In what is sure to be a Hollywood move in the making, Karen B. Kaplan (above) shared her stranger-than-fiction love-story to the Modern Love section of the New York Times on Friday.
The incredible true story of two sweethearts who agreed to go their separate ways after college and meet up five years later when they were both ready to settle down has gone viral after being shared for the first time.
In what is sure to be a Hollywood movie in the making, Karen B. Kaplan shared her stranger-than-fiction love-story to the Modern Love section of the New York Times on Friday.
Her story begins, aged 18, when she was just a freshman at Cornell University in 1984. Kaplan had been dating 21-year-old Howard since the beginning of term.
Though they fell hard and fast in love, their tender ages – and the fact they lived on opposite coasts of the country, with Kaplan native to New Jersey and Howard residing in San Francisco – the pair decided to re-evaluate their courtship, concluding that neither of them were yet ready for life-long love.
‘I think finding The One is a matter of person, place and time. What if we’re both the right person but this is the wrong place and time? We’d miss our chance and regret it,’ Kaplan recalls telling Howard in her dorm at the time.
She added that she didn’t want to marry the first guy she felt serous about, but she wanted to give her and Howard a second chance.
‘Let’s meet in five years. I’ll be 23, and you’ll be 26. We’ll see if we want to get back together.’
Howard agreed, and the pair arranged to meet at the New York Public Library, near the uptown lion, at 4pm on the first Sunday of May, exactly five years later.
Kaplan and Howard wrote their pledge on a dollar bill, ripped it in half and each kept a piece of the severed note.
The location was chosen as a public setting would prevent any unwanted intimacy if either – or both- of the pair felt awkward. It also held sentimental value as both Kaplan and Howard were English majors, spending the near entirety of their time at Cornell surrounded by books.
The designated time meant they could begin with a drink, and, if all went well, proceed to go to dinner and see where the night took them.
Despite agreeing to go their separate ways, the couple failed to break-up right away. They continued dating for the rest of the summer and into the next school year.
Their relation finally ended a semester later when Howard moved away to take up an internship in Manhattan. In the meantime, Kaplan began dating somebody else.
Her story begins aged 18, when she was just a freshman at Cornell University (above). Kaplan had been dating 21-year-old Howard since the beginning of term
Another three-and-a-half years would pass before the pair would see one-another again.
During those some 38 months, Kaplan dating and even shared relationships with others, pondering each time if the man in front of her was ‘the one’, but the answer was never yes. For none of the men were Howard, Kaplan would later realize.
As the five year mark approached, Kaplan had moved to Minneapolis and was embroiled in what she remarked to be a dead-end relationship going nowhere fast.
Having not spoken to Howard since they last parted, and living in the age predating social media or cell phones, she knew little of his whereabouts, somewhere in California, but knew nothing of his personal life.
‘You’re trying to live your life like a movie. Real life doesn’t work like that,’ Kaplan recalls her sister telling her, when she revealed to her the real reason she’d flown from Minneapolis to New Jersey on the first month of May. ‘He’s not even going to remember, much less travel 3,000 miles. You’re setting yourself up for big disappointment.
But Kaplan disagreed. Despite nearly 60 months passing, she was confident Howard would show and remained optimistic that he wouldn’t settled down with another woman.
‘Let’s meet in five years. I’ll be 23, and you’ll be 26. We’ll see if we want to get back together,’ Kaplan told Howard. Howard agreed, and the pair arranged to meet at the New York Public Library, near the uptown lion, at 4:00pm on the first Sunday of May, exactly five years later. Kaplan and Howard wrote their pledge on a dollar bill, ripped it in half and each kept a piece of the severed note.
Surely enough, standing outside the library, in front of the lion, as the clock rang-out for 4pm, Kaplan spotted Howard heading towards her among a bustling crowd on Manhattan’s west side.
For two days Kaplan and Howard met up in the city, but it wasn’t an immediate happy-ever-after.
Kaplan still had to end her relationship in Minneapolis, and they also needed to work out how they were going to live together and in which city.
By fall, Kaplan moved to the Bay Area for a couple of months on a work assignment. A few months later, Howard moved in with her in Minneapolis, where they stayed for two years before returning to New York.
Shortly after arriving back east, the couple tied the knot.
In her New York Times article, Kaplan comments about how the almost serendipitous nature of how their relationship came to be has helped them navigate through the most difficult of times.
‘With a story like that, of course we had to stay together,’ Kaplan said. ‘A romantic past, we’ve discovered, can help keep you belted in place until you find equilibrium.’
Kaplan insists the story is not about starry-eyed romance, rather being smart in love.
‘For years, I ended the story with: “I thought I was just being practical in giving us a second chance. It turned out to be a good plan,”’ she said, but her perspective was changed recently.
‘Well, the plan may have been practical,’ a friend said to her recently. ‘But the fact that you both showed up: There’s the romance.’
Kaplan and Howard remain together to this day, 35 years later. The torn dollar bill they both signed is framed on his dresser.