saturday afternoon and watch a game with me without bugging me to go shopping.”

Maya Moorley and Eugenio Perez

Met: February 1999

Engaged: Jan. 22, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: March 29-30, 2003

They met, numb-toed, on the bunny slopes of a Vermont resort. Maya Moorley was a medical student at Brooklyn’s SUNY Downstate. Eugenio Perez, an undergraduate studying design at the School of Visual Arts, was dazzled by her curvy bod, “sexy” eyebrows (they’re “thick,” he said, “like a dragon”) and snappy personality. “He noticed I was a bright, loud person,” said Dr. Moorley, 27, now a resident internist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Like so many New York men, though, Mr. Perez was intimidated at the prospect of dating someone with higher academic credentials. “I thought maybe she was out of my league,” he said. “Her head was in the books.”

They flirted on the Greyhound bus home-“I thought we hit it off,” she said-but no phone call followed. “I thought she’d want a C.E.O. or a guy with a Ph.D. or something,” said Mr. Perez, 29, a freelance graphic designer who’s worked on plans for Ground Zero. You silly, silly men-when will you learn that we just want to be loved?

The snow melted, the spring came, and they met again at a social function at the New York Aquarium, where-displaying the thick skin of the lady shark-she asked him out. Their first outing was for tandoori chicken in midtown’s Little India. They decided they’d date exclusively after winning $600 at a slot machine in Atlantic City and settled into a one-bedroom in Queens, which is rapidly becoming the new Upper West Side.

After a long day of tending to patients, Dr. Moorley is glad to have her sweetie around to give her a foot massage or make her a tuna-fish sandwich. “I spend a lot of time making patients feel cared for, and it’s hard sometimes for me to feel cared for,” she said.

“I tell her she looks like a Smurf when she does aerobics in her scrubs,” Mr. Perez said.

He began asking her repeatedly if she wanted to marry him. “I’d say, ‘Where’s my ring?'” Dr. Moorley said. They were feeding fish on a vacation in Puerto Rico when he surprised her with a Zales platinum band with four channel-set diamonds surrounding a round brilliant-cut stone totaling over two carats.

He’s Catholic, with Peruvian and Puerto Rican roots; she’s Hindu and was born in Guyana, so their wedding will be a two-day melange of various religious and cultural traditions, with Russian, German, Canadian, Indian, Chinese and Peruvian guests. “It’s going to be like the United Nations,” said Mr. Perez. The ceremony will include lots of stepping in unison, elaborate exchanges of beads and garlands, and-bring Alka-Seltzer-seven different vegetarian curries. At some point during the five-hour service, the groom-who will be wearing a golden turban and an embroidered sash tethered to the bride’s red silk sari-will have her put her right foot on a large rock. “He’ll ask me to be like a stone, solid and unwavering by his side,” said Dr. Moorley. “But I don’t think at any time in the ceremony does he have to promise to be faithful to me.”

Mr. Perez thinks they don’t play doctor enough, if you know what we mean. “Sometimes at home, I want her to whip out her medical toolbox, but she never uses those things on me,” he said. Countdown to Bliss