Sunday Kind of Love: Rachel Jo Silver and Justin Boelio

DBAG DATING_SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE_RACHEL JO SILVER AND JUSTIN BOELIO_1Brooklyn Heights strolls. Photo by Caroline Owens. 

How often do you come across a couple that met in kindergarten? If you live in New York City, the probability of encountering such endangered human species is about as low as, say, meeting a single 30-something-year-old male sans commitment issues. (Yes, I’m always projecting.) This is why when I had the luck of meeting Rachel Jo Silver and Justin Boelio, two Michigan natives who first laid eyes on one another in Miss Ruben’s kindergarten class in the late 80’s, I decided to do humanity a favor by documenting their unique union on this paramount platform. (You’re welcome, social anthropologists everywhere.)

What’s even more striking than the longevity of Rachel and Justin’s relationship is the actual fabric of it, built on respect and patience and the kind of mutual trust that allowed them to embark upon their very own joint venture. In 2016, the Brooklyn Heights-based couple launched the wedding video platform Love Stories TV, which you should explore right after you are finished with this interview! (Disclaimer: even the most cynical folks may turn into mush.)

Oh, they may also have the most compatible body language that I have ever seen, but I don’t want to get creepy so I’ll stop there.

Marina: So, take me back to Miss Ruben’s kindergarten class!

Rachel: Justin has a better memory than me when it comes to this.

Justin: I had a crush on Rach even then, but I would show it in the ways that little boys show a crush – they torment. We would have playtime and I would tug at her…

Rachel: Which I remember! Also, there were these wheelbarrows and Justin would always crash into me, and then I would go home and tell my mom about it.

Justin: I have one really clear memory from that time, of Rachel’s birthday party. She had this big bowling birthday party and she invited me…

Rachel: I remember looking up his number. I was like “Mom, I want to invite Justin Boelio” but she didn’t have his number so I had to look him up.

Justin: Something came up that weekend and I couldn’t go, so the following week my mom sent me to school with this huge gift for Rachel. It was very big and I was very small, so I got really flustered about the idea of giving it to her in front of other people. We had this little coat room so I tried to give it to her there – except that Rach wouldn’t accept the gift! She was like, “You didn’t come to the party, I won’t take it.” I had no idea what to do or how to handle it. It’s funny, you realize now that we are still the same people: Rachel is still willful and stubborn, and I’m still bashful.

Rachel: Then I went to another school, until high school. We didn’t stay in touch but neighborhood was pretty small and we had a lot of friends in common. One summer, my parents got a trampoline and Justin’s group of friends started sneaking over to use it, and that’s when we all started hanging out again. That’s when I started liking you. We were at a party at Esther Waldman’s and I was like “Oh, I like Justin.”

Marina: Is that when you started dating?

Rachel: Yes, we dated on and off in high school. Sometimes we were boyfriend and girlfriend, other times we weren’t. It was high school, you know? Then we got more serious,we went to senior prom together. Oh and a 70s dance! Remember that store Rainbow? I got this super-short 70s outfit there. I can’t believe my mother let me wear this out.

unnamedProm night!

Justin: It was so much fun. So yes, we dated at the end of high school but then broke up within the first couple of months in college.

Rachel:Justin went to Michigan and I went to Michigan State. Technically, we were like an hour apart, but we were kids and it was hard to not see each other all the time so we broke up. We didn’t see one another throughout most of college but, I don’t know like how to explain it, but I just knew I loved him. Then, it was our senior year and I was going to Justin’s school for a mutual friend’s birthday party so I thought to myself: “I’m going to get back together with Justin at Nathan’s birthday!”

Marina: No way!

Rachel: Yes, and then I saw him at the party. I remember that he was wearing one of those tight white waffle undershirts from American Apparel and a gray baseball cap. We were by a staircase and I said “I love you!” and then we kissed. We got back together after that.

nyc2009Young love.

Justin: Then I moved to New York and Rachel moved to Paris.

Rachel: I went to Paris for grad school. We knew we loved one another but since I was going to Paris we decided to “act like adults” and break up again. But that didn’t last very long.

Justin: Yes, I came to visit her in April when she was in her second semester. It was a great trip.

Rachel: It was! We thought we were so fancy and cool – meanwhile, my bedroom in Paris was so small. I had this tiny single bed and the bathroom was like a closet separated by a sliding door. Justin couldn’t even sit in that bathroom and shut the door because his legs were too long!

Justin: By the end of the trip I was having all these back pains. I had to take the RER to the airport and Rachel had given me this huge bag of books to take home for her. My back was hurting so much that I couldn’t even get the bag off the train, so Rachel volunteered to help me. I remember this fancy French woman walking by and seeing Rachel dragging this enormous bag and me walking next to her with just my little backpack. She stopped and started abrading me in French – I have no idea what she was saying but she ripped into me. It was so funny.

Rachel: If somebody were to do a side story to Rachel and Justin’s life, it would just be Justin carrying Rachel’s sh*t – my clothes, my books, moving, airports..

Justin: That’s what the montage would be in a film – me carrying Rachel’s heavy bags over the years. I have this very clear memory of Rachel moving from Paris to New York at the end of the summer and pulling up in a cab with all these enormous bags. I was living in this tiny room in Park Slope, it was like a single room occupancy situation…

Rachel: This was also the summer when I was wearing a lot of cowboy boots and peasant hats. So first I showed up with all these bags, and then I volunteered to go look at apartments with him, except that I could barely walk because I had these big heeled cowboy boots on. I remember Justin kept turning around and looking at me – he was so nice but you could tell by his face how he really felt. He ended up renting a room from this Colombian couple…

Justin: Which I totally owe to Rachel! I feel like that story is also emblematic of our relationship. I’m borderline compulsive about being on time, so I was so stressed out. By the time we got to the apartment, there were about ten people ready to take the room. But Rachel has this way of connecting with people – she started talking to the owner of the apartment about this painting on the wall, which it turned out had been painted by her grandmother. She totally sealed the deal.

Rachel: And an hour earlier you had been regretting bringing me!

Justin: You are definitely my better half in that sense. Now that we’re older, we’re on the same page in regards to what our skill sets are. If we have to call the airport to change our tickets, which requires patience and, you know, being nice to people, that’s Rachel. Then, when it comes to taxes and taking out the garbage…

Rachel: The hard stuff.

Justin: The detail-oriented stuff. Details, they are not a big part of your life, but they are definitely a huge part of my life.

(Collective laughter ensues.) 

LBi 2015

Justin: We’re such extreme opposites in some ways. I’m super introverted and Rachel is the most extroverted of the extroverts. But we also definitely have our shared blind spots – mostly domestic things like cooking, turning on an oven.

Rachel: Neither of us can cook.

Marina: When did you guys move in together?

Rachel: We actually didn’t live together until about six or seven years into living in New York. We never broke up again after Paris. We were in love and we knew we were probably going to get married but we were young and wanted to wait.

Justin: I think you need time to find your own way, do your own thing, establish your career – especially in New York. We had to navigate that for a bit. I went to grad school in Chicago for a year, then I moved back to New York and applied for PhD programs. I got accepted to the University of Washington all the way in Seattle, so that was a decisive moment.

Rachel: I had just started working at Birchbox and it was clear in just a few months that  it was like a rocket ship, the kind of job that changes your life. I encouraged Justin to go to Seattle but I couldn’t go with him. At the end, he decided that he didn’t want to do it.

Justin: Yes, so I stayed. Within a couple of years we got engaged and got married. We’ve been living together since 2012. We’re like a team, right babe?

Q76A7959Teamwork. Photo by Caroline Owens. 

Marina: How did you propose?

Rachel: It’s a funny story – I was so clueless! Justin suggested that we go to Northern Michigan, which is the most beautiful place you can go to in the Fall. You can drive but he decided that we should fly there, which felt so extravagant. Then we were running late to the airport and our only option was a black car for $100. We were younger and always worried about money, so this felt like a big deal, but Justin was like: “We’ll take it!” When we finally got to Detroit the weather was terrible and we couldn’t get on the second plane. I was about to cry but Justin was so chill about it, he just rented a car and we drove up. He even volunteered to talk about Halloween with me, which is my favorite topic but definitely not his! The next day we went on a walk to this really beautiful beach, and then he proposed and I was like: “Oh, this is why you were so nice!”

halloween2013Speaking of Halloween.. 

Justin: Rachel’s family is great, it was so much fun to do it with them. Also, I think they were happy it was finally happening, because they had been super patient. Right?

Rachel: My parents aren’t very traditional. I guess it was just a typical parental thing, since we had been together for so long. Justin and I actually had little-to-nothing to do with the wedding – my mom and grandma planned the whole thing! We didn’t see the venue until the day of the wedding, we didn’t try the food, nothing… We were so lucky!

wedding2013Wedding day in Charlevoix, Michigan, 2013

Justin: I think if we would have done it ourselves, we would have gone to City Hall. We were way in over our heads – speaking of the aforementioned blind spots!

Rachel: And now we are running a media company based on wedding videos! I loved our wedding. Also, I’m really close with my grandparents, and my grandfather started having health problems the year before. Right around the time we were getting married, he really started slowing down. On the day of our wedding, he told me: “This is the best day I ever had.” My grandparents didn’t have daughters and I’m their oldest grandchild, so it was this proud thing for him to have everybody there. We didn’t even go on our honeymoon right after, it seemed silly to leave since our families were there. My grandfather had a really big boat in Northern Michigan so we went on a boat ride, he drove the boat and everything… Two weeks after we got back to New York, he died. It was bizarre, it’s almost as if he had this wedding with all the people he loved, he we went on a boat ride, and then he was like “Ok, I went, I saw everybody. 87, I’m done.” I think should all hope to have our lives end like that. In a way, I associate that with our wedding. I think it was really important for our entire family and friends.

Wedding

Marina: I know exactly what you mean. It had another kind of significance.

Justin: Yeah, since we had been dating for so long, the wedding wasn’t any sort of big formality, but more like a big blowout party. The next big inflection point a couple of years later was starting the site.

Marina: Where did the idea for Love Stories TV come from?

Rachel: I was working at Birchbox and we were creating a lot of videos. Meanwhile, there was so much video content already out there, so I was thinking a lot about curation and aggregation. When we got married Justin and I decided not to do a wedding video, which I ended up regretting when our friends and family staged the most amazing flash mob at our wedding. I starting noticing all these amazing new wedding videos. Technology had evolved so much over the years and suddenly everybody was producing these cinematic feature film trailers, except that there was nowhere to really watch them besides Vimeo. So I guess seeing all this great content and my prior reflections about content curation just clicked together, and I had an idea to create this platform. Justin is a data scientist at Random House so he had the digital skill set to build the site.

Justin: I was also really impressed with the quality of the content, as well as its authenticity. These are some of the most emotional videos you’ll see – in fact, these are pretty much the only videos of men showing genuine emotion!

Rachel: You know, you can tell your husband that you have this idea for a wedding video website, and they will probably support you, but Justin didn’t just do that. He actually co-found the site with me! He took it so seriously from the second I told him about the idea. (Turns to Justin.) That’s something I really love about you.

summer_2013That might not be the only thing!

Justin: Rachel and I have built up so much equity with one another over time. We are really patient with one another and we know each other’s hang-ups and shortcomings, so we don’t really fight. I think that’s really important in a business, because of how much time you spent working really closely together and defining a vision and being creative. It’s also a lot fun, a new adventure. I really like it.

Rachel: I love it. You know, all of our friends have babies and now we are sort of on the same trajectory as them, except that our business is our baby.

summer2013

Marina: You’re on the New York version of the same trajectory. Speaking of which, what do you guys think when you see people dating in New York?

Justin: Hmm… To be honest, it seems like the guys are pretty happy. Meanwhile, some of the girls dating in New York are really unhappy about that experience.

Rachel: I think dating gets harder as you get older. On one hand, you’re this cool adult who has it together, at least more together than at 22. On the other hand, you’re also a fully formed human and you have a life, so there’s this challenge of finding somebody who fits with your life. Wanting the same thing seems really important, just both being in that place where you are ready for something serious. Also, there’s this societal pressure to go out there and experience things and date different people before settling down, but is that really for everyone?  Personally, I didn’t even like dating. I distinctly remember being in Paris and being “on a break” from Justin and going out with these guys and thinking the entire time “This is so overrated.”

Marina: I couldn’t agree more. I’m always telling my friends to curb their experimentation thoughts because it’s a zoo out there. Any advice for us single folks?

Justin: I think it’s about figuring out what your expectations are, and if they are totally reasonable. People have all these mental models of what they’re waiting for, but maybe there’s no such perfect person and you are missing out on some great people while searching for this ideal. Maybe you need to figure out your top priorities and what you would be willing to compromise on. And then you just need to be patient.

Rachel: I never know what to tell my friends in regards to who to go on a date with, or how to play it with texting. But sometimes my friends tell me “I just want someone who loves me the way Justin loves you”. And this is when I tell them that they deserve this. Everyone deserves this. I’m sorry if this sounds anti-feminist, but I really do think that having somebody who loves you makes you stronger and better. If I didn’t have Justin’s support, I don’t know if I would have taken certain risks in my life. That’s just the truth. So I tell people that they deserve to have somebody who’s nice to them all the time.

Q76A7899Photo by Caroline Owens. 

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