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She Had Three Nonnegotiables. He Had One. | Janes Trinket

She Had Three Nonnegotiables. He Had One.


Amanda Kay Cook was tired of relationships that went nowhere.

So, in October 2020, she drew up three nonnegotiables and rounded up 30 matches — “like on ‘The Bachelorette,’” said Ms. Cook, 29 — mainly from the dating apps Tinder, Hinge and Bumble, and a few from friends.

She rattled off her three nonnegotiables — they must be seeking a long-term relationship, share her political views and feel passionate about social justice — at the start of each required 15-minute FaceTime date. This quickly narrowed the field in half.

“If they hemmed and hawed,” about her requirements, she said, “they wouldn’t make the cut” and wouldn’t proceed to a second date.

(She even did an in-house Ted@Ted Talk on her dating method in 2022 when she worked there as an event planner).

In November, Andrew Philip Anello, who goes by Drew, jumped in, sort of, on his own.

One evening, at his place in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a mutual friend and singer, Reise Hooper, mentioned to Mr. Anello that she had a friend “looking to meet someone.”

“I don’t have a single guy friend I could fix her up with,” Ms. Hooper said.

Mr. Anello, 26, was a bit miffed. “I’m single and I’m a guy,” he said, to which his friend half teasingly replied, “Amanda’s too good for you.”

Out of playful spite, he then grabbed her phone to check out photos of Ms. Cook on Instagram. He messaged her right then and there.

“I’m Reise’s friend, and I think you’re beautiful,” said Mr. Anello, who grew up in various neighborhoods in New York City. He goes by Mello Anello, as a guitarist/songwriter inspired by Prince, and until 2022, regularly played gigs around New York. He is now a software developer at iMentor, a nonprofit mentorship program for high school students.

A few months earlier, Ms. Cook, who lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn, had actually downloaded “Stories,” one of his dozen songs on Spotify, after she got wind of him through their friend.

“I thought he was cute,” she said, and was happy to hear from him.

The next day her required 15-minute FaceTime date lasted an hour. “He hit all the boxes,” Ms. Cook said. “I immediately noticed his New York accent, and I loved it.”

Their face-to-face date, though, had to wait.

The next day she left on a monthlong visit with her mother in Highland Park, Ill., outside Chicago, where she grew up. Ms. Cook, now the special events coordinator at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Southern California.

Unexpectedly, her stay turned into three months. A day after she arrived she was rushed into the emergency room at NorthShore Highland Park Hospital for gallbladder surgery.

High on morphine to relieve the pain, which also loosened her inhibitions, she texted Mr. Anello about her situation. “I think you’re so cute,” she said. “I have such a big crush on you.”

He said he was “in shock” and “concerned for her well-being,” and somewhat flattered.

Soon they texted and spoke everyday. “I just felt such a connection to her,” he said, as other contenders fizzled out.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

Ms. Cook still had one nonnegotiable to clear: his paternal grandmother, with whom he was extremely close.

“We’re a package deal,” he said. “If my grandmother doesn’t like you, this probably won’t work.”

By December, Ms. Cook, told him how much she “really liked” him by repeating “really” 10 times.

“You just admitted you love me,” he told her. “I love you, too.”

On Jan. 4, 2021, she returned to New York. He rented a car to pick her up at LaGuardia Airport, but their anticipated storybook hello amounted to a quick hug and peck as airport security urged them along.

“It’s like a spinoff of ‘90-Day Fiancé,’” he said of the TLC reality show.

They had Chinese takeout at her Brooklyn apartment that evening, which he washed down with his go-to obsession — seltzer.

Mr. Anello, who loves taking long walks, slowly brought her up to speed on walks of up to eight miles — from Bushwick to Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.

In mid-January, a bit apprehensive, she met his grandmother. “My grandmother loved her,” he said, and she told all her friends at her senior center in Forest Hills, Queens, about her.

In April 2021, the two moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg.

“If we’re going to have kids one day we have to be married,” she said, when they spoke about children. For starters, in February 2022, they adopted Sasha, a rescue black Labrador retriever mix.

In April 2022, they took a ferry from Williamsburg to Manhattan for dinner at Benjamin Steakhouse. Afterward, he proposed outside the restaurant, but not on one knee. “I’m a germaphobe,” he said, with a laugh. In November 2022, they moved into an apartment in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan.

The couple married on Feb. 29, Leap Day, with Madeline Plasencia, a clerk at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, before Mr. Anello’s father and his girlfriend, and their friend Ms. Hooper, who acted as witness, and her boyfriend.

“I only have to remember our anniversary every four years,” Mr. Anello said jokingly. “Amanda is big about traveling. We’ll have a big trip every four years.”



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