By Sara Gaynes Levy
When Aaron was in eighth grade, he went on his first-ever date with a cute girl from his math class named Michelle. (In classic middle-school fashion, Aaron passed her a “check yes or no” note asking her out; she checked yes.) His parents took them to a pop concert. While the date was fun for them both, it was right before the end of the school year, and with summer and high school around the corner, their date never turned into anything more. Michelle eventually went away to boarding school, and Aaron hadn’t thought about her in years.
Then one day in 2017, Aaron, then a customer service manager, saw her face again. On Bumble. He swiped right, and they matched. When it happened, Michelle was shocked. “I got a notification that I matched with Aaron, but I didn’t even remember seeing his profile!” she says. (She says sometimes her friends would swipe for her, which might have been what happened here.) “But I totally remembered him.” The match wasn’t just a blast from the past, it was a twist of fate: when Michelle and Aaron went to school together, they were living in Southern California, where Aaron was still based. But in preparation for an upcoming move to the Sacramento area, Aaron had changed his Bumble location to help him meet people in his new town. Michelle, who was getting her PhD in biology at a university 15 minutes from Sacramento, was suddenly in his radius. Still in disbelief that they’d matched despite 14 years apart and 400 miles away from their hometown, Michelle reached out. “Hey Aaron! Funny finding you on here, how’ve you been?” she wrote. “Hi Michelle!” he responded. “What are the odds—14 years later and we connect again?”
The connection took off from there. (They quickly moved to text, not needing to exchange numbers as they both still had the other’s contact info!) Their conversation felt like catching up with an old friend. The chats were easy, and the two kept on texting for nearly two months until Aaron arrived in Sacramento. When they finally went on their second date, 14 years after the first, it was just as fun. They went out for Chinese food, then out for coffee, both not wanting the date to end. “It felt so comfortable,” says Aaron. “It was different from a normal date.” Michelle recalls that at one point, she and Aaron started talking about their food allergies. “And then we talked about allergy medication,” she says with a laugh. “It sounds stupid, but it was so organic.” While their middle-school romance hadn’t made much of an impact on either of them at the time, it was clear their younger selves were onto something. They were seriously compatible.
After a few more dates where they just “didn’t want to stop talking,” Michelle remembers calling her sister, debating whether or not to end things. “I remember telling her: there’s something special about this. My feelings for Aaron were pretty intense, and it scared me. I was freaking out a little.” Michelle’s sister talked her out of calling it quits, and encouraged her to see how it went.
It went well. And it just kept getting better. On a hike in California’s Redwoods a few months after Aaron moved, he remembers looking at Michelle in awe. “I couldn’t believe I found this person,” he says. “And I went up to her and I said, ‘I think I love you.’” Michelle whipped around and said, “You think you love me, or you do love me?” Aaron laughed: “I do! I do love you!” It was a perfect encapsulation of their relationship: Michelle drawing Aaron out of his shell, and Aaron’s joy at being with her.
About 10 months after their reconnection, Aaron got a job offer in Portland, Ore. Around the same time, Michelle got a job offer in Los Angeles. They decided to take their relationship long-distance. “I remember thinking: This will really show how strong our bond is,” says Aaron. “But within the first month I was like, wow, this sucks. I really wanna be with Michelle.” Aaron says the separation showed him how special their relationship was, and how serious he was about a future with her.
Long distance was so hard that, after about a year, Aaron suggested they both look for jobs in the Denver, Colo. area. In early 2020, they went from almost a thousand miles apart to sharing a place in the Denver area, and spending 24/7 together as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “It was good for us,” says Aaron of the rapid transition. Michelle agrees. “It taught us where our communication shortcomings were, and let us nip them in the bud pretty early,” she says. They learned to cook together (something Aaron had never really done before) and spent their free time hiking, another hobby Aaron picked up from Michelle.
Relationship-wise, both had never been happier. “I’ve never been in a relationship with someone that is such a complement to my strengths and my weaknesses,” says Aaron. (One small example? Aaron dislikes spiders; Michelle is happy to remove any that get into their house.) Michelle says that Aaron’s infectious spirit has been a true gift. “He is my eternal optimist,” says Michelle. “He just oozes positivity. You can’t help but be in a better mood when you’re around that all the time.”
In 2022, Michelle went home to spend Thanksgiving with her family in California, leaving Aaron without her for basically the first time since their cohabitation began. “I remember sitting on the couch watching TV and thinking, if Michelle and I don’t get married, this is what my life will be like.” He couldn’t stand the thought. “I want to make sure I get to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Once she was back, they went shopping for an engagement ring. Shortly after the purchase, they left for a ski trip, and their drive was in near white-out blizzard conditions. Even though Michelle had been with Aaron on the ring-shopping trip, she was puzzled when Aaron insisted they pull over in a snowstorm at a scenic overlook. But once they arrived at the spot, Aaron got down on one knee, and it all clicked. She said yes and they took a photo of their post-engagement bliss, with snow falling all around them. (Photo above.) They eloped in April 2023.
While the middle school connection was a fun initial bonding point, the two both say there was no way they could have known back in 2003 how complementary the other person would be to their adult selves. “I would never have thought something like that one date would snowball into what we have now,” says Michelle. From notes in math class to Bumble chats, it’s always been a perfect match.