How the Turtle Won the Race to the Altar

Thirteen may be a number with a certain reputation, but it proved critical in connecting Jason Martuscello to Lindsay Simon, even if the connection invoked a family tragedy.

She had the number scribed in Roman numerals on her wrist on a whim when she was a teenager, and he noticed it on their first date in January 2019, at a restaurant in Lower Manhattan, after having met on the dating app Bumble. He asked about it, and she told him she had been born Oct. 13.

He was stunned. That was the birthday of his older brother, Matthew, whom he had idolized and emulated and with whom he had shared a room growing up. His brother died of bacterial meningitis contracted while the two were on a trip to California with their high school band.

“It blows me away that they were born on the same day,” said Mr. Martuscello, 33. He took it as a sign.

The date lasted for hours, and by the time it was over, Ms. Simon, 31, was certain she’d found the man of her dreams. He didn’t take himself too seriously, seemed interested in her perspective and was very engaging. She is a senior influencer strategist at Hunter, a public relations firm in New York, and graduated from Boston College.

“I was madly in love with him after the first time we met,” she said. “And he was definitely not madly in love with me. I could tell from his face.”

Mr. Martuscello acknowledged that this was true. “I’m not a love-at-first-sight kind of guy,” he said.

Mr. Martuscello is a business strategist at Beesy Strategy, a New York behavioral science research consultancy. He graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh, received a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of South Florida and an M.B.A. from the University of Florida.

In the subsequent weeks, each moved at their own pace. They disagree about whether they had a first kiss after that first date, but on their third date, both agree, they definitely kissed. That, too, was not without complications.

“He was very, like, respectful,” she said. “He didn’t want to move too fast. He wanted to have our first kiss, and that was all that was going to happen.”

Plodding was part of his method, a point he underscored by sending Ms. Simon a turtle emoji (he had been teased about being a turtle since he was young) and then giving her a life-advice book entitled “Lessons of a Turtle,” by Sandy Gingras.

“I gave her that to show her how I operate in my head,” he said. “I wasn’t experienced in dating. I thought, Let’s go on a date, let’s process it, let’s reflect, and for her it was like, What are you doing tomorrow?”

Within a few months, he started catching up. On the way home from a visit to his family, who live in Amsterdam, N.Y., he suddenly needed to tell her how he felt. So he pulled off the road into a grocery store parking lot, and told her he loved her.

“The moment was nice because we were away from the world and being together,” he said, explaining that among the lessons he’d learned from his brother’s unexpected death is that no one is guaranteed tomorrow, so being clear about what is important matters.

On July 29, the couple were married at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, Calif. Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson performed the ceremony with just 22 guests. On July 31, the couple had a bigger event at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, with the monsignor and Ms. Simon’s older brother, Willie, leading the ceremony together before about 150 guests. The event was outdoors and all attendees were vaccinated, Mr. Martuscello said.

His life-advice guide, “Lessons of a Turtle,” was a favor given at the couple’s welcome party before the wedding.

After all, Mr. Martuscello said, “Turtles win the race.”

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