After a Last-Minute Date, an Awakening

Cortney Norris and Thomas Lowery weren’t supposed to go on a date.

Ms. Norris, 38, a Latin teacher at the Dalton School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, had plans with a friend to see the live taping of the Mortified Podcast in March 2018. Mr. Lowery, 35, a video producer at Ted Productions, was also supposed to meet a friend that evening.

Both friends canceled, so Ms. Norris and Mr. Lowery hopped onto Tinder to find last-minute dates. They discovered an apparent perfect, albeit odd, match.

“I knew I liked her when we started talking about vermin, rats and cockroaches,” Mr. Lowery said of their first date. “It was a really weird first conversation, but I felt like we had a really good rapport.”

Their conversations quickly deepened as they began dating.

On their third meeting, Ms. Norris, who graduated from the University of Washington and has a master’s degree in the classics from the University of California, Berkeley, turned to Mr. Lowery and asked, “Do you consider yourself woke?”

Ms. Norris admits she doesn’t have a strong definition of “woke” herself, but she said she asked the question not because she was looking for a specific answer per se, but because she was curious about where Mr. Lowery saw himself in relation to issues of equity. Plus, she said, “As a teacher, I love a good open-ended question with no obvious answer.”

Mr. Lowery, who graduated from the Eastman School of Music, paused. It was a land mine of a question, and he didn’t want to make a misstep. “I felt that I was continually awakening, and she thought that was an acceptable answer,” he said.

He considers himself to be a lifelong learner, so he embraces the fact that Ms. Norris guides him, continually nudging him. “I have to think more deeply and not respond in the way I’ve been programmed to as an American white male,” Mr. Lowery said.

He also had to force himself to take a step back and not to appear so eager. Mr. Lowery immediately had strong feelings about Ms. Norris, but he knew they should take it slowly to develop a strong relationship. Shortly after their “woke” conversation, Mr. Lowery invited Ms. Norris to the opera “Electra” at the Metropolitan Opera.

She had been in Rome that week on a Dalton class trip with her students, and was concerned her return flight would be delayed, causing her to miss the show.

“I was packing and herding children, and he was texting me, ‘If you don’t want to go to the opera with me, you can just say that you don’t want to go to the opera with me,’’’ Ms. Norris said. “He went on a spiral, and I got all those text messages, and I said, ‘Relax, it’s OK.’”

“It wasn’t my finest hour,” Mr. Lowery said, recalling the exchange.

Ms. Norris made it back in time for the opera. She was starting to fall in love with him, she said; she especially loved how he was so open about his emotions, even though she thought he could be a bit neurotic at times.

After they had been dating for six months, Mr. Lowery decided he had waited long enough to ask Ms. Norris to officially commit to dating him exclusively.

Ms. Norris paused. She was seeing other people, she told him, so she’d need a few days to think about it.

“I thought I had it in the bag, so it rocked my confidence,” Mr. Lowery said. “Four days later, I was in a neurotic spiral: I should have committed earlier.”

In the meantime, Ms. Norris was simply telling the other man that she couldn’t date him anymore because she was in love with Mr. Lowery, whom she tended to refer to behind his back as her “egg,” as in, “a good egg.”

Every time she described Mr. Lowery to her friends, she simply told them that he was a really good egg — until one day, the private nickname popped out when she was talking casually to Mr. Lowery, and she called him, “egg.”

“I was like, ‘Oh well, I guess he knows now,’” Ms. Norris said.

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After dating for a year and a half, they moved in together. When she was casually scrolling through Instagram one morning and pointed out a ring she liked from Lang Antiques, an antique jewelry store in San Francisco, Mr. Lowery sneaked out of bed and made a 9 a.m. purchase.

This was in April 2020, during the peak of the lockdown, so Mr. Lowery had the ring shipped to his best friend.

“I told Cortney that I wanted to see my friend Brian to catch up with him,” Mr. Lowery said. Ms. Norris was confused about why he’d want to see a friend in the midst of a lockdown, especially since they had been very serious about following protocols, but she let it go. After his friend passed off the ring, Mr. Lowery roasted a duck (despite not being able to smell or taste because of his own run-in with Covid), and he invited her to have a picnic on his rooftop deck, where he proposed.

The time just happened to be 7 p.m., which coincided with New York City’s daily pandemic applause for health care workers.

“It was so sad and so happy and it was such a New York emotional moment,” Ms. Norris said.

“It absolutely wasn’t planned,” Ms. Norris added, “because that would be ghastly.”

The two were married Sept. 11 at the Promise Gardens of the Adirondacks in Athol, N.Y. 112 guests attended, and their former roommate, Alizeh Bhojani, who was ordained by American Marriage Ministries for the event, officiated.

They had hoped to have their ceremony on a property along the Great Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondacks — Mr. Lowery’s great-grandparents, who escaped the Armenian genocide, bought it in 1940, and Mr. Lowery’s grandparents had built a rustic cabin there. But the pandemic ruined that plan.

As for honoring Ms. Norris’ roots? She’s from Seattle, so her family is unapologetically picky about salmon. “One of the things I did was not have salmon served,” she said. “That was one of my big requests.”

Ms. Norris wore a sequin and lace gown by Vagabond Bridal. During her vows, she explained to Mr. Lowery that while people tend to weigh their relationships by the good times, she’s most grateful for him during their arguments.

As she put it: “I’ve never met someone who’s so capable of hearing that disagreement, having an argument, telling me I’m wrong and then going home, thinking about it overnight and coming back to me and saying, ‘I heard what you said, I thought about it again, you’re still wrong. But sometimes, also, I’m right — usually, I’m right.’”

For his part, Mr. Lowery promised to really hear Ms. Norris, “even if it takes a minute sometimes.”

Because sometimes, it takes a minute to truly wake up.


When Sept. 11, 2021

Where The Promise Gardens of the Adirondacks, Athol, N.Y.

Table Arrangements The seating plan was painstakingly arranged by Ms. Norris according to who she thought would get along and have good conversations. She purposefully mixed groups together to encourage new relationships as much as possible.

The Band Mr. Lowery hired his friends from Mama Juke, a Brooklyn-based band. It kept guests dancing to a blend of blues, soul, folk and funk music.

source: nytimes.com