Love Stories: Jenni & Lisa
How we first met
The first time we met each other, we were both dressed head-to-toe in spandex and had helmet hair. We were on a 60-mile training ride for the AIDS Lifecycle, an annual 7-day bicycle ride across California that raises money for HIV/AIDS work.
Being a novice bike rider, I was a bit nervous about my first long training ride. A couple of women were riding at my pace, so I joined them and started talking to a girl who introduced herself as Lisa. Lisa was a confident rider with two AIDS Lifecycles already under her belt, and she made me feel immediately at ease. Riding up a steep hill, she got me so engaged in conversation that before I even knew it, I had made it to the top. At the lunch stop, I recall that we shared a turkey cranberry sandwich.
Our feelings for each other were just friendly ones, though. I was in a relationship already, and Lisa was just recovering from the recent death of her mother and the break-up of a long-term relationship. Plus, with my short hair (and I really don't think my biking outfit did me any favors), I wasn't exactly the type of girl that LIsa was attracted to.
A few years and one break-up later, I found myself having pizza and beers at Lisa's house with her roommate, Hernan. In the time since we had met, Lisa had thrown herself into the San Francisco lesbian dating pool but without much luck. When I left that evening, Hernan made the bold proclamation to Lisa that I was to be her future wife, but she just laughed and said I was her buddy and nothing more.
Another few months later, Lisa asked me to stand in as a date for a wedding after the demise of a short relationship had left her without a 'plus one'. I figured she was asking me just as a friend and didn't think too much of it, though I found myself strangely excited to be her date for the evening. Little did I know that the silver dress I bought for the occasion would be the catalyst to change my life.
Lisa later confessed to me that it took that dress to open her eyes and look at me in another way. Our relationship had changed, and shortly after that evening Lisa told me that she had a crush on me. I am embarrassed to admit that our first date involved a trip to Ikea and an evening putting together swedish furniture in my living room. The rest, with some ups and downs of course, is history.
Taking a leap of faith together
Ever since I took my first career break to travel and volunteer in Asia, I've dreamed of taking another extended world tour, but this time with a life partner. Early on in our relationship, I would start suggesting to Lisa, "Why don't we quit our jobs and travel around the world for year?"
Lisa was a practical planner who intended to stay at her social work job for the next gadzillion years in order to collect a pension, so she was not enthused by my idea. She gave me a long list of excuses to keep me distracted, but my yearning only grew. Finally, I told her that I was going on this trip with or without her. It would be my last big adventure before starting my 30s, and I had to do it before settling down.
Gradually, Lisa worked through all of her anxieties about leaving home, and we began to plot out our dream of traveling around the world together. We also wanted to use our trip to somehow make a difference in the world. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visibility and equality has been a passion for both of us, and we formed the idea of using our trip to find and share stories of hope from extraordinary LGBT people all over the world.
With the help of our friends and community, we launched our project Out and Around: Stories from a Not-So-Straight Journey to tell the stories of these extraordinary "Supergays" through articles, photos and videos. Our goal is to culminate our journey with a video documentary, and to date we've raised $5,000 to help fund this project. We're traveling through sixteen countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, and we hope that our project will highlight queer role models, decrease homophobia, and shed light on the struggles of the LGBT community in the developing world.
VIDEO: We talk about traveling around the world and starting Out and Around.
Making a life commitment
One of the many wonderful things about being in a same-sex relationship is that there are no set rules. Unbeknownst to each other, both of us have been planning to propose to the other during our round-the-world trip. This week, on the beautiful island of Boracay in the Philippines, we both said 'yes.'
For the past two and half months, I've kept Lisa's grandfather's ring clipped, zipped and duct-taped into the inside of my purse as we travel on the other side of the world. Knowing how much Lisa's family means to her, I asked our good friends Krista and Gilda to make a video with messages from all of Lisa's extended family at home. Once the video was ready, it was just a matter of figuring out the right time and place.
Lisa's mom was born in the Philippines, so I decided that the Philippines would be the most meaningful place to her. And Boracay island, and with its turquoise ocean and incredible white sand beach, could not be a more beautiful setting. I convinced Lisa to go on a sunset walk, and I found a secluded spot on the far end of the beach for us to sit down.
Surprisingly, I wasn't all that nervous once we sat down. It felt natural, like all the many other times we've sat down on beaches back in California together and I've strummed random songs while Lisa read a magazine (usually Oprah or People, what a girl!). Only this was the first time I had written a song for her, which included incredibly poetic Grammy-worthy lines like "you add the lime and salt to life's margarita, you bring the salsa into my tortilla" and ended with a promise to "be by your side for the rest of my life" and the question "now's my turn to ask, won't you be my wife?"
After months of hearing that I wasn't ready to get married (my attempt to throw her off track), Lisa was totally shocked when I pulled out her grandpa's ring and asked her to marry me. She was so shocked that I had to sing the song twice in order to get her to say yes. Then, she told me that she too had been planning to propose to me and had gone so far as to get the ring. When we returned back to our hotel, Lisa got on one knee and proposed to me with her mother's ring which is absolutely beautiful. Of course I said yes.
We look forward to our wedding and especially to the day when our marriage is legally recognized. But at this very moment, we are just enjoying the upcoming ten months that we continue to honeymoon.
VIDEO: Our first reactions after the proposal, plus my song to Lisa.
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