On Love: ‘I finally had somebody who had my back’

August 17, 2012

In 2008, Anna Sproul was in charge of sifting through the unsolicited manuscripts sent to a Washington literary agency. Each week she read the works of nearly 100 would-be authors and grew to dread that ubiquitous D.C. genre — the political memoir.

So she groaned when her boss asked her to look at a sample chapter from one of George W. Bush’s speechwriters. But a few paragraphs into Matt Latimer’s tell-all, she began to laugh.

“There are all these subtle sci- fi jokes and references to ‘Star Trek’ and ’70s pop culture,” she says. “It was just so weird and different. I felt like I was reading somebody who had my exact same sense of humor.”

By the time she finished the chapter, Sproul, then 23, had a major crush, though she had no idea what Latimer looked like, or whether he was single or straight. When he came into the office of the Ross Yoon Agency in early 2009, she eagerly met him at the door and offered to fetch lunch.

Latimer briefly took note of the outgoing blonde before returning his focus to the manuscript. He was 37 and had come to the conclusion that he was likely to remain a bachelor. “I had been in a couple serious relationships. I had dated women. It just didn’t work out,” he says. “I just felt like my time had passed.”

When Latimer’s book sold, his agent suggested he hire Sproul as a freelance editor. She dressed up for their first editorial meeting and sent him chatty e-mails as she worked through the draft. He registered none of her interest and wore gym clothes to their next meeting in Shirlington. But when she suggested they go have a beer to celebrate the book’s completion, he agreed.

One beer turned into two and Sproul ramped up her flirtations. They giggled at their shared sense of humor and idiosyncrasies. “We’d both been sort of fat, awkward kids who lost significant amounts of weight,” she says. “We discovered a mutual love of eating frozen Cool Whip, which I’m sure is just frozen chemical. But you can eat the whole tub and it’s, like, 30 calories.”

He remained oblivious to her overtures until she leaned her head on his shoulder before going to the bathroom. Then he was just confused. They continued their evening at the grocery store, bonding over other favorite low-calorie food, and then she drove him home. He said good night without so much as a hug. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, he doesn’t like me!” recalls Sproul.

The next day, Latimer called his best female friend, Amber Roseboom, for an assessment. “Things like that go over his head,” Roseboom explains. “With Anna, he just couldn’t believe that she would be so genuinely interested in him. It actually speaks to his humility.”

Despite Roseboom’s reassurance, Latimer remained unconvinced. He sent Sproul occasional text messages, but when she invited him to a happy hour at the Cato Institute that April, he said he was going on a blind date. “But if it’s the disaster it usually is, I’ll give you a call,” he promised. The date was abysmal, but he neglected to follow up with Sproul.

A few days later he texted asking, Do you like shrimp? Sproul screamed with frustration and marched into the office of Latimer’s agent, Howard Yoon, to ask what she should make of the mixed messages.

Yoon suggested a reply: “Yes, I like shrimp. Where are you taking me for them?”

Latimer’s intent was just to continue the conversation about diet-friendly foods, but Sproul’s text made it clear she wanted more than just digital banter. “She must like me,” he realized.

The two decided to meet at Oceanaire. Sproul was so nervous before the date she locked herself into her boss’s office and had a solo dance party to get rid of her butterflies. At the restaurant they sat in awkward silence until Latimer announced he was ordering shrimp. They clinked jumbo shrimp instead of cocktail glasses and the giggling resumed.

After dinner Sproul invited him to her place to watch “Firefly,” a sci-fi series she couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen. During the first episode, they kissed. “Finally!” she recalls. “I worked hard for that.”

Sproul had been casually dating other guys, but after a second date with Latimer later that week, she cut things off with each of them.

The two began to see each other regularly, but Latimer was apprehensive about the age difference. “I thought she was too young to be serious about anything,” he says. “She had a long time to see other people and do things. And I felt uncomfortable.”

But they always made each other laugh, and she nudged him off his couch to go to concerts and on quirky adventures. The pair spent their first Valentine’s Day visiting the world’s oldest edible cured ham, in Smithfield, Va.

“One of the neat things was just to see how happy Anna made him,” says Roseboom. “He was almost giddy.”

And eventually, he stopped worrying about her age. “I decided, ‘Look, it’s a fact of life. What can you do about it? If you’re meant to be with somebody and it works out, who cares?’ ” he says.

Still, when Latimer began to think about marriage after 18 months of dating, he could sense Sproul’s hesi­ta­tion. She asked him not to propose on a trip to Michigan and talked about going abroad for a doctoral program.

“I didn’t want to rush things,” says Sproul, now 27. “I’m in my 20s and I want to be with him — I think for the rest of my life — but I’m not in a hurry.”

Sproul shifted her thinking the week of her birthday in April 2011. She is notorious for losing things, and her mother had just given her a pair of earrings and a bracelet. She wore them to a movie with Latimer, but when she looked at her wrist and saw that the bracelet was gone, she began to sob. Once the lights came up, Latimer got on the ground to search and came up with the bracelet. “I felt so taken care of,” she says. “Like I finally had somebody who had my back in a huge blind spot of mine.”

Latimer had purchased a diamond ring the previous December, but he was so worried that Sproul would reject his proposal that he asked repeatedly about the store’s return policy. Finally the jeweler asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?” recalls Latimer, now 41.

He took the ring, knowing there was a six-month window to return it. On Easter morning, a week after Sproul’s birthday, Latimer hid the Tiffany’s box in a basket filled with her favorite candy and other treats.

They stopped at the grounds of Washington National Cathedral, where Sproul had gone to high school. On a bench, she unpacked her goodies and realized they held personal significance. When she found the ring box, Latimer got down one one knee, but the normally eloquent speechwriter lost his tongue. “Please, please marry me,” he choked out.

As tears streamed down Sproul’s face, she replied, “Okay.” They drove to her parents’ home in Bethesda, where Latimer asked for her father’s blessing before the couple celebrated with her family.

On July 28, the two were married at the National Cathedral and toasted by guests, including Cokie Roberts and Donald Rumsfeld, during a reception at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase.

“There’s that cliche, ‘love happens when you’re not looking for it,’ ” Latimer said before the wedding. “In my case it was totally true. Anna basically had to write a sign saying, ‘I want to go out with you.’ ”

“And for me,” Sproul laughs, “The lesson is, ‘Love happens when you progressively pursue it!’ ”

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