Natalee Howell did not want to meet David Snider.
For two weeks they chatted by phone, calling during work and school, talking at night until one or the other nodded off to sleep.
Howell hoped it would continue like that. She had signed up for the dating site Interracial Dating Central after reading an article about it in September 2009. Though she was new to online dating and had never been in an interracial relationship, she was flattered by the attention from guys who wanted to get to know her.
The night Snider first contacted Howell, she was engaged in two or three instant message conversations with other men. After glimpsing a tiny profile picture of her, Snider decided that Howell “looked like all I could ever ask for in a woman” and began asking questions that would elicit more than a one- or two-word answer.
“Tell me who you are,” he wrote to her. “What do you think about?”
Before long, she stopped chatting with other men and focused on Snider. Eventually, he persuaded her to call him. The two discovered that they’d both moved to the District from other countries at age 5 — Howell came from Jamaica; Snider was born in England. Both had daughters from previous relationships who were named after flowers. Howell’s daughter, Jazmyne, was 14; Snider’s girl, Violet, was 4.
The conversations grew longer and more intimate by the day. Snider, a video producer, pulled out every story he could remember to prompt Howell’s gushing laughter. “He was stimulating my brain. I thought he was so sweet, caring,” she says. “And he was honest, like saying, ‘I’m looking for someone.’ He wasn’t playing any games.’ ”
“I fell in love with her talking to her over the phone,” he says. But when Snider pushed for a date, Howell balked. She was wary of the dangers of online dating and, more than that, she worried it would ruin everything. “Because when you meet someone, then you see little flaws,” says Howell, who served in the Air Force and is studying computer science at the University of the District of Columbia.
When Snider half-jokingly suggested that stand across the street and wave at each other, she agreed to a meeting. Nervous about what her Petworth neighbors would think about her going out with a white man, she asked Snider to pick her up around the corner from her building. At his apartment in Alexandria, she was so anxious she couldn’t eat. But when he kissed her, it became clear that the chemistry they felt over the phone translated in person.
“I went from being shy to being scared to being comfortable and at ease,” says Howell, now 34. “In my mind, I already felt like I loved him.”
They began seeing each other regularly. She was captivated by his wit and transparency; he adored her dynamic self-possession and generosity with others. When Howell expressed concern about their racial difference to her family members, they told her not to worry. Neighbors in her apartment building were soon teasing her about the time she tried to hide Snider from them.
Snider, now 40, almost immediately felt he had found the woman he’d been looking for. “The wheels fell off when I met Natalee. It was all-consuming,” he says. “I had a feeling that my desire for her and my involvement with her could not be challenged. I couldn’t be dragged away.”
So he was devastated when she called things off the following spring. Howell found out that Snider had shared private information about Howell’s personal life with his daughter’s mother, whom he considers a close friend. Howell felt it was a breach of trust and told him they needed time apart. But after three weeks, Howell’s mother found out about the separation, told her daughter it was “so stupid” and picked up the phone to call Snider.
After talking to him, she persuaded Howell to do the same, and the two quickly reconciled.
“Real compatibility is an invisible puzzle,” Snider says. “But that means we can have difference and conflicts, and maybe even an argument or debate, and be like, ‘Okay, so I still love you. Because I’m obsessed with you, and I can’t imagine my life without you.’ ”
In July 2010, they looked at rings. After he picked up the chosen one from the jeweler, Snider asked Jazmyne to hold the video recorder while he proposed to her mom.
On Sept. 9, the two married at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown. Throughout the ceremony, Jazmyne kept her hands on Violet’s shoulders, like a protective older sister.
“Peace is the result of love,” said the couple’s officiant, Colman McCarthy (a former Washington Post columnist). “And if love were easy, we’d always be good at it.”
Snider said things didn’t need to be easy, they just needed to endure. “You’re the one woman I want to spend the rest of my life with,” he told Howell in his vows. “You’ll never get rid of me.”