“A Modest Proposal” (or, “How Dirk and I Got Engaged Even Though We Were Already Married”)

photo 3

It was anticlimactic, really. We were in San Francisco, having fun at Folsom and celebrating three years since we’d first met. As often happens at these things, we’d committed ourselves to too many events and by Saturday afternoon were feeling a bit burnt out. We even started getting irritated with each other, squabbling about which events we should go to and which we would have to skip. Things were going downhill quickly, so we decided to give ourselves a time out; we retreated to our friends’ house in Duboce Triangle where we were staying, and took a nap.

When I woke up, I felt really relaxed. Taking a break had been the right thing to do. As we lay there in each others’ arms, an unplanned thought crossed my mind. This place was important (we’d met in San Francisco), this time was important (it was our third anniversary)… and truth be told, I’m a pretty sentimental guy. Now would be as good a time as any. We’d been talking in hypotheticals for the past two years — “If I were to ever ask you to marry me, would you?” (the answer always being yes) — so without thinking about it too much, I blurted it out (in retrospect, it felt very similar to the way I blurted out my invitation for him to join me in Houston almost three years earlier, which kicked off our relationship):

“Uh, we’ve been talking about it long enough, so I might as well ask. Will you marry me?”

“Well, yuh! We pretty much already are, ya know.”

And just like that, we were engaged. I have to confess that, for me, it actually didn’t seem like a big deal. It was such a natural progression that it felt like a tiny step instead of a huge, daunting, terrifying one. Dirk was right: we were pretty much already married. We were just adding another layer — civil marriage — to our already fruitful union.


The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I’d been downplaying the importance of civil marriage, especially in a modern context. We’d been referring to each other as “hubby” for a couple of years already, in agreement with our belief in the concept of “traditional” marriage that I laid out in my Huffington Post article. Maybe that’s why our engagement didn’t seem like such a big deal to me at the time. As far as we were concerned, we were already married. We’d merged our lives, and I’d already become a member of Dirk’s family, as Dirk had become a member of mine. By getting legally married, sure, we’ll be afforded the rights that are extended to all married couples. But the outpouring of congratulations and support we’ve received since announcing our engagement has convinced me that our society values civil marriage as much as the traditional arrangement, and I believe it’s fitting to honor these new traditions alongside the old.

Dirk and I got engaged to be legally married on September 20, 2014. We knew we were a long way from setting a wedding date, but there was one order of business we could address immediately: engagement rings. (Yay, shopping!) Dirk had long ago floated an idea for our wedding rings, one that I love. Each ring would be an ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail, representing infinity. Dirk’s idea has a bit of a twist, literally and figuratively: instead of a single snake eating its own tail, both of our rings would be comprised of two intertwined snakes eating each others’ tails. We’ve already talked to our friends at Tribal Son about creating these custom rings, but in the meantime we wanted something in the same vein for our engagement bands. So we found rings with two snakes on them, heading towards each other… soon to be intertwined.

Ring Close-Up for Blog

Dirk and I bought the rings at the end of September, but we didn’t exchange them right away. We wanted to find some meaningful place or time to do it. And then on October 6 the Supreme Court declined to rule on any federal gay marriage cases, making gay marriage the de facto law of the land in 30 states (that number now stands at 35). That evening, we were engaged in our nightly ritual of watching The Rachel Maddow Show. During her coverage of the Supreme Court decision, Dirk and I were discussing what a momentous day it was. And to celebrate — again, rather impulsively — we exchanged rings right there on our living room sofa.

We didn’t tell many people right away; we wanted to wait until we got a chance to tell our families. So we played a little game… we’d start wearing our rings and see who noticed. Interestingly, and I’m not sure what to make of this, but most of the people who noticed were women. A few of our gay friends noticed too, but most people, if they did notice, didn’t say anything. I think a lot of people assumed we were already married… and in many ways, we were. (I also have to apologize to a few of my fans on the Facebook page. From time to time, someone would point out the rings in a picture I’d posted, and ask something like “Does that mean what I think it means?” I’d always deflect the questions with responses like “not necessarily” or “If it was something that important, don’t you think I’d mention it on Facebook?” Sorry, guys!)

The first opportunity we got to tell our families was on Christmas, and their reactions were pretty great. I’ll tell you all about them shortly in a follow-up blog post. For now, though, I’ll just say that they’re as happy as we are… and that my mom’s response included a lot of repetition.

More soon …

Rings in Box for Blog 2Hand in Hand (crop)

27 replies
  1. Lyne Beausejour
    Lyne Beausejour says:

    It is not anticlimax or whatever you said in your article. I find this very romantic. You mentioned that most of the people that noticed were women fans…I guess it’s what it is…women have a tendency to notice more of these things…all I can say is that no need for an apology. I guess it was more fun to speculate among ourselves wether it was for me with Danielle Gill or Barbara Lampron, it made for funny conversations. You keep entertaining us and the fact that you include us in your lives, you are in title after all to have privacy. I am happy for you both!

  2. Phetra
    Phetra says:

    Congratulations you guys! What a great story. I love the idea of the two snakes chasing or biting each other tails. That is very special and original. You already have something wonderful together that much is obvious but I hope you get many many more just like it!

    Lots of hugs and love

  3. Steeldrago
    Steeldrago says:

    Awwwww, im at work grinning like an idiot over this! This rocks my socks thank you for sharing!
    Endless hugs and endless joy for you all, Afterall its not just you and dirk but the in-laws too.

  4. Cyn Duby
    Cyn Duby says:

    *sniffle* I think that sounds just perfect. I am so excited and happy for you guys! Um, even if you are a big tease, Jesse. Now I’ll wait, drumming my fingers, for that follow up blog post about how your families reacted … icing on the cake, I’m sure. 🙂 Can’t wait for the wedding pictures, though … *sniffle again* (Must have something in my eye)

  5. Gordon Karpen
    Gordon Karpen says:

    Personally I’m sentimental and I like love stories. And I like you two. Thanks for taking yourselves seriously. Thanks for loving each other.

  6. sharon
    sharon says:

    Congratulations.. You make a lovely couple and I hope you have many happy years together. What a wonderful story, there are a lot of straight men out there that could learn a lot from you guys. xx

  7. Wil
    Wil says:

    my partner of over 4 and a half years and I made it official Christmas Eve night at his sisters house in San Diego! He had been on the fence, mostly unsure of the legal ramifications, but that night he went into great detail about where (the Biltmore in Scottsdale) and the attire and the guests! We were all excited and planned most of it that night. I did the math, as I am a numbers guys, and we chose March 23 as that is the date smack dab in the middle of our birthdays. Similar to your story do the two snakes!
    Best wishes,
    Wil and Paul

    • Lyne
      Lyne says:

      Congratulations. It’s amazing to see all the people in love that can get married no matter their sexual orientation. Love is love.

  8. Mona
    Mona says:

    That’s so sweet! My husband proposed to me on our first anniversary. We had already decided to get married in a very rational discussion after we realized I was preggers. He totally surprised me tho and presented his skull pinky ring as an engagement ring. I cried!!!
    We will celebrate 22 years in May.

  9. Duane Beach-Barrow
    Duane Beach-Barrow says:

    Dear Jesse and Dirk – we had been together for almost 35 years when marriage became legal for us in California in 2013. We had a Holy Union on our 15th Anniversary and considered ourselves Married, but it had no legal standing. Like you guys, our families knew and for the most part accepted us as a couple. So, on our 35th Anniversary, September 9, 1978, Marriage License in hand, we were legally married by Rev. Father Andrew Green at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Palm Springs, CA. I designed our rings – yellow gold band with 5 channel mounted diamonds and made by our good friend Jon Ponce (Jewelry by Ponce) in Cathedral City, CA. We wish you all the best that married life has to offer! Congratulations!!

    Duane and Robert Beach-Barrow

    • kim thorne
      kim thorne says:

      i am so happy for you both. i have been following your posts for awhile now and i think you are both wonderful,kind,sweet,caring smart and thoughtful and great guys. and you both deserve each other and deserve all the happiness in the world and the story of your engagement i have been wanting to hear about and i am a very sentimental person and your story sounds so sweet. as i read the story i couldnt help saying awww alot its so sweet. your story. good luck and congrats.

  10. Liz
    Liz says:

    Such a lovely story – thanks for sharing it with us. I’ve enjoyed reading about your “porn romance”, it’s very unique and to my surprise, sweet.

    If I’m recalling correctly, your trip to SF for the Folsom fair was the first time you and Dirk had seen each other after a lengthy separation while he was working in Europe, Remembering how terribly you missed him, I’m not at all surprised that the weekend you were reunited, your anniversary weekend, also became your engagement weekend.

    So, will one of you be taking the other’s porn name? Or perhaps a portmanteau… Jackber? Cabman? I’ve got it, Caberman! (Cabermen?) I’m kidding.

    Again, my congratulations!

  11. dave F
    dave F says:

    So cool and romantic… My husband and I feel the same about our legal marriage vs when we committed to each other…

  12. Greg
    Greg says:

    Congratulations!!!! I am so happy for the both of you. Only if the entire world could have a love like yours and Dirks, it would definitely be a better place.


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