Good Drinks author Julia Bainbridge and chef Alan Delgado fell in love during the pandemic. Despite lots of calls and texts from Texas to New York, they didn’t meet in real life until he moved to New York months later for work. But things clearly worked out because this very cute couple recently got engaged. Here’s their story…
So, how did you two meet?
Julia: At some point in 2019, this person I thought was cute was appearing on the Instagram of a chef I know in Austin. I don’t know if it was you who followed me or if I followed you.
Alan: I was planning to move to New York in May 2020, but went on vacation first. I landed in Amsterdam on March 20th. Then they started shutting everything down because of the pandemic. We were just messaging at that point, we hadn’t even heard each other’s voices. We jumped on a phone call and talked for two hours.
Julia: It just went from zero to sixty. We learned a lot about each other early on — our hopes and dreams, losses and insecurities, what we believe our strengths and weaknesses are. All that stuff happened before we met in person and before there was any kind of intimacy. I can’t say I have ever handled dating that way in my adult life.
Alan, how did you end up moving to New York in May 2020?
Alan: I got a job offer. Packed up my cookbooks and went to New York. As I was driving in, I was sending her screenshots of how far away I was. She was my first stop.
Julia: It was always the plan that he’d have his own apartment. It was very possible that once we were around each other, it wouldn’t work. I was so nervous. He’s sending screenshots like ’10 minutes out!’ and then he parked in the parking lot across the way and took a picture of the exterior of my building. I’m texting my best friend, sweating. Heart is pounding.
Alan: I was nervous but excited.
Julia: Then you entered the doorway, and we hugged and I blacked out the rest. We went on a walk to Fort Greene Park and held hands. It was beautiful and also awkward, but we were making fun of the awkwardness. This was early in the pandemic — we were all still wiping down our groceries — so we took Covid tests when he arrived. Then, following public health guidelines, we waited two weeks to be sure our results were negative before kissing or touching one another. I can’t believe we stuck to it, but we really did.
Wow. What was it like when you finally kissed?!
Alan: Even though we were nervous, it just felt like…us. Like, what I imagined it was going to feel like.
Julia: I think, more than what the first kiss or whatever else felt like, it was his smell. He just smelled right to me. Also, we tried to keep the pressure off the first time we were intimate. We joked about how it was only fair to try at least three times before we made any judgment about whether or not we had chemistry. Luckily, chemistry wasn’t an issue.
I want to ask about getting engaged, but first, Julia, you were 38 at the time, and I’m curious if you felt societal or familial pressure around marriage.
Julia: I don’t know how to account for this, but I did not feel that pressure. Maybe because my parents have been pretty hands off with that kind of stuff, just letting their children live their lives.
Alan: I actually had more of that pressure. I’m from a Mexican household, and every single time I visited home it was like, ‘When are you gonna get married?’
Julia: People say timing is everything and it’s annoying when you’re really wanting a relationship. Some months before the pandemic hit, I was like, All right, I just don’t think this is going to happen for me. I was open to finding someone, but I wasn’t gripping on as tightly as I did in my early thirties and late twenties. Sometimes that pressure and expectation can suffocate a relationship before it has the chance to grow. We met each other at a time when we were both ready to give and receive love.
Alan: We were both in the right place at the right time. We formed a partnership, and it has been really beautiful.
Okay, let’s talk engagement. What happened?
Alan: I thought that it wasn’t fair for only one person to get to ask. So, I suggested that we both have the opportunity to plan something and go through the emotions and the feelings of proposing and being proposed to. Julia kindly agreed. We were looking at rings, but you didn’t want an engagement ring.
Julia: Yeah, I’m not interested in a rock. I knew Alan wanted a gold chain and why not give someone something they will love? We went to Popular Jewelry together to look at chains for him. I started trying on stuff, too. We figured yours out and I asked them to put it on hold. Then you told them to put the one I liked on hold, too.
So, in terms of having two proposals, was it a free for all or did you assign each other different time periods?
Alan: Free for all! But you said you were going to go first —
Julia: — because of the patriarchy and all that. I’m in grad school, so I wanted to do it on a break. For Thanksgiving, we went to El Paso to visit his family. When we got back to New York, I went out to get breakfast sandwiches early in the morning and put his necklace in the bag. I was nervous walking back. When I walked in, he was waking up, and all I had to do was hold the bag up and he knew what was happening.
What was it like to be proposed to, Alan?
Alan: It’s beautiful to be asked to spend the rest of your life with someone. It was nice that it happened in the comfort of our little bubble. That’s what we created for ourselves and so we just wanted to celebrate that.
Was there an elaborate placing of the chain?
Julia: [Laughs.] No, no. I might have said, ‘Will you marry me?’ but mostly it was quiet and confident and loving.
Alan wearing his engagement chain the day after getting engaged
Okay, now onto the second proposal.
Alan: It was December 25th —
Julia: — which doesn’t have any significance for either of us.
Alan: The city was empty.
Julia: It felt like ours.
Alan: It was a really nice day. We walked over the Manhattan Bridge, which we like to do. On one of our first dates, we had gone to Nom Wah for dim sum. So, I decided we should pick up a bunch of dumplings and head back home.
Julia: As we were walking back up the bridge, he started reflecting on our relationship. I’ve heard other people say, ‘I knew something was going on because he started talking about our relationship.’ But I was none the wiser because something that he has done from the beginning is reflect on things that are going well about our relationship or things that he loves.
It’s nice because people can tend to only assess the relationship when things are wrong.
Alan: When we got to the halfway point, the sun was setting and the sky was all orange. I asked her, we kissed, and then walked home holding hands and ate like 40 dumplings.
Julia and Alan just after the second proposal