the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

What Do You Have to Lose?

A few years ago, when I went to New Zealand to meet Juli, it caused a stir amongst my online friends. It was as romantic and exotic a scenario as any romance novel. The green beauty of the Kiwi location added a Hollywood sheen to my adventure. I posted photos of Juli and I against the backdrops of lush woods, rocky beaches, and Maori villages built on volcanic ash. It was a wonderful trip. Strangers would send me private messages, a few of them like this:

“When I was a junior in college, I spent a year in Sweden. While there, I met Sven. He was the most beautiful man I ever met, and the best lover. For a year, I was in heaven; it was the greatest romance of my life. But after the year, I became practical and returned to my studies at Carnegie-Mellon, where I met my husband. I’m married now, with three children. And I’m very happy living in Pittsburgh. Let me emphasize that. I love my husband dearly and my children are the greatest gift. But sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed in Sweden. I will never know, but you have the opportunity to live life to the fullest. Stay in New Zealand with Juli. Don’t come back to the States! Live! Live like I could never live with Sven!”

There was much disappointment when my relationship with Juli fizzled out, a casualty of the great distance between us. It was a Hollywood movie with a shitty ending. It was also my first taste of the fickleness of an audience. All the new readers and followers who were once begging me for a new chapter to my great romantic saga had abandoned my story to the remainders table of the internet.

One person remained true, carrying as much about my aftermath as my travels. It was Jana, a blogging friend from Atlanta. She was one of my first online friends who pushed me to go to New Zealand when I was reluctant to take a risk.

“What do you have to lose?” she asked.

She was still there after hearts were broken.

Now she asked a new question, “How are you doing?”

We bonded after that, becoming confidantes.

Last January, I decided it was time to start dating again. Always up for a trend, I signed up for Tinder. It was terrifying for me, but Jana was there again with good advice.

“What do you have to lose?” she asked.

Jana became my dating coach during my twelve online dates that I had in the winter and spring of 2015. Before the date, I would send her a photo of what I was going to wear. After the date, I would give her the play by play. There was one woman  I liked a lot, but there was a problem — her name was exactly the same as my ex-wife, first and last name. It was the weirdest coincidence in dating history.

“Should I tell her about my ex-wife’s name NOW or LATER?”

“You better tell her now because she’s going to be freaked out.”

And yes, she was freaked out, and I never heard from this woman again.

During this time, I also became a confidant to Jana’s issues, one of them being her separation with her husband. This made me nervous because I was worried that our conversations had triggered her marital problems. She assured me that they hadn’t; they had been growing apart.

One weekend, Jana came to New York City with her niece who was checking out colleges to attend in the fall. She was interested in Columbia, where I had attended school. I accompanied them on a tour and then we went out for pizza at a local college hangout. That night, Jana and I went to their hotel bar, where she introduced me to a drink called the Sidecar. We both became a little tipsy and kissed. It was awkward, because while Jana and her husband were now separated, they were not yet divorced. We let some time pass until the divorce came through. I visited Jana in Atlanta and she visited me in New York. Something was going on with us, but we weren’t sure how to define it. We weren’t even sure it we should change our Facebook relationship status as of yet. No one ever teaches you about dating after divorce. The whole concept of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” sounds so high school.

After a wonderful weekend in New York, I freaked out and called off our budding relationship. Jana didn’t understand. I explained that I had already been involved in a long distance relationship before. Juli and I were also friends before we became romantic, and once you go too far, it is impossible to go back. After the distance proved insurmountable, our friendship never recovered. We rarely speak to each other anymore, even on social media. I didn’t want the same to happen to us. It was more important to me that we remain friends than start a relationship that was bound to have obstacles.

“What do you have to lose?” she asked.

“You,” I said.

That night, I thought about it some more. I had grown very close to Jana. We have fun together and I like her, like the kids say. So, my resolution for 2016 is to stop worrying so much and see where things lead. So, I am writing this as I take a flight to Atlanta to see Jana. Nothing to lose, only to gain. As for changing our Facebook relationship statuses, we’re taking it slow.




  1. Amy

    Good luck Neil! I agree with taking it slow and with not giving up. Look forward to the updates, positive or otherwise.

  2. ats

    Happy for you!!! xoxoo

  3. Sisters From Another Mister

    You know, when you find THAT one special CHICK … you stick around, you give it a shot, actually you give it all you’ve got … even if you are scared you could lose it all – you may just find an awful lot.

  4. Avitable

    Jana is amazing. And you are one of my favorite writers. I like this very much.

  5. Noel

    Was the “same name” date from Germany? Slight accent? Divorced long ago?

  6. kerry

    You look so happy!

  7. Angella

    Aw, I love this. GO, NEIL!!!

  8. Becky

    “What if we fail?” you ask,
    “But what if you fly?” I answer.
    You don’t have to figure out the ending until you get there. This is just the beginning, it’s exciting and new. And you live your life for you, not your readers. If they don’t stay through the bad times, they aren’t true friends.
    But you know this already.
    So excited and happy for you!

  9. Camille

    This is so awesome, Neil! HAVE FUN!!!!!!! <3

  10. Debi

    Jana is one of my favorite people. That lady has a giant heart, a kind soul and a smile to light up a room, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I’m happy for you both, whatever this may turn out to be. Jana is so amazing, you have to at least see where it goes or you will regret it forever. You both deserve this happiness.

  11. Michael from Dadcation

    I think this is cool, too. I like both of y’all, and I look forward to seeing y’all Sunday here in Atlanta!

  12. Jen

    I say GO FOR IT. Sounds like you are anyway. Whatever will be will be.

  13. Elan Morgan

    I like this very much 🙂

  14. Shauna

    Can I like this 1 million times? I’m so excited for the two of you. I hold both of you so dear to my heart and have for a very long time. I couldn’t be happier for two people ever. Love you guys so much!

    But Neil, seriously, if you hurt Jana I will kill you. Murder. Dead.

  15. Becky

    wishing you both the best!

  16. Ms. Moon

    May the gods of romance shine upon you both!

  17. Melinda

    You two are awesome. I’m rooting for you both.

  18. Jett

    You people look pretty great together.

  19. Sarah Piazza

    Ahh! I love this! Happy for you.

  20. Arnebya

    Your smiles are making me smile.

  21. Tara R.

    So very happy for you both.

  22. Kablooey

    Wow. Beautiful picture. Glad you’re taking the risk — hell, we’ve all got enough friends, right? Worth taking this chance on having more, no matter the outcome. Yay, romance.

  23. Laura Laser

    She’s really cute! Good luck with this and funny story about meeting another Sophia Lansky. What are the chances of that?

  24. Lotus Carroll

    This made me smile, even though I cried a bit at “You.” ❤️

  25. Jen

    This is so wonderful!!! Be happy!

  26. Robin

    Wishing you happiness and enjoyment in this relationship. Take each day and discover something about her and about yourself! Fun!

  27. Laura Davis

    So happy for you! Enjoy yourself.

  28. Josette Plank

    Aw, Neil! So happy for the two of you!!!

  29. Holly

    You look so great together. Wonderful news.

  30. Naptimewriting

    This post makes me very happy, Neil!


  31. Andrea

    For years people have met online, fallen in love and lived happily ever after. Why not you? So happy that you are throwing caution to the wind and following your heart. New York to Atlanta is a hop and a skip.

  32. Liz

    This post makes me so happy, but not as happy as you two look, as it should be.

  33. Ned Teitelbaum

    Go for it Neil! She is hot!

  34. Momma Sunshine

    My now-husband and I met online in 2008. We lived 3 hours apart and while it seemed ridiculous for us to be having a relationship, we decided “What have we got to lose?” and totally went for it. For over four years we maintained the distance, seeing each other only every other weekend. I won’t lie — it was tough. Like, really tough some days. But what we had together was completely worth it…and so we soldiered on, without really knowing how we were going to keep managing the distance but knowing in our hearts that we would somehow find a way to be together. In September of 2012 he relocated to my city, and the next year we were married. And we’re happily together now. 🙂

    Life isn’t without some risk. But I fully believe that it’s better to try and fail than to allow fear to hold you back in life.

  35. Kir

    Two of my favorite people smiling happy, content smiles.
    Yes, I like this very much and love you both.

  36. Kristin

    Have fun!

  37. betty M


  38. Michael

    Great Story! I really hope this keeps on working for the both of you.

    Something I realized at a young age is at the far end of life, it has to be better to think about what I did in my life, than what I could have done.

    Your story reads like you have arrived, welcome!

  39. Kanani

    I’m several years late. I’m catching up. The two of you look great, and I’m happy that you’ve found someone!

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