The Wave Emoji That Started it All

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Neither Kimberly NiCole Harris nor William James Browns Jr. had high expectations when they connected online in August 2019. Both had become almost disillusioned with the online dating world after trying various sites and apps.

It was tiring, Ms. Harris said, “just not really finding people that you connect with.”

“They weren’t working for me,” Mr. Browns said, adding that he was unable to find someone who shared his interests and values.

Which is what prompted both to join “Single Blerds” — a Facebook dating group specifically for those who identify as single, Black nerds.

Though neither had immediate success in the group, they stayed because they enjoyed the community. Until one day, when Mr. Browns liked Ms. Harris’s photo in the group. She responded about week later, on Aug. 22, 2019, with a wave emoji in a private message, initiating what Mr. Browns describes as “the greatest, most awkward and most introverted romantic meeting of all time.”

Born and raised in Aurora, Ill., Ms. Harris, 35, received a bachelor’s degree in political science, public policy and magazine journalism from Syracuse University, before attending Princeton University for a masters in public affairs. She graduated in 2019 with a law degree from Northwestern University and is currently a trust and estate planning associate at Perkins Coie in Chicago.

Mr. Browns, 27, was born in Chicago and spent his teenage years in Westchester, Ill., after moving to the area with his mother at the age of 14. He attended Bates College, where he graduated with a double bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry. Mr. Browns is currently a middle school and high school science teacher at Providence-St. Mel School in Chicago.

One month after that fateful wave, Ms. Harris and Mr. Browns’s first date started with mini-golf at Putting Edge in Norridge, Ill., and ended with dinner at a Longhorn Steakhouse. But not without a few mishaps.

“I was nervous,” Ms. Harris said. “I had to drive 40 minutes away to a place he picked. It’s in the rain. It’s at night. And I don’t know this guy.” They had also intended to go to Texas Roadhouse for the chain’s rolls; when their food arrived, they realized their mix-up.

But their first date went so well that the rain, distance and carbohydrates didn’t matter. “I wanted the date to continue because we were able to talk about anything that came up and laugh about the silliest of things,” Ms. Harris said.

Mr. Browns felt similarly: “I finally was with somebody who showed me that they’re intellectual, they can laugh and joke, and they can have fun.”

The two became an official couple a month later on Nov. 2, a week after sharing their first kiss at a party Ms. Harris threw to celebrate passing the bar exam.

But according to both Ms. Harris and Mr. Browns, they had already fallen in love.

For Mr. Browns, it was when Ms. Harris “didn’t run” when he told her about his financial troubles. For Ms. Harris, it was when she saw how easily Mr. Browns interacted with her family.

Soon after becoming official, Ms. Harris purchased a home in Westchester, Ill., about five minutes from where Mr. Browns was living with his family. She closed on the sale in March 2020, and Mr. Browns moved in with her in June.

Before he moved in, however, the couple discussed their future, including the possibility of marriage; their age gap placed them at different points in their lives. So when Mr. Browns proposed on Father’s Day 2021 at his father’s grave in Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery, Ms. Harris wasn’t surprised. She was delighted.

The pair was wed on July 29 at Independence Grove, a forest preserve in Libertyville, Ill., by Rev. Michael Vargas, a member of the American Association of Wedding Officiants, in front of 175 mostly vaccinated guests. The ceremony was followed by a dinner reception in Independence Grove’s Audubon Hall.

Both bride and groom are looking forward to “seeing all of our hard work come to fruition,” Mr. Browns said.

Ms. Harris added: “You think about finding someone, and about being in a relationship and about getting married so much that after a while the hope is still there, but the feeling that it’s actually possible starts to fade a little bit. So that we’re actually here, it’s surreal and unbelievable.”

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