"He . . . Surpassed Every Expectation She Had"

Annette Hibbert & Tim Nelson

Annette Hibbert wasn't looking for a serious relationship, but then she met Tim Nelson -- and took a chance on love.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 16, 2009

The first time Annette Hibbert met Tim Nelson, she had an immediate, overwhelming reaction: "He's exactly the kind of guy I can't stand."

She said as much to their mutual friend, Elizabeth Carbone, who'd introduced the two at Dan's Cafe in Adams Morgan, where Nelson regaled the group with bad jokes about his pale complexion. To wit -- "Mead Paper calls me up to see how white the paper should be."

"I was like, 'Uhhh, he's told these jokes a thousand times before,' " Hibbert recalls. "It felt like shtick to me."

Nelson, a Capitol Hill staffer, slinked away after that brief April 2007 conversation, thinking Hibbert was awfully pretty and clearly disdained him.

The next weekend, Carbone, who played kickball with Nelson, dragged Hibbert to a team party in Arlington. There, Hibbert, an elementary school librarian, found herself being hit on by one of Nelson's buddies.

When she scooted off in search of Carbone, she ran into Nelson, giving him a second chance to make a bad impression. "Tim's like, 'So I saw you talking to Mike -- I don't normally recommend him,' " remembers Hibbert, 31.

"It was probably the worst thing I've ever said," admits Nelson, 32. "I just have to chalk it up to pure jealousy."

Nelson turned it around a few minutes later when he tried to talk a drunk friend out of driving. "I was watching this whole thing happen and I was like, 'Well, that's really nice,' " Hibbert says. And when it became clear Nelson wasn't winning the argument, Hibbert decided to charm the intoxicated man into letting her drive him home. Nelson followed in Hibbert's car, and they drove back to the party together.

A few days later he concocted a story about leaving his raincoat in Hibbert's car as a ruse to finagle her e-mail out of Carbone.

On May 27, Hibbert met Nelson for a first date at Tabaq Bistro on U Street NW. She has always been the type to jump the gun, get her hopes up, find herself thinking, midway through a first date, "Okay, are we exclusive yet?" Heartache often followed. So she was surprised to catch herself feeling relaxed as she and Nelson dined and then lingered over tea. But at the end of the night he gave her "this grandpa hug" that left her assuming he wasn't interested.

In fact he was very interested -- blown away by her style and intelligence -- and after three more dates, just before they were both about to depart on international trips, Nelson declared that he had "taken himself off the market."

"I think I was ready to be in a good relationship," says Nelson, now the legislative director for Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.).

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