‘I could just be who I was around him’
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
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.