After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she worked at Goldman Sachs as a fixed income trading strategist, dealing with enormous sums of money that she traded for the house account. Jon Corzine, her boss, tried to get her to stay at Goldman, but instead she decided the work was unedifying. “You could be really successful,” she said, “but you’re just contributing to capital formation.” So after three years she quit and went to Florence, Italy, living there for eight months before enrolling in Stanford Business School.
After their Thursday night dinner, she invited Jobs over to her Palo Alto apartment on Saturday. Kat Smith drove down from Berkeley and pretended to be her roommate so she could meet him as well. Their relationship became very passionate. “They would kiss and make out,” Smith said. “He was enraptured with her. He would call me on the phone and ask, ‘What do you think, does she like me?’ Here I am in this bizarre position of having this iconic person call me.”
That New Year’s Eve of 1989 the three went to Chez Panisse, the famed Alice Waters restaurant in Berkeley, along with Lisa, then eleven. Something happened at the dinner that caused Jobs and Powell to start arguing. They left separately, and Powell ended up spending the night at Kat Smith’s apartment. At nine the next morning there was a knock at the door, and Smith opened it to find Jobs, standing in the drizzle holding some wildflowers he had picked. “May I come in and see Laurene?” he said. She was still asleep, and he walked into the bedroom. A couple of hours went by, while Smith waited in the living room, unable to go in and get her clothes. Finally, she put a coat on over her nightgown and went to Peet’s Coffee to pick up some food. Jobs did not emerge until after noon. “Kat, can you come here for a minute?” he asked. They all gathered in the bedroom. “As you know, Laurene’s father passed away, and Laurene’s mother isn’t here, and since you’re her best friend, I’m going to ask you the question,” he said. “I’d like to marry Laurene. Will you give your blessing?”
Smith clambered onto the bed and thought about it. “Is this okay with you?” she asked Powell. When she nodded yes, Smith announced, “Well, there’s your answer.”
It was not, however, a definitive answer. Jobs had a way of focusing on something with insane intensity for a while and then, abruptly, turning away his gaze. At work, he would focus on what he wanted to, when he wanted to, and on other matters he would be unresponsive, no matter how hard people tried to get him to engage. In his personal life, he was the same way. At times he and Powell would indulge in public displays of affection that were so intense they embarrassed everyone in their presence, including Kat Smith and Powell’s mother. In the mornings at his Woodside mansion, he would wake Powell up by blasting the Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” on his tape deck. Yet at other times he would ignore her. “Steve would fluctuate between intense focus, where she was the center of the universe, to being coldly distant and focused on work,” said Smith. “He had the power to focus like a laser beam, and when it came across you, you basked in the light of his attention. When it moved to another point of focus, it was very, very dark for you. It was very confusing to Laurene.”
Once she had accepted his marriage proposal on the first day of 1990, he didn’t mention it again for several months. Finally, Smith confronted him while they were sitting on the edge of a sandbox in Palo Alto. What was going on? Jobs replied that he needed to feel sure that Powell could handle the life he lived and the type of person he was. In September she became fed up with waiting and moved out. The following month, he gave her a diamond engagement ring, and she moved back in.
In December Jobs took Powell to his favorite vacation spot, Kona Village in Hawaii. He had started going there nine years earlier when, stressed out at Apple, he had asked his assistant to pick out a place for him to escape. At first glance, he didn’t like the cluster of sparse thatched-roof bungalows nestled on a beach on the big island of Hawaii. It was a family resort, with communal eating. But within hours he had begun to view it as paradise. There was a simplicity and spare beauty that moved him, and he returned whenever he could. He especially enjoyed being there that December with Powell. Their love had matured. The night before Christmas he again declared, even more formally, that he wanted to marry her. Soon another factor would drive that decision. While in Hawaii, Powell got pregnant. “We know exactly where it happened,” Jobs later said with a laugh.
The Wedding, March 18, 1991
Powell’s pregnancy did not completely settle the issue. Jobs again began balking at the idea of marriage, even though he had dramatically proposed to her both at the very beginning and the very end of 1990. Furious, she moved out of his house and back to her apartment. For a while he sulked or ignored the situation. Then he thought he might still be in love with Tina Redse; he sent her roses and tried to convince her to return to him, maybe even get married. He was not sure what he wanted, and he surprised a wide swath of friends and even acquaintances by asking them what he should do. Who was prettier, he would ask, Tina or Laurene? Who did they like better? Who should he marry? In a chapter about this in Mona Simpson’s novel A Regular Guy, the Jobs character “asked more than a hundred people who they thought was more beautiful.” But that was fiction; in reality, it was probably fewer than a hundred.
He ended up making the right choice. As Redse told friends, she never would have survived if she had gone back to Jobs, nor would their marriage. Even though he would pine about the spiritual nature of his connection to Redse, he had a far more solid relationship with Powell. He liked her, he loved her, he respected her, and he was comfortable with her. He may not have seen her as mystical, but she was a sensible anchor for his life. “He is the luckiest guy to have landed with Laurene, who is smart and can engage him intellectually and can sustain his ups and downs and tempestuous personality,” said Joanna Hoffman. “Because she’s not neurotic, Steve may feel that she is not as mystical as Tina or something. But that’s silly.” Andy Hertzfeld agreed. “Laurene looks a lot like Tina, but she is totally different because she is tougher and armor-plated. That’s why the marriage works.”
Jobs understood this as well. Despite his emotional turbulence and occasional meanness, the marriage would turn out to be enduring, marked by loyalty and faithfulness, overcoming the ups and downs and jangling emotional complexities it encountered.