The coffee shop. Like grocery stores or the gym, it’s one of the places relationship experts often suggest for meeting prospective dates. But most patrons are too busy scanning their smartphones or dumping sugar into their double mochaccinos to strike up a conversation.
Not Angela Markelonis. She’ll “chat to everyone.” She can tell you the life story of cashiers she visits regularly. She doesn’t pick up a magazine to pass time standing in line — she talks to the person next to her.
The lucky target one Saturday in March 2011 was Chuck Taylor. Markelonis, a 33-year-old accountant, had dropped by a Starbucks in Bethesda after a day at work preparing for tax season. Taylor, a salesman who also has a math mind, suggested they sit down for a bit once they got their drinks. The two talked about growing up in Maryland and spending time on the water.
Taylor, now 38, had divorced the previous year and was just beginning to date again. “I was ready to go back out,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to jump in and get married. It was just, ‘Let me see who’s out here. ”
He was struck by Markelonis’s bright blue eyes. He asked for her number and told her to be in touch but didn’t assume the meeting would lead to anything serious. To him, dating was like sales — “it’s a numbers game to find out where you’re at, and until you’ve had three interactions with somebody, you really don’t know.” Still, he texted a few days later and they set up a dinner date for the next week.
She ended up getting stuck in the office and showed up almost a half-hour late. Taylor had a drink waiting for her. He’d been nervous that they’d exhausted all their topics of conversation during the first meeting, but the two sat at the restaurant until it closed. Then they went across the street to a bar and stayed there until it closed. Finally, they retreated to Markelonis’s car, shared a first kiss and chatted past 3 a.m.
Markelonis went home elated. She’d always been independent, and finding a husband had never been a top priority. But she and Taylor shared the same dorky sense of humor and love of family. He was grounded and positive — two characteristics she valued highly.
Taylor was intrigued by Markelonis, but he was reluctant to dive into anything too quickly and continued to see other women. On their second date, at a Washington Capitals game, Markelonis pretended to be offended that Taylor was razzing the other team’s fans — until she joined in the heckling herself.
“I definitely like to poke the bear,” he says. “And I realized that I could be myself and just started to open up. . . . When you can do that, it’s so much more comfortable.”
The two saw each other once a week for the next month and began texting and e-mailing with increasing frequency. And although the relationship was developing slowly, Markelonis was falling fast.
“The more I hung out with him, the more I just didn’t want to leave,” she says. “It was just like, ‘Wow, he’s a great person — a decent human being.’ ”
By that summer, Taylor’s own feelings were stronger. “I started to see the pattern that every time she would text, I was happy,” he says.
He introduced Markelonis to his parents and went along on one of her family gatherings. Something shifted in him as he saw her interact with her older relatives and young niece and nephew.
“We both come from strong families,” he says. “So it was just realizing, ‘I want to have kids and this is a person who will be a great mother. This is a person that I know if I broke down and something happened and I lost it, that she would be there to help hold me up.’ I don’t always need that, but it’s just knowing you have that and you don’t always have to carry the load for both people.”
By the fall, Taylor had given Markelonis a key to his house and they were envisioning a future together — children, weekends on the water, holidays with both their families.
In early January, Taylor purchased a diamond ring. He began planning an elaborate proposal, but after a fun Sunday spent watching basketball, drinking wine and dancing around the house, he retreated to the bedroom and pulled out the ring. When she walked in, he dropped to one knee and asked her to be his wife.
Markelonis is still surprised by how much change came from that stop at Starbucks. “A year ago, my life was so different,” she says. “But it’s great. The beauty of life is that it changes.”
On July 22, the two were married before 100 friends and relatives at Herrington on the Bay in Rose Haven, Md. Sailboats glided by under blue skies as the two exchanged vows near the water. When the ceremony was done, they released dozens of butterflies — each supposed to carry a wish to the heavens.
“It’s never been hard,” Taylor said before the wedding. “After all the time I’ve spent with her, I still look forward to the next time I get to spend time with her.”