Katie Sturino is the founder of Megababe and the brains behind The 12ish Style. John Sturino is a law student at Hofstra. I sat down with them to talk about how they met, their relationship advice for others, and Cher Horowitz-style epiphanies.
Harling: All right, easy question first: How did you guys meet?
Katie: [Looking at John] What story are we giving?
Harling: Are there multiple?
John: It’s not an easy question for us [laughs].
Katie: We met on Bumble. But there are multiple stories about what our official first date was, because we have a “PR statement” first date, and we have the real first date. It’s always just a question of, “Is my mom reading this?”
Harling: Let’s hear the real story!
Katie: Okay, so we both swiped right, and I was like, this guy is so hot, but is he a murderer? What’s his deal? I made him videotape his apartment.
John: I showed her the inside of my freezer.
Harling: Over FaceTime?
Katie: No, we were texting, and he sent a video.
Harling: Katie, what was your pickup line when you first reached out on Bumble?
Katie: I don’t remember.
John: You said, “Same.”
Katie: About what?
John: In response to my bio, “Just a basic guy from Queens.”
Harling: How long ago was this?
Katie: Three years ago. 2017. It was the beginning of February.
Harling: Near Valentine’s Day?
Katie: Yes, we actually met on Valentine’s Day.
John: That was our first date.
Harling: Wow. Where’d you go?
Katie: Well, in my mind it was just a hookup. I wasn’t in the best head space to be in a real relationship yet. Also, he was like an untamed gorilla. I didn’t understand his personality at all. Now his personality makes sense to me, but in the beginning, his texts made no sense. Then it was Valentine’s Day, and I was like, you know what, I’m going to treat myself to an in-home visit from a new guy on the internet, so I asked him to come over, and he said yes. I lit candles and turned all the lights low. I told him that my door was open, and to just come in… is this awkward for you to hear?
Harling: No, this is incredible. What was going through your head, John?
John: I thought there was a good chance I might get jumped and robbed. I was thinking, am I about to be on a cam girl’s website? But I picked up a dozen roses on the way there, and I just walked right in.
Katie: I was in the bedroom, wearing lingerie. A beam of light hit his face when he walked in, and he looked so cute! At the end of the night, he said, “Listen, I’m going to delete my dating apps, I don’t need to see anyone else.” And I was like, “Sir, we don’t know each other. Definitely keep your dating apps, because I will be dating other people.”
Harling: Then what happened?
Katie: He kept texting me, and I kept inviting him over.
John: She was playing really hard to get. She told me, “Hey, how about you come over every three to four days?” So that’s what I would do, but she would always kick me out afterward and make me go home.
Katie: Then one night, when I told him to go home, he turned to me very seriously and said, “I’m not a piece of meat,” and I was like, “Oh no, you’re right, I’m so sorry.” But my mindset still didn’t really start to shift until a month or so later, when there was a snowstorm and I asked him to come over. I didn’t want to be alone, but I also didn’t want company from just anyone. I only wanted him to come over.
Harling: Was that a sign?
Katie: Yeah, that was a sign, but I didn’t fully understand what the sign was. I knew that I liked him, but it wasn’t until I went on a trip to Chicago and went on a date with this awful guy that I had a true epiphany, like Cher in Clueless when she’s standing in front of the Electric Fountain. I came back, and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m in love with John.”
Harling: When was this?
Katie: Two months after we met.
John: For me that epiphany happened the moment I saw her. She was so beautiful.
Harling: So for you, John, it was very definitive from the beginning. You wanted more out of the relationship?
John: Yeah, I was kind of like Pepé Le Pew from that cartoon, putting a little box with some cheese and a string on a stick and trying to seduce her, and she would be like, “Go away!” I was never deterred, though, because she kept inviting me back. Even if she kicked me out and wouldn’t let me sleep over, it was no big deal. I’d just hit the subway.
Harling: So Katie, what happened after you realized you loved him?
Katie: It was like an exhale. Suddenly it was okay to just be together.
Harling: So there was no conversation where you officially “defined the relationship”? It just happened kind of organically?
John: Well, we went on vacation together.
Katie: Where’d we go?
John: We went to Puerto Rico.
Katie: We were in love then, right?
John: Yeah, we were in love. I had basically moved into her apartment at that point.
Harling: Who said “I love you” first?
Katie: I don’t know.
John: I don’t remember.
Katie: Sorry, what a weird interview–no details whatsoever!
Harling: No, I love it. It’s the relationship equivalent of a fever dream. How long after dating did you get engaged?
Katie: A year and a half.
Harling: How did it happen?
John: We were at Hotel Il Pellicano in Italy. I had preselected a menu, and I reserved this beautiful, sectioned-off little small gazebo type thing, right inside a cliff. They had flowers, candles, everything.
Katie: We picked out the ring together when we got back home.
Harling: So when you saw the setup, did you know you were about to get engaged?
Katie: Yeah. I still cried though.
Harling: John, were you nervous?
John: No, I wasn’t nervous.
Harling: Did you give a speech?
John: I got down on my knee–
Katie: And you said my full name, “Katherine Sturino.” I started crying, then we had a beautiful meal.
Harling: How long was the engagement?
Katie: A year. We got married the following summer. I wanted it to feel like a very “New York City” wedding, so we got married outside of the Cooper Hewitt, then we had dinner afterward at Polo Bar.
Harling: Did things feel different, when you got married?
Katie: John took my name. I think that felt like one of the biggest changes.
Harling: How did you decide to take Katie’s name?
John: Well, I’m in law school, so I was changing industries anyway. It just made sense for me to be the one to change my name. Katie already has her business, she’s established, and her name is part of that. It wasn’t a big deal for me. I could just as easily be John Sturino as I could be John Forkin, and I thought that if we were going to be a family, and have children, we should all have the same last name.
Katie: It’s very unusual still, though. At City Hall, they said they’ve only ever seen, like, two men do it. Friends and strangers think it’s cool, but I don’t think people who are close to us thought it was that cool [laughs].
John: It was an interesting process. You had to wait in so many lines, and go to multiple agencies. You could tell it wasn’t something men have to do that often. If they did, I think it would be much more streamlined. You’d be able to just bring your information to the wedding and do it all at once.
Harling: Changing tacks slightly, if you could give advice to anyone who is looking for love, or a relationship, what would you tell them?
Katie: You go first.
John: You want me to go for it?
John: I would say look for what you want, and don’t stop until you find it. Be patient and don’t settle. This was easier for me when I met Katie, because I was 35, and I already had been divorced. I knew exactly what I wanted.
Harling: Did you have certain criteria in mind when you were going out and looking for someone, before you met Katie?
John: I have a specific type definitely, but I would say that meeting the right person clarifies what the most important criteria are. When I met Katie, I immediately stopped caring about all the stuff I always thought I should care about–house, kids, white picket fence. I just wanted to be with her.
Katie: When I first met John, he was in a Banana Republic sale rack T-shirt and jeggings, so my advice is to focus on what’s on the inside instead of getting caught up in the package [laughs]. Also, avoid dating in New York City, it’s a horrible place to date. Where did you meet your fiancé?
Harling: In Rhode Island, when we were 11.
Katie: See! Exactly. But anyways, back to my earlier point, you can always change the shoes or the overall aesthetic. It’s what’s inside that matters–like, for example, I had a good feeling about John as soon as I saw how he acted around the dogs.
Harling: I was going to ask about that. [Ed note: Katie has three rescue dogs.]
Katie: From the moment we started hanging out regularly, he was like, “All right, look, let’s go walk the dogs.” Which was a really big indicator to me. I enjoy walking them, but I wanted to be able to walk them with my partner. Having a partner who wanted to do that with me was a big deal.
Harling: It’s interesting—both of you kind of have the same theme running through your relationship advice.
Katie: What is it?
Harling: Knowing what matters. Focusing on the indelible aspects of someone’s character instead of obsessing over more superficial things that can easily change.
Katie: That’s sweet. Don’t cry, John! [Ed note: John’s eyes look a little misty.]
Harling: I have a couple more questions: What’s your biggest pet peeve about the other person?
Katie: He has road rage in the city. He’s really good at highway driving, but driving with him in the city is just awful.
John: If you cut me off behind the wheel, I’m mad at you.
Katie: You can’t even talk to him when that happens. He gets into a zone.
John: I feel like a lot of men become animals behind the wheel.
Harling: Especially in New York.
Katie: But I love driving in the city!
John: Yeah, she’ll pull me over and make me switch seats.
Harling: What about you, John? Any pet peeves?
John: She’s not great at being tidy. She will put things on the counter when there’s a garbage bin two feet away, I don’t understand it. Luckily I’m pretty good at tidying, so–
Katie: I’ll ruin a room in three minutes.
Harling: What do you love most about each other?
Katie: I love his big heart. I love that he’s down for all sorts of adventure. I could ask him right now, “Do you want to go see Diana the Broadway musical with me?” and I know he would be down to party.
John: Katie has an uncanny ability to make the world hers. I’ve never seen anybody else do it like she does. It’s incredible to watch.
Harling: And to think, it all started with an in-home visit from a new guy on the internet.