‘I could just be who I was around him’

The Washington Post Sunday - - ON LOVE - BY ME­GAN MCDONOUGH me­gan.mcdonough@wash­post.com

Love was in the air for David Soo and Jerold Cal­lam, who met at 36,000 feet on a cross-coun­try South­west Air­lines flight in De­cem­ber 2010.

David, then study­ing for a doc­tor­ate in higher ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, was trav­el­ing from Philadel­phia to Los An­ge­les for a col­lege friend’s 30th birth­day. Dur­ing a stopover in St. Louis, the plane switched cabin crews.

Since South­west doesn’t as­sign seat­ing, dur­ing the lay­over David made his way to busi­ness class to snag ad­di­tional legroom. He no­ticed a cute flight at­ten­dant named Jerold, who goes by the nick­name J.C., board­ing. David strate­gi­cally chose an aisle seat close to where J.C. was greet­ing pas­sen­gers and ini­ti­ated a con­ver­sa­tion.

The pair ex­changed a few flirty glances and ended up talk­ing from take­off to land­ing. At the end of the flight, they ex­changed con­tact in­for­ma­tion, each hop­ing the other was in­ter­ested in more than just friendly chitchat.

A frenzy of text mes­sages fol­lowed. “I was in a house with, like, 12 or 15 of my col­lege friends,” David re­calls. “We are writ­ing back and forth, and I have a whole cho­rus of peo­ple help­ing me com­pose the ap­pro­pri­ate texts.”

Within days, David and J.C. were talk­ing on the phone for hours. They were both sur­prised, and a bit in­tim­i­dated, by the in­ti­macy and depth of their con­ver­sa­tions. “I re­mem­ber early on in our re­la­tion­ship feel­ing like I could be so much my­self around him,” David says. “There was no pre­tenses, no putting on airs to im­press him. I could just be who I was around him, and he ap­pre­ci­ated that.”

About a month later, they re­united in Philadel­phia. It was clear that the chem­istry from the first flight was still there. They talked about their dif­fer­ent back­grounds and up­bring­ings. J.C. was raised in a con­ser­va­tive house­hold in In­di­ana. He left home for Los An­ge­les at age 18 and worked as a me­chanic be­fore be­com­ing a flight at­ten­dant in his 30s. David was raised in a tra­di­tional Chi­nese fam­ily in lib­er­al­lean­ing Bos­ton.

Friends of­ten say they are yin and yang in terms of skills and be­hav­ior — David is me­thod­i­cal, diplo­matic and prag­matic, while J.C. is cre­ative, mirth­ful and charm­ing.

“They are from to­tally dif­fer­ent sides of the coun­try, dif­fer­ent back­grounds, dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions, dif­fer­ent ages,” says Mo­ria Cap­pio, a close friend. “But when you meet them in per­son . . . you get it. They com­ple­ment each other in ev­ery piece of them­selves.”

David agrees. “It was just so fun to meet some­one who just knew a whole dif­fer­ent world,” he says of J.C. “He seemed so in­ter­est­ing, so cu­ri­ous, and al­ways had stuff to say.”

J.C. ap­pre­ci­ated David’s cu­rios­ity and smarts. “I think what got to me the most was how in­tel­li­gent he was, easy to talk to and knew so many things,” J.C. says.

Over the next few months, J.C. vis­ited Philadel­phia al­most ev­ery week. In June 2011, he in­vited David to live with him in Los An­ge­les while David worked on his dis­ser­ta­tion. Two months of liv­ing to­gether proved that their re­la­tion­ship was solid, and in Au­gust, David asked J.C. to join him on the East Coast.

It was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion for J.C. — he had built his home and life in Cal­i­for­nia — but he left it all for David.

“When I came out here,” J.C. says, “I had one bag, a pair of pants, a cou­ple shirts, ten­nis shoes and no jack­ets. I didn’t own any!”

Want­ing to es­cape city life, J.C. and David de­cided to live in An­napo­lis, which they called home for about a year and a half. They bought their cur­rent place, a row­house in the Dis­trict’s Eck­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood that dates from 1905, in March 2013.

The home’s ren­o­va­tion, which is still a work in progress, has proved to be the big­gest test to their re­la­tion­ship. For months, they weath­ered a home with no heat, no hot wa­ter and only one toi­let. Through the process, they learned how to plan, bud­get and col­lab­o­rate.

“It has been a lot of things to deal with, but for me it has, in some ways, been a bless­ing,” David re­flects. “You go through some­thing dif­fi­cult to­gether and see that you can come out on the other side and prove that your union is strong.”

J.C. views their home­im­prove­ment project as a la­bor of love. “This is our most com­fort­able, want-to-be place,” he says.

In Novem­ber 2014, they trav­eled to Paris with David’s fam­ily. At the top of the Eif­fel Tower at sun­set, J.C. got down on one knee and asked David to marry him.

When they re­turned home, they dis­cussed save-the-date cards. J.C. hadn’t yet come out to his fam­ily and wanted to de­liver the news in per­son. Six months later, with David’s en­cour­age­ment, he vis­ited his par­ents. He re­vealed that he was gay and an­nounced that he was en­gaged. He was re­lieved to see his par­ents were happy for him and would at­tend the wed­ding.

David, 35, mar­ried J.C., 46, on Sept. 26 at a friend’s water­front home in Arnold, Md. The cer­e­mony’s of­fi­ciants were Sandy Stier and her wife, Kris Perry, both plain­tiffs in Cal­i­for­nia’s Propo­si­tion 8 case that helped clear the way for le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riages na­tion­ally. The cer­e­mony in­cor­po­rated the cou­ple’s per­sonal re­flec­tions with a mix­ture of poignant read­ings and ex­cerpts from court rul­ings re­gard­ing same-sex mar­riage.

Dur­ing the ser­vice, David pre­sented J.C. with a wed­ding band fea­tur­ing his grand­mother’s di­a­mond. Af­ter­ward, the 110 guests en­joyed catered food by Mike Is­abella Con­cepts and ate peach, ap­ple and blue­berry cob­bler for dessert.

“I think that they proved them­selves as a cou­ple when they built their home to­gether,” says their friend Mo­ria. “They’ve tested every­thing out within the walls of that home . . . pa­tience, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and com­pro­mise, all which are re­ally im­por­tant to prac­tice be­fore mar­riage. They were able to use all their tools, lit­er­ally . . . and are clearly both good with a stud fin­der.”

“They com­ple­ment each other in ev­ery piece of them­selves.”

— Mo­ria Cap­pio, a friend of the cou­ple

DUHON PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

David Soo, 35, and Jerold Cal­lam, 46, were mar­ried Sept. 26 at a friend’s water­front home in Arnold, Md. The cou­ple opted for a ham­mer­ing cer­e­mony to sym­bol­ize their unity.

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