Graphic by Lillian Wang

Teacher feature: Quarantine engagements

Teachers reflect on getting engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 18, 2022

Picnic proposal

Graphic by Lillian Wang

Rain, 40 mph winds and drenched sleeping bags were not Social Science teacher David Hartford’s ideal conditions for his first big date with his fiancé Christina Dobbins, but he resolved to make the most of it as they set up camp for the night. One side of their tent was open to a view of sea lions bobbing in the waves below, and although Hartford was worried his sleeping bag might slide off the cliff edge, he found himself having a good time.

After dating Dobbins for about a month, Hartford, a backpacking enthusiast, invited her on a 50-mile coastline hike on the Lost Coast Trail in North California. Despite remembering sand pelting his face like “a million pins and needles” and Dobbins almost getting knocked over by a gust of wind on the first day, Hartford concludes that “[the hike] went really well and she absolutely loved it.”

“That trip, in particular, built our love for hiking together,” Hartford said. “We’ve gone on multiple hikes there, so I decided that I was going to take her on a hike and we’ll do a picnic type deal and I’ll just propose to her out there.”

After two years of dating, Hartford carried out his proposal plan in the summer of 2019 under the guise of organizing another trip. He filled Dobbins’ Amazon account’s history with picnic supplies, asked her uncle to recommend visiting Lake Tahoe over a phone call and feigned cluelessness when Dobbins reported his own ideas back to him as suggestions for the trip. He says the plan “could not have worked more perfectly.” 

“I was terrified,” Hartford said. “Half of the things that I planned on saying just as soon as I started talking just disappeared. I was a nervous wreck.” 

Hartford and Dobbins’ wedding is currently planned for June 15. It comes after a string of three reschedulings due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sharp rise of cases due to the Delta variant and wildfires at Lake Tahoe, where they planned to get married. Because of this, Hartford says that he and Dobbins have started betting on what natural disaster will impede their latest wedding plan and jokes that “the San Andreas Fault is going to swallow California” next.

“Being able to talk through a lot of those things goes a really long way,” Hartford said. “If we know anything for sure, we’ve survived wedding planning, [so] COVID has definitely solidified that [we can get along].”  

Ring-pop romance

When English teacher Jessica Kaufman’s fiancé proposed in front of an open trash can, she thought he was pulling an April Fools’ Day prank on her.

After hearing the crinkling sound of a wrapper, Kaufman, initially thinking their dogs had broken into something, dashed into the bedroom to find her fiancé acting “cagey” and evasive. Bewildered, she followed him into the kitchen, where he panicked — the trash can still ajar after he had stuffed the candy packaging in — and presented her with a Ring Pop.

Graphic by Lillian Wang

“I was like, ‘You’re not, come on.’ And then he pulled out the real ring, and I was like, ‘Oh!’” Kaufman said. 

Kaufman and her fiancé first met and exchanged numbers at a coffee shop while she was with her friends. Although Kaufman’s interactions with him at that first meeting were limited, she recalls that he was “really nice,” and they stayed in contact afterward through text. 

“We were friends first,” Kaufman said. “So we have a friendship in addition to our romantic relationship, which I think is really important too, because we can just hang out with each other and enjoy each other’s company.” 

Kaufman recalls visiting Disneyland in L.A. with her fiance and friends shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown as one of her fondest memories of their relationship. As for the pandemic, Kaufman believes that living with her fiance established that they could “be around each other for extended periods of time and not kill each other.” 

“I’m pretty high strung, so it’s a nice balance for me to be around somebody who’s so calm,” Kaufman said. “He’s really supportive as a partner and tries to do whatever he can to help me.”

After almost six years of dating, Kaufman and her fiancé plan to hold a small wedding in Colorado during Spring Break. Kaufman will wear a black dress instead of white as a testament to “doing what feels the most like us, rather than what tradition dictates.”

“I don’t think we would have done it any other way,” Kaufman said. “We’re very low-key people, so I don’t think it would have been a big deal anyways, which is kind of nice.”

Circling back to San Francisco

Graphic by Lillian Wang

The first thing she noticed about the date her friends set her up with: he had a British accent. 

Literature and AVID-12 teacher Monica Jariwala has been with her fiancé Mikun for five and a half years and still vividly remembers joking with him about “being with someone from England” during their first date in San Francisco. 

Jariwala’s first impression of Mikun was his “charm,” but throughout their relationship, she has come to admire how he always finds a way to make her laugh. Even though they are not married yet, Jariwala’s niece calls Mikun “massa,” Gujarati for “uncle.” According to Jariwala, her niece “[gets] along so well,” with Mikun, and they often converse over video calls to share “silly things” and inside jokes with each other. 

“Some of our best moments are just when we have these little dialogues where I’ll make a joke and then he’ll follow it, and we’ll just keep connecting it and we go down this spiral, but it works really well,” Jariwala said. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Jariwala and Mikun had to navigate teaching in the same living room in a one-bedroom home. Jariwala acknowledges that “in some cases, COVID wasn’t good for relationships,” but believes being in close proximity to each other only strengthened theirs. 

“We were able to have good conversations about, you know, where do we see ourselves in the future?” Jariwala said. “And it was good because before he proposed earlier last year, we were pretty much at that point where it’s like, yeah, you know, let’s do this.”

During their first date in 2016, Mikun was coming from the East Bay and Jariwala from the Bay Area peninsula, so San Francisco “happened to be the median” for both of them. Five years later, in July of 2019, San Francisco was where Mikun proposed. He was pointing out plants on a vista point when she had the sudden sense that “something was happening,” and turned around to find him on his knee. 

“I just couldn’t stop crying,” Jariwala said. “And it was funny because he was like, ‘Monica, my knee’s hurting. What’s your answer?’ And then I was like, ‘Oh my God, yes.’ But it was good, it was happy tears.” 

Jariwala and Mikun plan to get married in Santa Rosa on June 30 in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony with about 150 attendees, complete with Indian music and mehndi.  

“It’s feeling more real because I’m like, ‘Oh my God, [we have] under three months [until the wedding],’” Jariwala said. “But I’m excited. I feel like once school is [over] and I can just focus on that, it’ll feel real.”

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