The world is full of beautiful love stories. Some? Love at first sight. Others could take months or even years to become a beautiful, lifelong relationship. Well, this one is a combination of those two. Except instead of being a beautiful story, it’s the story of two losers who toted thirty years of emotional baggage to their 2016 wedding.
As always, original text in quotes.
A Love at First Sight, Seen Clearly at Last
When Nancy Balbirer and Howard Morris met as drama students at New York University in 1983, they developed a crush on each other that almost led to romance.
Wait, we’re already talking 33 fucking years ago? Oh, this’ll be rich. Right off the bat, Howard just sounding like a complete pussy.
“I loved him immediately, and I practically threw myself at him,” said Ms. Balbirer, then an 18-year-old freshman. “He was cute, funny and very smart, and he had the most exciting and fabulous energy of anyone I had ever known.”
Alright, Nancy. Then why so gun-shy? Way to set women back by waiting for him to make the first move. 99% of the girls I’ve ever hooked up with have pursued me because I like enabling women. Feminist to the core.
Mr. Morris, then a 19-year-old sophomore, was equally smitten. “She was extremely attractive, sexy and very outgoing,” he said. “We really hit it off.”
Oh, man, Howie. Thank God you waited 33 years to wife this broad up.
Despite their instant chemistry, the aspiring actors — she from Weston, Conn., and he from Newton, Mass. — shared nary a kiss. “The problem was me,” said Mr. Morris, who is now 51 and based in Los Angeles, where he is the executive producer and co-creator of the Netflix comedy series “Grace and Frankie.”
Man, that show sucks. I took a shot at it one Sunday afternoon and turned it off within the first episode. Makes sense that this dude would dedicate his life to something equally as shitty as his ways with the ladies.
“I absolutely wanted to date her,” he said, “but she was more mature than I was and sort of intimidated me. I guess I wasn’t ready for her emotionally.”
You weren’t ready for her… emotionally? Who says you gotta put a ring on it to romp around a little bit, Howard? You’re a fucking college sophomore. That’s what college sophomores are supposed to fucking do.
They settled on being friends, which frustrated Ms. Balbirer, who is now 50 and a New York-based writer and actress. “Howie always had a girlfriend,” she said, but “that girlfriend was never me.”
Someone dim the lights or is Nancy throwing shade at Howard for all the floozies he was entertaining that weren’t her?
They spent the next few years honing their respective crafts — Mr. Morris eventually delved into playwriting — and bouncing around campus in Lower Manhattan, often enjoying lunch together. “Nancy was always nice enough to pay,” Mr. Morris said, adding “because I was always broke.”
Classic fucking Howard to take 33 years to marry a woman who pays for all of his meals in college. I know Manhattan was probably wild has hell in the 80s, but clean your shit up, bro. You had a good thing going with Nancy and she should’ve left your ass in the dust.
As the end of college approached, his crush persisted, but so did his inability to step up and express his feelings. Rather than cause a scene, he chose to create one. He wrote a school play — “about a guy with a broken heart,” he said — called “Almost Romance,” a comedy in which he cast himself in the lead and Ms. Balbirer as his love interest. (The four-person play also featured a fellow drama student named Jeremy Piven, of future “Entourage” fame.)
Barf. Barf. Barf. This dude couldn’t man up and try to lock Nance down so he wrote a fucking play? Wish Piven would’ve Ari Gold’d this motherfucker into the ground when he had the chance.
“How would you feel about making out with Howard Morris, the lead actor in my play?” Mr. Morris asked Ms. Balbirer. If only for a scripted New York minute, she was thrilled to become his leading lady. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “My goodness, I didn’t have to do any acting when it came to making out with Howie.”
Casting a girl you have a crush on as the love interest in your play just feels sexual predator-y to me. That’s the stuff of psychopaths who eventually start wearing makeup in an attempt to look like the apple of their eye.
In addition to what he called “the perfect kiss,” Mr. Morris was soon reaping other benefits from his production. A director who had seen and enjoyed the play took it to the Manhattan Punchline Theater, which had a reputation for producing comedy writers.
Or, I don’t know, meeting the love of your life and pulling the trigger at some point? Ever thought of that one, Howie?
“Almost Romance,” with Fisher Stevens and Helen Slater in the lead roles, ran for nearly seven weeks to favorable reviews, and by the time the final curtain closed, Mr. Morris had an agent and some name recognition in the industry.
…and now produces a show on Netflix that no one likes.
In 1991, he moved to Los Angeles to join the staff of the HBO sitcom “Dream On.” He was soon noticed by Marta Kauffman, a television writer and producer who had created that show and was also a creator of “Friends.” (Ms. Kauffman and Mr. Morris eventually created “Grace and Frankie,” which debuted last year.)
What is it about this dweeb that’s causing all these chicks to notice him? If this guy had been born in 1990, he’d be getting left swipe after left swipe.
With his writing career on the rise, Mr. Morris married in May 1994, which became a bittersweet time for an old castmate, who was still single.
Well, I hate to say it, Nancy, but maybe you should’ve piped up the moment you knew you were falling in love with a complete pussy.
“At that point, I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that even though I felt we were perfect for each other, Howie would never feel that way,” Ms. Balbirer said, adding, “I just figured it was time to move on.” Four months later, she did just that, moving — of all places — to Los Angeles to pursue acting. She eventually landed parts including three episodes of “Seinfeld,” and resumed her old role as frequent lunch partner of Mr. Morris.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Nancy, but yeah, it was time to move on. But what did you do? You weirdly moved to LA in a desperate attempt to see him again. Sure, you can say it was to act, but we all see right through you.
“We clearly still had strong feelings for each other, but it was completely platonic,” she said.
Dude, you two were mentally fawning over each other for literally years. Get that “platonic” bullshit out of my face.
They remained close friends, and in 1999, the same year Ms. Balbirer wrote “Take Your Shirt Off and Cry” — a book, she said, “about the perils of being a woman in show business” — she invited Mr. Morris to her own wedding in Los Angeles, which he attended.
Wait, so these two are just still in love with each other while they’re marrying other people? Kinda fucked up. It’s like in You’ve Got Mail when both Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have significant others but cheat on them with each other while talking online. Underrated fucked up storyline of that movie.
“Though I was happily married, I must admit to feeling a tinge of sadness that day,” he said.
Early bird gets the worm, Howard. This is completely, 100% on you.
By 2002, Mr. Morris, who had a 2-year-old son, was in the throes of a divorce. That same year, Ms. Balbirer, whose career focus had shifted to writing, moved back to New York with her husband. “Just when I needed my best friend the most, she was leaving,” Mr. Morris said. She became what he called “my email shoulder to lean on.”
What a classically weak move from this dude. Goes through a divorce, seeks help from the woman he’s really in love with in a desperate attempt to get her emotionally invested in him instead of her husband. What a creep.
In March 2011, it was Mr. Morris’s turn to lend a shoulder as Ms. Balbirer separated from her husband, with whom she had a 6-year-old daughter. “We were calling it a temporary separation at that time,” she said. But by July, her separation became permanent. To make matters worse, her beloved dog, Ira, died shortly afterward.
Okay, I didn’t feel bad for any of these people until Ira died. Fuck.
“I was feeling numb and going through therapy, just trying to figure out what was going on in my life,” she said. “It was like I was trapped in a bad dream.”
Hey, wild idea here, Nancy, but hear me out. Maybe to avoid all of this, you should’ve, oh, I don’t know… married the guy you’ve always been in love with in the first place and lived happily ever after? Ever thought of that strategy?
Two months later, Mr. Morris went to New York to attend the wedding of a friend and visited Ms. Balbirer to both console her and profess his love for her, hoping that the stage had now been set for their long-awaited romance.
What year is this? Actually, it doesn’t matter. It’s already been too long. The fact that he’s just now manning up disgusts me.
But Ms. Balbirer flipped the script. “I told Howie that I wasn’t ready for him emotionally,” she said. “I needed time to heal and didn’t want to simply fold myself into his life, nor did I want him to be, after all the years we shared as friends and everything he had meant to me, nothing more than a rebound.
Are you… are you fucking kidding me, Nancy? First he’s not “emotionally ready” in 1983 and now you’re flipping the script all these years later? Fuck you both. And I mean that with so much sincerity.
“I couldn’t believe that after all those years, I was finally hearing Howard Morris telling me that he loved me. And there I was, unable to do anything about it.”
Pity had a party and no one came, Nancy.
Rather than force the issue, Mr. Morris thought it best to back off a little, and simply told Ms. Balbirer to “trust your instincts.”
I hope he went to a strip club with a pocket full of ones and a strong scotch buzz.
He returned to Los Angeles, where he continued to monitor Ms. Balbirer’s emotional health, as well as her dating status. “He would always check in to see if I was single or dating someone,” Ms. Balbirer said with a chuckle.
Ugh, what a loser. I don’t know why his obsession with her pisses me off so much. Oh, wait, yes, I do. Their cat-and-mouse bullshit has affected the lives of numerous people, including the children that they each put through divorce and Ira, the dead dog who’s the real victim of all of this.
In the summer of 2014, Ms. Balbirer, who was now single and in a much better place emotionally, sent Mr. Morris a long, humorous email in which she wondered, among other things, how it was that they never became an item.
Dude still taking shots in the dark 31 years later. I know “shooters shoot” is something I preach often, but at some point you’ve gotta hang it up and move on to another venture.
Mr. Morris, who was still pining over her, read the email aloud to his writers, who were spellbound. One of them, Alexa Junge, said she turned to Mr. Morris and said, “If you don’t marry this woman, I will.”
What was this dork doing reading this heartfelt, personal email to his fucking writers? Big ups to Alexa for chiming in, but if you’re Nancy, aren’t you a little sketched out as to why this weirdo is just spouting your personal correspondence with his employees?
When Mr. Morris confessed to his staff that he was still very much in love with Ms. Balbirer, Ms. Junge began devising a plan to get them together. Knowing that she would be in New York on business in April 2015, Ms. Junge reached out to Ms. Balbirer.
Oh, wow, Alexa didn’t just chime in — she put the wheels in motion. At least someone in this marriage announcement has a pair of plums.
“She was everything I hoped she would be, beautiful and smart,” Ms. Junge said of Ms. Balbirer, whose divorce had been completed four months earlier.
And incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship.
Late in the conversation, Ms. Balbirer blurted out: “Can I just tell you? I’ve been in love with Howard Morris for 30 years.”
I would’ve tackled her out of her chair. That’s not some sort of revelation. It’s news to no one, lady.
“It was an incredible moment,” Ms. Junge said. “I remember catching my breath and saying, ‘Well, I think it might be mutual.’”
Oh, gee, is it, Alexa? This isn’t an incredible moment. It’s the three-decade build up of two sheep in a world of wolves.
Ms. Junge, who had written a play that was to open in June at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, convinced Ms. Balbirer to join her there, along with Mr. Morris and other members of his staff. Ms. Balbirer went along, and said that she and Mr. Morris had a great time. They flew back to California on a Sunday for their first-ever date, at a restaurant near his home in Santa Monica.
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but this clearly wasn’t their “first date.” Their first dates were when Nancy was forking over cash for his meals back in 80s Manhattan because he was a poor writer.
During dinner, Ms. Balbirer experienced an awakening of sorts. “I looked across the table and said to Howie, ‘Oh my God, it’s been you all along.’”
They want this to be some great moment. They want this to be some sort of beautiful climax to the story. But it’s not. It’s the end of a thirty-year-long fart.
“I had always loved him,” she said. “But now I was realizing that I could finally have him.”
Nancy, did you not realize that you could’ve had him when he professed his love to you? Was that not a lightbulb moment for you?
Later that evening, Ms. Balbirer was preparing to head back to New York on a red-eye flight, but before leaving for the airport, she returned to Mr. Morris’s home, where they started on a romance that almost began 32 years earlier.
Gross. Two 50-year-olds fawning over each other makes me sick. And the fact that it’s Howard and Nancy only makes it worse. I don’t even know what these two look like but I’m repulsed.
“We shared our first real kiss that night,” Ms. Balbirer said. “I never felt happier or more alive than I did at that moment.”
I’m sure your children-of-divorce love hearing that they were the product of a false love. And poor Ira too. Not sure why Ira is still a victim here, but that dog had to have been so cute.
They were married on March 25 at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, in the company of Ms. Balbirer’s 11-year-old daughter, Colette Zighelboim, who served as her maid of honor, and Mr. Morris’s 16-year-old son, Dustin Morris, his best man. Their witness was Ms. Junge.
Colette Zighelboim? Jesus. She’ll have fun with that name on scantron’s in a few years.
Shortly after Alisa Fuentes, a staff member in the City Clerk’s office, said, “By the power vested in me by the laws of the State of New York, I now pronounce you married,” Ms. Balbirer turned to Mr. Morris and said softly, “You were worth the wait.”
Gross. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Later that evening, the couple celebrated with a dozen other family members and friends at one of their old haunts, the Odeon. “We love this place because it’s been around since the 1980s, like us,” Ms. Balbirer said. (“But now I pay,” Mr. Morris joked.)
Hilarious joke about how you used to force her to pay for your meals, Howard. Real knee slapper.
Ms. Balbirer — who will move to California this summer so that her daughter can begin middle school there — noted that her wedding dinner also served as an anniversary celebration.
Anniversary? For what?
“It was 30 years ago that Howie wrote ‘Almost Romance,’” she said. To help celebrate it, Mr. Morris received a wedding ring from Ms. Balbirer with an inscription created by her daughter that read: “N + H Almost Romance, March 25 2016,” but the word ‘Almost’ had been crossed out by a thin line running through it.
Oh, that dumbass play that he used as a tool to kiss her onstage because he was too much of a wimp to kiss her in the real world. Great.
“The ‘Almost’ is gone,” Ms. Balbirer said. “The ‘Romance’ is here to stay.”
Remember when I said I threw up in my mouth a little bit? It’s everywhere now. As a 29-year-old man with the maturity level of a 21-year-old, I can’t believe I’m the most mature person in this entire scenario outside of Alexa. And Ira, too. .
Image via Shutterstock