Monday, April 28, 2014

Can I put a ring on it?

In my last post I described getting to the point of actually proposing to Calvin, but there was a topic that deserved its own post - engagement rings.

While I realize that same-sex couples aren't required to follow wedding traditions used by opposite-sex couples, I think it's safe to say at the very least we use them as a model. So when it came time to propose to Calvin, I found myself confused about whether I should present him with an engagement ring.

I asked around and did some research. I was surprised to learn that some straight couples are beginning to exchange engagement rings. In fact, some enterprising retailers are trying to get the term "Mangagement Ring" into popular use (I don't see that happening). However, the same-sex couples (male) that I spoke to seemed to each have their own variation on the engagement ring. In one case, one proposed with a man's engagement ring. When his beloved said "yes," they went and bought a second, matching ring so they each could have one. Then, when the wedding came, they switched their engagement rings to their right hands and wore standard wedding rings on their left hands.

In another case, one partner offered a box with both wedding rings in it for his proposal. Although the intent was to exchange them at the wedding, his partner liked the ring so much that they started wearing them immediately, removing them the day before the wedding and re-introducing them at the ceremony.

I was surprised to learn that male engagement rings
have gone in and out of style since at least the 1920s.
In yet another case, a couple got engaged without rings, then went and got matching engagement rings that were later soldered to their wedding rings, similar to the current bridal practice.

These were all good ideas. The only problem was that Calvin hates rings. Perhaps hate is too strong. He just doesn't like to wear them. We bought some inexpensive matching metal rings a year or so after we began dating, but Calvin was always taking his off, saying it was too big, and that it "bothered him," and tended to get in his way while driving and typing.

So, after all my hand-wringing (no pun intended), I finally decided not to offer him an engagement ring. Instead, I decided it made more sense if we spent our money on the actual wedding rings and found something he was comfortable wearing. That way we could go to the jewelry store together and it would be an experience - and one day a fond memory - we could share.

Ultimately we decided to go without engagement rings,
opting instead to spend a bit more on our actual wedding rings.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The proposal - now how is THAT supposed to work?

Once I realized that marrying Calvin was a very real part of my future, the questions started. Would I propose to him, or would he propose to me? When and where should it happen? And should there be engagement rings? Clearly 100 years of Hollywood's boy-meets-girl-and-gets-married films hadn't prepared me for this.

Hollywood didn't do a very good job in
helping me prepare for proposing to Calvin.

I decided to take the initiative and propose. Okay, one decision down, a million more to go. How would I go about it? A song and full-length music video a la Danny Rose? Perhaps get my former comrades from the Chicago Spirit Brigade to help me create a unique stunt-inspired proposal? Clearly a public display was necessary - after all, big moments involve a flash mob, don't they?

So for weeks I went over ideas in my head, discarding each one as impractical, ridiculous, or both.

Finally I decided on something that seemed a bit more reasonable. I would set up a surprise party for his birthday (early October) and in front of all our friends I would get down on one knee and propose. Tasteful, but not over the top (it would be filmed, of course).

Then, while gleefully assembling my proposal "event," I was hit with a cold slap of reality. A mutual friend let me know that Calvin had shared with her that if I ever proposed to him in a big public setting, he would say "No."


Okay, perhaps I hadn't taken into account Calvin's generally quiet, reserved nature. But still, I was mad. Fuming. How dare he inadvertently ruin my proposal?

And in the days that followed, I thought more about the entire idea. What was I thinking? My proposing to Calvin was between the two of us. Why did I think it needed to be a public event? Was this about love or about my ego?

I ultimately came up with a new plan. On Christmas Eve of 2013 I took him out to a nice dinner, and in a private booth I read him a list of all the reasons why I loved him, and then I asked him to marry me. He said "yes."

Then he looked at me oddly.

"Why the look?" I asked.

He smiled and said "I was going to propose to you tomorrow. Who in the world proposes on Christmas Eve?"

We laughed. We were on the same wavelength, just a few hours apart.

Despite my initial dreams of proposing to Calvin
in a big public setting with a flash mob, I ultimately
proposed over a simple, private dinner at The Elite CafĂ©.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

All roads lead to...San Francisco

After nearly three years of staying warm in chilly Chicago, Calvin surprised me with a question one night.

"How would you feel about living in San Francisco?"

The question was a surprise because we had discussed how we expected to always stay in Chicago (despite the weather). I had a large group of friends there, and Calvin, a University of Chicago grad, had a large network of contacts there as well, despite the fact that he was actually from Singapore.

However, it turned out that Calvin had been offered his dream job out in the City by the Bay. A Math genius, Calvin had been working as an options trader in downtown Chicago, but hoped to one day teach highly gifted Math students. The position in San Francisco would give him the opportunity to locate and mentor highly gifted Math students from around the world, particularly India.

When I met Calvin, I had no idea one day I
would be moving with him to San Francisco.

As a trade magazine editor I was able to work from any location, so I knew that would not be a problem, so it only took a moment for me to realize my answer was "yes."

And then in the summer of 2013, Proposition 8 was struck down in California and DOMA was repealed at the national level. Suddenly a legal marriage was possible.

Now the thing we had joked about was possible.

And that was when things began to get interesting.

After all these years, could it really be possible that two men
who loved each other could get legally married?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finding love in the midst of apples and nuclear physicists

It was exactly four years ago today that I met Calvin. I like to tell this story because it just shows how you can meet people in some unusual places.

I was living in Chicago at the time, and it was a typical snow-and-ice covered day in April. However, I decided that particular night to venture out to Dating for Queer Nerds, a group that met once a month at various places around the city. As you might expect, these were not the kind of guys (women met on a separate night) that you would find at Sidetrack or one of the various "cool" gay clubs around the city. I don't know that too many men in the room knew the name of Madonna's latest album, but I strongly suspect that someone in the group could build a nuclear reactor if necessary.

The Holiday Club in Chicago - a rare place
where nerds and love can actually meet at the same time.

The meetings were pretty tame. Despite the word "dating" in the title, it was really more of a chance for gay men to get together and play board games, participate in trivia contests, and see who could name the actors in obscure science fiction films. It was geeky nerdiness at its best, and I loved it.

That particular evening I had arrived a few minutes early, so after paying my entry fee I found a table that looked to be playing Apples to Apples and waited for everyone else to arrive.

And then Calvin appeared. He stood by the doorway, and I immediately had two thoughts.

"He's really tall."

"He's really cute."

I waited through the evening until our tables rotated around and we were both playing the same trivia game. I introduced myself, gave him my business card, and suggested he send me a Facebook friend request, which he did that following week. That led to coffee, which became dinner, which led to a movie (Iron Man 2), and then everything after that becomes a blur.

Iron Man 2 - because nothing says "love" like
watching a man fly around in a high-tech suit of armor.

In the weeks and then months that followed, we got a place together north of downtown, and Calvin settled in as the adoptive father of my two cats. As years started to go by, we occasionally talked about marriage, but since it was illegal in Illinois (and at the national level), the conversation never went that far.

That was about to change.