After a Few First ‘Dates’ the Relationship Turned Serious
24th September 2021

On what they considered their first official date — a Halloween party in 2012 at a pub in New Haven, Conn. — Matthew Sipe and Ryan Watzel were in costume.

Mr. Sipe was dressed as Pikachu, the anime character from the Pokemon franchise. Mr. Watzel was an unspecified character from “Ghostbusters,” complete with what Mr. Sipe described as a very believable blinking, light-up proton pack. The two shared their first kiss that evening.

Though it wasn’t their first outing together, both men experienced a shift in the course of their relationship after that night.

“It happened pretty fast,” Mr. Sipe said.

The two initially met in the fall of 2012, when Mr. Sipe was beginning his first year of law school at Yale and Mr. Watzel was starting his second. Both attended what law school students called “bar review,” a punning excuse for socializing that takes place at a local watering hole.

Though it happened to be at a gay bar, in an acknowledgment of National Coming Out Day, which is on Oct. 11, all of the law school’s students were welcome.

“It was funny because we were all at this gay bar, not knowing whether someone’s actually going to be able to date you,” Mr. Watzel said. “So I’m pretty sure I asked someone in his class, ‘What’s his deal?’”

A day or two after they conversed easily at the bar, Mr. Watzel asked his new acquaintance, via Facebook, out to lunch. It was Mr. Sipe’s turn to be confused.

“I’d thought he was cute, but I thought nothing of it,” Mr. Sipe said of their initial encounter. “Absolutely nothing.”

He asked his friend group if they thought Mr. Watzel’s message was an invitation to a date or just a friendly gesture.

“They assured me, yes this is a date, or at least a screener,” he said. “I guess I passed the screener because somewhat soon thereafter we had a dinner date.”

Mr. Sipe, 31, is an assistant professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He graduated from the University of Virginia. Mr. Watzel, 34, is an attorney adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department in Washington. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Miami.

By the time Mr. Watzel began planning his post-law school career a year later, the relationship had become so serious that he limited his search to clerkships that would allow proximity to Mr. Sipe, who still had another year at Yale.

“I was willing to forego everything else to make sure I stayed in New Haven for the next year,” he said.

The two were married Sept. 4 at the American Institute of Architects in Washington, with Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, for whom Mr. Sipe had been a law clerk, officiating. The couple had about 100 guests, and provided custom masks for the occasion, after postponing their wedding twice because of the pandemic.

Mr. Watzel’s willingness to limit his career options for the sake of the relationship touched a chord with Mr. Sipe. He took a clerkship and a fellowship and a visiting teaching position in Washington, all en route to an eventual permanent academic position, so as not to dislodge Mr. Watzel from a dream job.

“It was like I was running out the clock to find something new to do in D.C., and I feel like I won the lottery five times in a row,” he said. “We solved the two-body problem!”

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