I say ‘Three Seventeen’ because it’s three years legally married and seventeen years, um, illegally married, or not allowed to legally marry ... but I digress ...
Here’s how this happened … I was late to the Internet party. I didn't get a computer until the mid-90s, and didn't get online until a couple of years after that. But I have learned throughout my life that all things happen for a reason. I got on AOL—yes, that old thang—and learned of something called a "chat room" where you can talk to people from all over the world. Huh? What? Huh? I decided to give it a shot and I found a Chat Room called Gay Lifestyles and figured I'd go in.
I was the quiet one in the corner until I learned to speak up, or is it ‘type’ up? But I liked the chat rooms for the fun and jokes, not for the hook-ups — there were other rooms for that. I was single and that was okay. I'd had a couple of mini-relationships that didn't pan out and figured maybe I'd be the single guy, and, again, that was okay. I liked my life, my job, my house, my friends. What more did I need?
But in April of 2000, I was in a chatroom and someone asked, "Where is everybody from?" I answered "Cali here" because I'd seen other people call California by that name. A few minutes later I got a message from someone named Carlos who asked about Cali, but there was a mix-up; he was talking Cali, Colombia, and I was talking Cali … fornia. It could have ended there but we decided to exchange emails and chat some more.
Carlos then suggested we talk by phone. I was already attracted to him just by what he wrote and the way he thought about things, though, being the shy one, I was a bit apprehensive; still, I said ‘Okay.’
On the day of the call I raced home from work so I could be ready; there is a three hour time difference between Miami and Sacramento, so it was getting late for him, when my phone rang.
I remember hearing his voice that first time and falling in love with that accent. I remember what we said, and how we said it, and how we wanted to talk more and share pictures and find out all we could about each other. I remember how he laughed that first time.
We talked every day after that; he’d called in the late morning from his job as I was getting dressed in the early morning to go to mine; and then I’d call in the early evening to talk to him before he went to sleep. We emailed and messaged and sent packages and pictures and songs; it was a long distance romance and I wanted to decrease that space between us.
So I took eleven days off in July 2000 and flew to Miami. I know! Miami in July! What was I thinking? I was thinking that this man was something special and I wanted to see him in-person and to know what this all meant. I wanted to hear that accent in person. I wanted to know all about him. I was thinking he was 'the one.'
He picked me up at the Ft Lauderdale airport, wearing a bow-tie and carrying a bouquet of roses; he looked exactly like his pictures, though much cuter. We had lunch and walked along the beach; we drove to South Beach and stayed in a hotel because his aunt was staying at his house and we wanted privacy.
We spent a weekend in Key West and Carlos wore a sarong as we walked through town to see the sunset. I heard him play his trumpet with a volunteer orchestra he belonged to, and I met his Aunt Gloria — who became my tour-guide and friend, and, even before we legally tied the knot, my Tia Gloria; I met Dengoso, the poodle; Thomas, Scruffy, Sweety, Lady, Voncie, Spunky and Squeaky, the cats. I wanted this … this man … this life … this place.
That vacation flew by and we were both in tears not knowing what was next. Moving? Staying long-distance? What was next turned out to be a visit from Carlos to California, and a ‘Meet The Family’ dinner. Of course, my family loved him. My Mom loved him because he loved me; my sister loved him because he's a nice guy; my brother loved him for that same reason. My Dad loved him because Carlos is Carlos, what you see is what you get. No pretense. Carlos met my friends and we had dinners and parties and good times. San Francisco; tea in the Japanese Garden; drinks in the Castro; a drive around Lake Tahoe. Then he had to go home and, once again, we wondered what we would do next.
We called and emailed still; he spoke with my parents and friends and I spoke with his family until it became clear: I would move to Miami. I had a job that would transfer well to Florida and, well, there are times in life where you just have to, as I like to say, Shake the Etch-A-Sketch.
So, where does this all lead? It leads to today, seventeen years after I stepped off another plane in Florida, though this time I wouldn't be staying just a week or so. Seventeen years ago today Carlos and I started our life together and there was no looking back; only forward.
And it’s now been three years since we stood before a judge in Bellingham, Washington, saying our vows. I seriously never thought I would see the day that I would ... that I could... marry Carlos, with my father as a witness, but we did just that. I only wish my mother and sister could have been there in more than just spirit because, as much as they love me, they love Carlos as much ... maybe more.
I remember as a kid — a not-yet-out-but-knowing-I-was-different kid — telling my mother that I would never get married, but I would have a maid to take care of my kids. How things change; as I remember that story now, realizing it may have been my first shot at coming out — as a six-year-old, I think — because, even then, I never thought I could get married, never thought I would be allowed to get married, but I always thought I could have children if that’s what I wanted.
Years later, after meeting Carlos, falling in love with Carlos, and moving three-thousand miles to be with Carlos, I still never thought I could get married, and then, fourteen years after we started our life together, it became clear that we could get married — perhaps not in South Carolina, it wasn’t legal here yet — and that we would get married. We both wanted to do it, and we planned it a couple of times, but it never seemed to work out; like I said, things happen, life happens.
I wanted to get married on our anniversary, October 17, because, and he’ll hate me for saying it and then he’ll quickly forget I said it at all, Carlos is bad with dates; I figured the last thing he needed was another “us” date to recall. So, in August 2014, we decided to go for it. We’d planned a trip to New York City — one of our favorite spots where equality had landed — and a week of sights and shows and drinks and fun. I called my father and told him the good news; he said he was so happy for us but that he wouldn’t, couldn’t come, because he doesn’t 'do' big cities. I thought, Oh that’s okay, Dad and let it go, but every time we talked about it, he’d always say that same thing.
And then it hit me: I’m an idiot. My father was saying how much he wanted to see Carlos and I marry; he’d seen my brother get married, he walked my sister down the aisle, and he wanted to see Carlos and I marry as well.
New York was out, and Bellingham was in, and off we went to Sumas, a literal hop and skip — no jump because it's that close — from Canada. We’d get married in Bellingham — a beautiful city on Bellingham Bay — and on our first day there, applied for our marriage license. It was a snap, and afterward we had lunch with my Dad. While driving around Carlos wondered about the three-day waiting period, and I said it gave people a chance to make sure this was what they wanted to do and he replied,
Yeah, three days! Because fourteen years isn’t long enough.
I almost drove off the road.
By Friday the 17th, we were ready to get this thing done. Since the only person we knew in Washington was my Dad, and we needed two witnesses, he asked his friend Casey and her boyfriend, Tyler, to be our witnesses, and we ended up with a spare, you know just in case.
At four-thirty we were inside the Bellingham Courthouse — through security … do I really need to take my belt off — and upstairs to meet Judge Henley. Then it was short trek down the hall to an open courtroom, followed by a few instructions, a quick chat … Judge Henley said the ceremony calls for the use of the words ‘spouse’ or the words ‘husband’ and asked what we wanted to do. Carlos and I said, in unison, Husbands! Anyone can have a spouse, we wanted a husband.
I don’t remember too much about the actual ceremony, really. I remember giggling a little and giving Carlos a side-eye during the richer-poorer part because I thought he’d say, Hmm, poorer? Maybe not so much. And I remember getting teary-eyed listening to him repeat his vows because Carlos can be very serious and he rarely gets weepy; but he stumbled over some words, and his voice cracked, and my eyes watered, but we made it through. A quick exchange of rings — that’s them up there on top — and it was kiss the groom. Kiss.The.Groom. Who knew? Bing bang boom, married.
Afterward, my father took the wedding gang out for dinner at a restaurant along the bay, where we watched the sunset over the marina, and drank a little and laughed a lot, and let it all sink in. My father, some new friends, and my new husband.
It was all so simple, really, and yet such a long time coming; from the days when that little kid never thought he could get married to three years ago when a much older kid realized he could, and would, and did.
So, this year, while we celebrate seventeen years as a couple as partners, lovers, friends, travelers, we are also celebrating our third year of marriage, our actual Third Wedding Anniversary.
It’s been a fabulous ride and, while I didn’t say this myself — Charlotte said it in one of those Sex and the City movies — I like to say that I am happy every single day with Carlos. Oh, not all day, every day, because that’s life, but every single day for the last seventeen years, I have realized how happy I am and how happy he makes me.