Latkes and Dante Led to Love

A peculiar alchemy of latkes, Dante, smarts and social aptitude brought Deborah Beck and Alan Greenberg together. But it took some time.

The two met in 2011 at Mr. Greenberg’s annual Hanukkah party, which showcased his potato-pancake-making chops. She had tagged along with mutual friends, and both came away from their encounter impressed but not romantically inclined.

“I could tell she was really smart, but I wasn’t immediately attracted to her,” said Mr. Greenberg, 64, a senior analyst and partner in Wainhouse Research, a company in Duxbury, Mass., that provides market research on communication technologies. He works from a home office in Austin, Texas.

But Dr. Beck, 53, an associate professor of classics at the University of Texas in Austin, kept thinking about their lively conversation. A few months later, after consulting their mutual friends to find out if Mr. Greenberg was seeing anyone else, she emailed him and asked if he would like to talk again.

“Holy cow, how many people actually want to sit down on their couch and talk to you about Dante and actually have something to say and aren’t weirdos?” she said. “It was so easy for him to establish a conversational rapport with someone he had never met.”

At their second meeting, they had brunch. “I really enjoyed talking with her,” he said. “I found her really smart and funny.”

She was also impressed. “He’s a wonderful conversationalist — very witty, very lively, very politically thoughtful without being doctrinaire — and the conversation zoomed over many different topics in a zestful and engaged way,” she said. “I also thought he was very cute.”

For their next date, a few weeks later, he cooked dinner.

Slowly, date after date, the two became a couple. “It was never like one of us was struck by a bolt of lightning,” Dr. Beck said. “We just kept spending more time and enjoying it more, and at some point, I looked around and said, Wow. We’re in love. How cool.”

For Mr. Greenberg, who had joint custody of his young daughter from a previous marriage, going slow was important.

“I dated a lot in my 30s and I learned that you sometimes don’t see someone the first couple of months,” he said. “You sometimes need to give it some time to see someone.”

That moment, for him, was 2016. She had been in Washington a month, and he realized he really missed her.

“It was a letting go of objections, letting go of holding back,” he said.

The couple’s decision to marry came at a similarly sedate pace.

Last fall, he bumped into a friend who complained about how hard it was to find and book a wedding venue. And so, on a lark, Dr. Beck and Mr. Greenberg called their synagogue to see what dates might be available. They soon found themselves planning a wedding for 150 on the Fourth of July weekend.

“It’s really pretty much true that we decided to get married by accident,” Dr. Beck said. “We kind of discovered that we had made a plan to get married. There was no ask, and both of us were totally fine with that.”

When the coronavirus pandemic made it clear that they would have to cancel their wedding plans, they found that alchemy had again been at work. Their near-stumble into wedding planning had transformed into intention. They decided to marry anyway.

“We wanted to make that commitment,” Mr. Greenberg said.

So on June 12, the couple married in the front yard of Mr. Greenberg’s house in Austin. Bruce H. Corman, who with his wife had brought Dr. Beck to Mr. Greenberg’s latke party in 2011, officiated, having become a Universal Life minister for the event.

“You get married to continue the conversation,” Dr. Beck said.

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