It can take some people years to find love when they search for it online. For Kirstin Kurtz, it took about two weeks. In those two weeks, this 27-year-old arts-marketing whiz didn't have to go through a whirlwind of freaky emails and bad dates. She didn't have to suffer through an empty inbox either. Though she shared emails with a few prospects, she only went on one date.
Turns out, that's all she needed.
In September of '99, this self-described country girl (she calls Harlan, Ind., where she grew up, "a ZIP code, not a town") had recently relocated to the big city of Baltimore to take her first big job out of college. A little weary of such a huge dating pool and anxious to meet some new people, she signed up for a free two-week trial run with Matchmaker.com.
Just as the temporary membership was ending, she got an email from Tom, who'd migrated back to Baltimore after finishing the environmental studies graduate program at the University of Oregon. At the time, his romantic calendar wasn't chock-full of dinner dates, and he, too, had signed up for the website. He was also living at home.
Tom didn't mention that fact in his dating profile, but he did include a photo and a list of interests that included travel and music. While browsing the server at work one day, he stumbled upon Kirstin's e-profile: creative, into the arts and different cultures, a Ball State alum. She was also online at the time, so Tom wrote an email about a friend who'd gone to the same Indiana college. Kirstin checked out Tom's photo ("I thought he was cute"), looked at his profile ("He was obviously an intelligent person") and wrote back.
But she also noticed that the website doubted their chances of a successful match. Based on a registration survey that asks questions about political affiliation, spending habits and religious upbringing, Tom and Kirstin's chance of survival was a slim 22 percent. One big difference was religion and culture. (He's of Thai blood and was raised Buddhist. She's as white as they come and a good Christian girl.)
The two laughed off the computed odds. They welcomed their various upbringings, and emails between them continued even after Kirstin's membership ran dry. After a few weeks, Kirstin and Tom met for dinner and shared their first kiss. A few months later, they were meeting the parents. By the next summer, they'd both grown tired of Baltimore life but not each other. In July 2000, they packed their bags for Portland.
By that time, Kirstin was pretty sure the two would eventually get married. Her feelings were confirmed about six months later. Upon his return from a family vacation in Hawaii, Tom relayed a conversation he'd had with his mother. "He [told] me his mom asked about me, and I asked what happened," Kirstin recalls. "He told her that I was the one."
It was a year before Tom would ask Kirstin to marry him on a balcony overlooking a Maui sunset in November '01. During that year, Kirstin had plenty of opportunities to drop hints about engagement rings, which she did on a regular basis. She landed a job at the downtown retail shop Real Mother Goose just after their Portland arrival, and would often escort Tom to the jewelry case when he'd come to pick her up at work. When Kirstin left to visit family over Labor Day weekend, Tom slipped into the store. "They'd been expecting me," says Tom of the employees. With help from the store's owner, he picked out an engagement ring.
For their wedding, the couple wanted to recognize their religious upbringings. They celebrated their union with a weekend meditation retreat and traditional Thai blessing and feast in West Virginia in April, and then with an old-fashioned churchlike wedding in Indiana a month later. In Indiana, Kirstin and Tom substituted the traditional receiving line with a Thai water-pouring ceremony, where guests poured water over the couple's hands and wished them good fortune.
In reality, their good fortune started three and a half years before with that mismatched compatibility reading and their first date.