Pokemon: Sword & Shield had just debuted and nothing outside the windows on this five-hour drive from Cleveland to Chicago was going to grab her attention more than Pokemon. Eyes back on the road, I reached into my own pocket and rubbed my hand across the velvet box I’d put there. To her, this was just a fun weekend road trip to see a pay-per-view of one of our favorite wrestling shows. But it was also the weekend I was going to ask her to marry me.
Marriage was something I never really wanted. I grew up most of my life without it even being a possibility. Sure, as a queer woman, I knew plenty of people who had civil unions. But marriage was just not a thing for people who love the way I do.
I didn’t dream of walking through a crowd of my friends and family to profess my love publicly or posing under an arch of thrown rice. I felt those things were out of the realm of possibility. I had already turned 25 by the time marriage equality was achieved in America.
By then, I’d become one of those bitter millennials you hear so much about, hellbent on living a perennially single future with my too many dogs — the gay aunt who gives her nieces and nephews the hippest Christmas presents.
That is, until I met Harmony.
I proposed to her in front of Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, where they filmed the opening shot from the television show Married… with Children. On the nose? Yes. But she always joked that if she ever became a wife, she’d exclusively wear leopard spandex and tease her hair as high as possible, a la Peg Bundy. On the night I proposed, she was still beaming. “Remember when this was supposed to be casual?” I asked.
We didn’t plan to fall in love. We planned to be completely noncommittal. We planned to play Mario Kart. We planned to make out from time to time. But that’s not what happened. “Yeah, and then you had to go and ruin my life with all this love s---,” Harmony replied.
She tried to sound tough, but she couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop poking fun at how cute she was. It’s our language.
The idea of marriage started off as a joke. Early on, when we were dating, we made each other playlists (I know, disgusting). I included King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Harmony’s eyes grew wide as she listened. “Look, there’s no way you could have known this, but I used to joke if I ever got married, this song would be on my wedding playlist,” she said. I did my best to laugh it off as a coincidence, but I have a terrible poker face. She never acknowledged it, but I could tell she was reading the nervousness all over my face.
From that moment on, any time we were together and heard a song we both loved playing in a diner, in a movie trailer or on Spotify, we’d joke about it going onto the wedding playlist. After about a year of it, we finally admitted that we weren’t joking anymore.
It was a big decision, and we didn’t make it without considering what it might mean. My future wife is transgender and a lot of people — too many people — would be particularly interested in how we determined who would do the proposing.
But thick-skinned as I am, even I was sometimes surprised. I visited a few commercial jewelers for the rings. I wish I could say my experiences were positive. No matter how loudly I proclaimed that I was proposing to a woman, jewelers kept bringing me men’s wedding bands. It was frustrating and disheartening. But it led me to track down Tiny Erica Jewelry, a local company. The designer sketched designs based on the things I wanted, taking inspiration from the jewelry Harmony already wears and from listening to my stories about our relationship. The day I picked up the rings, I cried in my car with happiness for nearly 15 minutes.
In a world like that, it is something to be seen and, more than that, to be wanted. I pride myself on being an independent woman who can stand on her own two feet, but the reality is that deep down, I’ve always needed Harmony. Not someone like her, but her. She inspires me to dream whenever I spend too much time trying to be grounded. She ensures that I never go a single day without feeling loved, appreciated and heard. Even on my days when I feel like I can’t leave bed, when my mental or physical health is so debilitating, she crawls in next to me. She makes sure I will never face this lonely world alone.
I’ve never wanted anything in my life more than I want to marry Harmony. I could live a million lifetimes and not even come close to having enough time to name all of the reasons why I love her. I can’t wait to be one of those insufferable people who can’t stop saying the word “wife.” I’m more than a foot shorter than she is in heels, and I can’t wait to climb up on top of an apple box for our first kiss of wedded bliss.
I was afraid for so long. I was afraid no one would ever want to marry me. Now by some miracle, I’ve found out that’s not true. We’ve found each other.
The world is still often ugly and stupid. But with Harmony by my side, for the first time in my life I am facing it, unafraid.