Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Dr. Liane Hypolite tells her love story.
If you ask my partner his version of how we met, you’ll likely hear two different versions of the story. What’s certain is that Kirk and I met on a late Saturday night in Manhattan in 2018. After a day full of conference presentations throughout New York City, I made my way to a Latin nightclub for a party hosted by the biggest educational research organization in the country (wearing a not so glamorous white suit and flats, might I add). These conferences would typically take place in a different city every year, and given the amount of times I’ve attended, I grew accustomed to the sometimes awkward gathering of academics playing experts by day and “cool guys” by night. After having a few drinks amidst a group of friends and colleagues, I was approached by Kirk.
From what I recall, he started the conversation by asking for my name, where I was from, and what I was studying as a fellow PhD student. We realized in the first few minutes that our birthdays were a day apart and we both were pursuing our degrees in Southern California. He was a Georgia boy who was raised in Atlanta, and I was a daughter of Trinidadian immigrants who grew up in Boston. Like many Northerners, I carried stereotypes about Southern men assuming he might believe in traditional gender roles, like whether married women should take their husband’s last name. Even though we still have the last name debate, we bonded over earning our doctorates so far from home and danced a bit before the night ended.
After that initial meeting, Kirk and I decided to hang out again before the conference ended at—you guessed it—another conference party with our cohort mates and colleagues. He would tell you that this was our first date. I would disagree. But on that second night, Kirk told me I was his future and I laughed. Now, I realize what felt like an insincere pickup line was his manifestation of our future together.
Fast forward four years to today, and we have both earned our PhDs in Education and are proud puppy parents. As you can imagine, we have learned so much about each other (past our initial “first date” questions), including the love we share for making education more equitable and just for students. With that love, and the love we have for each other, we’ve also embraced the unique heritages we each come from—as our cultures are central to who we are and how we engage in the world. Kirk comes from a long line of African American farm workers and educators. His love for science, education, and gardening seemed inherent as it was passed down for generations. I come from an Indo and Afro Caribbean family. My immigrant family has instilled in me the belief that education provides opportunity, and that is exactly why I have pursued research about pathways to and through college.
Along with how our personal histories have impacted who we are, we have also shared our traditions with one another. Kirk grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church. Every car ride consisted of gospel music playing from either a CD or on the 24/7 gospel radio station. Kirk grew up knowing gospel songs better than the latest rap and R&B music. I grew up with a Roman Catholic dad and a Hindu mom. While neither were especially religious in the traditional sense, they taught my sister and I to have a moral compass steeped in love and care for others. On weekend mornings, my mom would play Hindu bhajans, which are similar to Gospel songs, but in Hindi. Now, our weekend mornings include blasting our shared playlist of Bhajans, Gospel, Soca, and music from “The A,” throughout the house.
At the same time, combining our cultures hasn’t always been as easy as a combined playlist. Trinidad, the island where my family is from, has many superstitions that I have carried with me. For instance, if we arrive home after midnight, we have to walk through the doorway backwards to ensure that evil spirits do not follow us in. And, at the start of every week, I light a bundle of sage to smudge the house to cleanse it of negative energy.
Early on, Kirk was pretty resistant to my superstitions when I would ask him to walk back outside after forgetting to walk backwards or when he would constantly sneeze because of the burnt-sage fumes that stung his nose. I, on the other hand, am often resistant to the ways his Southern charm helps him win me over during arguments and when his “Southern gentleman-ness” makes him feel like he has to drive, always. While I am not complaining about having the luxury of riding as a passenger in LA traffic, we have come to an agreement that chivalry can be genderless. I love to open doors for him from time to time and have started driving us around more and more. With mutual respect and adoration, our love looks like leaning into one another’s needs, traditions, and cultures to create new ways of being whole, together.
Right before the new year, Kirk surprised me with a trip back to New York City, where we first met, and he proposed. As we plan for our wedding next summer, we want to thoughtfully combine his Southern roots with my Caribbean roots. For me, the sounds of steel pans during our cocktail hour and Trinidadian flags at the reception to wave during dancing. Both are typical parts of Caribbean celebrations, and will add a fun cultural spark throughout our wedding. Music, dancing, and food brings people together. For Kirk, the fusion of R&B, hip hop, and soca music will bring an element of both our cultures to our wedding day.
At home, we meld our cultures at every meal and with my mom’s help, Kirk is learning to cook some of my favorite Trinidadian dishes. We would like that represented in our wedding with a menu that combines soul food with Trini flavors, like shrimp and grits for dinner and coconut sugar cake for dessert. In celebration of our cultural differences, we have found the commonalities between us that bridge our love for each other. We are ready to be pronounced Dr. and Dr. on our wedding day. Now if only we could agree on what our last name is going to be…