They met in the restaurant where Vassili used to work as a waiter. “I thought he was cute the first night he came in with his friends,” Vassili recalled, “but he had one of them climb through the window of the restaurant, instead of walking around and in the front door. So I yelled at him.”
“And I’m ridiculously stubborn,” Marc said, “so I wasn’t about to apologize. For the next month, it was basically a series of dirty looks the times I went in there.”
Vassili eventually broke down and asked Marc on a date to the aquarium. Other dates followed, and nearly a year later, while hanging out at Fritz, a gay sports bar, they decided to become engaged. As Vassili explained it, they considered themselves best friends and planned to be together forever. “So, why not get married?” he said. “I always knew I wanted to spend my life with one person. And I know I’ve found him.” Besides, they both want to be young dads. They plan to adopt before they turn 30.
Marc & Vassili Brent-Shields met in the restaurant where Vassili used to work as a waiter. “I thought he was cute the first night he came in with his friends,” Vassili recalled, “but he had one of them climb through the window of the restaurant, instead of walking around and in the front door. So I yelled at him.” “And I’m ridiculously stubborn,” Marc said, “so I wasn’t about to apologize. For the next month, it was basically a series of dirty looks the times I went in there.” They married on February 2008.
There was no formal exchange of rings to commemorate the engagement, no romantic dinner followed by either of them on bended knee. They also didn’t plan on having a wedding ceremony. They insisted that such formalities were unnecessary. “We don’t think there is any set way we have to do this,” Vassili told. “We’re not following anyone’s model for how an engagement or marriage should go.”
That philosophy also applied, they said, to when they broke the news of their engagement to their families. Vassili said he wasn’t sure how his parents would react. “They know that Marc is my boyfriend, but my gayness is not something we ever really talk about,” he told.
Marc said he had no doubt that his own parents being supportive. “My mom knows and loves Vassili, and one time she asked, ‘Why don’t you guys just get married?’ ” he said. “And I was like, ‘Well, maybe we will!’ But sometimes I wonder if they would be as excited, or as supportive, about me marrying a guy as they would be if I was marrying a girl.”
When asked if it was wise for any couple to become engaged before testing their domestic compatibility, the couple deflected the question with a you-must-not-really-understand-the-power-o
“We know we’re compatible,” Marc said. “We’ve thought a lot about household roles. I’m going to clean, and Vassili is going to cook.”
“I like doing laundry and ironing,” Vassili told. “He likes yardwork.”
“I don’t think either one of us is really going to be the wife, per se,” Marc said.
Still, they insisted they would be “traditional” in one important way: they vowed to be monogamous. “I know that some gay couples who’ve been together awhile open up their relationships,” Marc said, “but we’re not going to do that. I mean, we wouldn’t be getting married if we didn’t plan on being monogamous. To me, that’s a fundamental and important part of marriage.”
In February 2008, Marc and Vassili picked up their marriage license at City Hall. Marc pulled the couple’s Honda Accord to a stop at a red light in the city’s South End neighborhood. Vassili sat in the passenger seat, sipping an ice coffee. “We really wanted a BMW,” Marc explained, but they settled on the Honda as an exercise in premarriage fiscal responsibility. “It seemed like the right thing to do.”
“We did a budget the other day,” Vassili said. “That was really scary.”
“We definitely need to reel in our spending,” Marc told. “We need to stop going out so often. I mean, we’re getting married today! We can’t be acting like little kids, running around and spending money everywhere.”
After parking, they trudged through the snow toward City Hall, a mammoth nine-level concrete bunker. Marc and Vassili often dress alike, and that morning was no different. Each wore stylish jeans, black dress shoes, and a peacoat (Marc’s was brown; Vassili’s black) over a T-shirt. “We’re the same height and have kind of a similar style,” Marc explained as they passed through the building’s metal detector, “so we’re always wearing each other’s clothes.”
On the escalator ride downstairs to the marriage-license office, Vassili leaned into Marc and kissed him on the lips. Marc didn’t fight it, but he smiled awkwardly when it was over. “Marc’s actually gotten a lot better about not freaking out over public displays of affection,” Vassili told. “The first fight we ever had was because I leaned up against him a little too close at Starbucks!”
“Vassili is just so comfortable with himself, much more so than I am or probably ever will be,” Marc said. “He’s really comfortable in his skin. That’s so endearing about him. It’s probably one of the reasons I love him so much.”
In the basement, Marc and Vassili approached the marriage license counter.
“I’ll be right with you,” the clerk told the couple. “You picking up something?”
“Our marriage license,” Vassili said proudly.
“Gays here!” Marc quipped. The clerk smiled. “This is so weird,” Marc whispered. “We’re actually doing this. It’s starting to hit me that we’re actually getting married.”
The clerk eventually brought Marc and Vassili a copy of the marriage-license application they filled out on their last trip here.
Vassili beamed as he looked over the form, which had a column for “Party A” (Vassili) and “Party B” (Marc). (Before gay marriage was legalized in the state, the form listed “Bride” and “Groom.”)
Feigning outrage, Marc grabbed the form from Vassili’s hand. “Hey, why are you Party A?” he demanded to know.
“Because I’m the man, of course,” Vassili said with a laugh.
“We decided to combine our last names,” Marc explained, pointing to his typed name on the form: Marc Harrington Brent-Shields. “We thought about Shields-Brent, but that didn’t sound right.”
“Shields-Brent sounds like a verb,” Vassili said. “It sounds like I’m trying to shield Brent from something.”
When the clerk finished typing up the marriage license, she walked back to the counter. “Are you going upstairs?” she asked the couple.
“What’s upstairs?” Marc asked.
“The city clerk. She can marry you.”
“Does she like gay people?” Marc said.
“She loves gay people,” the woman assured them. She looked at the document in her hand.
“Is that our marriage license?” Vassili asked excitedly.
“Yes, it is. Do you want it?” She started to hand it to him and then stopped, toying with him. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, please!” he said.
“Wait!” Marc said dramatically. “I think I’m having second thoughts.”
The woman froze.
“He’s kidding,” Vassili said.
“Totally kidding!” Marc assured her.
The woman laughed, handed Vassili the license and wished the couple well. As they walked away from the counter, Marc, who had tried to mask his nervousness with humor, looked as if he might pass out. “I need to go to the bathroom,” he said. “I’m feeling lightheaded. Don’t get me wrong — this is very cool. But it’s actually happening. I’m actually getting married — to a man!”
They searched for the men’s room while Vassili accosted random people in the hallway and shared the news. “We’re married! We just got our license!” he said breathlessly.
While Marc splashed water on his face in the bathroom, Vassili told that he hoped to persuade Marc to go upstairs and make it official. “That lady really wanted us to go upstairs,“ he said. “I kind of want to make Marc do it. I mean, we’re already here!”
But Marc was adamant that he wanted to wait. ‘’I just want to be sure we find the right person to marry us,” he said once he was out of the bathroom. “I don’t want to rush into this.”
What Marc wanted instead was something to eat, and he was relieved when they came upon a Girl Scout selling cookies near the building’s exit. He and Vassili bought five boxes and began devouring the cookies as they walked back to their car.
“You know what I figure?” Marc told. “I figure that now that I’m practically married, I can start letting myself go. Isn’t that, like, the main advantage of marriage? I’m definitely not going to the gym anymore!” He looked at Vassili and laughed. “Will you still love me if I’m fat?”
“Of course,” Vassili said, wrapping his fiancé in a bear hug. “In sickness and in health. Until one of us dies — or, you know, until we kill each other.” --By BENOIT DENIZET-LEWIS, Young Gay Rites, April 27, 2008.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the author of “America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life” and “American Voyeur: Dispatches From the Far Reaches of Modern Life.”
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/magazine/27young-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 & http://vassilishields.com/
More LGBT Couples at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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