On Love: ‘He just really made himself present in my life’


Brandy Trammell and Vincent Russell were married in the courtyard of 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church, Va. (Ferry Huang/FERRY HUANG)

In November 2009, Brandy Trammell became a homeowner. As she moved into her new house in Laurel, it seemed as though her life was all set up: She had her own place, friends and family nearby, and a speech therapy career that was flourishing.

But it seemed that the guy she always dreamed of sharing her life with was just that — a dream. With every man she dated, something was missing.

“So I felt that he didn’t exist. This idea that you’re going to find somebody that doesn’t have that tragic flaw — I really felt that I was going to have to settle,” she says.

The day after Thanksgiving, Trammell sat in her bedroom — the only furnished room in the house — and logged on to eHarmony. She’d had a membership for months but hadn’t logged on since she’d signed up.

Bored, she scrolled through the profiles of men who’d reached out to her and responded to a few. Almost instantly, Vincent Russell wrote back.


A toast to the couple. (Ferry Huang/FERRY HUANG)

Russell was visiting family in Norfolk and got Trammell’s message on his smartphone. His friends often joked that he’d been an old man for a long time. He started working full time at 18, putting himself through a computer information degree at American University. He hated dating, and it sometimes seemed as if he’d gone out with “every horrible woman in Washington,” trying to find the right one. He wanted a partner who was ready to settle down, have a family and stay in on Saturday nights.

After trading messages, Russell called Trammell. They spoke for hours. He called again the next day, and the two made plans for the next Thursday.

She was uncharacteristically late for their date in Silver Spring, and he nearly left. When she arrived, she was immediately turned off: He was in work clothes and didn’t have any of the facial hair he’d had in online photos.

Over dinner she gave him a hard time, challenging him on various points to see whether he would stand up for what he believed in. “Because I had dated guys who were complete pushovers,” she explains. “And I didn’t want someone who’s always like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right.’ ”

At a pool hall after dinner, she off-handedly said they should dance when the song “I Call Your Name” by Switch came on. She was shocked, and a little giddy, when he called her bluff and took her hand to dance.

A week later, he showed up at the movies in casual clothes and with facial hair grown in. Trammell warmed up quickly and tried to show him as much, putting her hand on his leg in the theater. But when it came time to say goodbye, he walked away awkwardly. “Vincent!” she yelled. He came back, asked for a do-over and kissed her.

And from then on, she says, “he just really made himself present in my life.” He called every time he said he’d call, and always showed up when he said he would. “I knew from the beginning he was not playing around,” she says. “He was planning on getting to know me and making this happen.”

After two weeks, he asked whether he could be her boyfriend. “Already?” she responded. But when he asked again on Christmas, she said yes.

“I felt like she could potentially be the one I was looking for,” Russell, 30, explains. “And I wasn’t seeing anyone else, so I was like, ‘Might as well make it official!’ ”

But the next couple of months were not as smooth as they’d hoped. She is verbose, and he’s succinct. And while she often tries to swallow issues that are bothering her, he prefers to be direct. As they had their first few fights, neither felt sure the relationship would last. But by March, they’d figured out how to communicate and could sense each other’s dedication.

“He’s a committed guy. He was completely in, and I respected and appreciated that,” Trammell, 31, says. “I hadn’t felt that from someone that I felt the same way about.”

In October, he invited her to join him on a vacation in Chile. Normally a planner, Trammell was persuaded to let him take the lead. “That was the first time I had to let go and really trust in him,” she says. “I’m very used to co-piloting, so that really solidified our relationship.”

In January 2011, they popped into a jewelry store to try on rings. Trammell thought an engagement was imminent. As months ticked by without a proposal, she tried to push it from her mind. That July, they went to Hawaii to visit friends. At the top of a mountain overlooking Waikiki, he got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife.

On Sept. 30, they exchanged vows in the courtyard of 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church. The couple once again danced to “I Call Your Name,” and their 100 guests celebrated by singing karaoke.

“I had braced myself for a future with someone I could tolerate,” Trammell told Russell during the ceremony. “Oh, were you a welcome surprise! The man for me exists and stands right before me. I need not tolerate you. In fact, I feel incomplete without you.”

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