Girls have always used elaborate strategies to elude creepy guys at clubs and parties. But for Jennifer R. Saenz ’06, there’s no need to lie. “Usually, my friends are pretty quick to help out,” Saenz says with a smile. “All they need to say is, ‘Dude, she’s engaged!’”
Saenz has been dealing with the bewildered reactions of friends, acquaintances and random guys for over a year now—since she became engaged on Dec. 21, 2001. “I think it weirds a lot of people out much more than it weirds me out,” Saenz says. “People don’t believe you—they think that you’re too young.”
Saenz met her fiancee, Dave Heiberger, on a blind date. She was a sophomore at an all-girls school in her hometown of Chicago, and her friends thought it would be fun to set her up with a guy from the corresponding all-boys school. “We met on a Friday night for the date and didn’t really like each other,” the dewy-eyed Saenz recalls. “But that Saturday at a dance we spent the whole night together. We hit it off.”
Saenz and Heiberger began to date, and, despite the fact that he is two years older than she, their relationship flourished. Even when Heiberger went off to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, their relationship remained solid.
In December of her senior year of high school, Heiberger took Saenz to the top of the Sears Tower. Bending down on one knee in front of his 17 year-old girlfriend, he asked, “Would you make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife?” Saenz remembers that she was initially shocked and covered her mouth with her hands. “What can I say?” she blurted out. Her nervous suitor responded, “Well, you have to say something so I can get up.” “Yea-huh,” she said.
Saenz returned home to tell her parents the good news, interrupting them as they were watching a video. Their reaction was strangely low-key. “It wasn’t that bad,” she says. “My dad just kind of sat there.”
At first, Saenz’s parents were worried that she would discard college in favor of married life. However, Saenz says she intends to graduate, and she dismisses criticism that she is too young to tie the knot. “I don’t think there is a right time or right place or a right point in your life,” she says. “I think there is a right person, and I found him.”
Saenz’s roommate, Anindita Deb ’06, remembers how shocked she was when Saenz revealed her glittery secret. “First I saw a picture of her and Dave, and then I saw the ring on her finger,” she says. “It was a couple of weeks into the first semester before she told us she was engaged.”
The couple stay in constant contact despite their geographic separation. Saenz admits it isn’t the easiest situation. “When you’re engaged, it’s different from dating, in the sense that this person is so much more involved in your life,” she explains. “All of my roommates know Dave, and we’re always in contact somehow.” Heiberger visited Harvard last semester and, says Saenz, won her friends’ critical approval.
The couple plans to say their vows in a wedding ceremony on Nov. 19, 2006—their seven year anniversary. Saenz says she envisions a happy future married to Heiberger, living in Chicago, working as a teacher or a lawyer and tending to a brood of “half a dozen kids.”
Saenz might just be a regular Harvard freshman. Well, except for the ring.