Our meals arrive. Dan and Joe share their entrees with each other. We pour more wine and continue talking about their relationship.
I learn that before Joe met Dan, he was getting discouraged about ever finding his soul mate. “I got to the point where I would go on dates with guys I wasn’t even really attracted to at all, just to see if something would happen.” His message to single gay people now is, don’t give up. Keep looking. “And be willing to look anywhere, to go anywhere,” he says. “I once flew out to California just to go on a date!”
The searching ended for Joe when he met Dan on Facebook. After several dates and many hours of conversations that both Joe and Dan say were some of the happiest of their lives, Joe decided he wanted to make it official.Â “I did the whole middle school note thing. I wrote out, “Will you be my boyfriend?’ with boxes for “yes,’ “no,’ and “maybe.”
“Of course, I checked yes,” Dan says.
Eight months later, they both knew they wanted to spend their lives with each other. “We knew pretty early on we wanted to be together,” Joe says, “and that we wanted an actual marriage more than just a partnership of some kind. I’ve always wanted a church wedding. So, we had talked about itâ€”about who would propose and who wanted to be asked. I told Dan it would be nice to be surprised. And I eventually was. I had no idea the night he asked me.”
“I had kept the note from Joe asking me if I’d be his boyfriend, and I added a question to it. “Will you be my husband? Yes, no, or maybe.”
Dan arranged to meet Joe for a nice dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. He arrived early with gifts: a red rose for Joe’s plate, a collage of pictures he had put together chronicling their relationship, and an envelope containing the note and a Sharpie. He set his iPhone to record the moment.
Joe arrived, unsuspecting. “It started to occur to me what might be happening when I saw the collage,” Joe says, “but I went into the evening without a clue.” When Joe read the note, his eyes instantly filled with tears. He looked up from the paper as Dan got down on one knee.
“We’d only been dating eight months,” Dan says, “so I told him that I knew it was early on, but that I had no doubts, and that he’d make me a very happy man if he’d marry me.”
“I wicked gay reacted,” Joe says, laughing. With tears running down, Joe took the Sharpie, checked the appropriate box on the note, looked at Dan, smiled, and said, “Yes!”
“We’re both healthy eaters,” Dan says, “but we had cake that night.” Dan knew that he wanted to ask Joe’s dad for permission to marry Joe, so that evening he called.
Joe says, “That sealed it for me! That’s the sign of a good ole fashioned gentleman.”
By now, I’m dying to know what Joe’s and Dan’s parents think about all this. From earlier in our conversation, I’d gleaned that Joe’s dad is Catholic and Dan’s is a Methodist minister.
“I have a gay brother who came out before me,” Joe says, “So my dad had been through it before. He gave Dan permission to marry me, and he’ll be at the weddingalong with the rest of the family.”
Dan’s family is another story. “My parents have never met Joe,” Dan says with a note of sadness. “I would love for them to, but that’s the choice they’ve made. They won’t be at the wedding, and that’s also by their choice. We still talk almost every week, but they’re just not okay with my being gay and in a relationship. Maybe in time.”
In fact, I learn, there is a broad spectrum of family response on both sides, ranging from full acceptance to just the opposite. Dan says he hopes people will see in this that his and Joe’s story is not a flawless fairytale. “I wouldn’t want anyone to think that our situation is perfect or that they can’t have what we have. Our relationship is born out of reality, and it has its challenges like anyone else’s will.”
So, besides the fact that gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon in our culture, why aren’t more gay people seeking this fairytale, imperfect as it may be, and what advice do Joe and Dan have for gay people who are seeking to marry? That’s next.