| Amy Tannenbaum
“I MET THE PERFECT MAN!” Paul exclaimed, prancing down the aisles at work the day after his first date with Dennis more than eight years ago. A week earlier, while on a hunt online to find a good New Year’s party, Paul encountered Dennis and they starting chatting; of course Dennis had no idea where a good party was. They met for dinner at the Bexley Monk a week later, where they hit it off right away, despite their very different personalities. “I thought maybe he was too sophisticated and together for me!” says Paul. “I was sitting there blabbing away, and here’s this guy who has a good job, is dressed nicely and has a nice house and is probably thinking, ‘What is wrong with this man?’”
And yet, when Paul recalled a recent trip to New York to meet Dolly Parton, Dennis suggested a movie for them to watch together one day: Sordid Lives, in which the main character is a man in a mental institution who does drag and has a fondness for female country singers. They wasted no time, watching it together that evening.
Since then, their relationship has been the perfect representation of yin and yang – Paul as the artistic dreamer, grounded by the ever practical Dennis. However, their personalities intersect in places that enrich their relationship, bettering themselves as individuals and as a couple. Dennis has helped organize and focus Paul’s art career, while Paul encourages Dennis to dream big; Dennis admits that without Paul, he’s unsure he would have ever considered returning to school to pursue his dream career.
“I’m the grounded one,” explains Dennis, “and he’s the dreamer out in the ether … our personalities are very different, but our core values are the same. What matters most is that we are completely compatible. We aren’t trying to change each other. What we have as a couple allows us to be more fully individualized and actualized.”
Six month into their relationship, Dennis and Paul moved in together, and after much begging, Dennis proposed to Paul at the one year mark. But how to actually “tie the knot” became a harder question to answer. They wanted to have a ceremony, and Paul had big dreams of a fancy party, but Dennis had trouble coming to terms with the meaning of it all. “I can’t wrap my head around this huge expense for a wedding that basically would be just a party,” Dennis explains. “There wouldn’t be any legal benefit for doing it.” Instead, they put their ideas on the back burner, focusing on other life changes as Dennis transitioned into a new career, they bought a home together and made the decision to stay in Columbus.
Years later, while helping their friends plan their own wedding, Paul came across an article about the C-Bus of Love – an event organized by Columbus residents and activists Joshua and Steve Snyder-Hill, where 25 LGBT couples would travel by bus to Washington D.C. to be legally married on the steps of the U. S. Supreme Court. At first, Paul wasn’t sure that Dennis would want to participate. But as he gathered more information and discussed it with Dennis in more detail, they realized it was the perfect opportunity to get married, have it be legal and to be a part of something big.
“It wasn’t just us committing to each other,” says Dennis, “but also becoming involved in the political fight to bring marriage equality to Ohio.”
“It wasn’t at all what I envisioned my wedding day would be like,” Paul explains. “I thought it would feel very communal, but I was surprised in the moment at how personal it was. As we said our vows, it still felt like it was our little moment.” Dennis agrees, and says there isn’t anything they would have done differently: “Bottom line, we accomplished our goal: we got married.”
In the future, Dennis and Paul still plan to have a Jewish wedding ceremony, as they originally envisioned, but they will wait until marriage equality comes to Ohio. Explains Dennis, “That will be a good way to reaffirm the commitment we’ve already made.”