By Kaitlin Menza
When Leah, who works in childcare, spotted Lydia, a labor and delivery nurse, on Bumble in the summer of 2020, she thought there was no way she could be real. “Lydia’s profile was a show-stopper,” she says now. “There was something intriguing about her eyes. I said to my friends, ‘She is freaking gorgeous. I’ve got to meet her and see if that’s really her.’”
Leah’s profile, on the other hand, was pretty basic and mostly blank, but Lydia was drawn in once they began chatting. “I was coming home from work that morning, so I was just on public transport and we were texting the whole time,” Lydia says. “It went pretty deep! I didn’t expect her to ask all these questions about my past—about my previous relationships, my son, and why I moved back to New York from Puerto Rico.” They both worked on the Upper East Side of New York City, so days later they set a date at a tapas and wine bar in the area.
Leah can still recall Lydia’s entire outfit: a black dress, blue jacket, yellow sneakers, “and her hair was in these little side buns,” she laughs. “She was as gorgeous as her pictures, but even better in person.” Lydia was just as delighted with her first impression of Leah. “She’s very bubbly, and beautiful, with long black hair,” she says. “She was just infectious, and so cool.” They felt comfortable together right away, and the conversation flowed easily; it wasn’t like one of those “job interview dates” that Leah had experienced before.
Both were very open about potentially thorny issues right off the bat: Aside from Lydia’s divorce and 5-year-old son, Leah was still living with her ex-girlfriend. “I was like, ‘She’s not going to want to date me after hearing this,’” says Leah, “This is full-on baggage, a red flag.” But Lydia seemed to understand Leah’s living situation, and approached it with empathy instead. The discussion—and mutual acceptance of each other’s situations—strikes Leah now as an early sign that they both knew from the first date they had something special, that it wasn’t just a fling.
They kissed goodbye outside a subway station, and set a park date for just three days later. It got rained out, so Lydia invited Leah over to her apartment, where she’d prepared a Puerto Rican feast of arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), salad, and fried plantains. “The key to my heart is the food!” says Leah, who was blown away by Lydia’s culinary skills and kindness. On their third date, they became exclusive, and soon were taking every opportunity to see each other. They’d work around Lydia’s tough nursing schedule to simply grab ice cream outside the hospital or talk for hours.
Their connection—and the clear level of effort they were both happy to make—felt different than any other relationships Leah had been in. From that second date on, if Lydia had cooked the night before, she packed leftovers for Leah’s lunch. “She was so thoughtful in terms of how to care for me,” Lydia says. “I’d never felt that cared for.” Lydia had the same realization. “Some people do something because they want you to see: Look what I’m doing for you,” she says. “And it’s not really genuine as I’m doing this because I care for you,” she explains. One night while Lydia was dozing on the couch, she felt Leah stroking her hair and gazed up. “She had such a caring look in her eyes that I just felt: Wow, I feel so safe. I felt protected,” Lydia explains. “I could tell something real was growing.”
Because each was so attentive to each other, they knew that Leah meeting Lydia’s son was a really big deal. Working in childcare, Leah had some pretty solid ideas of how to connect with kids. “I wrote him a note that said, ‘Hey, Jai, one day would you like to play dolls with me?’” she says. “I put that on the fridge so that he could know some other person is around, who he could meet when he was ready.” An added complication was that Lydia hadn’t dated women before, and needed to explain to her son that girls can be in friendships and romantic relationships with other girls—and that Leah was her girlfriend. Eventually, the five-year-old was intrigued, and when he met Leah during a no-pressure group dinner with friends, he pulled her aside to play with dolls, just the two of them.
The couple continued to fall in love and meld their lives—Jai even started calling Leah “mom,” too—but Lydia had made one thing really clear from the beginning: She didn’t want to get married again after her painful divorce from Jai’s father. Leah made her peace with it, but over their first year together, Lydia’s view began to evolve as they started to set (and reach) big goals, including paying off debt and saving up to buy a house together. “We did the whole search together, got the house, and then we started thinking about kids,” she says. “I want to do all these things with her! The only part that I was holding back on is marriage.” She vowed to work through her past trauma, because otherwise, “I wouldn’t be able to give myself to her fully,” she says “I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life, obviously!”
Lydia gave Leah what Leah called the biggest surprise of her life when Lydia proposed at home in the summer of 2022, nearly two years after they met. They married in October 2022 with an intimate celebration of just 30 guests in the backyard of their new house outside New York City. Lydia walked down the aisle with her father, her dog, and Jai, who served as ring bearer. “Jai stayed up there with us as we were doing vows, because I also said vows to him,” says Leah, who promised to always take care of him. The couple integrated Taíno wedding traditions in a nod to Lydia’s indigenous Caribbean heritage, like washing each other’s feet, including Jai in that as well. After a dinner of Mediterranean food catered by their favorite neighborhood restaurant, they moved aside the tables and danced. “People made a crowd around us, and it literally felt like a music video for our love story,” Leah laughs.
For now, the couple say they’re enjoying the honeymoon phase and settling into their new home, but Jai is already focused on the future. “He has dreams about a brother,” says Leah. “He’s been asking for over a year now. He calls us Mommy One and Two, so he says, ‘Mommy One already had one, so I think it’s your turn now.’” No matter how and when their family grows, it’s clear that every member will be blanketed in love.
Main photo credit: Andrew Gonzalez Photography