‘I frankly thought I never had a chance’
Ryan Richardson is the type to agonize over a decision between two dresses. Whenone is finally chosen, she’ll bring it home and start to wonder whether she should have picked the other.
Deciding whom to marry, she knew, would be a tortured process. Again and again she’d asked her long-wed parents how they determined they’d found their mate, only to receive the same unsatisfactory answer: “You will just know when it’s right.”
“I was not a big believer in that,” says Richardson, whose methodical thinking has served her well as an associate in the litigation group at Arnold & Porter.
In the fall of 2007, she was healing after the end of a long-term relationship and started to think about dating again. Besides the younger sister with whom she lived, the core of Richardson’s social circle was made up of other young lawyers she’dmet during her two years at the firm. On the outer ring of that circle was Forrest Deegan, a fellow associate who was always quick with a joke or a smile.
Although Richardson didn’t know it, Deegan, 33, had been harboring a crush on her for some time. Even after her relationship ended, however, he was hesitant to make a move. “I frankly thought I never had a chance,” he says. “So I didn’t want to getmy hopes up.”
But surrounded by friends at a happy hour before Thanksgiving, Deegan suddenly felt as though he and Richardson were “on an island by ourselves.” For the first time, he wondered if the affection was mutual. “It was like, ‘Okay, I am not making this up,’ ” he says.
One night after the holidays, he saw her waiting for a ride as a cold rain pounded the streets outside their office building. He stopped to chat on his way out the door and noticed she didn’t have an umbrella. He nonchalantly slipped her his own.
“He manages to pass off the umbrella and is down the street before I can even say anything. So he walks off and gets soaking wet,” Richardson recalls. “Of course I yelled at him, ‘Forrest!’ But he justwaves and smiles.”
That night Richardson called her father at home in Cincinnati to tell him chivalry was not dead.
Several weeks passed and both left town— heonaski vacation, she toPuerto Rico. On the night Deegan was supposed to return to Washington, a storm canceled his flight out ofWyoming. He slept on a friend’s couch and woke up feeling
Ryan Richardson & Forrest Deegan
compelled to talk to Richardson.
“I don’t remember the details of the dream,” he says. “I just remember understanding I had to ask out Ryan Richardson immediately, if not sooner.”
Back in Washington, Deegan stopped by Richardson’s office, something he’d neverdonebefore. He told herhowmuch fun he’d had at a recent birthday party thrown in her honor and asked if she was “interested in taking our dress code up a notch.”
“But if you want to keep it business-casual I totally understand,” he added, still wary of rejection. She caught his drift and told him she’d love to go out. He gleefully shot out the door, only to realize he’d forgotten to ask for her number and needed to go back.
With the number in hand, a first date was arranged. Seated across a small table, Deegan stole a move from Woody Allen’s playbook, asking if he could kiss her once their first course was served. Otherwise, he told her, “we’llbe stressing about it the whole night.”
In fact, the kiss and everything else that happened that evening — dinner at Tabaq Bistro, jazz at HR-57 — was remarkably devoid of stress. Before the night was over, they’d already planned for a second date. Richardson was surprised by the ease of their rapport, while Deegan went home “ trying not to get too excited.”
They were wary of colleagues finding out about the romance, but the secret was out once co-workers saw their flirtatious interactions at a birthday celebration for Deegan a few weeks later. “Apparently we were not as discreet as we thought,” she says.
Their relationship quickly felt as though it was on solid ground. Richardson fit in perfectly with Deegan’s friends. And when Richardson’s sister moved out of the area in May, Deegan followed her to the airport and hugged her after the sisters’ tearful goodbye.
“I really got a chance to see how supportive he could be in this time that wastoughforme,” she says. Most surprising to her was the sense of calm certainty around the relationship.
“He would talk about future things and those were things that — prior to that — would’ve given me a feeling of panic,” she says. “And this gave me a sort of excited, nervous feeling of, ‘Yeah, that’s great. I see this vision that you see.’ ”
“It was so different than anything I’d ever done before,” he says. “Nothing about it was forced . . . and there didn’t seem to be any limit to what we could do together or how we could feel for each other.”
Hertemperedlogiccomplementedhis big-dreaming spontaneity and their wits were equally matched. For three months in the summer of 2009, Richardson was buried with work on an important case in Los Angeles. On one of the weekends he flew out to visit, they spent her few free hours on a jaunt to Disneyland. He was eager to hit all the rides he’d gone on as a child, but as closing time neared, there was one left on his list.
Richardson led Deegan in a sprint to the other side of the amusement park. They caught theMatterhorn’s last trip of theday. “Itwaslike, ‘ That’smy girl. That’s the person I want to be with,’ ” he says.
When the trial was over, Deegan — heeding Richardson’s advice that a proposal can be a surprise, but a marriage should be discussed in advance — asked if she thought they were ready for a permanent commitment. Without hesitation, she said that she did.
That Thanksgiving, during a family visit to Kentucky, Deegan arranged for the whole clan to take over a bed and breakfast for the night. (Richardson thought it was an arrangement her sister had lucked into.) When they were on a balcony by themselves, he got down on one knee, prompting her to stumble and nearly fall back over a railing. “Please don’t jump,” Deegan pleaded before asking her to marry him.
They were married on Dec. 11 at St. Matthew’s Cathedral and hosted a reception two blocks away at the Washington Club on Dupont Circle.
Walking down the aisle of the ornate church, Richardson caught Deegan’s gaze and fully understood what her parents had meant.
“It was the first moment I saw him standing there,” she says. “And it was just like, ‘Wow. This is so right.’ ”
WHENIT’S RIGHT: “It was so different than anything I’d ever done before,” Forrest Deegan says of his relationship with Ryan Richardson.