By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]
When Cody Mello-Klein moved to Alexandria in December 2018 to work as a reporter at the Alexandria Times, the Boston-area native was not only launching his journalism career – he was ready for a fresh start with dating. Unbeknown to him, Anastasia Mazur had also moved to Alexandria from Ithaca, New York six months earlier and she, too, was looking for a new beginning.
It only took them a little over a month after Cody’s arrival to find each other, and they’ve been essentially inseparable ever since.
They met through the Bumble dating app, and they both deliberately chose that app because it requires the woman to initiate contact.
“It was my first experience with a dating app,” Cody said.
“On Bumble, the girl has to make the first move,” Anastasia interjected.
“Which is exactly why I did it,” Cody laughed.
After their profiles matched, Anastasia sent Cody a gif of a bear waving hello, and he responded with a waving whale. They texted back and forth through the app for a few days, each finding things to like in the other.
“One of the things that drew me to you is that you said you cried at a movie, and I thought that was a good sign that you could relate to the things around you, and you felt powerfully connected to something,” Anastasia said. “I thought that was impressive.”
“Yeah, the day we started texting I had gone to see ‘If Beale Street could talk,’ the Barry Jenkins adaptation of the James Baldwin novel,” Cody said. “I had gone to see it by myself because at that point I was new in Alexandria, so I didn’t have any friends. … And then I ended up crying at the end of that movie.”
The weekend they started texting was the 2019 Super Bowl weekend. Though neither Cody nor Anastasia are big football or sports fans, both had the game on while texting back and forth that day. Both were cautious – Anastasia because of a prior marriage that she termed “somewhat abusive” and Cody because of an earlier relationship that had gone “awry” – so it took them a couple of weeks to work up to an in-person meeting.
“I think I had to push you because you’re very soft-spoken,” Anastasia said. “I said, ‘Can I give you my number?’”
They decided to meet on Cedar Street, near the border of where Del Ray meets Old Town. Because Cody parked at the bottom of the street and Anastasia at the top, they had a dramatic walk toward each other before they actually met.
“We had this long walk to see each other. It was very suspenseful,” Anastasia laughed.
“So we met up and started walking down into Old Town, past the Metro stop and down King Street and we were just chatting along the way,” Cody said. “I think you recommended us going to Dolci Gelati to sort of have our first sit-down date together.”
They pair quickly found they held similar political views, a discovery expedited by a Anastasia’s statement that she was “fiercely antiTrump” Cody recalled. “And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I think we’re on the same page here,’ which is nice.”
“I think I was being bitingly honest with my opinions so they were out there right away,” Anastasia said. “So that if you didn’t like what you’ve got, you knew that going in that’s who I was.”
“I really appreciated it because it spoke volumes about how confident you were in your own beliefs and your own sense of self,” Cody said.
As they continued to talk, the pair found they had much more in common than first met the eye. They strolled down to The Torpedo Factory, where a playful game with cat and dog photos in one studio both broke the ice and told Cody and Anastasia more about each other’s likes and dislikes.
“I’m a cat person and he’s a dog person and I was putting all the cat pictures in front and you were taking all the dog pictures and putting them in front of my cat pictures,” Anastasia said. “I thought, ‘OK, I need someone who can spar with me a little bit.’”
That first date ended up lasting five hours, as the pair walked and talked, getting to know one another.
“After that first date, I remember wanting to spend more time with her, and wanting to learn more and more about her until I understood her inside and out,” Cody said. “And as a journalist, that’s typical, but I wanted to grasp every little detail about her and what made her tick.”
They quickly made interesting discoveries about shared experiences and traits.
“The first few conversations we had, we were already talking about my grandmother being a Holocaust survivor and your grandmother having been a survivor on the Polish side having gone through Serbia and all that,” Cody said.
“We have interesting connections that I wouldn’t have thought,” Anastasia said. “And [you were] so forward about some of those hard things that sort of shaped you and your family.”
In addition to politics and family experiences, they bonded over their shared sense of being nerds, though of differing types. Both were undergraduate English majors and both love reading.
“I love that we can just sit and read. Even if it’s not the same kind of book,” Anastasia said. “To just sit next to one another and just read, even if we’re not talking to one another.”
Cody shared his love of movies, video games and dogs with Anastasia, who introduced Cody to the joy of living with two cats.
“You also love movies and that’s not necessarily something I was interested in, but you showed me how literary they can be and how powerful the imagery can be. You sharing that with me has been a bonding experience. We now have Sunday movie nights where we get to show each other our favorite movies,” Anastasia said.
In February 2020, almost exactly a year after they began dating, Cody and Anastasia decided to move in together. At this point, it was clear that they had a long-term future together, something they both began to suspect after attending the wedding of one of Anastasia’s friends back in the summer of 2019.
“I remember dancing with you during a slow dance during the wedding, and the thought sort of starting to form at that point,” Cody said. “I think it was from then on it was just sort of a gradual development, in the back of my mind.”
After that, honest conversations informed their decision to take that next step.
“We’re not older, but we’re in our late 20s and a lot of our friends are getting married or have been married,” Anastasia said. “We weren’t looking to just casually date. If it’s going to be serious, let’s commit and if it’s not, then we have to go our separate ways. I like to say we just fell into a committed relationship. It just came on so easy.”
So Cody and Anastasia moved in together, and then adopted their dog, Feta, all in the weeks leading up to the March 2020 shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I always said I would never want to work with my significant other,” Anastasia said. “My job is my life and that’s a lot of intermingling.”
Yet they found that there were positives to being forced to share space while working from home.
“We joke that it sort of added a few extra years to our relationship counter. Because typically we would never have had the opportunity to be with each other 24/7,” Cody said.
“I got to see what your job was really like and same for you,” Anastasia added.
Cody had the added benefit of watching a teacher strive to connect with her students each day at the same time the Times had been covering how COVID-19 was impacting all facets of life, including in Alexandria’s schools.
“One of the things that I first loved when I met her was that she was a teacher,” Cody said. “I have benefitted from great teachers in the past. My dad is a professor at a different level of education, but I still understood what it takes to be a teacher and had tremendous respect, but during the pandemic I was seeing her doing it at our dining room table every day and really see what it took to be a successful teacher at a time where it was not easy. … I was just so proud of her.”
In addition to working remotely from home soon after moving in together, Anastasia began a doctoral program through the University of Pittsburgh in March 2020.
“I became the chef,” Cody laughed.
“And you were somebody who told me I could go for this program. I was nervous about applying and he was like, ‘Of course you’re smart enough. Of course you can do this. What do I need to do to help you?’” Anastasia said.
Once they had decided on a future together, Cody turned his focus to how to propose to Anastasia.
“Me proposing to her was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. Because I’m super hard on myself. It’s to my benefit professionally, but probably to my detriment personally,” Cody said. “And so I was just thinking nonstop, ‘What’s the perfect way for me to do this? How am I going to make it a surprise?’”
Cody decided the proposal needed to be quintessentially Alexandria, because this city is where they met, fell in love and made their first home together. And he knew it needed to take place in Del Ray, a neighborhood they particularly love. So he enlisted the help of the Del Ray leader he knew best: Pat Miller.
“She was the first guest on the podcast and I’ve talked to her countless times for other things. She immediately connected me with like 10 different people,” Cody said.
Cody knew he wanted the proposal to take place in Pat Miller Square in the heart of Del Ray and he knew he wanted lights to be involved. So Miller helped plan a community “start of summer” event on June 25, 2021, in the square with a band, which created a festive atmosphere.
“I was able to get someone who rigged up like a chicken wire fence that we could lace lights through to say ‘Marry Me.’ We were able to get a band to play, which I loved because I’m obviously a big music and live music person. I had the band learn a song for the proposal that I knew you liked: ‘Bloody Valentine,’ by Machine Gun Kelly. Which is not my cup of tea, but Anastasia loved it,” Cody said.
Cody had accounted for everything – everything, that is, except Anastasia’s high heels and sore legs.
“We had gone out to dinner at Evening Star. The plan was to then go to Dairy Godmother to grab custard and then walk across the street to Pat Miller Square and sit down and then I was going to propose to her,” Cody said.
The dinner went great and afterward Cody suggested the stroll to Dairy Godmother.
“I wear these heels to go out and he’s having me walk down a couple of blocks and it’s hurting my feet,” Anastasia said. “And I’m like, ‘Cody, we don’t have to get ice cream. Just think of me Cody. And he turns to me and says, ‘I AM thinking of you.’ And I was like, ‘OK, what does that mean?’ I have these burning legs and he was like, ‘Look! Over here! Let’s listen to music.’”
Anastasia made it to the park, where her best friend and her friend’s boyfriend wore disguises and filmed the whole thing, while passersby and those in the square listening to the band formed a festive audience when Cody knelt to ask Anastasia to marry him.
“It was a perfect, perfect moment,” Anastasia said. “The other part was that my best friend, who I call my other soulmate …. saw the whole thing and I was like, ‘He really understands me.’ He really captured everything.”
“It went way better than I thought it would,” Cody said.
“Even with me almost running away,” Anastasia laughed.
They turned their thoughts to the wedding itself, and decided on Glass House Winery, near Charlottesville, which includes both a beautiful setting in Virginia’s wine country plus an indoor venue for the ceremony and dinner in case of inclement weather. They set May 1, 2022 as their wedding date.
“The greenhouse, you step in and you just sort of smell all these tropical plants,” Cody said. “So the smell hits you first and then you sort of see all of this lush greenery. Aesthetically it’s beautiful. Practically, it’s an indoor, temperature-controlled place, so it takes out the randomness of having to worry about weather.”
Another appealing facet of the venue was its intimacy, as the wedding consisted of just 23 people including Cody and Anastasia.
“There’s a bed and breakfast on the property, so both of our families, we got to all stay in the house together,” Anastasia said. “Our parents could get to hang out more, because there hadn’t been a lot of opportunity. We got to have breakfast together before and the day after our wedding.”
Cody and Anastasia’s honeymoon trip, a visit to Portugal to see Lisbon and the Azores – where Cody’s mother’s family hails from – is planned for August.
Meantime, Cody and Anastasia are in the midst of a second significant life change: they are moving back to their native Northeast. Cody has just started a new job in the news department at Northeastern University, his alma mater, in Boston, while Anastasia will begin teaching this fall in Providence, Rhode Island. They plan to live in between Boston and Providence.
“We both love Alexandria so much,” Cody said. “I’ve committed three years, you’ve committed a little bit longer. It’s hard to say goodbye to the city, the people we’ve come to know here. You guys at the Times, the team we’ve become close with.”
“I’ve kind of restarted my life here, found many wonderful friends, and obviously my husband down here,” Anastasia said. “ … It’s hard. But it’s hard to afford living down here as a young person. Looking forward to our future, we want to be able to have a home and give those kinds of things to our hopefully larger future family.”
Having moved to Alexandria, met and married, Cody and Anastasia now set out on a new journey.
“It’s very symbolic of what a marriage is: stepping into the unknown into an adventure, and I’m hopeful and excited and scared and nervous. But I have my life partner here with me and I know it will be OK,” Anastasia said.
[Read more: Tying the Knot: From crossing paths to joining lives]