It was early September in 2009. I was a divorcee living in Moab, Utah. I was writing, editing, working at the thrift store and the library, trying to make meager ends meet in a tourist town known for its difficulty producing a living wage.
One Saturday night found me on a rare date. I had chosen not to see Moabites, as the dating pool was so small and the gossip mill so loud. The hotshot photographer from New York seemed too good to be true. And he was. After dinner and drinks, on a moonlight hike up Mill Creek Canyon, he informed me that he was married. With a little girl at home. He tried to convince me that we should practice the Buddhist notion of “nonattachment.” I think he misunderstood the teachings.
It seemed a less-than-auspicious reentry in the dating scene. The next morning, I was plunging into the wallow of self-pity generated by a life waiting for Mr. Right to get donated to the thrift store, when my warrior-for-all-things-love roommate, Hillary, offered a glimmer of hope. She lured me toward her laptop, toward the promises proffered by online dating. I’m not even on Facebook, but after giving my obligatory sanctimonious speech on the perils of artificial bonding and diminishing face-time, I relented. Those boys she showed me from Durango — just three hours away — were appealing.
After Hillary’s introduction to the wonders of shopping for men online, I began my editing work for the day. However, I was too distracted to get far. I eventually yielded to the urge and slowly typed m-a-t-c-h-.-c-o-m into Firefox’s address field. My finger hovered over the Enter key.
My life was forever changed by a keystroke.
I spent the morning engaged in the self-conscious and self-indulgent task of crafting a profile — Vox Deserto, The Back of Beyond is Better Shared — and uploading choice pictures. The whole process felt ridiculous, but I soldiered forward. I signed up for the three-day free trial. I wasn’t yet convinced that I wanted to shell out money to maybe meet someone special. I still believed in the starry-eyed notion of seeing my soul mate across the room, locking gazes and feeling the chill of destiny wash over me. Electronic winks and messages delivered by billions of binary numbers seemed decidedly less romantic. But I had nothing to lose with a free trial.
I ignored most messages, sent few. I noticed PondoPitch: 29, piercingly beautiful eyes, sweetly devilish smile. I saved his profile for later, unknowingly altering him to my interest with a mouse-click. I then conversed with a dentist from Vail, found it fun, but decided not to pay for an actual subscription.
One hour before my profile’s midnight expiration, I received a message from PondoPitch:
OK, I don’t know anything about the philosophy of spiral dynamics but your page has absolutely captivated me. You have an incredible smile, a passion for words, the cycles of weather, and the desert. Who are you???
Hi, I’m Tyler.
The message turned into a phone call — amazing for two telephobes — and the phone call turned into an invitation for Tyler Quintano to join me on a Westwater trip with friends. I figured there was safety in the distraction of whitewater. He would drive to meet me in Moab on Sunday night, and we would launch Monday morning.
My absent roommate — this story’s instigator — was the only person who knew of Tyler’s arrival. I was too embarrassed to tell any of my friends that I was engaged in the pride-squelching practice of online dating. Thus, I found myself in the somewhat uncomfortable predicament of meeting a perfect stranger in my empty home, with no one to hear my screams if he attacked me with chainsaws.
The day of his arrival was cloudy and cool. I was restless. I went for a bike ride and a run. I was a worthless editor. I got dressed five separate times, unsure of my appearance and myself. I even Googled the acceptability of wearing brown and black together. Not that my date would likely notice. Or care. I tried to meditate. And failed.
My nervousness was about more than greeting a strange man and entertaining him for a weekend. It was about understanding and embracing the fact that I wanted to fall in love again. And I wanted to do it right this time. To do right by me. It was about knowing that, even if Tyler wasn’t the one, I was now plunging into a world where my heart would once again be open to both happiness and hurt. And in the strange world of dating, the latter is more likely than the former.
My nervousness was also as much about fear of success as it was fear of failure. Sometimes, the thing we want most is the scariest to reach for. There’s less risk in wanting than there is in having.
I saw him pull up in his silver truck (unbeknownst to me, he did arrive with chainsaws; he’s an arborist). With the next beat of my heart, he was on the doorstep: a few days’ worth of red stubble, stature slightly shorter than mine, big barrel chest, beautiful forearms and legs, perfect hands — yes, I’ve always noticed men’s hands — and an enormous nervous smile.
Is that fate smiling at me?
The thing I wanted most was on my doorstep. And I was afraid. My heart sank as I told myself he couldn’t be the one. My first instinct was to apologize for my mistake and close the door, turning my back on my future because it felt so big and new. Like his smile.
But I opened the door. And I awkwardly hugged a man that now holds my being in the tenderest embrace I have ever known. I awkwardly brought Tyler’s heart close to mine. And there it has always stayed.
After a beat of self-conscious silence, I asked, “Wow, do you need a beer?”
“God, I thought you’d never ask,” he exhaled.
We sat down over PBRs, and after nervously emptying a few cans, two shy souls emerged and began to get acquainted. Who knew that beer could be a multigenerational catalyst for love?
Monsoonal rains engulfed our nascent story that night. We watched the lightning and rainbows from cliffs above town. We had our first kiss on his tailgate in the rain. We learned that the Westwater trip had been cancelled. We didn’t care. We filled the days, instead, with hiking and camping, conversation and wonder at the ease of our connection.
The next weekend, I went to Durango, met his parents. That followed with another Moab visit. The days that stretched between were filled with thoughts of his eyes, his hands, his smile. I told him I was falling in love. And so, he professed, was he.
One month to the day after our first awkward hug, Tyler purchased a 1971 Streamline travel trailer for us to live in. Two months to the day, he hauled it to Moab. And here we still reside, in 26 linear feet of paradise.
Nearly three years, two shared business ventures and one adopted Mexican dog later, I went on a backpacking meditation retreat. I walked through the wilderness for days, hands in pockets, head down, heart working overtime. I returned to Moab and asked Tyler to marry me. With a rare tear in his eye, he said yes. My name will be Jenny Quintano.
I have chosen a man with beautiful hands and a beautiful heart, just like my father. A man of striking eyes, a wonderful smile, and a soul that carries an abundance of love and devotion.
Our love was born online. In a way, we are the trend. And, as are all of us in love, we are so much more.
Senior correspondent Jen Jackson writes from Moab, Utah, where she is currently researching the life of Bates Wilson, “Father of Canyonlands,” for a book due out in 2014. Her blog, Desert Reflections, can be found at
Read about Jen’s mother and her experiences with love, in Love, Part I.