Who needs love? I planned to start my family alone


I was still doing an internship across town at SpaceX before I started as a postdoctoral scholar in astrophysics at Caltech. But I managed to snag an invitation to the Caltech department party in Pasadena at astrophysicist Kip Thorne’s house, which had 1960s vibes, replete with a Richard Feynman sketch of a naked woman, a hot tub and a water bed.

I was mixing a virgin drink when a man named Casey came up to me, complimenting my swimsuit (a picture of the moon landing), and saying, “You must be Christine.” His behavior gave me 1960s vibes too. For the rest of the party, Casey followed me around, peppering me with questions about SpaceX. Then at the end of the night, he mentioned he made custom space-themed rings and asked if I would like one.

Who was this man? And how could I keep him away from me?

I started at Caltech in 2015, and as I got to know Casey, I realized his behavior at the party was completely on-brand. He had been in no way flirting: His interest in space and SpaceX specifically trumped any thoughts of that. And the ring? He offered to make rings for a variety of folks on whom he wanted to make a good impression, regardless of age or gender.

I was taking flying lessons and had a lot of side income from software consulting. Casey was a private pilot with a limited income who was constantly searching for people to share aviation fuel expenses. So when Casey frequently turned to me out of social (and practical) reasons, I never said no. We went flying around Catalina Island. Then we took a multihour flight to the pop-up “Burning Man in the water,” better known as Ephemerisle, in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

In the summer of 2015, we started going on night hikes up Echo Mountain, another definitely-not-flirting hobby of his that he shared with colleagues of all backgrounds. I shared with him my dreams of starting a family, scaling back my consulting for work-life balance, my plan to freeze my eggs, that I had given up on finding love and a co-parent, and that I was hoping to live in Antarctica for a year before starting my family alone.

He shared with me that he was coming up on the end of his graduate school experience. He was worried he wouldn’t meet people as frequently anymore once out of the college environment and that without a job lined up after, he’d have to return to Australia instead of living the American Dream.

I started to think I wanted him around America, even if I wasn’t yet able to admit I wanted to date him. I made some introductions, and one of them panned out into an internship for him after graduation. After countless tests and interviews, I received an offer for my dream job to work for a year at the South Pole. When I got back, would Casey be in L.A. or in America? I wasn’t certain. I knew if I wanted to make a move, my time was running out.

In late August, I got a text from Casey around 9 p.m. (That’s what people who had crushes on you did, right?) A friend of mine was in town, and although I didn’t drink, we went to a bar. I invited Casey. He declined, electing to sleep. (Well, maybe not.)

Casey went to Burning Man in early September, and the same friend sold me her last-minute ticket. I arrived at Burning Man just as everyone else was packing up camp. I connected with Casey, who looked like a mad scientist, covered in dust. Most of our mutual friends had left, so we spent the day together. As the sun set, the temperature dropped, and I started shivering from the cold or from nerves. He gave me a hug to keep me warm and he seemed surprised when it turned into more.

We shared the drive back to SoCal together, taking my rental all the way back to L.A., and we stopped to dream under the stars. At the end of the drive, he asked if we were going to continue seeing each other this way, and I said yes. That was that.

He drove me back from my egg freezing appointment the next month and he made me pizza and fed me ice cream as I recovered. He met my mom in November over Thanksgiving and referred to her as his future mother-in-law.

Encouraged by his hints at marriage, I mentioned I was considering proposing; he said he would accept “only if it was a really big rock.” I bought a chunk of magnetite (its presence on Mars indicates a possible history of biological life). In late November, we went on a night hike up to Echo Mountain. At the top, I handed him the big rock with a note that read: “Will you marry me?”

Weeks later, we spent the holidays with my family in Ohio, and I departed for Antarctica on New Year’s Day 2016 from L.A. He packed me a year of gifts and notes; I wrote him a year of letters. We spoke daily on staticky phone calls as I experienced life under the Southern Lights alone. In November that year, we reunited in Los Angeles and moved in together. We eloped less than a month after my return. We just welcomed our third child earlier this month, and are expecting a lifetime of love of space, each other and family togetherness.

The author is an astrophysicist, explorer, manager, software engineer, writer and mom. She lives with her husband and three children in Sierra Madre. She’s online at christinecorbettmoran.com and on Instagram @corbett.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email [email protected]. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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