By Kelsey Miller
When Jackie matched with Devin on Bumble in February 2018, a funny feeling came over her. After seeing his profile, which included a sweet photo of Devin and his mom, she knew that she’d stumbled onto someone special. She couldn’t put her finger on it, Jackie explains, “But the moment we matched, I thought, ‘There’s something here. I don’t know what it is, but I need to find out.’”
Jackie messaged Devin, kicking off a conversation that stayed entirely online for the first seven months. Though Jackie and Devin lived just a few miles apart at the time—both college students in New York City, and even with the same major—they never met, or even spoke on the phone. And that’s because while Jackie was absolutely confident in her instincts about Devin, she had serious doubts about dating in general.
Jackie is, among many other things, a plus-sized woman. Like all non-thin folks, she’s all too familiar with systemic fatphobia, and is used to being seen, defined, and stigmatized by her weight. She was used to fatphobic trolling and outright harassment on other dating apps; Bumble’s anti-harassment initiatives were part of the reason she chose to use it above all others. Even so, she’d get some messages commenting on her weight right off the bat. “You get those and you’re like, ‘Oh God, is this what everyone’s thinking? Is this how I should be thinking about myself?’” Even friendly messages were hard to trust. She’d match with someone and talk for a while, but when it came to date offers, she dodged. “And then I’d abandon ship,” Jackie says. “Not because of something they did, but because I was too insecure to take things further.”
Devin was also a hesitant dater. “I hadn’t had that many relationships,” he says. “I was never too outgoing or the type to have one conversation and say, ‘Hey, why don’t we get a drink?’” But after matching with Jackie, he knew that he wanted to meet her. He liked that she started her bio with a joke, and was drawn to her lighthearted attitude.
Their early messages were pretty standard. Both Jackie and Devin were studying film and television, so she started by asking him about school. Soon the messages evolved into regular texts, and three months later, they were long past the small talk. That’s when Devin started raising the possibility of meeting up. “I always backed out,” says Jackie. She wanted to be ready, but wasn’t. “I used every excuse in the book.” She was just about to graduate, so had plenty of excuses available: finals, friend gatherings, packing up to move home to Pennsylvania. “And when I did leave New York, I thought, perfect! I’m not there, so we can’t go on a date!”
But both of them knew it was just for the summer. Jackie planned to move back to the city for work that fall. Devin wasn’t dissuaded by another few months of texting, and it turned out, that was all the time Jackie needed. At the end of August, she texted Devin asking if she could finally use that raincheck. They got a date on the books: September 21.
On September 20, Jackie started to panic. She and Devin had become incredibly close, and yet she couldn’t shake the fear that he would be “repulsed” by her body. He’d seen photos of her, but only ones she’d carefully curated: the ones where her body looked smaller, or selfies with her face turned upward to appear as angular as possible. “It just hit me: this guy is gonna see me, not just what I want him to see,” says Jackie. “We’re going to sit across from each other. He’s going to see me walk. I was horrified by that.” The night before the date, she texted him. “I just laid it all out. I said, ‘I’m nervous about tomorrow. Very nervous.’” She told him exactly how frightened she’d been imagining what he’d think of her body.
Devin was floored—not by the picture she painted, but by her candor and courage in being so open. “She was being so vulnerable with me, somebody she hadn’t met yet,” he recalls. “It was very endearing and heartwarming that she trusted me enough to open up.” Devin immediately reassured her, texting back, “I like you, for the way you are, right now.”
Jackie had picked a bar a block from her apartment in case she wanted to “run away,” but instead, the two of them wound up staying for hours and hours—so many that neither of them can remember what time it was when they finally said goodnight. With no ice to break, the conversation was easy and quickly deepened. “Without all that stuff you have to get through on a first date,” says Jackie, “we could go to that new level of talking—stuff that you wouldn’t really get into over text.” They felt the excitement and sparks of a first date, but with the ease and comfort of being with someone you’ve known for months.
A week after that first date, they agreed not to date anyone else. A couple months after that, Devin was introduced to Jackie’s friends as her boyfriend. While falling in love, Jackie says she’s also come to embrace herself. “One thing Devin has given me is a new lens through which to see myself,” she says.
And while Jackie credits Devin with helping her grow as a person, it’s clear she’s done the same for him. Jackie’s nervous pre-date text set the tone for the relationship they have now. The honesty she demonstrated made it easier for Devin to be vulnerable too, and open up about his own insecurities with Jackie. But that trust and intimacy might not have been possible, she says, had they met before she was ready. “We had a mutual respect and understanding for each other that I don’t think we would have if we had gone out after a week or two of talking. I always say, as much as I wish I’d met Devin sooner, I’m so happy we had those seven months first.”