I believe that everyone deserves one heart-stopping, speech-stealing, breath-catching, butterfly inducing surprise in their lives. Preferably a good and joyous one that reeks of Hollywood happy endings and makes cynics cringe. I believe these surprises take a few minutes from your day, but add years to your life.
And that’s what happened to me when my “no-need-for-marriage” partner of nearly nine years flew all the way across the country and proposed to me before a crowd of at least 200 people in the boldest most public display of romance I’d ever seen.
See, we’re two men and that being the case we had to content ourselves with our legal rights as a couple being coldly sealed by an attorney. Sure, we’d occasionally growl at a marriage system we thought to be patently unfair, but we made due. We lived and owned property together, had a dog, responsible jobs, numerous friends and volunteer responsibilities. All things that every other couple takes for granted. But it was marriage — with all the vows and fuss — that we thought would never be a part of our lives. So when the California Supreme Court made a decision to change all that, a legal lightening bolt shot across the country and awoke my partner in ways I just didn’t see.
So when work called me to California, and the marriage go-round started on the day after I arrived in San Diego, I watched the news and once again felt the slight chill of being left out. A sortof guest at the wedding taking in everything from the street.
But then, Thursday, June 19 arrived and my life changed forever. There he appeared, late in the day. My partner, the one who so dismissed marriage, front and center at a work conference proposing to me in front of hundreds of strangers. At that moment, I achieved a first. I opened up my mouth and mere wordless air escaped. I was speechless. “Yes” I stuttered to cheers and hugs and wine that appeared from nowhere, and in a flash he and I (along with his wonderful mother) were off to the County Courthouse for OUR appointment to get a marriage license.
It was a joyous shuffling of papers, pictures on the lawn and flowers from a homeless woman who told us to believe in the love in our hearts. And then the unthinkable happened — we were exchanging vows on the beach at La Jolla before a small group of friends and curious onlookers in a glorious sunset. In a flash, we were married. Really married. My heart nearly stopped.
In that moment, before a vast ocean on a stunning beach in the humbling light of a fading sun, we became just two people who couldn’t take their eyes off each other and knew then that to believe in love was to believe in the lightening surprise that shocks us all and makes giggling innocents of each of us if only for a little while.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.