Carol and Andy

November 30th, 2010

I have a soft spot in my heart for gnomes.

So when I saw this photo of Carol and Andy in their Halloween attire, I knew there was a love story beneath those pointy red hats. I’m sure I would’ve felt the same, had I seen their costumes from years past – as Marge and Homer Simpson, and as the Indiana Jones who didn’t make it out of the snake pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and his dream date, Medusa.

In a way, they’ve become ambassadors for the nontraditional love story.

That’s the best kind of story, after all.

Even dressed as civilians, Carol and Andy are wildly entertaining.

It might have to do with the fact that Carol is a successful food writer and Andy gets to make DreamWorks movies for a living. They’re both wonderfully intelligent, ambitious and like to think outside the box.

They also bring stinky cheese into movie theatres, tell really bad jokes and love Monty Python.

Doing all this for 13 years has undoubtedly kept their marriage fun. The other important part of the equation comes from the fact that they were friends for three years before they ever dated.

“When we first met,” Carol says, “there’s no way I would’ve known I was looking at my husband. There was something special about him I couldn’t explain, but it took me a few years to figure out what it was!”

Though they worked in the same office on the University of Memphis campus and hung out on occasion, it seems both these intelligent people were relatively clueless when it came to how perfect they were for each other.

At least the cat knew.

Carol’s cat, aptly named Kismet, rubbed his teeth on Andy’s hand the first time they met.

“That’s the ultimate compliment,” Carol reveals. “He was usually afraid of everyone. But he was a perceptive soul. He figured it out before I did.”

A year after Kismet’s stamp of approval, the two finally got together. Carol remembers it vividly.

“One night, we got together to do something and ended up sitting and talking. It was past midnight. Finally both of us were sort of feeling it and we just got our nerve up. It was really kind of scary.”

There was, mostly, the fear of losing a friend if the romantic part of things didn’t pan out. But the rewards seemed far greater than the risks. They had seen each other in bad moods. They were both writers. They had the same sense of humor. And, conveniently, they both really enjoyed each other’s company. The fear they’d run out of things to talk about certainly wasn’t there.

They had been dating six months when Andy got a job at CNN in Atlanta. Carol was working in Memphis, which was about six hours away. The two maintained a long distance relationship for two years.

When Andy got a job in California to work in visual effects and animation, he had already been thinking about marriage. He didn’t want to move to California without Carol. The two were married on October 4, 1997.

How did he know she was the one?

“Sometimes you date people who don’t get you all the way,” says Andy. “Like maybe 50 percent. And the other half they think they can change or ignore. Carol seemed to get me. Like 80 or 90 percent, and the rest she was okay with. Beyond that, when you’re friends with someone that long and they know you and you know them, you feel really strong in the relationship — like you got each other’s backs. I knew L.A. was one of the scariest places to make a living, and I knew I wanted my best friend with me.”

What about her?

“I do think being friends was really very helpful for us,” she admits. “I look at others who met and immediately started dating, and it wouldn’t have been right for me. I wouldn’t have wanted to meet him any other way.

“I dated all the wrong guys for years. When Andy came along, I realized he was worth whatever I needed to do. He was the right one.”

Even today, Carol still can’t wait to get Andy’s take on things. She probably already knows what he’ll say, but she still likes to ask. And, at parties, when someone says something, all they have to do is look at each other and they’ll know what the other is thinking. It’s like they have their own language.

Often, it’s a language impossible to translate to anyone on the outside.

“I’m the only one who will laugh at Carol’s puns,” Andy chuckles. “I really do love her sense of humor, and the easy banter we have. We entertain each other with the silliest stuff – particularly in church. There are a few hymns where we heard the lyrics wrong, or we make up our own. We are always laughing our way through things. It makes it easier.”

As Carol says, life is serious enough.

“Besides,” she adds, “he smells better than stinky cheese. Every time he opens the fridge, I say, ‘Oh god, what did you do?’

“It reminds me of a time we were at the farmers market, and bought some potent cheese. We went to see a movie next door. We smelled something, and kept thinking the person in front of us hadn’t taken a bath. The man next to me got up and left during the climax in the movie, because he couldn’t take it. As we were leaving, we realized it was the cheese. We had completely forgotten. We had a good laugh about that the rest of the day. We enjoy the whole ‘whoops, oh well’ part of life.”

All jokes aside, they’ve certainly had their share of ups and downs in their 13 years of marriage, but Carol credits the deep respect she has for Andy for helping her make it through.

“The silent passive aggressive thing doesn’t work in this household,” she says. “When one of us is upset, we don’t get in each other’s face. If we need to cool off, we’re really respectful of that. It’s good to have that space to try to process and articulate what it is that’s upsetting us, and then we can talk it through.”

One particular challenge involved Carol’s experience in culinary school. She woke up every morning in tears, but Andy told her to keep going. That kind of cheerleading and support, Carol says, made a big difference in her ability to power through.

When Andy took a writing workshop in Seattle for six weeks, Carol supported him through the entire process. Even though they didn’t get to talk or have quality time together, she gave him the space he needed to pursue his dreams.

“A lot of people would not dream of going on a trip abroad without their spouse or partner,” Carol observes. “We’re so excited for each other to have these life and career enriching opportunities that we really don’t mind if one of us gets to go out of town–or out of the country–without the other. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss each other. We’ve worked hard for these opportunities, and we want each other to enjoy the benefits.”

Still, the two enjoy a benefit far greater than travel perks — the strength of their relationship. There is some solid stuff holding this duo together. They really like each other. That counts for a lot.

“Andy is the most interesting person I’ve ever met,” Carol says with a smile. “You can plunk him down in a bookstore and he will read anything he can grab and come up with the most interesting things to talk about. His mind astonishes me.

“Sometimes, I’ll just look over at him and pat him on the arm or leg and say, ‘I just love being married to you.’ He has such a good heart. I haven’t met very many people who have that sort of heart. There is a genuineness and sweetness there. He’s one in a million.”