Bride Annie Lumerman and Marc Grinberg were married at the Park Hyatt, Washington… (Kelly Prizel/KELLY PRIZEL )
It was one of those conversations that seemed to stand apart in time.
Marc Grinberg showed up at Annie Lumerman’s Washington University dorm room in January 2003. The Princeton University student was in St. Louis visiting friends, including Lumerman’s roommate, but he arrived earlier than expected.
So for an hour he and Lumerman talked, a little about their backgrounds and a lot about the impending war in Iraq. They had differing views, but there was something about his depth and intelligence that intrigued her. “We just hit it off,” she recalls.
When Lumerman gushed to her roommate later that Grinberg was “really cute and nice and interesting,” she was quickly reminded that he lived 1,000 miles away. “So then I just forgot about it,” Lumerman says.
After graduating in 2005, she moved to Washington in search of a museum job. That fall, she and a friend were getting off the Metro at the Dupont Circle station when the friend stopped to chat with a guy headed in the other direction. He looked familiar to Lumerman, and then she realized: It was Grinberg.
Grinberg was also new to the District, working as a staffer on Capitol Hill. The two began to run into each other at gatherings organized by mutual friends. They were always happy to chat, but Lumerman was dating other guys and Grinberg, who can be shy, assumed she was out of his league.
Over time, they began to exchange online messages. They decided to meet up at Teaism on a Friday night. Tea somehow led to wine at Busboys and Poets, then to jazz at Utopia. At the start of the evening, neither was sure it was a date; at the end, a kiss had them convinced.
“I was just a little, like, shocked, like ‘Oh that was really good!,’ ” she remembers. “It was totally unexpected.”
They didn’t see each other for a month, and she wondered whether he’d lost interest. But there was warmth between them at a group outing, and when she offered to cook him dinner that March, he accepted. That night, he held her hand. “That suggested something more than just a date,” he says.
They began to see each other regularly. And although it quickly became apparent to Grinberg that he and Lumerman were “opposite in almost every way there is,” there was an easy intimacy between them.
“I felt so comfortable around Marc,” says Lumerman, now 28 and the director of Jewish programming at Sixth and I Synagogue. “We just had stuff to talk about and things to do. And I never got sick of being around him.”
They also knew it might not last. Grinberg was scheduled to leave for a two-year graduate program in Oxford, England, the following October. But in a way, the looming departure helped Grinberg, who’d long been wary of commitment, let his guard down. “Knowing I was leaving almost made it easier to start a relationship — you didn’t have to worry about commitment because there was potentially an end date,” he says.
By the time he left, neither wanted the relationship to end, but neither was ready to make big promises. “We just said, ‘Okay, we’re going to talk,’” Lumerman recalls.
They called every day, in fact — usually more than once. “I think it helped build our relationship because it forced us to talk,” Grinberg, now 28, says of the distance. “It also allowed us to be in a relationship but still grow separately for a while.”
Grinberg visited the District during a school break that winter. While at lunch with Lumerman, he saw an elderly couple walk by and suddenly envisioned the same thing in their future.
“For the first time in my life, that felt totally right and comfortable,” he says. “I could imagine being an old person and living with Annie and having that same relationship we have now.”
They decided they were exclusive and committed to a future together. They continued to talk daily and see each other every few months. In the summer of 2008, Grinberg returned to Washington, where he would eventually become a strategist at the Department of Homeland Security. The couple moved in together and adjusted to life in close proximity.
Grinberg’s parents married at age 35, so he always had it in his mind that he would, too. Lumerman was ready earlier and didn’t understand Grinberg’s desire to wait. “It was some psychological thing about ‘marriage is what old people do,’ ” he explains. “Mentally, I just wasn’t there.”
Despite the friction, Lumerman wasn’t walking away, so she dropped the subject. Regardless of its official title, she was deeply nourished by the relationship. “We really care about each other the most in the world. And I care about everything that’s in Marc’s world, and he cares about everything that’s in my world,” she says. “And there is a constant understanding and adjusting and maneuvering to make both of our worlds the best they can be.”