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Playwright creates her own love story

Christen Petitt and Shaun Hailey had a Day of the Dead-themed ceremony at New World Brewery in Ybor City.

Rita Webb

Christen Petitt and Shaun Hailey had a Day of the Dead-themed ceremony at New World Brewery in Ybor City.

TAMPA — Shaun Hailey spent his days fielding complaints about broken cellphones. He came directly home at night, alone.

He lived among white walls. He had no posters or art. He had a futon to sit on and a bed to sleep in and a desk with a huge computer. He sat behind it as the moon came around, looking through the screen to the world.

The thing back then was MySpace. Shaun's profile picture was not him, but a little Appalachian mountain boy smoking a cigarette.

Christen Petitt sat at her own computer, sipping a drink. She snaked through channels of mutual friends, looking for anyone interesting. When she saw a picture of a mountain boy, she clicked. Behind that were more pictures not of a boy, but a man to whom she was instantly attracted.

Aug. 17, 2005, 9:22 p.m., she wrote:

I had something incredibly witty to say, but I'm shy, so I'll tell you later.

11:16 p.m., he wrote:

I somehow suspect this shyness you speak of is a ruse.

Christen was a drama kid with a twisted sense of humor, an aspiring playwright who created outlandish characters. Shaun was a buttoned-up philosophy graduate who didn't drink, who observed people and made quiet narratives in his head. Christen's roommates thought he was so square, he was probably a cop.

"We both suffered from depraved indifference," said Shaun, 36.

But Christen brought something out in Shaun. Right after they started dating, he threw a sandwich at a co-worker and got fired. He got a better job as a loan underwriter and wanted to motivate Christen, too. He bought her a laptop for Valentine's Day, with the condition she write a new play within the year.

"It was obvious she needed to be writing plays," he said. "If she didn't do it, I was going to take it back."

At the very end of his deadline, she started a short play about two female demons in a bar who end up eating the bartender. It played at the Straz Center, and people loved it. She went on to write more plays, directing and producing them at the Jobsite Theater in Tampa.

Christen had never wanted to get married, but suddenly, she did. Shaun read Karl Marx and didn't believe in marriage, but suddenly, he did.


"Her being awesome," said Shaun.

"I cook really well," said Christen, 37. "I fattened him up."

"How much weight have I gained since we met? Sixty?"


"I just went to the doctor, and it was 60."

He proposed on Valentine's Day this year. He made her sit on the couch. She was expecting a vacuum cleaner.

"I was like, 'What's up! Dyson!' "

They laughed the rest of the night. They had a Day of the Dead-themed wedding Nov. 19 at New World Brewery in Ybor City. She stood in leopard shoes, surrounded by red roses and 60 hand-painted skulls.

Shaun read from index cards.

"I vow to continue the longest MySpace hookup in all history, to remain the happiest victim of stalking ever. I will love you infinitely. I will always be both complimentary and incongruous in the best possible way. I vow to keep the intersection of our Venn diagrams as axioms and not theorems."

Then he whispered a super-secret vow no one else could understand.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

Playwright creates her own love story 12/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 4:20pm]
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