Published Mar 11, 2021
When Star Trek and Online Dating Collide
"Your cat is named Weyoun?"
By Christina Larocco
On an October morning in 2019, I received an OkCupid message from Josh, 41.
“Your cat is named Weyoun!” the first line read.
It’s true: Weyoun, now a fifteen-pound loaf, was once a teeny-tiny kitten who was scared to go up the stairs. His sister, Angela — another ’90s pop culture reference, this one to angsty teen Angela Chase of My So-Called Life, and a naughty calico who could give the real Weyoun a run for his money, had to teach him. (Even now, he will literally wait in line behind her until she’s done eating before he’ll chow down, despite having his own bowl.) Once, when they were just a few months old, they fell asleep on top of an insulated casserole dish that I was bringing to a family Thanksgiving. This was the picture that Josh saw on my profile. Further down on that page, in response to the question “Star Trek or Star Wars?”— such an easy question; why even bother? — I wrote “Star Trek: DS9. This is a hill I'm willing to die on.”
At that point, I had been dating for a few months. I was 37 and newly single, separated from the partner I had been with since college. It was a difficult time but not an unhappy time, as I figured out really for the first time in my life what I wanted from a relationship. Dating itself was fine, mostly boring and awkward, occasionally fun, luckily never traumatic. Josh, I would later learn, had been single for a number of years and usually ignored the dating site’s many emails touting potential matches. This time, for some reason, he didn’t.
Josh wasn’t the only potential match who mentioned my love for DS9. In fact, it was probably the most-remarked-on aspect of my profile, with my glasses a distant second. (It’s hard not to be Liz Lemon when you’re a certain kind of cranky white lady in your late 30s, even if she preferred a different ‘Star’ franchise.) It’s a good filter, I suppose: recently, on a trip to the vet’s office, everyone thought Weyoun’s name was French, trying to infuse their pronunciation with a French accent. I decided it was easier not to disabuse them of the notion.
Responding to Josh turned out to be the most important decision I ever made. A week and a half later, we had our first date, at a coffee shop near my office, on an evening when the rain poured down in droves. Josh was handsome and slight, with a salt-and-pepper beard that I liked immediately. I would soon learn that he was also the sweetest person who has ever lived. We both drank tea, which may have given him an incorrect impression of my normal levels of caffeine consumption. We talked politics and work and family and, of course, Star Trek.
I told him about growing up with the show, watching TNG in syndication, sitting on the family room floor with my brother and eating spaghetti and meatballs. I love TNG — recently I discovered that I have apparently texted about Romulan senator Pardek so much that my iPhone recognizes his name, and for a while I kept a top ten list of favorite episodes in my Notes app (fact: #1 = “I, Borg”) — but my heart belongs to DS9: darker, grittier, morally ambiguous, with the first fully developed female characters, including my most beloved Star Trek character of all time, Jadzia Dax. It was the perfect show for a pretentious teenager and burgeoning feminist. Perhaps it was then, or perhaps it was on a later date, that I told him about the screenplay I wrote in high school, which included a part intended for Andrew Robinson (who, I learned recently, is maybe available?).
He told me about how his uncle had first exposed him to the show, with marathons they called festivals, after the (hilarious) TOS episode “The Return of the Archons.” Later that evening, he texted me a picture of a super realistic-looking clay bust he had made in high school pottery class. The subject? Hugh.
I knew the relationship was getting serious when we committed to watching Picard together months before it aired. Now we’ve gone through that, the first season of Lower Decks, and the third season of Discovery. Last fall, on the anniversary of our first date, he gave me a picture of us in Lower Decks–style cartoon form. I had found my match.
Culture abounds with stories of couples who found love through Star Trek. In 2019, Tulsa World told the story of local couple Tyree and Tabitha Jones, who met as volunteers at a now-defunct convention. As the Daily Beast reported in 2017, a number of niche dating websites had sprung up for fans of the franchise. Naysayers have expressed skepticism that a mutual interest of this sort indicates true compatibility, but, at least in this case, I beg to differ.
I wasn’t very good at dating. It was hard work, trying to be cute and charming when all I wanted to do was curl up under the covers with Outlander (hey, it shares DNA with DS9!), never really knowing what a person was going to be like until I met him. Would he be kind? Or would he be the kind of person who says something mean and then claims to have been kidding, when deep down you know that he meant to be mean?
Certainly Star Trek gave Josh and me something to talk about, allowing us to bypass much of the dreaded small talk. But I think it was more than that: a shortcut to knowing what kind of a person he was. Star Trek fans aren’t a homogeneous group — Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez both number among them — but I do think there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll share some fundamental values than there would be among the general population. Believing that, trusting that he wouldn’t judge my strangeness, my nerdiness, my social awkwardness, made me feel safe to express the vulnerability necessary to build a real relationship.
On our fourth date, I told Josh about my divorce. This is not how I explained it, but I could have.
Trill mythology is a little bit squishy on what kind of relationship a joined member of the species can have with someone a previous host knew. In “Rejoined,” Dax starts to fall in love with a former host’s spouse, but this relationship puts them both in danger of exile, their symbionts left to die with them. Still, Trills reveal how a relationship can change as the people in them change, and how we can honor past relationships while embarking on new ones. As Curzon, Dax is Ben Sisko’s mentor; as Jadzia, she is his friend and colleague. As Jadzia, Dax and Worf are married; as Ezri, the two eventually become friends, and he even counsels her (however grudgingly) on her new relationship with Julian Bashir. The series even ends with them as something like siblings, both members of the House of Martok.
All of this is a long way of saying that it was my former partner’s idea to name one of the cats Weyoun. Alex was Star Trek–conversant before we met, watching the same syndicated episodes of TNG as a kid as I did, but we went through DS9 together sometime in the aughts, borrowing my parents’ DVD box sets one season at a time. Alex found Weyoun’s particular brand of charm — what the internet has since identified as his evil Chris Traeger–like qualities — utterly delightful. Think of the scene in the season 6 episode “Behind the Lines” when Weyoun learns of Sisko’s promotion to adjutant. “Good for him!” Weyoun exclaims, seeming genuinely happy for his adversary. This moment, more than any other, inspired Weyoun the cat’s name.
A few years after we adopted the cats, Alex came out as trans. They had identified as he/him for most of our relationship, but now they use they/them or she/her. As her body and presentation changed, so did our relationship. We broke up, but we were still family, and we came to think of each other as siblings.
Then I met Josh. Through the medium (the emissary, if you will) of Star Trek, my old relationship led me to my new one. I can’t think of anything more perfect.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — The Journey
Christina Larocco (she/her) is a writer, editor, and historian based in Philadelphia. Learn more about her at christinalarocco.com.