Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

True Romance

In a dating scene dominated by Tinder and Grindr and Bumble and Happn, some couples still find love in surprising places. Fourteen Toronto duos tell the rom-com-worthy stories of how they met

February 5, 2018

Dating apps, for all of their technological benefits, have made romance decidedly unfun. Courtship has transformed into a dehumanizing, often humiliating exercise in swiping right and—more often—left. It’s a world of art-directed selfies and texts that take hours to compose, of feigning nonchalance while obsessively stalking each other on Instagram, of ghosting and benching and ­monkeying and catfishing. But it doesn’t have to be like this. So we offer hope for hopeless romantics. Fourteen starry-eyed Toronto couples who met by chance, fell madly in love and are living happily ever after. They found each other at cosplay conventions, on TTC buses, while solving magical quests on World of Warcraft. One pair even fell in love in an elementary school portable when they were eight years old.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…


Renata & Daniel: Met in Grade 3

Who they are: Renata and Daniel Lewis, both 29, co-owners of a tea shop When they met: 1996 Relationship status: Married with a one-year-old son


Daniel: I was the new kid at Clark Boulevard Public School in Brampton. As soon as I walked in, I pointed to Renata and said, “I like her!” She was just so pretty.

Renata: I was mortified. I didn’t like him at all.

Daniel: That just made the chase more exciting. Once, I proposed to her in class with a paper ring. She said no.

Renata: But soon I had a crush on him, too. He used to kiss girls on the playground, and I got jealous.

Daniel: We became boyfriend and girlfriend. In Grade 3, that meant I would walk her to her dad’s car after school and we’d talk on the phone at night.

Renata: That year, I switched schools and we lost touch. Twelve years later, I looked him up on Facebook.

Daniel: I’d looked for her, too, but I’d forgotten how to spell her last name. We went for dinner at Boston Pizza.

Renata: He was just as charming as he was when we were eight years old.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…


Katya & Jean-Pascal: Met in an Uber Pool

Who they are: Katya Sarrazin, 25, flight attendant, and Jean-Pascal Saint-Cyr, 31, event producer When they met: 2016 Relationship status: Living together


Katya: You never know what you’re going to get in an Uber Pool, so I was pleasantly surprised when J. P. stepped into the car. He was handsome and articulate.

Jean-Pascal: It was dark when I got in the Uber, so I didn’t really get a good look at Katya. All I could tell was that she was down-to-earth and easy to talk to.

Katya: I had just moved to the city and I didn’t know anyone, so I asked for his number. It was purely ­platonic—we were both in relationships at the time—but two months later, he texted me out of the blue. The timing was perfect: both of our relationships had just ended.

Jean-Pascal: When I asked her out, I didn’t even know what she looked like. I tried searching “Katya flight attendant” on Facebook, but it didn’t work. The moment I saw her, my heart raced. We talked for a few hours, and then I did something a guy is never supposed to do: I asked if I could kiss her.

Katya: “Yes, of course,” I said. I had butterflies.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…


Peter & Alex: Met on the 112 West Mall bus

Who they are: Peter Idzik, 31, TTC bus driver, and Alex Idzik, 27, customs consultant When they met: 2015 Relationship status: Married


Alex: Peter drove the bus I took every morning. I was trying to get to work, but he drove past my stop…three days in a row.

Peter: In my defence, it was 7 a.m. and dark out. It was rare for someone to be waiting at that stop. I braked when I saw her, but I was already 100 feet up the road.

Alex: Every time I got on, I burst out laughing. It was too early to be angry. I just couldn’t believe it kept happening.

Peter: I couldn’t believe it either. I don’t miss anybody! The third time, I turned bright red and put my head against the wheel. But she just smiled. She has one of those smiles that can melt your heart.

Alex: One day, I got on the same bus at a different stop. He said, “I promise not to leave you by the side of the road tomorrow.” I said, “You’d better not.” I asked his name a couple of days later.

Peter: And I asked her out for dinner a few weeks after that.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Alejandro & Brendan: Met at a voguing competition

Who they are: Alejandro Santiago, 37, photographer, and Brendan Healy, 42, theatre director When they met: 2011 Relationship status: Engaged


Brendan: I had helped organize a vogue ball for Pride. Vogue balls are awesome: there’s a runway, creative competition categories, lots of flashy personalities and amazing dancing. Alejandro was in town from Miami, and he started talking to me.

Alejandro: I was excited to take photos of the dancers. Brendan was one of the first people I saw. He was really handsome, and I wanted to get to know him. A couple of nights later, he invited me to see a John Cassavetes film. When we sat down, I was like, this movie is great but I’d rather do something else with this guy right now.

Brendan: I was taken by Alejandro’s kindness, enthusiasm and curiosity. He had an insatiable hunger for adventure. When he went home, I called him. He said, half-jokingly, “You should come visit me in Miami.” I booked a flight as soon as I got off the phone.

Alejandro: We had an amazing weekend together. When I drove him to the airport, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I realized I needed to get my ass up to Canada.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Francesco & Maria: Met at an anime convention

Who they are: Francesco Suhari, 25, brand ambassador, and Maria Lam, 25, marketing co-ordinator When they met: 2012 Relationship status: Living together


Maria: I go to the Anime North convention every year. I love doing cosplay and wearing princess dresses.

Francesco: I’ve always been a huge anime fan, but I’d never gone to the convention before. I tagged along with some friends, who knew Maria. The first thing I noticed was her outfit. She wore an elegant black-and-blue ball gown.

Maria: Francesco was clean-cut, sporting khakis and a black T-shirt. The rest of the guys at the convention were cosplaying in thick black eyeliner and long dyed hair. We spent the whole day together and discovered how much we had in common.

Francesco: That night, we took the bus home together. A friend wanted to join us, but we ditched her so we could be alone.

Maria: A few days later, we went on our first date. We saw Men in Black 3, and then we snuck into The Chernobyl Diaries. Neither of us wanted to go home.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Spencer & Ken: Met at Hanlan’s Point

Who they are: Spencer Fowlie, 30, menu planner for a children’s catering company, and Ken Ferguson, 33, actor When they met: 2016 Relationship status: Dating


Ken: I first saw Spencer at a stoplight at Bay and Wellesley. I thought, “Wow, who’s this hot guy?” A few months later, on Labour Day weekend, I went to Hanlan’s Point. People were dancing and blowing bubbles and blasting music. And there was Spencer, standing in the water.

Spencer: This bearded, grinning face skulked out of the water and introduced himself. He was wearing pineapple trunks. I’ve always believed pineapples to be a sign of great fortune, so I was already in love.

Ken: We played in the water for a few hours, swimming and splashing and dancing. Then we decided to meet up later at a dance party called Horse Meat Disco.

Spencer: That night, one of my friends wanted to make a move on Ken. I was like, “Um, no. He’s mine.” We danced all night. He was the bubbliest, bounciest guy.

Ken: We spent the rest of the weekend together. On the Monday, we went back to Hanlan’s Point to go swimming and took the ferry home together, watching the sunset.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Thineshan & Juliann: Met in a church band

Who they are: Thineshan Kathirchelvan, 28, aerospace engineer, and Juliann Rasanayagam, 26, psychotherapist When they met: 2008 Relationship status: Married


Juliann: When I was in Grade 12, my church threw a concert to raise money to send to Sri Lanka. I played guitar and ­Thineshan played keyboard.

Thineshan: The first time I saw Juli was at practice. I was so focused on the music that I barely noticed her.

Juliann: I was putting on the moves, but he had no idea.

Thineshan: After the concert, we kept in touch over Facebook. As I started talking to her more, I realized she was a genuine, kind-hearted person.

Juliann: A few months later, I asked him to the prom. He said he was working, but I later found out he was lying.

Thineshan: I was too shy. I liked her though, so I kept the conversation going. A week later, I offered to drive her to a volunteer job. She lost her phone in my car, so she skipped volunteering and spent the day with me.

Juliann: He still thinks I lost the phone on purpose. I swear, it slid out of my pocket!


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Phil & Debra: Met skating at Nathan Phillips Square

Who they are: Phil Gour, 58, and Debra Dineen, 53, co-owners of a social enterprise When they met: 1981 Relationship status: Married with two grown children


Debra: I used to go skating at city hall every Saturday night. It was the thing to do. When I first met Phil, I was 16 and he was 21. He was a rink guard, and I thought he was too old for me.

Phil: I thought she was a cute kid, and we had great conversations, but I wasn’t looking for a relationship.

Debra: When I saw him again the next November, everything had changed. He had his hair permed, and I was smitten. I said to myself, “I’m going to be his girlfriend by the end of the ­skating season.”

Phil: I suddenly saw her in a different light. She had this incredible mane of reddish-mahogany hair. I’ve always been attracted to redheads.

Debra: I was a metalhead back then. I loved AC/DC. Every time the chimes would ring at Old City Hall, we’d both start singing “Hell’s Bells.”

Phil: A month later, I invited her to go record shopping with me. It turned into our first date.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Max & Dolly: Met at a burlesque show

Who they are: Maximum “Max” Capacity, 34, drag king, and Dolly Berlin, 28, burlesque performer When they met: 2015 Relationship status: Dating


Dolly: I’ve been organizing a show called Sinful Sundays at Cherry Cola’s on Bathurst for the past five years. It’s a burlesque striptease and variety show. One week, Max approached me after the show. I thought she was incredibly striking.

Max: Dolly was stunning—she had long red hair and an amazing body. I added her on Facebook the next day and went to Sinful Sundays every weekend for a month to see her. We flirted each time we saw each other.

Dolly: A few months later, Max started performing at the club. Her act was super-cute: she danced around in a monkey ­onesie. While we were having drinks after a show, she kissed me for the first time.

Max: I invited her to go for a beer the next day. Turns out, we only lived a block away from each other, so we met at a neighbourhood joint called Wallflower. I didn’t even finish my first beer before I asked Dolly to kiss me again. I’m the kind of person who likes to put things out there.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Alex & Alice: Met on Facebook Marketplace

Who they are: Alex Willis, 39, research grant manager, and Alice Zhao, 32, social worker When they met: 2007 Relationship status: Married


Alice: I was looking for a new apartment. I found Alex’s ad for a roommate on Facebook Marketplace, which was brand new at the time. I’d traded textbooks on there before, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Alex: Most people who looked at the apartment were hipster students. Alice was the polar opposite. She was a varsity athlete. She was frank and bubbly. Most importantly, she had a job.

Alice: I thought he was gay the first time I met him. I thought how fabulous it would be to live in the big city with a gay best friend.

Alex: We started spending time together. She impressed me with her knowledge of Quentin Tarantino movies.

Alice: I quickly realized how much I liked him. I said, “Listen, if we’re going to date, I need to know that you feel seriously about this, because I’m not moving again.” We went on our first official date that week.

Alex: For the record, Alice has terrible gaydar.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Trevor & Julianne: Met at an anti-Harper protest

Who they are: Trevor Ellis, 26, machine operator, and Julianne Welsh, 32, paralegal When they met: 2015 Relationship status: Married with an eight-month-old son


Julianne: My friends had organized a rally at Yonge-Dundas Square protesting the Harper government and Bill C-51. There were about 50 of us there, chanting and carrying hand-drawn signs. I spotted Trevor at the back of the crowd, looking at me.

Trevor: I’d noticed Julianne at other events before. I thought she was beautiful, but we’d never spoken.

Julianne: We circled each other for the rest of the day. Later that afternoon, I made a speech about Omar Khadr, who was still imprisoned at the time.

Trevor: It was inspiring. She went up there and spoke her mind in a public place, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers. That took guts.

Julianne: When I was finished, we all got a drink at the Imperial Pub. I ran into Trevor outside the bar, and we introduced ourselves. The next day, I saw him at another event protesting Bill C-51, and we spent the whole day together. That sealed the deal for us.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Melvin & Am: Met at Caribana

Who they are: Melvin Brown, 43, owner of a basketball academy, and Am Badwall-Brown, 43, private school director When they met: 1997 Relationship status: Married


Melvin: I was living in Cleveland, and I came to Toronto to celebrate Caribana. I went to one of the big parties, and that’s where I saw Am, looking all cute. I offered to buy her a drink.

Am: We chatted for the rest of the night. We had a connection, but I figured I’d never see him again.

Melvin: I called her the day I got home, and every day after that.

Am: He came to Toronto a month later, and we went on our first date. I took the train from Oakville to Union Station. I used to say, “I don’t take the train for anyone,” but there I was, taking the train for him.

Melvin: My friends went out to the club that night. I stayed back so I could chat with Am on the phone. When they got back at 3 a.m., we were still talking.

Am: We continued a long-distance relationship for 15 years. Finally, in 2012, we said, “Okay, let’s do this.” Within weeks, he moved to Toronto.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Jennifer & Matthew: Met playing World of Warcraft

Who they are: Jennifer Mallyon, 34, stay-at-home mom, and Matthew Hahn, 29, inventory clerk When they met: 2005 Relationship status: Married with a one-year-old daughter


Jennifer: I was having trouble solving a quest on World of Warcraft. I put out a call for help online, and Matthew came to my rescue. My character was a night elf druid named Rainclouds. His was a dwarf hunter named Scampii. Soon, we were chatting every night until dawn.

Matthew: I developed feelings for her when we started Skyping. Before, I’d only associated her with Rainclouds. Suddenly, she was a real person.

Jennifer: One day I realized I was in love with him. It was like in a movie, where you discover you were meant to be with your best friend all along.

Matthew: I lived in Minnesota and she was here in Toronto. After seven years of knowing each other, we met in person for the first time in October 2012 at Pearson. It was surreal. My character proposed to hers while we played World of Warcraft. I bought a ring in the game store.

Jennifer: We got married in 2016 at Elope Niagara, a little log chapel in Fort Erie.


Boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy, true love ensues…

Natalie & Daniel: Met on the 320 Yonge Rocket Express bus

Who they are: Natalie Ast, 26, articling student, and Daniel Alksnis, 28, software developer When they met: 2010 Relationship status: Living together


Daniel: One night, I was heading home on the Vomit Comet. I was drifting in and out of sleep for the whole ride.

Natalie: I noticed him as soon as I got on the bus. He was super-cute, but I didn’t want to wake him. We both got off at the same stop, and he started walking ahead of me. It was almost 3 a.m. and the streets were deserted, so I called a friend to make myself feel safer.

Daniel: She was talking about her Easter plans. When she hung up, I called out to her, “Hey, happy Easter!”

Natalie: I thought, “Okay, I’m going to go for it.” We got to talking and realized we’d lived around the corner from each other for our whole lives and never crossed paths.

Daniel: When we reached my house, I asked for her number and said good night. I probably should have walked her home.

Natalie: The next day, he texted me to apologize for not seeing me to my door. Then he asked me out for coffee.


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