In late May 2020, after weeks of virtual dating, Ms. Spigner invited Mr. Syphax to her home for an in-person dinner. He accepted.
He was surprised by what he found when he showed up.
Looking to replicate a restaurant dinner date, Ms. Spigner had arranged for a chef friend to cook a multicourse dinner, complete with menus and restaurant-style place settings. She hired a violinist to perform a live soundtrack from a corner of her dining room. (A few highlights from the set list: Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” Michael Jackson’s “Butterflies” and Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love.”) She didn’t tell Mr. Syphax about any of this beforehand.
“It completely blew my mind, the effort and the thought that she put in that,” he said.
They started spending more time together in person after that night. Daytime outings were a favorite during that spring and summer. Mr. Syphax owns a 1979 Mercedes-Benz convertible, which he and Ms. Spigner used to cruise along the Jersey Shore. They had picnics on the water in Asbury Park. (When it comes to food, Ms. Spigner said, “Tracey is an East Coaster; I’m a West Coaster. So I’ll eat olive tapenade and tuna tartar, and Tracey likes pork rolls.”) Ms. Spigner took Mr. Syphax hiking, which was a new activity for him.
“It was a very natural, ‘granola,’ way of getting to know each other,” Ms. Spigner said. “It was not the dinners, the cocktails, the rooftop bars.”
When the protests and larger movements responding to the murder of George Floyd began that summer, Ms. Spigner and Mr. Syphax bonded over shared feelings of grief — and a motivation to meet the moment. Ms. Spigner pushed for discussions about diversity within her company, conferring with Mr. Syphax about how best to approach those conversations.
“I got the opportunity to see her act in the corporate world via Zoom,” Mr. Syphax said, “to see how she presents herself and how she drives home the point, ‘We have to do better as a corporation when it comes to issues that affect African Americans.’”