Love, Factually

amelie khareyFearless MIT students Austin Wigley and Amelie Kharey atop Mark di Suvero's "Aesop's Fables, II." Photos by Jess Benjamin.

Valentine’s Day is arguably the most political holiday we celebrate all year. If you’re in a couple, you might be faced with the societal expectations of the day: the card, the gift, the dinner reservations. If you’re uncoupled, you’re all but forced to weigh in on the holiday, like a pundit trying to find new takes on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

But when you peel away the trappings, Valentine’s Day really is a time to celebrate the people you care about. To that end, we searched Cambridge for some good ol’ love stories. From an MIT student who got a mohawk from her boyfriend on their first date to an entrepreneurial pair of running enthusiasts, these duos get right to the heart of what this holiday is all about.

austin wigley

Wigley and Kharey with another iconic MIT sculpture, Jaume Plensa’s “Alchemist.”

Amelie Kharey & Austin Wigley
Together for One Year

Amelie Kharey (MIT ‘18, Materials Science) doesn’t actually remember first meeting her now-boyfriend, Austin Wigley (dog walker and astronomer). She was with friends on her way to a party on campus to celebrate her 18th birthday. “I happened to be in the lounge at the time,” says Austin, “and they all came through and she introduced herself.”

Amelie has no memory of this, and months passed before the two bumped into each other again at another event on campus. Amelie, a Baton Rouge native, was having a bad day. She wasn’t used to New England winters, and she was missing Mardi Gras. A mutual friend had organized a House of Cards marathon that lasted the whole day and into the night, and afterwards the couple ended up in Amelie’s dorm room alone for another 16 hours. “We read together,” Amelie remembers. “We did that New York Times ‘How to fall in love’ article. We told our life stories and bonded. Oh, yeah, I did skip class.”

After several days spent pining, Austin texted Amelie asking if she wanted to hang out. To his surprise, instead of a movie or something more typical, Amelie asked him to give her a haircut. “When people in the dorm need haircuts, they tend to come to me,” Austin says. “I’ve given a couple dozen mohawks, and I just got good at it. She decided on a mohawk, and we’ve had matching hair since.” “I let him shave it really short because I wanted to impress him,” Amelie admits, laughing.

The two count Beantown Taqueria as one of their favorite “date night” spots in Cambridge, but for a good first date, they recommend an evening out in Central Square. “If I were trying to do our first date over again and trying to really impress I would totally do the Central Square Theatre and then Tosci’s,” Austin explains.

“I would be impressed,” says Amelie with a smile.

Alex Georgeady

Alex Georgeady & Lisa Dagget embrace outside their Cambridge home.

Lisa Daggett & Alex Georgeady
Married For: Half a Year

Lisa Daggett, a showroom manager at National Furniture, and Alex Georgeady, a real estate sales broker at Coldwell Banker, took the modern route to their relationship by meeting online. Alex was initially taken with Lisa’s profile—she found its humorous invitation to “Pack your pheromones and let’s go on a journey” particularly memorable. “I talked a lot about how I’d travelled a lot, and she was interested in that,” Lisa remembers.

The two were both of the mindset that it was better to meet in person rather than exchange endless messages online. “We both believe in chemistry. You only know that in person,” says Lisa. For their first date they met for dinner at Cuchi Cuchi in Central Square, which they have considered their “special spot” ever since. “I chose it because it’s so full of fantasy and personality and charm and character. It’s ornate. It’s over the top, a little bit, and sexy—the decor and costumes,” Alex says.

The two hit it off immediately, and the evening passed quickly. “I dropped her off back in the South End where she lived,” Alex recalls. “We had a perfect little good night kiss. Just the right amount of romantic sparks. We both respected that we wanted to see each other again.”

Since Alex had messaged her first when they met online, Lisa figured it was her turn when it came to the proposal. Lisa decided to use the first of a set of stacking rings. “We were in Provincetown and spent the whole day on the beach,” says Lisa. “I proposed to her with the ring inside a shell I’d found on the beach. It was dark, and she was confused, and she couldn’t tell what was inside of the shell…”

Alex laughs. “It wasn’t a traditional engagement ring, so when I saw it, I just didn’t know. I was like, ‘Did you find this little ring?’ I thought maybe she’d found it.” Lisa ended up having to repeat her proposal several times to Alex. “When she started crying, I realized that it was real, it wasn’t joke,” Alex remembers. “And then, she said, ‘Yes,’” Lisa concludes simply.

brandon williams

Brandon & Katelyn share a laugh at Bloc 11 in Somerville, one of their favorite spots.

Brandon & Katelyn Williams
Married for: One Year

Many couples share hobbies, but along with their love of running, Katelyn and Brandon Williams have a somewhat more unusual common interest: entrepreneurship. The two met in their hometown of Baton Rouge, where Brandon had started an online running magazine and was working to organize a new running club. Katelyn found out about the group through Facebook, and, despite the rain, attended the first meeting. Brandon was photographing the event and caught Katelyn in his camera’s viewfinder—much to her chagrin. “I saw the camera pointed at me, and I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ and I ducked behind my friend,” says Katelyn. “Afterwards he came up to me and was like, ‘Why are you dodging my camera?’ We just started seeing each other around at running events, and he asked me out.”

The couple moved to Boston after Brandon’s success in building a running community was recognized by Saucony, where he is now a Global Product Line and Social Media Manager. In the summer of 2014, Katelyn launched a business of her own: a dairy-free ice cream retailer called Scoop Sights, which recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring her concoctions to local stores.

The couple stays connected to their Louisiana roots thanks to Felipe’s Taqueria, which has outposts in New Orleans in addition to its Harvard Square location. The spot is high on their list of date recommendations. “It’s super cheap and great and fast,” Katelyn enthuses. “In the summer they have a whole rooftop bar that looks over Harvard Square, which would be so great for a date.”

The two stay active, and their advice for singles is to meet people through activities like a running club or the November Project, a free, public exercise group in Boston. As for the key to a successful relationship? “Communicating,” says Katelyn. “And Nerf guns,” Brandon adds. “You need Nerf guns.”

Bagelsaurus

Mary Ting Hyatt and Wilbur Hyatt take a quick break on a busy Sunday at Bagelsaurus.

Mary Ting Hyatt & Wilbur Hyatt
Married for: Three Years

There are some advantages to long, cold New England winters—just ask Mary Ting Hyatt and Wilbur Hyatt. The two initially met on the dance floor of a party, where Wilbur’s attempts to impress with his humorous dance moves left what Mary calls a “lasting impression.” “I thought his dancing was funny, but I didn’t think much of it at the time,” she says.

Although the two are New England natives, the winter of their freshman year at Middlebury College in Vermont was unusually cold. “We really couldn’t leave the dorm other than to run to class,” says Mary, who today is the owner of Porter Square’s Bagelsaurus. With the students mostly confined to the dorms, Wilbur confesses the boys would use Nintendo games to get the girls to come over and hang out. The two ended up seeing each other with groups of other people, but before long they took the step of going to dinner off campus alone.

While Wilbur’s dancing may have been questionable, Mary did find herself touched by the “gusto” with which he would sing in front of people. “There’s a lot of singing in our household,” laughs Wilbur, now a commercial insurance underwriting manager at Liberty Mutual who helps out at Bagelsaurus on weekends. The two enjoy restaurants like Area Four and India Pavilion, and would count State Park as one of their most frequented places and a great place for a date. “It’s super casual and fun,” says Mary. “And if you’re lucky, you can get on the shuffleboard table.”

Maggie McNally

Maggie McNally and Alex Krustky have been married for a quarter-century—but they didn’t believe in marriage, at first.

Maggie McNally & Alex Krustky
Married for: 25 Years

Maggie McNally and Alex Krustky met through a mutual friend who was “playing cupid.” “Maggie used to have a restaurant,” explains Alex, a custom woodworker at akwoodworks.com. “My friend Louise—she was a sculptor—had the space upstairs.” Maggie and Louise had become friends, and Louise brought Alex in with ulterior motives. “I didn’t know it was a setup, but he knew he was being brought in to meet me,” Maggie says, smiling. “We ended up talking a lot.”

Maggie, who is an operations manager in the development office at the New England Conservatory, felt serious about the relationship pretty quickly, but she was cautious about making a commitment too soon. “I was an old hippie, so I didn’t value marriage until I got further along,” she explains. After about a year, the two attended Alex’s niece’s christening. Alex recalls the blizzard that day and remembers being moved by the ceremony and his brother’s decision to have a child. On the creeping drive back, with the blizzard still raging, Maggie brought up her view of marriage as “a statement to the world.” Alex realized the significance of the moment. “I could have tried to avoid it or something, but I didn’t. I decided to be decisive about it.” He proposed shortly after. “It was the smartest thing I ever did,” he says laughing.

The couple’s favorite date night spot was Steve Johnson’s now-defunct Rendez-vous in Central Square, but the two recall it fondly. “It was so good,” says Maggie. “It was beautiful.” The couple recount the time they needed to learn how to shuck oysters, when Johnson took them to the back of the restaurant to teach them. “That’s just the kind of restaurant owner he is. We haven’t found our replacement yet,” says Maggie.

When it comes to having a successful relationship, the two recommend being supportive and sharing new experiences. “There’s nothing like going to a place where you’re just completely out of your norm to enrich,” says Maggie. Alex confirms her sentiment. “We went to Japan for two weeks for our 25th anniversary, which was amazing.”

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