Countdown to Bliss

Shari Krivit and Joel Perlman

Met: Sept. 30, 2001

Engaged: Feb. 2, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: July 6, 2003

Shari Krivit had crossed the threshold of 40 without getting married, and in New York that can translate into a lot of self-help workshops. “Crunchy-granola, holistic stuff,” she said. There was the New York Open Center. There was a touchy-feely singles’ program at an upstate Jewish community center (tagline: “Meet your soul mate, and your soul”). And then there was Date Bait at the 92nd Street Y, which is kind of like a game show crossed with an A.A. meeting: Singles show up, pay $30, pin numbers to their chests, sit in a circle of a hundred or so people, and pass around a mike “selling” themselves in a minute or less. This is followed by a non-alcoholic mingling period, after which participants are given pencils and Scantron cards to indicate the numbers of people they liked. Some sort of Cupid-bot then crunches the numbers and spits out matches. “I was learning to say ‘yes’ to opportunities,” said Ms. Krivit, now 42, a former event planner who is taking courses in motivational counseling at City College.

On her fourth visit to Date Bait, she was approached by Joel Perlman, a short but handsome man 12 years her senior with glasses, a shy smile and a dark, full beard. “I wasn’t taken with him,” she said. Mr. Perlman, an information-technologies consultant at I.B.M. who also had never married, got back his matchless card and boldly decided to override the Cupid-bot. “I remember thinking that sometimes you can walk by someone or see someone on the subway, and there’s a split second where you can take the initiative, and once that second is gone, the moment is gone and it can never happen,” he said. “So in that one moment, I was courageous, and I went and asked if she’d maybe mistaken my number-and even if she hadn’t, if she would go out with me anyway.”

Ms. Krivit demurred, but gave in some weeks later, more out of politeness than anything. “I had to shit or get off the pot,” she said. “I had to either meet him or tell him I wasn’t interested. I guess I thought maybe he was a little older than I wanted. But not long after that, I was in Barnes & Noble and I came across this book that said on the cover: ‘Age only matters if you’re cheese.’ And I really took that as a sign. Like, ‘Shari, get out of your own way!'”

They started going to the Met and to Broadway musicals, but it wasn’t all Crazy for You : She turned vicious when he compared her amber curls to Shirley Temple’s. “Shirley Temple was a 5-year-old girl and I’m a 42-year-old feminist, so get over it,” she barked. But by last December, they were living together in bourgeois comfort in his Upper West Side one-bedroom.

On the anniversary of their first kiss, he proposed at Ouest, pulling out a ring-a round diamond flanked with two heart-shaped ones and set in white gold. “It’s two hearts coming together as one-a symbol,” Ms. Krivit said. “There’s a lot of symbolism to us.”

They will be married “in the round” at Feinstein’s at the Regency.

“If there is a stigma to getting married at this age, I don’t feel it,” Mr. Perlman said. “Age is just a number. I feel like a teenager.”

Tom Berger and Julie Z. Rosenberg

Met: July 11, 2001

Engaged: July 11, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 23, 2003

Julie Rosenberg was living in Hoboken, N.J., when she swallowed two packs of sleeping pills, ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby and sat reading The National Enquirer , waiting to die. Hoboken can do that to one.

“It was actually kind of hilarious. It’s not so much that I wanted to be dead, I just didn’t want to deal,” said the Fortune magazine copy director, a delicate-featured 31-year-old with pale green eyes and a mass of brown ringlets.

Fortunately, she lived. Three shrinks later, Ms. Rosenberg joined a workshop called the Writer’s Voice- Devil Wears Prada dervish Lauren Weisberger was a classmate-and produced a cathartic, as-yet-unpublished memoir called Shrink-Wrapped: A 20-Something’s Tale of Therapy . In it, she confronts family issues, like how she made it to age 12 thinking her father, a urologist, was a neurologist. “Finally, one day my mom was like, ‘No honey, it’s the other head,'” she said.

Meanwhile, Tom Berger, 34, was putting in some time on the couch as well. His mother was born in a concentration camp, and his paternal grandmother was forced to act as secretary to Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” in Auschwitz. Mr. Berger, a business development director at Enterpulse, had previously been married-for three years, to a chipper blond law student. “I was convinced I was a serial dater,” said Mr. Berger. “I thought I’d never be able to commit again, because I was burned … fucked up for life.”

Where else could these two fragile egos collide but the online personals? Ms. Rosenberg’s ad had a photo of the back of her head. Mr. Berger’s had a picture of him lying on the beach. “It said, ‘Come rub some oil on me,'” he said. “It was killer.”

Ms. Rosenberg thought otherwise. “I wrote back and said, ‘Looks like you missed a spot!'” she said.

After a delightful first encounter at Nolita’s Bistrot Margot, she put her arms around him and found a suspicious bulge. In his back pocket. “I said, ‘I had a great time and I would love to see you again and I think you’re wonderful, but cigarettes are a deal-breaker, so let’s just end this now before anyone gets hurt,'” she said.

Mr. Berger promptly removed the offending package from his pocket and dropped it over her shoulder into the garbage. “O.K., I won’t smoke any more,” he told her.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God! He must either really like me, or he’s full of shit!'” Ms. Rosenberg said.

When she moved into his West Village one-bedroom last October, she demanded-in writing-50 percent of the closet space and mandated stools in every room (he’s 6-foot-1, she’s 4-foot-11). She also asked that he keep his collection of bobbleheads at work. In turn, she agreed not to bring her Hello Kitty paraphernalia into the apartment. “We’re both just very self-realized,” she said.

They were at the Garden State Parkway’s Cheesequake Rest Stop en route to scenic Cape May, N.J., when Mr. Berger suddenly busted out some digital photos he’d taken of diamond rings. “I said, ‘I really don’t want a ring. I feel like we’re being forced-there are all these societal pressures, blah blah blah,'” Ms. Rosenberg recalled. (Eventually she picked out a square moonstone set in filigreed rose gold from an Upper West Side boutique.)

They’ll be married at the Tribeca Rooftop, against the warbling strains of folk singer Christine Lavin, a favorite of the bride’s father.

“I wanted to invite my shrink, but he stopped returning my phone calls,” Ms. Rosenberg said. “So I was like, ‘Fuck it.'”

Marina Cindolo and Ben Winkler

Met: January 2000

Engaged: March 31, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 31, 2003

Marina Cindolo and her fiancé were the two creative directors at i33 Communications, an Internet advertising firm. They were the company couple. “We didn’t really have distinct lives outside of work,” Ms. Cindolo said.

“They were kind of the king and queen of the office,” said Ben Winkler, a boyish-faced media planner in those days. He didn’t think much of the king, though. “He was gruff,” Mr. Winkler said. “He’d be in his dark office, playing testosterone-pumping video games all the time.”

For kicks, Mr. Winkler began complimenting the silky-haired brunette on how her butt looked when she wore high-heeled boots, and telling her that he’d like to have lunch off her red gingham-draped breasts. (Apparently, Internet companies are the new gas stations.) “I’m kind of a flirt, and so, since she was engaged, it was easy,” he said. “Nothing could happen, so there wasn’t stress or pressure.”

Ms. Cindolo was disturbed, yet enticed. “Every time I saw him, I would get goose bumps,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is this pheromones?’ I was thinking about him all the time, and here my wedding to this other guy was six months away.”

So one day she called the randy peon into her office. “I was expecting a talk-down,” Mr. Winkler said.

“I have a crush on you, and I don’t know what to do about it,” Ms. Cindolo announced.

Shocked, Mr. Winkler stumbled from the office. When he recovered his wits, he told her, “You probably just like me because I’m the cute guy who works downstairs, and you don’t have to see me brushing my teeth and scratching my butt in the morning like you probably see your fiancé doing.”

They began having lunch regularly, then dinner. “We didn’t hold hands or kiss or anything,” said Mr. Winkler. “It was just meals.”

“I’d hunch my shoulders so much from nervousness, I’d be in pain,” Ms. Cindolo said.

After their first kiss outside his apartment in Stuyvesant Town, he told her he loved her. She started to cry, then went home to give back her Tiffany engagement ring to the other guy.

Her new ring is a vintage, filigreed white-gold band with three large diamonds from Gallery Eclectic in Greenwich Village, near where she and Mr. Winkler now share a one-bedroom.

“The other relationship was fine,” said Ms. Cindolo, 29, who has since left i33 and started her own Web-design firm, Spot Interactive. “It would’ve been like what they call a starter marriage. He was the person who was right for me in my work environment, but not in a larger sense-not if I increased my perspectives to outside the company. But with Ben, it was like all those cheesy things they talk about where you just ‘know.’ It was otherworldly.”

“This sounds smarmy, but she’s the first person who has made me consider life from more perspectives than just mine,” said Mr. Winkler, 27, who has risen to media director at i33. “She makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself.”

Their wedding will be directed by Abigail Kirsch at the New York Botanical Garden. The now-deposed king has not been invited-though he and Ms. Cindolo still occasionally instant-message one another.

“She was already in engagement mode when we met,” Mr. Winkler said. “I just had to catch up.”

Countdown to Bliss