‘A beau­ti­ful bal­ance of cul­tures’

The Washington Post Sunday - - VIDEO GAMES | ON LOVE - BY MACY FREE­MAN

Mehrnaz Haji-Mome­nian al­ways thought she would marry her high school sweet­heart. The only prob­lem? She never had one.

Born in Tehran and raised in Washington, Mehrnaz went through four years atGe­orge­town Vis­i­ta­tion Prepara­tory, four years at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia and four years study­ing medicine at Eastern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School, but she never met the right guy. She had one re­la­tion­ship in her un­der­grad­u­ate years that she de­scribes as toxic.

In 2011, while she was a med­i­cal res­i­dent, Mehrnaz de­cided to test her luck at online dat­ing. She tried Match.com but found that the peo­ple she in­ter­acted with were too ea­ger to rush into a re­la­tion­ship. Next, she tried OkCupid.

“I wanted a re­la­tion­ship, but I found the peo­ple on Match to be too se­ri­ous, and the peo­ple on OkCupid weren’t se­ri­ous enough,” says Mehrnaz, a car­di­ol­ogy hos­pi­tal­ist in Washington.

But in­May 2012, Mehrnaz was struck by the OkCupid pro­file of a lo­cal man — whom she found quite hand­some — and de­cided to mes­sage him. By that time, Mehrnaz says, she had worked out what she calls the “per­fect sys­tem” for online dat­ing.

“I was so tired of peo­ple send­ing these three para­graphs about them, and I was like, ‘I don’t care about that,’ ” she says. “Here’s one line: ‘Are you in­ter­ested in see­ing me or not?’ ”

Her first mes­sage to Gre­gory Mill­wa­ter, a Kens­ing­ton na­tive and com­mer­cial real es­tate bro­ker, was brief. It read: “Hi There, How’s it go­ing? TGIF :)” Gre­gory saw the mes­sage, but it took him six months to re­spond.

“I hear about that to this day,” Gre­gory, 33, says with a laugh. “There was some­one I was kind of dat­ing for a lit­tle while there through that sum­mer, and, I don’t know, I just re­mem­ber be­ing at work one Fri­day [and] I was just go­ing back through [my mes­sages]. Her mes­sage was very min­i­mal­is­tic.”

Gre­gory read Mehrnaz’s mes­sage, but it was her pro­file that im­pressed him. She had de­tailed some of her seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory per­son­al­ity traits: “I’m a cyn­i­cal-op­ti­mist, a calm-fire­cracker, and an artsy-sci­en­tist. I try to seek bal­ance inmy life, and so I find my­self never only one thing . . . with­out the other.”

In­trigued, Gre­gory fi­nally mes­saged back, and the pair be­gan cor­re­spond­ing, bond­ing over their love of the 1980s and the fact that they had at­tended sis­ter/brother schools — Georgetown Vis­i­ta­tion and Gon­zaga Col­lege High School. It wasn’t long be­fore they were go­ing on their first date — to Cities Res­tau­rant and Lounge on 19th Street— and dis­cov­ered they had both at­tended Vis­i­ta­tion’s prom in 2000, one of the many times they be­lieve they might have crossed paths dur­ing their school years. Had Mehrnaz nar­rowly missed her chance to snag a high school sweet­heart?

Things pro­gressed from there, and af­ter about 10 dates, Mehrnaz and Gre­gory got se­ri­ous.

Af­ter dat­ing for about two years, there was a defin­ing, yet brief, point in their re­la­tion­ship. Mehrnaz and Gre­gory had a fight over tak­ing the next step in their re­la­tion­ship, a dis­agree­ment that re­sulted in them sep­a­rat­ing for what they say was only a few hours but felt much longer.

“Life was very frus­trat­ing,” says Mehrnaz, 33, “be­cause I had moved and things weren’t click­ing for my work and my liv­ing sit­u­a­tion.” She had given up her Ar­ling­ton apart­ment, which was too ex­pen­sive for a place in which she barely spent any time, and moved in with her par­ents in Great Falls. “I kind of needed an an­swer, and he wasn’t an­swer­ing,” she says. “So I said, ‘Well, good­bye.’ ”

“It was a very lonely few hours and the fi­nal re­al­ity check for me,” Gre­gory says. “It was real. It was very real. I ended up go­ing and pick­ing up an ‘ M’ ring [ for Mehrnaz], and I picked up a sec­ond ‘ M’ ring [ for Mill­wa­ter] and showed up at her par­ents’ house ready to undo what I had done.”

They de­cided that day in Septem­ber 2014 that they were ready to move for­ward. Mehrnaz wore the two rings un­til they could visit New York’s Diamond Dis­trict to find the per­fect en­gage­ment ring.

There was no more time for “what ifs,” Gre­gory says.

Then, about a month later, they made it of­fi­cial. On a Fri­day night, Greg andMehrnaz headed back to Cities. They sat at the bar out­side and read from their first e-mail ex­change. Then Gre­gory pro­posed and Mehrnaz said yes. They fol­lowed up with din­ner at 1789, their fa­vorite res­tau­rant in Georgetown, across the street from the site of their fu­ture wed­ding.

Sur­rounded by shades of pink, gold, pearl and white, Mehrnaz and Gre­gory were mar­ried June 13 at Holy Trin­ity Catholic Church be­fore more than 200 guests. They had two cer­e­monies — one Catholic and one Per­sian, in a nod to Mehrnaz’s her­itage.

“It’s strange be­cause I’ve grown up in the U. S. for so long. . . . I haven’t done a lot of true Per­sian or Ira­nian things, but [hav­ing a Per­sian cer­e­mony] was re­ally im­por­tant to my mom,” says Mehrnaz, whose fam­ily moved from Tehran to Canada and then the United States when she was 7 years old. “More and more, I kind of re­con­nected with my Per­sian side, and even my fa­ther-daugh­ter dance was a Per­sian song.”

The tune was “Ye Dokhtar Daram,” a song from the point of view of a fa­ther who be­lieves he has a price­less daugh­ter, a daugh­ter he wouldn’t give to any­one, not even a prince. Gre­gory, who danced with his mother to Whit­ney Hous­ton’s “Great­est Love of All,” says the whole day was “a beau­ti­ful bal­ance of cul­tures.”

The day af­ter their wed­ding, the two trav­eled to Char­lottesville, Va., and spent three days at Boar’s Head Inn. In Au­gust, they will travel to Europe for an ex­tended hon­ey­moon.

“I al­ways wanted to marry my high school sweet­heart, and in a way I kind of did,” Mehrnaz says. “I re­mem­ber be­ing in high school and think­ing, ‘ Oh, I wish I had a boyfriend,’ and in a way he kind of is my high school sweet­heart, ex­cept I never met him.”

“In a way, he kind of is my high school sweet­heart, ex­cept I never met him.” Mehrnaz Haji-Mome­nian

See more photos, read other love sto­ries and tell us why we should fea­ture your nup­tials here. MOSHE ZUS­MAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY STU­DIO

MEHRNAZ HAJI- MOME­NIAN & GRE­GORY MILL­WA­TER Mehrnaz Haji-Mome­nian and Gre­go­ryMill­wa­ter were mar­ried June 13 at Holy Trin­ity Catholic Church be­fore more than 200 guests. They had two cer­e­monies — one Catholic and one Per­sian, in a nod toMehrnaz’s her­itage. The cou­ple met through an online dat­ing site.

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