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Duluth couple finds love at Geek Prom

By Christa Lawler
April 4, 2013 | Duluth News Tribune

The trivia portion of the 2011 Geek Prom came easily to Bryan Haakensen.

There was a question about NASA and another about an obscure game designer. Then the finale: A sentence written in binary code that needed to be translated. No problem. He’s binary-lingual.

The collection of zeroes and ones, computer language plotted out by his longtime girlfriend Meghan Callahan, read, in short: Bryan, will you be my geeky partner in marriage?

“I didn’t register it right away,” Haakensen said. “It sort of slowly sunk in. I forgot where I was for a bit. I think I just sat there for a little while and smiled dumbly.”

The couple got married last summer — an event with a game theme — and plans to return to the place where it all happened in spring 2011. Geek Prom, an event that celebrates every genre of nerd, is at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Underground, a new venue in the former Children’s Museum spot at the Depot.

This is believed to be the first proposal at the biennial event.

Haakensen and Callahan became friends in the late 1990s, drawn together through a mutual interest in role-playing games. They started dating in 2007.

“We just … we kind of perfectly click,” Callahan said. “We always knew we got along great. We’d hang out and we were good friends. Once we were both single, it was like: ‘It would be fun to try this.’ I knew we would work as a couple. Both of us had no idea how well it would work as a couple. Even though we’d both known each other for a decade, getting to know each other on this deeper level was unexpected.”

Callahan was hesitant to get married after a previous bad relationship, she said, but she knew Haakensen was ready.

He said he told her: “Look, I know I don’t know if it will ever happen, but if you ever want to do the marriage thing, I will because I totally want to.”

Still, he was surprised when she asked. After that initial conversation, it was never mentioned again, he said.

“Since I made him wait so long, I (thought I) might as well do it in a big, grand, crazy public spectacle,” Callahan said.

After she did, it took a nudge from a friend for Haakensen to remember that he still had to stand up and accept the proposal — which, of course, he did.

“Sometimes if you’re in a relationship you have to alter things about yourself or start doing things different because the other person doesn’t like it,” Haakensen said. “I could just be me. I didn’t have to change a thing and that was it. She loved me just for that. That was the biggest thing for me, and it was the same for her.

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow. This is probably it.’ ”

In keeping with the theme, the duo’s August 2012 wedding had king- and queen-decorated invitations and board games on the tables during the reception upstairs at Grandma’s Sports Garden.

This year’s prom includes a grand march, a karaoke Gong Show, Geek Dating Game, spaz dancing competition and a coronation of King and Queen Geek. Wear puffy vintage prom-wear or dress as a superhero.

Callahan and Haakensen, who went as Pac-Man screens in 2011, will be dressed as characters from the animated Comedy Central series “Futurama.”

“It’ll be kind of fun,” Callahan said. “An anniversary of our engagement, I guess. And it’s just fun being at Geek Prom, anyway.”