Alex Trebek probably doesn’t know it, but Emily Cloyd and Stacy Braverman owe him a thank you note. If it weren’t for him, they probably wouldn’t be married.
After years of watching “Jeopardy!” with her parents, Cloyd took the show’s online tryout test in early 2009. She did well enough to be one of 30 would-be contestants invited to a follow-up audition in Washington that May. When the organizers asked who had traveled the farthest, she heard Braverman announce that she’d come in from law school at the University of Michigan — Cloyd’s alma mater — and that she’d soon be moving to the District to work for Bread for the City, Cloyd’s favorite charity.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, I want to be friends with this girl,’ ” recalls Cloyd, a 31-year-old outreach coordinator at the U.S. Global Change Research Program. At the end of the session, she followed Braverman into the elevator, gave her a card and suggested she touch base once she was settled in the city.
But an e-mail never came. Every once in a while, Cloyd would wonder out loud to her mother about the interesting girl she met trying out for the game show.
The interaction barely registered with Braverman, now 28. She was studying to take the bar exam, packing up her place in Ann Arbor and figuring out the logistics of her move. Somewhere along the way, Cloyd’s card was lost.
That December, Cloyd got a call saying she’d been picked to compete on the show in January.
She was nervous, but then she spotted Braverman. “I’m like, ‘It’s the girl from the audition!’ I was just excited,” she says.
Cloyd and Braverman watched other players compete in the first three matches and sat together during a lunch break. Then their names were called to compete in the same episode. Braverman took the lead early and ran away with the win.
This time, when Cloyd offered her card, Braverman kept it. They stayed in touch via e-mail and planned a joint viewing party to benefit Bread for the City when their episode aired in March.
Later, Cloyd posted something on Facebook about going berry picking. Braverman mentioned she’d love to tag along. When the excursion finally came together in May, only Braverman and one other friend were available.
Throughout the day, Braverman remembers thinking, “I’m really enjoying hanging out with this girl.” A few weeks later, they met up for Jazz in the Sculpture Garden and then a Nationals game and then an ice cream party. They learned that they’d both been library volunteers as kids, Quiz Bowl participants in high school and shared an ongoing, fervent love of the Oxford English Dictionary.
With each interaction, Braverman could feel herself growing more interested. “The things that she loves, she makes no apologies for and loves them so much,” Braverman says. “Whether it’s Michigan or cooking or just anything. And I wanted to be on that list.”
But she wasn’t sure whether Cloyd dated women. Cloyd had in the past, but she hadn’t told many friends or family members about it.
After Cloyd mentioned she loved sunflowers, Braverman showed up at her birthday with a bunch of them. Cloyd detected the crush and realized the interest was mutual, but both women were nervous about making a move. On one occasion, Cloyd walked Braverman home to her apartment in Southwest Washington and sat close to her on the couch.
“Then nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened,” recalls Braverman. “I was just confused. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Later that summer, Braverman decided she couldn’t wait anymore.
She wrote Cloyd an e-mail. “You probably aren’t interested, but maybe you’d want to go on a date with me sometime. But if not, I still want to be your friend.”
“As a matter of fact, I would be interested in going on a date with you,” Cloyd replied. She had actually already bought a dress she intended to wear on their first date, whenever it occurred.
A few days later, they met outside the Court House Metro station. Both were equal parts anxious and excited. When Braverman saw Cloyd, she felt her body relax. “It was a relief, but it was a little bit deeper than that,” she says. “It was very comforting because I knew her.”
After dinner, they returned to Cloyd’s apartment. As soon as they sat down, Braverman kissed her. “I knew it was going to happen, and I thought, ‘Let’s not prolong this,’ ” she says.
“And from then we were just together,” Cloyd says.
Their families were supportive, and by the following May the two were preparing to move in together. “Things are just easy with Emily,” Braverman says. “It kind of feels like we’re on vacation all the time.”
In the midst of packing, Cloyd had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine that required a two-night stay in an urgent care center. Braverman was with her the whole time. The incident made them realize that without legal rights, they might face circumstances in which they wouldn’t have access to each other. They soon filed for a domestic partnership.
A few months later, in July 2011, Braverman suggested they visit a giant field of sunflowers in Montgomery County. There, she asked Cloyd to marry her.
The morning of June 10, they were married at Temple Micah on Wisconsin Avenue. “May we live each day as the first, the last, the only day we will have with each other,” they said to each other before celebrating with a brunch reception and visiting the Capital Pride Festival downtown.
In the acknowledgments on their wedding program, Cloyd and Braverman thanked Alex Trebek. He was listed under “Matchmaking.”