The power couple: Claire and Rufus Barner, both 27
Years together: Nine total, married four and a half
Occupations: He’s an attorney; she’s a project manager at Youth Outreach Services.
Claire and Rufus met on their very first day as freshman at the University of Chicago, when they were placed in dorm rooms across the hall from one another. Besides their interest in social justice for low-income Chicagoans, the couple shares a flair for hosting themed parties, including their yearly sci-fi blowout BarnerCon. —Gwynedd Stuart
Is there mutual interest in each other’s profession or is work typically left at work?
Rufus: Claire usually leaves work at work. I bring it home and often ask her for help. I run things by her and make sure that my arguments make sense, that they’re logical, and that I don’t leave any questions unanswered.
Claire: Rufus’s experience working at the public defender’s office fits in very well with my agency’s focus on alternatives to detention for juvenile offenders. We don’t talk about work every day, but we definitely have shared interests.
The first thing you noticed about Claire was . . .
Rufus: Her ability to talk about just about any- and everything with a smile.
Is cohabitation as blissful as we all imagine?
Claire: It’s pretty sweet that I haven’t taken out the garbage—not once—in the two and a half years living at our current place.
In which Rufus recalls first meeting Claire
(Looking for love at first sight? isawyou.chicagoreader.com)
When: September 18, 2004
Where: 3rd Floor Max East
I saw a: Woman
I am a: Man
You have long brown hair, nice sleek shoulders, wearing black tank top and a long billowing skirt. You were talking on the phone with someone who made you smile and I had the privilege of viewing that. You had great green eyes and glanced at me quickly. I have short black hair, actually braided in cornrows, brown eyes. I was wearing a shirt that was two sizes too big and I had the look of a kid lost in a soda shop. I waved a hello to you although you may not have seen it. I live in the room across the hall from you. Message me if you remember me, I wanted to invite you out to lunch or something, but am a bit shy.
Who’s the better cook of the two?
Rufus: Get me out of the kitchen before I get stabbed! No, not really, but Claire is a beast of a cook in the kitchen. We have this party every year, BarnerCon. It’s our version of the comic conventions in Chicago, and we always do different dishes and drinks in theme. She gets quite creative, like barbecue chicken pastries, in the shape of Darth Vader of course. One year we even had Klingon Blood Wine—it was awesome!
Who is more likely to lose her/his shit whilst navigating Chicago traffic?
Claire: We have successfully avoided owning a car up until now. Public transit all the way, baby.
Who’s winning at a game of Jeopardy and why?
Claire: Probably me, because I’d get all the movie trivia right. If all the questions were about soccer and Dr. Who, Rufus would dominate.
Rufus: Claire’s ability to come to conclusions, deductively, leave me stranded on . . . what is Gilligan’s Island?
What quirk about your significant other have you grown to find strangely charming over time?
Claire: Rufus makes these really bad jokes. I’ve known the guy almost a decade and I still need to ask when he’s joking. I used to think the jokes were just weird, but our friends seem to think he’s got this great cynical, dry sense of humor.
What quirk still makes you want to beat her/him with a shovel?
Claire: Rufus likes to sing 90s pop in a really high-pitched, tone-deaf voice. And I mean bad 90s pop. Like “Email My Heart” by Britney Spears.
Rufus: Washing her hands and then dropping all of the water on the floor instead of the sink . . . ARGH! She washes her hands before starting on dinner and throughout cooking. By the time we sit for dinner, we have a lagoon in the kitchen.
Where do you see yourselves—as a couple—in five years? What’s on the horizon for this Chicago power couple?
Rufus: If we’re a “power couple,” I hope to be the mayor of Chicago while simultaneously running my own successful practice, with Claire as the leader of some fancy nonprofit.
Claire: In five years, we’d love to have a few kids and maybe have just bought our first home. Hopefully it will have a big yard for a vegetable garden and a lovely kitchen to cook all those veggies. We’ve been rock solid for years and I can only see things getting better.