“You never know when or where you’re going to meet the person who will change your life, so make sure to look reasonably cute and carry intellectual reading material with you wherever you may go,” suggests Ariel Akselrad, who met Jacob Lieberman on a plane.
The date was January 8, 2011. Ariel, then 21, and Jacob, then 25, were booked on Delta Flight 1296 from Fort Lauderdale to LaGuardia. Ariel was returning home after vacationing with girlfriends. Jacob and his coworker, Mike, were in-flight after a business trip. The match could happen because: Ariel was flying alone, as her friends’ flight was overbooked; Mike was seated separately from Jacob; Jacob and Ariel were assigned seats in the same row – he, the window seat, and she, the aisle seat; and the person in the middle was a no-show.
In her wedding vows, Ariel reflected: “I think of words and phrases that I used to find so clichéd and silly: fate, love at first sight, serendipity. But as we’ve been known to say, clichés are clichés for a reason, and you have made every single one true for me.”
Jacob noticed Ariel when he boarded the plane. “Someone up ahead was having trouble getting her bag into the overhead and was creating quite the backup…Two things struck me: number one, she was hot. And number two, she was preventing me from getting to my seat.” Jacob hated flying and was anxious to get settled. For the moment, he was indifferent to the problems of others and he passed her by without helping.
After noticing that her seatmate had his headphones plugged in, Ariel called her mom to tell her how “the handsome jerk” sitting next to her had been so rude. “Little did I know at the time, the ‘handsome jerk’ didn’t have any music playing and heard everything I said to my mother.”
“I did feel guilty,” says Jacob. “So when the beverage cart came by, I turned to her and said: You look like you could use a drink. But I didn’t offer to pay.” Ariel was again irked.
“I was stupid,” he now admits. “I should have paid for her drink.” Ariel smiles: “Since then he has paid for all my drinks.” In retrospect, the couple believes that the two incidents – suitcase and drinks – jumpstarted their relationship.
Ariel’s interest in Jacob began when she noticed him reading Garry Wills’ “Lincoln at Gettysburg.” She recalls: “Here was a handsome stranger with a penchant for arcane American history texts…And when he started the New York Times crossword, we ended up doing the puzzle together, which quickly turned into two straight hours of riveting conversation without a single awkward pause. We had a number of things in common –both Jewish New Yorkers, had the same pediatrician and our dogs had the same vet. There were so many times we could have crossed paths over the years.”
Ariel continues: “When the plane landed and Jacob asked me out, my answer should have been an immediate ‘no’ given that I was in a relationship – a failing relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. What I said should have clued me into just how much I already adored the handsome stranger.”
It was a sliding door moment when Ariel responded: “I’m seeing someone but you can find me on Facebook.”
With the help of his friend, Jacob found Ariel on Facebook. For Ariel, things ended amicably with the person she had been seeing, and after a month of G-chatting and texting, Jacob and Ariel had their first date at Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side.
At first, Ariel wanted to move slowly. That never happened. By their second date, they were “fully together.” Jacob smiles: “That made me very happy.”
When they met, Ariel was a senior at Purchase College. She graduated summa cum laude and then received a master’s in education from Manhattanville College. She currently owns Your Best Prep, a full-service tutoring company that specializes in high school academics and college preparation. Jacob is a senior manager, CEO Communications at PepsiCo. He held similar positions for Governors David A. Patterson and Andrew Cuomo of New York. He received a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.
While vacationing in the Florida Keys in December 2015, Jacob proposed. In his wedding vows, he declared to Ariel: “Thank you for being my partner for the last six years and for all the years to come. It is the honor of my life. And I know that whatever comes next, we’ll be ok, because from now on, we are husband and wife.”
Ariel and Jacob were married May 20, 2017 at the Museum of the City of New York. Mazal tov.