The following is the transcript of this podcast episode.:
Jodi: Hi! Thank you for coming on the show. I am really excited to have you here as my guest and to hear the story that you are going to share with us.
Penny: Thank you so much for having me. I can’t wait to share my story with you.
Jodi: You’re here to tell us a story that happened during the pandemic. We start each episode with our guests telling us a little bit about herself so that we can get a better sense of who she is. So please, take it away and tell us some things about you.
Penny: Okay. Well, I am 42 years old and I have never been married. I don’t have any children. However, I do teach severe special ed and I’ve been during that for about 20 years now. And as far as hobbies go, well, I love to cook and I think I’m pretty good at it. I also enjoy anything outdoors, including working on my little balcony garden, which is mostly succulent because, well, you can’t really kill those too easily. (Laughter) So I enjoy that.
I do cosplay. For those who don’t know what that is, cosplay is costume play, which is basically people dressed up for mostly comic cons, or comic book conventions, or they also can do it for birthday parties or various other types of events. That’s definitely been a really fun, creative hobby that I’ve had. It has been really interesting to meet a lot of people in that community.
Jodi: How did you get involved in cosplay?
Penny: Well, I love Halloween and it just kind of gave me a reason to get dressed up more times during the years, not just once. I like the creativity behind costumes. I tend to lean towards more of the interesting makeup and characters that people recognize. It’s just really fun because the kids really love it when you go to conventions. They just get such a kick out of it and want their picture with you. It’s amazing how in to it they get, including adults as well. So it’s been fun. I have a lot of friends who do it and a lot of friends that I’ve made through it. That’s been really great, just making friends that have all these creative talents that are just mind blowing, really.
Photo courtesy of Point Blank Shot Photography.
Jodi: That sounds really fun and really creative. Have you been active with cosplay and the cosplay communities since the pandemic began?
Penny: Yeah. For sure. It’s sad because the comic book conventions are all canceled this year. So I think as cosplayers looked into other venues that we were able to put smiles on kids’ faces again or on adults’ faces again. I was able to be part of a group on Facebook. It’s basically a “birthday rescue.” It’s for kids who couldn’t really have regular birthday parties but really are into all their comic book heroes and princesses and even some of the darker stuff too, which is really fun. There’s quite a few of us on there. We participated in lots and lots of birthdays through it.
They create a party page for a child and then whatever the child requests for characters, whoever is able to do those characters, whoever has them available, will create little videos and put them on that group for the kids. My character happened to be something from a little bit more of a scary movie. But ironically enough, I still had five-year-olds that wanted it! It was fun to be able to do that again, even though I was in my own home and recording videos from here. It also has benefited my students because I requested a video or videos from any characters who happened to be Star Wars-related for May the 4th, which is the “Unofficial Star Wars Day”.
Jodi: I absolutely love Star Wars, but I had no idea that May 4th is Unofficial Star Wars Day. Thank you for filling me in. What happens on May 4th? How do people celebrate Unofficial Star Wars Day?
Penny: It’s more so like being able to celebrate Star Wars. Some people just watch the movies. I requested that people who did the characters make videos for my students because we were remote teaching at the time. I wanted something for my students that was like, “You’re doing a great job! Keep up with it,” and have characters that they might recognize. So I got quite a few really great shout outs from my students that I was able to show them during a Zoom call and their parents too and they all loved it.
Jodi: What you’re saying is that people in your Facebook group, out of the kindness of their hearts, made videos for the kids in your class who they didn’t even know just to bring smiles to their faces.
Penny: Yes, exactly.
Jodi: The kids must have loved it. At that time, were you also actively dating?
Penny: Well, it’s funny you asked that. Before the pandemic happened and shelter in place all came about, I actually had stopped dating. I kind of had given up on online dating. I felt like I was just meeting all the same of type of people that I just wasn’t overly connecting with. When shelter-in-place happened, I obviously wasn’t going to pursue dating at that time because it just seemed to make no sense. It wasn’t a safe thing to do. No, I wasn’t online dating at all at that point.
Jodi: But you’re here sharing a story about a first date, which leads me to ask, how did you meet the guy you eventually went out with?
Penny: Okay. So, that group that I told you about, the cosplay group, and my Star Wars request for a video, or multiple videos…I ended up getting a video from a man named Jay He sent me this amazing Han Solo/Chewbacca video for my students. It couldn’t have been any better. That struck up conversation between us. Basically the first day or two that we talked, it was just kind of cosplay-business-as-usual like, “Let’s talk about nerdy things and have fun with it together.” And then all of a sudden, there was like a little bit of a transition into feeling like, around the third day, that it was a little bit more like I’d almost been on a really fun text date all day, I guess, if that’s a thing?
Jodi: It’s a thing! (Laughter)
Penny: It is now!
Jodi: It is now for you for sure! How did the communication between the two of you go from texting to something else?
Penny: Well, we were talking on Facebook Messenger because we hadn’t really talked personally really yet. It was more so like I said just about cosplay and we shared each other’s Facebook pages and like Instagram so we could see each other’s other costumes that we’ve done in the past and everything with that, because, like I said, at that point, it was just about cosplay type stuff. And that was, I believe, it was May 1st that he had given me the video and then we kind of talked more on the second. And then on May 3rd, which is was Sunday, we had at that point messaged each other all day long. And I kind of ended that day with, “Wow! I just feel like I was on a really fun date all day long.”
Jodi: Fabulous! How did he respond?
Penny: His response and my response were both like, if we live nearby, because unfortunately, that’s another part of the story that he does live across the country, and if things were a little bit different, then we would have been on the date. So we both kind of agreed on that pretty easily.
Jodi: What was it that you picked up from all that texting that you felt, “I’ve got a connection with this guy”?
Penny: I mean, obviously, we had a lot in common. He was just really kind. He communicated well. He’s funny. He’s handsome. That also helped quite a bit from his little video that I’d had for my students. And he just had this really good heart and personality that just shined — even through text — which I felt like that says a lot about somebody, if they can truly show you who they are just through text messaging.
Jodi: Tell me about that moment when you went from texting to seeing him in front of you on your screen.
Penny: It was just so natural. We both felt that way. It was just this really truly natural connection between us. It was fun. We laughed a lot. It was a little bit more, for lack of better terms, intimate because you could see the person’s like facial reactions when he talked and just how they move sometimes and all those like little things about a person that you won’t get through text, of course. You don’t really get through a phone call either.
Jodi: Take me through how the communication between you and Jay evolved.
Penny: We decided like it’d be nice to be as in person as we could be and just to kind of get to know each other even a little bit more. So we did do the video chat, which was through Facebook messenger as well. Once we started doing that, there was never a day that we didn’t do that, except for maybe one because he had been on vacation with his kids and only because he got busy. Otherwise he always made time.
Yeah, every night, since that middle of that next week, we probably talked for at least an hour and a half on video. Yeah, and ironically, I was on Zoom all day too. So then we transitioned to that. I looked forward to at every night. I do feel like being in a situation that we’re in shelter-in-place and we’re not going out and we’re not interacting with as many people, you have a lot more time on your hands. And I guess what better way to use your time than to get to know someone who you just have so much in common with and truly enjoy.
Jodi: How did things evolve between the two of you after May 3rd?
Penny: My birthday is May 24th and I did invite him onto my family and friends Zoom call. We did like virtual happy hour type thing, and he was interacting with everybody on there, just was super nice and funny. And someone was talking about having kids and he’s building an R2D2 replica. He brought it in and was like, “Here’s one of my kids that I have at the house right now.” Like his interactions even with friends and family were great in a situation that could have been super awkward, but wasn’t.
Jodi: You’re saying that he met your entire family before you ever met him in person?
Penny: Correct. Yes.
Jodi: Wow! That is really something. It says a lot about how he felt about you and you felt about him.
Penny: Yeah. I mean, I definitely gave him out if he didn’t want to do it, but I also wanted to include him because it was part of my birthday and he was all for it. So he definitely wanted to be a part of it, and he was. At the time, a couple of people knew I was talking to him, but didn’t really know much else at that point. Soon after that is when we decided it was time to meet each other.
Jodi: Before we go into the two of you meeting, which I absolutely want to hear more about, let’s talk a bit about Jay. You said that he has kids. Has he been married before?
Penny: He has. He was married for quite a long time. He got married very young. He is 49 now. So he started having his children pretty young too. So he does have four biological children and one adopted child.
Jodi: Jay lives on the other side of the country and he’s got five kids. Both of those realities could be showstoppers for some women, but they weren’t showstoppers for you.
Penny: No, not at all. He was in the same boat as me where he kind of had almost given up on dating. We both were in the same situation where we’re like, “Maybe this is just it. Maybe we’re just meant to be single and everything else.” So when you meet someone that you have such an amazing connection with, and especially as, I don’t want to call us old by any means, but in our age range, I guess, you try to make it work. And if both people are willing to try, both people feel that the other person is worth trying to make it work with, then you kind of just do it.
His kids are older. His youngest is 16. So it’s not like I’m trying to jump in to be a second mom or anything. They want him to be happy too and he feels that he’s at that time in his life where his kids are going to be moving on, going to college, moving away, having kids, having their own families. So he wants to make sure that he is making himself happy.
Jodi: Now you and Jay had your first first date on video chat, and you had a second first date in person. Let’s talk about that one.
Penny: Yeah. I feel like it’s almost been like three first dates. It’s like the long text day, and then the first video chat day, and then the actual day in person. So we decided that we were going to meet each other and he was very willing. He can work from anywhere because he works from home. So he was very willing to come here. We decided just a long weekend would be good. Yeah, he flew across the country.
Jodi: It says a lot about how he was feeling about you that he got on a plane and flew across the country when he could be risking his health because we know people are getting exposed to COVID at times when they get on planes.
Penny: Yeah. So him and I actually both got COVID tested before he came. We both had negative tests, so we felt a little bit better about it, of course, then he had to get on a plane. He just did all the safety precautions. He felt pretty fine about it. So that wasn’t really a big deal at all. Unfortunately, because I was working the day he landed, he had to take a bus. So add in some extra public transportation, but I’m pretty sure he said there was like three people on the bus total.
Jodi: He gets off the plane and he gets on the bus. What happens next?
Penny: I had already gotten home and showered and got ready because have to make a good first impression, even though we’ve seen each other a million times on video. I went to go pick him up from the bus station, the airporter station, and I was feeling great about it. I don’t know what happened the night before I had been nervous, and now I was as cool as a cucumber. I’m like, “This is going to be great.” And I’m getting the text from him and being like, “Oh my God! I’m so nervous. I don’t know what to do.” I’m like, “Wait, you are now? What happened?” As he’s getting closer, because he’s kind of giving me like how long it was taking him to get there and I was already there waiting. So at this point, the last thing he had said in text was, “Yeah, I’m just really nervous.” And the bus pulled in.
Jodi: The bus pulls in and what happens? Tell us more! (Laughter)
Penny: So the bus pulls in. I get out of my car, and I definitely have a very like outgoing kind of goofy personality. So I get out of my car and I knew he was nervous. So he walked around the front of the bus and I like just started flailing my arms, just to kind of break the ice a little bit. So I wasn’t just staring at him.
He was just even 10 times more handsome in person. He definitely looked nervous walking towards me, but the second he put his bag down and we gave each other a hug, I could feel him totally relax. He was just so happy to be there. We looked at each other and he kissed me.
Jodi: Wow! What an amazing greeting! What an amazing way to say hello in person for the first time.
Penny: Yeah. Yeah. We had talked about wondering what it was going to be like in person and what we kind of expected of each other, having been on video so many times. There wasn’t like a huge amount of expectation, so to speak. But we kind of figured that we have each other figured out in the sense of who we were more or less. Yeah, but like all the tension was gone. We got in the car. I’m like, “How are you feeling now?” He was like, “Not nervous anymore. I feel totally fine. Like as soon as I hugged you, like, I felt way more relaxed. and it was great. And then we just talked per usual in the car ride back to my apartment.
Jodi: You’ve just confirmed for all of us that romantic relationships can be born on video chat. They can be born on Zoom and they can thrive when the couple eventually meets in person!
Penny: Yeah. I mean, same easy conversations, same fun random topics all the time and just as good, if not better in person than we had expected it to be, and more so than it had been on video. We have talked about it and I just feel very fortunate that we have that time to really get to know each other because how many people have that opportunity where the physical component is totally taken out. Where you’re really just truly getting to know the other person? And then having the bonus that when you’re together, you’re just as attracted to each other, as you hope to be, and then have that physical connection as well. It’s one of those things that you feel like shouldn’t exist, but just did.
Jodi: It shouldn’t exist, or it hadn’t existed until that time? (Laughter)
Penny: That’s a good clarification. I would say, hadn’t existed, but I had convinced myself that it would never. So I think that’s where I still have these terms in me embedded that maybe at one point I felt I wasn’t even like worth it ,or something because I feel like, as we get older, women especially start to have those negative feelings about yourself if you can’t find that connection that other people have found.
Jodi: But you were able to find it and you were also able to overcome any self-sabotaging thoughts, any disbelief that you had in your mind. And you were able to be present for this opportunity that came through a Facebook group, of all places, to meet this amazing man during a pandemic!
Penny: Yeah. For sure. And I think that if you had ever told me that I would have been okay with this and would have accepted it and would have let my guard down, like I did, I probably would have laughed at you. Because just my dating history, it wasn’t that it was anything super negative, but it just wasn’t great. I never had that true connection that I had seen other friends have and other family members have. It came about and I realized a true connection is a true connection, and I just felt it basically right away with him and just felt so fortunate. I know he feels the same way.
Jodi: Please tell me and all the listeners, what has happened between you and Jay since he got off the bus that day?
Penny: We spent that weekend together and it was great and we decided that we wanted to make sure when we would see each other again, that we kind of would know that before he left. So we sat on the couch being like, “Okay, and this week in July, and this weekend in August, and this weekend in September.” I was like, “Oh!”
He was just planning all these things on his phone and I was just listening and he booked his flight because he can work from here. He was here for an entire week with me, working from home. He kind of set up a little makeshift office in my bedroom and it went perfect again.
Jodi: Was he nervous when he got off the bus this time?
Penny: No. He wasn’t nervous at all. It’s always like now, not test so to speak, but like everything’s still new. So before we had a weekend together that neither one of us were working, but then this time it’s like, how is life going to work for a week while he’s working? My dog had surgery while he was here. So we weren’t able to really go out a couple of days after that. So we spent a lot of time together in living space, in small living quarters. We were curious how that was going to work and it was great. It was fantastic having him here. I know he felt the same way.
Jodi: You didn’t think you’d find it, but you did. You found it. What I mean by “it” is a connection with a man that is easy and deep and natural, authentic, and feels like home. And you found it in your home! There are a lot of women who feel the way you did before you met Jay. What do you have to say to them?
Penny: I would like to be really transparent at this moment about the fact that I am in therapy, which I think is an incredible thing for anyone to experience, especially if you find the right therapist for yourself. My therapist and I have a great connection, and she knows that I struggle with a lot of body image issues, which I know a lot of women and men do. So my assignment for the weekend that Jay first was here was that I could do no negative self-talk while he was here to him or to myself. I actually told him that and had filled him in about my past too, just so he knew. He’s like, “All right, I’m ready. If you start to say something, I’m going to make sure that you don’t,” and I never even started to.
And so then the week that he was here, it just kind of naturally happened that I didn’t have any negative self-talk and it was just incredibly freeing. It freed up my mind. It freed up so many things. Do I still have moments of being self-conscious? Of course. Do I still have negative body image issues? Of course. It’s not just going to go away. But I think just allowing yourself to be comfortable with who you are allows your partner to also be comfortable with you and just to see how amazing of a person you are and not to have you kind of trying to hide it behind some curtain because you have your own self-doubts.
Jodi: Do you have any techniques you use to shut down the negative self-talk that sometimes goes on in your head?
Penny: No. I knew I was going to have to report back to my therapist and I’m a really good rule follower. (Laughter) Once I got through that one weekend, it just kind of happens more and more and more and you’re able to do it less. I used to blame my body on why dates didn’t work in the past and I know that was the most ridiculous thing I could have done. It had nothing to do with that. They just weren’t good connections. I can kind of see that now.
There is a small part of me that….I still get scared here and there, that I’m like, “Is this really happening? Pinch me.” When people used to say, “It will happen when you least expect it,” I used to laugh at them, and for sure, this is the least expecting time ever. So it’s always there and sometimes you just take a chance on a situation, even if it’s across the country, even if they’re not tall enough or short enough for you or they don’t have the right color of hair. I think it says a lot as we get older, especially that we know what we like, but we also have to be open to chance and open to opportunity.
Jodi: We do, even during the darkest days, even during a pandemic. Your story gives me hope. It’s inspirational. It tells me, and I think probably everybody who hears it that good can happen during challenging times. Love can flourish during dark times. Love can triumph! People can find one another.
Penny: Right. Exactly. He’s one of those people that every day tells me how beautiful I am or something along those lines of a compliment. It comes off so genuine from him that it’s never like, “Oh, stop saying that it’s too much.” It’s like, “No, okay, I’ll take that again.” At first when he used to do it, it was hard for me to accept the compliment and now he says it and I’m like, “Hey, thanks.” But it’s really nice to know that someone truly feels that way about you because it almost allows you to be able to feel the way about yourself, even though you may not have wanted to before.
Jodi: You are beautiful and yet you enjoy putting on a mask. You enjoy dressing up for cosplay.
Penny: I just posted a picture of him and I both with our masks on. It just embodied like so much of how we felt about each other from such a simple picture to the point that, I mean, even my sister-in-law from the picture was like, “You’re in love, aren’t you?” It’s that picture, I didn’t really say much about the picture online, but I felt like it kind of just talked for itself. We met during a pandemic. We’re in facial masks. We’re still so happy regardless of the situation.
Jodi: Are you in love?
Penny: I’m pretty sure. I just turned 500 shades of red when you asked me that because it’s such a great feeling and it’s just such a wonderful experience all around and continues to be. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be able to talk about it.
Jodi: Thank you so much for coming on the show to share this fantastic story of how you and Jay met, and the three first dates the two of you went on.