A College Crush From Afar Gets Real Two Decades Later

When Annette Blum recognized Michael Pearson on Bumble in 2016, she reacted in a way that only a tech company employee would: He must be there to test the user experience, she thought, as he was in a relationship.

But when she learned otherwise, she wrote on the app, “My freshman year self is really excited right now.”

Nearly two decades earlier, in 1997, Ms. Blum had arrived at Emory University from Denver; Mr. Pearson, from Rockville, Md., was a junior there. While Ms. Blum soon harbored a crush on Mr. Pearson, she remained only somewhat on his radar.

After college, they both attended business school, with Mr. Pearson at Harvard and Ms. Blum at the University of California, Los Angeles. Occasionally they would bump into each other at mutual friends’ weddings.

By 2011, both were living in San Francisco. Even though they now both work at Google, he as a director of business development and partnerships and she as a program manager, that was not how they reconnected.

Ms. Blum, 41, who is also the founder of Shalon, part Shabbat dinner, part salon for young adults to engage in social issues, first saw him jog by her on San Francisco’s Embarcadero in 2011. They had each moved to the same city and were dating others. They became Facebook friends, but never once interacted.

It was only when, now both single, they saw each other on Bumble five years later, that they went on an incredibly awkward date to a Golden State Warriors basketball game. That evening rekindled their relationship, or maybe just a friendship; neither knew exactly which.

The ambiguity faded when they watched an episode of “Game of Thrones” together. Then, things moved quickly.

Both being the practical sort and not wanting to waste any time, they discussed race and religion right away (she’s white and Jewish, he’s Black and Methodist).

That fall, they attended the Burning Man arts festival in the Nevada desert. When Mr. Pearson, 43, had a challenging moment on an especially frigid night, he saw they could talk through it in a way that had eluded him in previous relationships.

“I can be completely myself with Annette,” Mr. Pearson said. “She’s been doing food deliveries to people who are shut in during the pandemic; my best self wants to do that, but she actually does it.”

“This is a person who I had a crush on when I was 18,” Ms. Blum said. “I had no idea that he would turn into this person who loves me back. He boosts me and makes me a braver version of who I had been.”

Mr. Pearson proposed at a surf camp in Costa Rica in 2019.

They are the rare couple who planned a 2020 wedding and saw it through. A mutual college friend, Kim Harvey, led a ceremony in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, on Jan. 19 with 160 people present, where they jumped over a broom landing on a glass, combining the African-American and Jewish wedding rituals.

“We feel beyond lucky and fortunate,” said Ms. Blum, who is taking Mr. Pearson’s name. “All I wanted was my people there, and lots of dancing, and we got that.”

Their legal ceremony had eluded them however, first because of the holidays, and then the pandemic. When the clerk’s office in San Francisco reopened after a 2.5-month shutdown and they reapplied for a new marriage license, they were given the date of Nov. 4. They were legally married the day after the election in their San Francisco apartment, by Michelle Castro Díaz, a legal process clerk in the city and county office of San Francisco, who officiated remotely, with only Perla, their puppy, present.

With the election results still unknown that day, Mr. Pearson later said, “In uncertain times, it’s nice to have someone stable to hold onto.”

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