Love for the ages

By Lauren Seo

After the 30 other freshmen all signed out of the chatroom, Meri333 and Sonickool typed away to each other until 4 a.m. Though the two shared a Russian class, it was not until they bonded over America Online, then revolutionary in 1994, that they began to get to know each other.

Friendship fueled by post-midnight chats turned into romance, and Merideth Dunn ’98 and Cary Clarke ’98 officially called each other “boyfriend and girlfriend” that very year.

Harvard-Westlake and Yale diplomas each later, Dunn and Clarke now call each other “partners” to emphasize their level of commitment in a relationship going strong after fifteen years.

Although the two grew up together, neither Clarke nor Dunn allows their relationship to dictate their own decisions, a principle Dunn believes staves off the resentment that comes from prioritizing the couple over the individual. In fact, although both studied Russian and Eastern European Studies at Yale, choosing a college was a decision made individually, with each taking separate trip to visit colleges. Nevertheless, attending college together was not without its difficulties.

“I think our transition to college was more difficult than it was for others,” Clarke said. “We had to figure out how to be individuals while still being in our relationship.”

Their priority in growing as individuals played a huge role in their relationship in 2002, when the two lived in different cities for the first time. Dunn moved to San Francisco for medical school, while Clarke moved to Portland, where he played in his band “At Dusk” and founded a nonprofit organization, PDX Pop Now!, which hosted summer music festivals.

“When you’re in different cities, you really have to check in with yourself that you’re not in the relationship out of habit, but that you actively want to be in it,” Dunn said.

Although Dunn’s years of medical school and residency divided the two across state lines, they made it work by talking every day and spending one weekend a month with each other, a weekend Dunn said they “both tried not to put too much pressure on.”

Dunn believes that what allowed their relationship to go through so many transitions, from high school to college to the “real world,” is their friendship.

“We’re really the best of friends, and it’s the core of our relationship,” Dunn said. “It’s honestly what makes it so great to watch each other change and grow.”