BRITTANY LUSE: Hi, I’m Brittany Luse, and welcome to Sampler, the show where we play you handpicked moments from podcasts you have to hear. Today’s show is all about matters of the heart. We’ll heart about pining for one’s true love, how to meet your match, and later in the show, we’ll check in with one couple in particular. And, just a heads up, because we’re talking about relationships, love, sex and everything in between, some of the material and language in this episode is not suitable for younger ears.
So I wanted to start with one of the earliest experiences many of us have in our journey through the world of love: the dramatic, over the top, can’t-think-of-anything-but-the-other-person, adolescent love. And nothing illustrates that better than reading a love letter written by a teenager in love. Or better yet, having an adult read a love letter he wrote as an angsty teenager who couldn’t be with—to use his words—the “woman of his dreams. So this first clip is from a podcast called Grown-ups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. What you are about to hear is a grown-up, Dave, reading a letter his 17 year-old-self wrote to a girl he spent two summers with at camp—in front of a live audience.
In: Dear Julia, before I begin….
Out: … But that's what true love will do to a person. [laughter and applause]
BRITTANY: OK, so I have to be honest with you guys. The thing about Dave’s letter is that it reminds me of a lot of things that I wrote on my LiveJournal when I was in high school, which is actually more embarrassing, because Livejournal is just like, open and all your friends can read it. So it’s not just like I gave myself the dignity of writing these long angsty reflections and then just sending them to one person, no, I posted mine on the internet for everyone I knew and went to school with to see. So eventually I grew out of the angsty letter-writing phase — or I guess the angsty Livejournal phase, and Dave did too, which is why he was able to be a grown-up reading a letter he wrote as a kid. I hope actually that he grew out of that. But you know, we all moved into adult dating… which is. I mean I’ve had some moments of good luck with dating as an adult, but I would say that most of it has been pretty terrible. It’s one of those things were some people are out there looking for the person that they want to spend the rest of their life with. Other people like me are just looking for somebody tall, good-looking with central air, to hang out with during summertime. It’s kind of just this mess of like consistently unmet expectations. The other things is — I guess to throw a wrench into the whole operation, there’s no real way to meet new people as an adult. You’re no longer meeting people at summer camp, like Dave, you’re no longer meeting people at school. After a while you run out of people to meet at work, if you’re anything like me, you’ve dated all of your friends’ friends. So what do you do when you’ve dated everyone you know? And that’s a really big question, so I figured, who better to ask about how to find your person, than our head of people operations, Katie Christiansen.
KATIE CHRISTIANSEN: Hi Brittany.
BRITTANY: Hi Katie, welcome to the show.
KATIE: Thank you.
BRITTANY: The head of people operations is a rather start-up-y and nebulous title. Please — for our listeners at home who don't know what that means— what do you do?
KATIE: My job is basically to make sure that we are attracting and recruiting and hiring the best possible people to come work at Gimlet. And then also once people are at Gimlet, to make sure that that they feel like this is the absolute best place in the world to work.
BRITTANY: So are you currently involved, attached?
KATIE: I am.
BRITTANY: How did you meet this person? This lucky fellow.
KATIE: This lucky fellow, Jim, and I have been together for a year, and we met on the world wide web, on OkCupid.
BRITTANY: You know what, honestly? I'm a big believer in OKCupid.
KATIE: Oh, I don't believe in meeting people in real life. I just don't. I want to know, I want to see... can you write? Are you interesting? Are you funny? Do you have weird perspectives on things? Sometimes I do a little bit of like pre-screening, a little pre-work.
BRITTANY: I’m so glad you brought that up! It’s totally in line with our next clip. It comes to us from a show called StarTalk Radio that’s hosted by Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. So his guest for this episode is Helen Fisher. She is a biological anthropologist and she’s also a senior researcher at The Kinsey Institute. She also happens to be a scientific advisor to the dating site Match dot com. So, Dr. Fisher is talking online dating with Tyson and his co-host comedian Chuck Nice.
FISHER: If you go on these dating sites, it does require some work…
FISHER: Listen, staying at home and looking for somebody under the couch is certainly not going to do much for you.
BRITTANY: [laughing] So Katie…
KATIE: I have found through both dating and hiring and recruiting people, which are shockingly similar processes….
BRITTANY: I always thought they were! Speak more... I always thought they were similar.
KATIE: So I have learned that there are some people out there that are programmed and hard-wired to only want to see what they want to see in other people. So they look at either a resume, or they see an online dating profile, and they're like, "This person's amazing, this person did all of these cool things, this person did all of these cool things, this person can write in complete sentences. Oh my god, this is like amazing.” But you willingly ignore any sort of red flag until it's, slammed into your face.
BRITTANY: Too late.
KATIE: Yeah. And then there are some people who are I think just naturally skeptical of any sort of process like that. So whether it's online dating, and they're like, eh, I don't know, this like profile's kind of gross, like... he wore a red shirt in his picture, and guys who wear red shirts are just like the WORST.
BRITTANY: I know a lot of people like that.
KATIE: You know, and same with resumes, it's like, you know, you can't get a complete picture of anybody from any piece of paper, from any screen. And so I really like her advice about just going out and kind of getting to know the person. Like the sooner you can get out and interact with the person, and see whether or not they're actually insane or actually really nice, like that's real.
BRITTANY: Well how many, how many relationships have you, like serious relationships you've been in that started online.
KATIE: There’s something I really like about being able to go on a site and — god, as I’m saying this, I feel like a psycho. There are visions of me like in a dark room, like scrawling and being like, ‘next.’
BRITTANY: I've had incredible luck with online... well... I've had a lot of terrible experiences.
BRITTANY: But I definitely had have incredible luck with online dating. And I've had a lot of friends who met their husband or wife, and later the mother or father of their children on dating sites, specifically OKcupid.
KATIE: Yeah. There’s something nice and a little bit reassuring about being able to see how someone presents themselves to the universe before you sit down. And by the way, I'm a total proponent of like, exchange a couple of messages, like get it out of the way, like no need to like write novels back and forth for a year. And then like, go meet for a beer or coffee. It's like an hour and a half of your life, and if it sucks who cares.
BRITTANY: I have a question. So you said something about messages.
BRITTANY: Did you message your current boyfriend first, or did he message you first?
KATIE: He messaged me first. Actually, after our first date, it was like on a Tuesday, he texted me on a Thursday and he was like hey are you around today, I'd love to meet up? And I was like, uh I have plans, this is kind of last-minute...
KATIE: But are you around this weekend? And he was like yeah.. I might have some people over to have some beers on my roof on Friday.
BRITTANY: Uh huh.
KATIE: And that was the end of the message. And I was just like ‘So am I invited or not?’ I don't really know what to do with this… I wrote back, and I Can be a little like cheeky, and I can play this game too, and I wrote back and ID was like "Is that an invitation?" And he just wrote back "No."
KATIE: I literally sat looking at my phone for like, fif... a while. And was just like… ugh. I was into this guy. And now he's trying to neg me. So I just wrote back. "Cool." And then he wrote back "Just kidding—of course it is."
KATIE: And I was, I had such whiplash. Now that I've known him for a year, it was him just being like a weird funny guy. But in a way that I had no context for. I interpreted it as just like being super weird.
BRITTANY: But it's good, you were doing what Helen Fisher said. You were looking for something to like.
KATIE: Yeah. You have to. We are all flawed humans in this world. And if you only look for the flaws, you're only going to be disappointed.
BRITTANY: That's the gospel that I'm always trying to preach to other people. And nobody wants to listen to me. So I'm really glad that you are able to publicly…
KATIE: We will start this ministry together brittany.
BRITTANY: Yes. I'm so ready.
KATIE: Should we go upstairs and put in our notice?
BRITTANY: [laughing] No longer work at GImlet, neither one of us. You guys are on your own.
KATIE: Hope you guys enjoyed Sampler! This is the last episode. Bye!!!
BRITTANY: Thanks so much to our Director of People Operations, Katie Christiansen, for sharing her online dating wisdom with us. OK, samplers, we’re going to take a quick break, but first, to recap what you have heard so far: the letter from a lovestruck teenager came from the show Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids and the primer on meeting people online is from Star Talk Radio.
Coming up...we are all gonna set some relationship goals…
DANYEL: There's always one person who comes up to us and says something to the effect of "You guys have... the perfect relationship.” And Elliott and I are always like NOOOO... no!
BRITTANY: Hi and welcome back to Sampler. In the first half of today’s show, we covered puppy love, dating, but now we’re gonna talk about what can come after that: marriage.
I’d like to start off by introducing you to one of my favorite married couples, Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson. They’re both journalists with decades of experience. They’ve both worked as editors of major music magazines — Elliott at XXL and Danyel at Vibe. Oh, and they host a podcast together called Relationship Goals, that they tape at their kitchen table. Here’s a clip.
DANYEL: You put the dirty water that was in the bowl of the salad spinner in the salad bowl.
ELLIOTT: Why would I put it in there?
DANYEL: And I didn’t know that, so I’m just adding the dressing, the parmesan cheese, the carrots and radishes and everything else. And when I was tasting it, I was like why is this salad gritty? It was gross.
ELLIOTT: So now I’ve been banned from sous chef duty after that. Now I’ve been eased back in. And today, what did I do with the spinach that was proper?
DANYEL: It was very good. He sautéed in some olive oil and some garlic and some lemon juice. And a tiny sprinkle of parmesan…
ELLIOTT: Alright so I’m back in your graces, that’s all they need to know. But I can’t go near salads.
DANYEL: There’s no salads.
ELLIOTT: Why do you love making me some fake sous chef? It’s a sous chef, right, as you call it?
DANYEL: Because seriously, I’ve been cooking in this marriage for ten years. You have never really cooked and that’s been someone cool.
ELLIOTT: I can’t cook.
DANYEL: But for the next ten years… you’re in the kitchen. This is how I called him into the kitchen tonight. I said Elliott, time for you to come in here and earn your keep.
BRITTANY On Relationship Goals, Danyelliott—as they’re sometimes called—talk about much more than the proper use of salad spinners. They dissect their relationship and why it works. They also talk about music, writing and their dog, Rose. Full disclosure: I find their podcast totally adorable and I really admire their commitment to letting it all hang out. I wanted to figure out the secret to their relationship success, so I invited them to come in for a little chat. They started off by telling me about how they met. Danyel was Elliott’s editor.
ELLIOTT: No way in hell I did I ever think I'd end up marrying her.
ELLIOTT: I don't even know, we didn't even know if we liked each other.
DANYEL: I didn't.
ELLIOTT: We respected each other from jump. But we never really got along. We didn't vibe well. We never vibed well.
DANYEL: And I always tell people, it wasn't that kind of thing like oh they hate each other, so that kind of proves they like each other. It was just kind of like... all right. It wasn’t really like.. hi elliott? Hi Danielle. Seven years later, eight years later, nine years later...
ELLIOTT: You gonna fast forward that great..?
DANYEL: Yeah I am.
DANYEL: And then I just saw him at a birthday party. After, it had been years. And I hadn't seen him in person in like, two or three years.
BRITTANY: What was different?
DANYEL: Well the main thing that was different was that he'd taken his cornrows out of his hair. Really working for me in terms of cuteness. I mean a love a good cornrow, but it just wasn't working.
ELLIOTT: Who doesn't love a good cornrow?
DANYEL: But it was not working for Elliott. But it was a really good moment for me, because I was like, I remember saying to my friend... Has Elliott? Has Elliott always been cute? And she was like, no... and I said, OK but he's really cute right now, and she was like "I don't know what's wrong with you, because you haven't even had anything to drink yet." So I went over there.
ELLIOTT: Thanks ladies.
DANYEL: I went over there, and I was just like, what's up with the cornrows, this is my super mack move right, I'm like. So I see you cut your hair, you know, all sassy, it's about time, whatever.
ELLIOTT: You started touching my hair.
DANYEL: Yeah. If I could tell the story, I would definitely tell that part.
DANYEL: But I was like, yeah, it looks really, you know, great. It's about time you cut it or whatever, and I did touch it, and I was like, so... what's the occasion? Why did you do it?
ELLIOTT: You didn't say it like this…
DANYEL: I did so... and then he goes... he goes... ‘My grandmother just passed away and she never did like the cornrows. AndI didn't want to wear them to her funeral, and I definitely didn't want her looking down from heaven on me and seeing those cornrows.’ And I was like... okay wow. Like we went out a couple of times in New York, and then I was going to San Francisco, the Bay Area to teach for a month, and I told him that, and he had said in passing "I'll come visit you while you're out there." And I thought that was the usual kind of BS from dudes. And he called me like the date before I was going, and he was like "So I booked my flight, and I'm going to need to tell you where to stay.” And I was like WHAT? Cause I had a little like, corporate apartment or something out there, so he comes to San Francisco, and... when I say we hadn't really become any, in any kind of way, you know what I'm saying.
BRITTANY: Yeah yeah yeah.
DANYEL: So I had like a guest in town...
ELLIOTT: A guest. [laughs]
DANYEL: So I had to entertain him. the first day and a half we did not enjoy each other’s company. It was super awkward, we were irritating each other. If we hadn't had the next day where we kind of had to see each other, and then the next day after that where we kind of had to see each other, I don’t know if it would've popped off. And honestly the last day he got food poisoning, and I had to take him to the emergency... and... um... and no, but, in real truth, it was at the hospital, the emergency room, that, I was like... okay. He's a real person. And I just felt... tied to him. And it took awhile for things to really kind to even work out once we got back to New York, but it's been on since pretty much.
BRITTANY: It's been on ever since then.
DANYEL: Pretty much
BRITTANY: So it was the food poisoning?
DANYEL: Yes it was. At in case, in any case, it took a minute but then you know, we got married a year and a half after the great food poisoning incident.
BRITTANY: How long have you guys been married?
DANYEL: 10 and a half years.
BRITTANY: That's beautiful. Why did you start a podcast though? Why a podcast about your marriage? Because you guys have both done so, so many other things.
ELLIOTT: Well one the things, prevailing thing, was... us trying to figure out how to work together. We were good at competing against each other. A year into our marriage, I was still in XXL, she got offered the job and go back to Vibe and be editor-in-chief. So then we worked and competed against each other, which was really fun for a bunch of newlyweds.
DANYEL: We were newlyweds. It was tough
ELLIOTT: So we would fight over T.I. coverage and never speak about it. And put magazines out. And then be able to talk about the magazines once they were out. It's great that like at the time, we were running the two premiere hip hop magazines,
BRITTANY: Yeah yeah yeah.
ELLIOTT: And kind of going for the same thing. And in this world, there are so many different lanes. So Danielle can be great, and I can be great, and it's less of a thing of us being looked at competing for the same thing. So I think that's helped immensely and like, and we still have our differences. But at the end of the day, we both want each other to win.
DANYEL: I feel like a lot of lot times if Elliott and I are out together, I feel like there's always one person who comes up to us and says something to the effect of "Oh my god, it is so great to meet you, you guys have... the perfect relationship." And… [laughing] I just want my relationship to be like your relationship. And Elliott and I are always like NOOOO... no. Like we have a great relationship, but it's by no means perfect.
DANYEL: And we work on it all the time. And it's fun but it's really hard. But you can't really say that to a person like...
DANYEL: Just like in the bar or whatever. So we wanted to talk about the fact that you know, because people say, sometimes they would say ‘You guys are my relationship goals.’ And that's why we named it that, because we were like, we need to explain to you guys that relationship goals is wild complex.
BRITTANY: But like, I mean, not to sound exactly like the person who is always approaching you guys in the bar... but... um... one of the things like, I listen to your show pretty much every single week, and it's really comforting. Like, my parents have been married for 36 years. And they have a similar dynamic where they are always joking with each other, poking fun at each other, and like, listening to your show, was the first time. Because I'm not... what, I'm 28... eventually I would like to get married in the future. But... you're kind of hesitant. You know what I mean? Because it's not easy, it's not like a cakewalk or anything like that. But hearing you guys go back and forth, it' kind of like, okay maybe this is something that's worth… [laughing] This may be something worth exploring.
DANYEL: No but I'm always like, if it's what you want, it could be really good. If it's what you want.
ELLIOTT: I think what it shows is that it never stops being work. Marriage is the most like, incredibly challenging but rewarding experience you could have, and I think we show that. But you still got to deal with this person whose feelings are prominent. Not just your own feelings are prominent. Her feelings, your partner's feelings are prominent. And then you have this thing that you’re joined in, that all we say is bigger than both of you, in a sense.
DANYEL: I think you're being quite eloquent right now if I do say so myself...
DANYEL: I do!
ELLIOTT: Thank you.
ELLIOTT: My speech class is...
ELLIOTT: This is why men can’t really explain their feelings out here in the streets. We love each other to death, but we also respect the hell out of each other still. And I think that we keep earning that respect, and earning that love from each other, and that's why it keeps moving forward.
DANYEL: And that’s real, that’s real.
BRITTANY: How has having a podcast about your relationship, that a lot of other people can hear, how has that affected, how has it changed your relationship?
DANYEL: I think some things can be magnified when you're kind of, for lack of a better term, performing your marriage.
DANYEL: Um, and... and there's this thing where I think I get... embarrassed much more easily than Elliott does. And just more self-conscious than he is, about you know presenting myself, and presenting our marriage. And so some of being on the podcast or me has made me sort of shrug my shoulders to some of that, more so, and sort of be like, well you know, life is life, this is us and people can like it or not. Like, I haven't always had that attitude. And I think I'm getting a little bit more of that. And I think it's good. But then there's other things I feel like I said are magnified. Like Elliott is really sarcastic, and on a daily basis, it's so fun, but then on the podcast, I'm like, he needs to be more sincere. But things are magnified because you feel like you're doing in front of people. And it's a process.
ELLIOTT: You're like the executive producer of the podcast in a sense, and also the performer. So I feel like you know, we kind of go about what Danyel thinks is cool enough over all. The lines get crossed all the times.
DANYEL: Behind the scenes I'm like pinching his leg, and I’m like, giving him the cut off sign, and he's just ignoring me [laughing] just ignoring me, continuing on, you don't care.
BRITTANY: So relationship goals, the name of the show. So the goals part I think is fed a lot by this segment that you guys do, called “Tips.” In the spirit of the interview, if you guys could, please close our conversation by providing our listeners with a relationship tip.
ELLIOTT: Don't worry about being right. Make it right. I think that sometimes you get so caught up, and you don't agree about something, you have to be right. There’s really nothing to.. there’s no real prize you get at the end. In an argument. You just really... you only argue because you want to have some type of understanding, right? so I think sometimes, especially with me, I will get caught up in I have to be right. I'm right, and you're wrong. It's not really about that, it's trying to figure out once you calm down, how to understand something. And even if you disagree know how to move, so... how do you then make it right?
DANYEL: Oh, just have rules of whose job is what in the house. Just don't change it. Just let that be a lifetime decision. So whoever’s job it is to do the trash, that's their job for life. I haven't taken the trash out in 10 years. And even when I was living in California, and Elliott was living in New York, I literally would try to save not taking the trash until Elliot came to see me.
ELLIOTT: ‘Hey babe it's great to see you. I have to put those six bags of garbage out…'
BRITTANY: I know I’m not alone in thinking this, but how cute are Danyel and Elliott? Like they both have the same job, they’re both in the same industry. And it just really reminds me — I don’t know if any of you guys have seen it — of “His Girl Friday.” When like, Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns finally get back together. And they can just like investigate stuff together. I could be alone in that. But I really enjoyed talking to them, and I really appreciate you guys listening today.
So today you have heard clips from Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, StarTalk Radio and Relationship Goals. Stay tuned after the credits for a sneak peek of next week’s show.
This episode was produced by Chris Neary, Matthew Nelson, Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman and myself.
It was edited by Caitlin Kenney, Annie-Rose Strasser and Peter Clowney.
Special thanks to Katie Christiansen. Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Mark Phillips. Other original music in the show was by Dr. Crosby. The show was mixed by Matthew Boll and Rick Kwan. Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.
BRITTANY: Next week on Sampler...we’ll take a walk through the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
PAUL: I was listening to what they were saying, but in the background I was like, “Wow, there’s Disneyland in the background! I really wish these guys would shut up so I could hear it!” I thought to myself, “You know, I could do this so much better.”