“The way I look at it now, regular dating seems almost stupid”
Mike and Jess Worssell made ‘friends’ on MySpace by a twist of fate. One year and 3,500 miles later, they’re happily married. By Kyriaki Karadelis
Jess Glass wore white lace as she walked down the aisle of the Calvary Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania. The Christmas trees and candles lining her path to the altar were glowing with the warm, golden nostalgia of yuletide. It was December 29, 2007; exactly 365 days since the 27-year-old had first held Mike Worssell in her arms.
“We met on December 29, 2006, at Heathrow airport. Terminal four, at about ten past eleven in the morning, when your flight finally came through,” says Englishman Mike Worssell, 30, throwing a cheeky smile at his American wife.
She’s sat cross-legged and bare-foot on the arm chair next to his in his ground floor flat in Poole, Dorset. Six-year old Carter, Jess’ beautiful blue-eyed son, periodically steals everyone’s attention as he scampers excitedly round his new home.
Terrified of being late to finally meet the girl he’d been an item with for months, Mike left Poole extra early to get to Heathrow that morning. Thanks to a lack of space at the airport for Jess’ plane to dock, he had to endure an excruciating three and a half hour wait before his girlfriend could introduce herself to him for the first time in person.
To make sure they didn’t miss each other in arrivals, Mike made a sign. After all, they’d only ever seen pictures of one other on the social networking site.
“On Jess’s profile she had a music player, and one of the songs on it was a song called At Last by Etta James. I didn’t want to just write, ‘Jess Glass’ on a bit of paper, so I wrote ‘At Last’ because I thought, if she’s going to read this, she’s going to go, ‘that’s him! It’s got to be!’” Of course with the delay, ‘At Last’ had a totally new significance.
Jess had got talking to the girl in the seat next to her on the plane, who found the story so romantic she took a picture of their first clinch. “So when me and Jess first met there was this strange girl taking a photo of us!” Mike laughs heartily, “I had no idea that I was holding that page up the right way, or that I was facing the right way. It just happened that that shot was meant to be.”
Meeting on MySpace
Chance coincidences characterised Mike and Jess’ relationship from the start. Mike joined MySpace in 2006, looking for unsigned bands in Dorset that he could invite to his music show on the local hospital radio station. Jess used it to while away the long nights she spent working as a police dispatcher in Indiana, Western Pennsylvania.
“I was searching the world to find friends,” Jess explains, “I thought, if I could go to Europe this year, where would I want to go? Greece would be nice, and the UK.” Mike happened to be one of a few Brits picked.
“When you first open a MySpace profile you’re basically after as many friends as you can, so you accept anyone who asks to see you,” Mike admits, before he gets a poke from Jess in protest.
When Mike sent out a bulletin to promote a music night in nearby Bournemouth, it caught Jess’ eye and they started exchanging messages. “We both have a passion for music so it was just one of those things,” Jess insists.
They soon found out they had a lot in common. They both had boys from previous relationships, Jess had Carter and Mike has a son called Max, eight, who lives with his mum. They both had a similar number of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends.
With a five hour time gap between them, Mike and Jess would message each other as she was finishing her night shift while he was starting work. “My mornings were very unproductive,” grins Mike, without regret.
One morning, curious to hear his English accent, Jess asked Mike to call her. The first call lasted nearly three hours. Then they started calling every day. “Even if you’re only talking… I think we both knew [that this was love],” Jess croons.
“The way I look at it now, regular dating seems almost stupid,” Mike adds. “Why kiss goodbye several hundreds of pounds on dinner dates and movie theatres? I reckon we’d probably done a good year’s worth of dating in conversational form in the two or three months before we met.”
It was Jess’ idea to come to England, on the premise that if they didn’t get on after all, she would go to a hotel in London for two weeks, delete Mike from her MySpace friends list and never have to see him again. But plan B wasn’t necessary. Straight from Heathrow, Mike took Jess to a wet, blustery and very British Brighton for their first date, where they kissed on a plinth at the end of the Pier as waves crashed beneath them. Mike remembers how he felt when Jess’ visiting time was up: “That was the worst goodbye,” he sighs.
The next time he saw her was during his first visit to the States the following May when he proposed. “I was 98 per cent certain,” he laughs, but “I thought, we really do need to spend more than two weeks together…” After meeting his in-laws, Mike got down on one knee in a tiny gated garden opposite Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Jess was the last of six siblings to get married and according to Mike, when he asked her Dad’s permission he said, “Yeah – take her!”
“My parents were pretty sceptical at first,” Mike relays. “I did everything my family had never done: have a child out of wedlock, have that relationship fall apart, so when I said ‘hey, I’m going to get married to someone I’ve only met twice who I’ve known for less than a year, and we’re going to get married in America,’ there was this [wide-eyed] ‘oh’.”
With a US visa being an unlikely prospect for Mike, they decided that Jess would move to England, but the wedding would be in Pennsylvania. Jess describes the day as “perfect”. After Mr and Mrs Worssell had exchanged rings, they put a necklace on Carter to celebrate their new family.
Now, just two weeks after her life-changing move to the UK, Jess says she misses her old job and her 15 nieces and nephews. She’s also frustrated at not being able to drive a manual car on her automatic license. Yet, despite this, she already feels this is her home.
Ironically, the couple say that neither of them really uses MySpace anymore.
The experts’ opinion
Denise Knowles, a relationship councillor for Relate, says that thanks to the internet, more people are now finding partners and having relationships.
However, Denise warns there are two sides to the equation. “The internet allows us to be anything we want to be rather than what we really are.
“Somebody struck up a relationship with a person half way across the world, spent thousands of pounds speaking to them on the internet and travelled to Australia to meet a woman – only to be confronted with a man dressed as a woman.”
Meanwhile, social networking sites are no fun if you can’t pull your partner off the pc. “One in ten people are now citing technology as a problem in their relationship,” Denise explains.
Dr Will Reader is a specialist in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University, and is working on a project researching the impact of technology on social interaction.
Dr Reader says that MySpace marriages are rare and speaking on the phone or meeting in person as Mike and Jess did is crucial. “You can tell a lot about someone over MySpace or Facebook, but what is hard to tell is whether they are genuine.
“It is easy to say ‘I love you’ on MySpace; talk is cheap. But these things are much harder to fake face to face.”
RELATIONSHIP HELPLINE: If you wish to talk to a professionally trained counsellor on issues mentioned in this article or any other relationship problems, contact Relate on 0845 1 30 40 16 to book an appointment, or visit their website at www.relate.org.uk