Countdown to Bliss

Susanne Grabowski and Jim Poe

Met: August 1994

Engaged: April 23, 2005

Projected Wedding Date:
Fall 2005

Grabowski and Jim Poe were
stretched out on a couch in their book-filled apartment (in a
not-yet-gentrified alcove of Prospect Heights), munching on chips and salsa
from Whole Foods and exchanging coy smiles as they described their younger
selves to the Love Beat. “If other people had to tell this geeky way they got
together at 17, they would be horrified,”
Ms. Grabowski moaned.

The
couple met during a freshman seminar at Simon’s Rock, the infamous college for
precocious youth in Great Barrington, Mass. One day, their spacey
instructor—who moonlighted as a jazz musician—asked Ms. Grabowski if he could
borrow her pen. As she was leaving class, she heard Mr. Poe’s intoxicating
Alabama drawl in her ear. “Don’t forget your pen,” he said.

“I
thought it was incredibly exotic and romantic that he was Southern,” said Ms.
Grabowski, who grew up in Cape Cod and has razored light-brown hair.

The
following year, she lived with four girlfriends, one of whom was dating Mr.
Poe’s best friend. One night, a whole bunch of them decided to crash
companionably on the couch and watch Top
Gun
. Under a shared blanket, Ms. Grabowski and Mr. Poe were holding hands,
their little hearts racing.

“That’s
so cheesy,” Mr. Poe, 26, commented now.

“We
were really young,” said Ms.
Grabowski, a positively over-the-hill 27.

Their
first kiss came during a caffeine-fueled midterm study session. A year later,
the couple transferred to a real
college (Bard), where they began to contemplate heavy adult topics like
marriage and kids.

After
graduating at the ages of 19 and 20, respectively, Mr. Poe and Ms. Grabowski
relocated to New York, where she got a job as a live-in nanny for two lesbian
sex therapists with an adopted Cambodian baby, and he embarked on a career in
information technology. Mr. Poe currently works as a software developer at Dell
Professional Services, and Ms. Grabowski has become a nursery-school teacher at
the Brick Church School on the Upper East Side while working toward a master’s
degree in creative writing at the New School. “We went to such liberal-arts
schools that you couldn’t learn anything practical,” she said.

After
their relationship hit the 10-year mark, they cordially agreed that it was time
to go ring-shopping, and so they made a trip up to Northampton, Mass., to the
Family Jewels, an estate jewelry store owned by a friend of Ms. Grabowski’s. On
their second trip there, they found her dream ring: a 1925 Art Deco number with
a 0.95-carat diamond set in platinum pavé. It felt “childish after all this
time to say ‘my boyfriend,’” Ms. Grabowski said. “Now I say ‘fiancé’—but in an
ironic way.” But of course.

They’re
planning a refreshingly simple ceremony at City Hall, with Ms. Grabowksi’s
sister and Mr. Poe’s best friend as witnesses. “I’ve always been made really
uncomfortable by weddings,” said the bride-to-be. “I’m not angry about the
institution of marriage; I don’t think it’s wrong.
I just don’t want to have a wedding.
I couldn’t imagine wearing a white dress and being given away by my father and
having to do all that dopey wedding stuff.”

Jeremy Olshan and Asia Friedman

Met: September 1995

Engaged: Nov. 7, 2004

Projected Wedding Date:
Dec. 17, 2005

When the lunkhead whom she’d mistakenly
classified as “the one” broke up with her and moved out of their 11¼ 2-bedroom in Park Slope, the normally
composed Asia Friedman became your basic emotional wreck.

Broke,
she moved into the study—“it was a closet,” she said—and took in an unsavory
roommate to help make rent. Shortly thereafter, her e-mail broke down,
necessitating one of those mass missives to her entire address book.

Jeremy
Olshan, an old friend of hers at Sarah Lawrence, was sitting in his childhood
bedroom in Forest Hills when he got the message. Mr. Olshan, who is now a
reporter at the New York Post, had
just returned from Atlantic City, where he worked at a local newspaper. “I
needed to move back to civilization,” he said.

After
a flurry of e-mails (some misfired), the old buddies agreed to meet at her
apartment. When Mr. Olshan rang her buzzer, Ms. Friedman—a candidate for a
Ph.D. in sociology at Rutgers—didn’t recognize him on the video intercom: He
was 35 pounds lighter than he’d been in college, with braces on his teeth.
“While in New Jersey, I had so much time on my hands, I went on a major
self-improvement kick,” he said.

They
rapidly renewed their friendship, jointly carrying a large banner emblazoned in
Arabic during a 2003 antiwar protest. “Later we found out it read, ‘The country
says no to war,’” Ms. Friedman said. Phew.

One
evening, Ms. Friedman—a slender, raven-haired beauty of 30 with an endearing
gap between her top two front teeth—was stood up by a 22-year-old catalog model
she was dating. She called Mr. Olshan, who invited her to a bar in Alphabet
City and drunkenly made a move, which was rebuffed. “You mean too much to me to
have anything casual, and I’m not looking for anything serious right now,” she
said.

Just
four days later, they were making out at a Tex-Mex restaurant near her
apartment. ¡Arriba, arriba! After
dinner, the action moved to a nearby stoop. Still, Ms. Friedman “told him I
wanted to take things slow.”

Within
a month of this dictum, Mr. Olshan had brought some stuff over to her
apartment, and seven months later the move was complete.

The
next fall, as the couple was crossing the finish line of the New York Marathon,
he dropped to both knees (a medic rushed right over) and opened a box from the
Clay Pot, the Tiffany’s of Park Slope, containing a round mosaic of miniature
diamonds set in platinum. After a beat, Ms. Friedman pushed the medic out of
the way and squealed, “Yes!” They’re now planning a medium-sized ceremony in
Battery Park.

Mr.
Olshan, 31, had originally planned to propose on the starting line of the
marathon—but then he found out that the site is basically considered the
world’s largest public urinal. “The run is long, and hard,” he said. “I thought
it was a good metaphor for the journey of marriage.”

Countdown to Bliss