We found love in a Matches place | Valentine's Day | Chicago Reader

We found love in a Matches place 

Two love stories that started on the pages of the Reader

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click to enlarge Josh and Sheri Flanders

Josh and Sheri Flanders

courtesy JOSH FLANDERS

After years of reading the women-seeking-women Reader Matches ads and never seeing any I felt called to respond to, I just could not get hers out of my mind: "kick-boxing babe," "Xena-lover," "giver of tender back rubs," "looking for articulate romance with a queer cutie." She didn't mention a size or shape of body that she was looking for. She didn't talk about anything I found boring or stupid. The ad stuck with me all week, but I didn't act. I was fat. I had almost zero dating experience. Calling a stranger was SCARY.

My roommate locked me in my room on the last night that the ad's voice mail was active and refused to let me out until I left a message. So after wasting hours alone in my room, I finally left a voice message: "I'm fat and swear like a sailor," "I grew tomatoes for the first time this year," "I'm an art student."

I could not believe it when she called me back! I was so nervous when the phone rang, but we had a long and easy conversation touching on things like the fact that her brother and I had the same pinup girl mobile, why marriage is stupid, and all the ways that monogamy is fraught. Then we set a time to meet in person the next week for our first date.

That was in October 1998. She gave me a tender kiss as I was getting out of her car. I gave her a tiny box of the tomatoes I grew in my garden. Twenty-one years later, we have a ten-year-old kid, a solid, loving relationship, and a yard with too much shade to grow tomatoes. —Searah Deysach

Josh: We were both recent divorcees looking for love.

Sheri: A friend asked me to help her write a personal ad in the Reader, and I decided to create one for myself too.

J: This was back in the days when online dating was shameful. I complimented her on her book choices, except for Ayn Rand.

S: Rand is great dark fiction. I waited a month until Christmas to respond.

J: After some e-mails back and forth, we talked on the phone and met for pizza.

S: I was training for the marathon and had just run ten miles, so I almost cancelled.

J: We both had friends call us as backup plans to bail just in case things went south.

S: Or in case he was a psychopath. We immediately connected on books, cats, and all things nerdy. It was love at first sight.

J: After dinner we went to the Green Dolphin ballroom with friends. The band started playing "September" by Earth, Wind, and Fire.

S: He asked me to dance and that sealed the deal. The conversation turned to architecture. I was curious about the Baha'i Temple.

J: My friends suggested we go on a tour. Our second date was set for the next morning!

S: Before the tour he took me to breakfast at Walker Brothers for pancakes. We started hanging out every day and the rest is history!

J: Fast-forward six years to our wedding.

S: Fast-forward again to 2019 when we both had articles published in the Reader side-by-side!

J: That's what I call a full-circle Reader Romance! —Josh and Sheri Flanders   v

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