The first time I asked Allen to marry me was the day after Christmas. We were wandering through one of Modesto’s finest shopping malls and in the excitement of scoring $200 worth of Bath & Body Works products for less than $60, I turned to him and said, “Let’s get married. Let’s get married this year!” He closed his eyes in that way that he does when something I’ve said is either incredibly stupid or has caused him great pain and shook his head. And that’s when I knew it had to happen.

You see, I do not take kindly to being rejected. Even though Allen has agreed, on several occasions which I have on tape for future reference, that we should one day get married, he doesn’t believe that we have to do it now. For him, marriage is in the distant future. He has a ridiculous number of requirements we have to meet before we can tie the knot and live happily ever after: He wants us to be financially stable, living in a nicer apartment and ready for children. He also wants me to be a better housekeeper, keep a regular sleeping schedule and raise my credit score from the abysmal depths where it currently rests, thanks to an Amazon credit card I forgot to pay for five years ago. And he wants to talk to a financial planner about our future, to make sure that even if one of us loses our jobs we’ll be well taken care of. Those are, of course, ostensibly valid reasons, but Allen doesn’t understand one thing: I have always wanted to get married in 2015 and as god as my witness it’s going to fucking happen come hell or high water. And our wedding will be 80s prom theme.

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I’ve been doing things in fives and sevens since I was a kid, so when I told Allen that we’d be getting married on the 17th of September, 2015, it seemed very reasonable to me. We’ve been together almost seven years, we’ve both gained enough weight in our relationship that it’d be too much work to break up and we own one rabbit and two guinea pigs which Allen affectionately refers to as “our kids,” though I refuse to take it that far. Why wouldn’t we get married? Aren’t we in love? Hadn’t we weathered many storms together? He’s supported me through grad school, internships and working weekends; I’ve supported him through buying a new car, a new couch and a new TV (each of which took him two years to decide on).

And you know what’s even more important? Only last month I told Allen that I’d love him even if he didn’t have a car anymore and I were forced to take the bus to get around. There’s no one on this earth who could deny that that’s the biggest sign of true love there is. I’d even love him if I couldn’t afford to take a Lyft everywhere I went. Hell, I love him enough that I do take Lyft everywhere now instead of making him take me places, even though the drivers insist that you talk to them and sit in the front seat when all I really want to do is sit in the back and grumble about the lack of complimentary water bottles. If that’s not sacrifice, compromise and commitment, I don’t know what is.

Also: When Allen didn’t get me a cat for Christmas, I did not burn his parents’ house down and that is a clear sign of how mature I am. Mature enough to get a cat. Even though I didn’t get one. (Which, looking back on it, I think is fair because Allen would have had to be the one to clean out its litter box because I do not like poop.) (But doing things as a team like that is something we’re good at! That’s what marriage is all about!)

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So when Allen walked away from me and my bags full of Vanilla Bean Noel body lotion the day after Christmas, I chased after him and said “Hey, did you hear me? I said we should get married!” I even said it very slowly, forming all my words perfectly because the mall was loud and a small child had just thrown up only a few feet away. I recognized that this wasn’t the most ideal location for a proposal, but, you know, when it’s time it’s time.

“Can we just get a pretzel instead?” Allen asked. “You like pretzels.”

“I do not currently want a pretzel,” I told him. “I would like to get married. I think it’s legal in California now.”

“You think?” He asked. “You didn’t even check to see if it is?

“I don’t have any reception here,” I told him. “I can’t believe this mall doesn’t have wi-fi when their entire Santa village is all about exploring technology and homes of the future.”

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“This is what I’m talking about,” he said. “And this is why I would prefer to get a pretzel. But if you don’t want a pretzel, you can also get an Orange Julius, those are very good. There is also frozen yogurt.”

“But I want to get married!”

“And I want you to not put the guinea pigs on me when I’m doing my exercises, so neither of us are getting what we want,” he said.

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“But the guinea pigs love you! They’re going to be ring bearers! And they only live five to seven years so we’re going to have to get married soon if you want them present.”

“That’s just the thing,” Allen said, striding off towards the food court. “I don’t want them present.”

I ran after him, but I knew that convincing him then and there would be impossible. Short of knocking him out with a blow to the head (courtesy of my bottle of Twisted Peppermint home scent) and telling him that he’d agreed to the sacred union of our two souls when he woke up, I’d have to get tricky. And even then, I didn’t think he would go for it. We’d already had a stressful time at Bath & Body Works because I had screamed, “THIS ISN’T FUCKING AMATEUR HOUR” when Allen tried to suggest that I might not need ten bottles of holiday-scented body butter. Things were tense.

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So I’ve gotten tricky: Since December 26th I’ve been telling people we’re getting married. Despite the fact that we’re not even engaged (although I told Allen we are, so that counts), I’ve started letting his family know that we are planning a wedding and while Allen tries desperately to head me off — he has an advantage, because he can speak to his relatives in Spanish and I cannot — many people are happy for us (Hi, Allen’s mom and dad! I love you!). They’re willing to overlook how hoarse his voice gets when he’s saying, “No casaremos todavia,” followed by, “Mark esta mentiendo a ustedes.” Instead they congratulate on our upcoming nuptials, delighted that wild Allen with his baby elephant videos and love of purple shirts is finally settling down with someone even-tempered, dependable and unafraid to get dangerously drunk at family functions at which children are present.

And even though we don’t have a venue, caterer or flowers, I invite almost everyone I meet to the wedding that’s happening only five months from now, even though Allen says there’s no way we could have that many people at our wedding.

“How many people can we have?” I asked him one night after I’d invited some casual acquaintances to the wedding he hasn’t yet agreed to.

“You can invite 50.” He responded.

“So we are getting married,” I said. “You acknowledge that it’s happening.”

“No, not now. When we do get married.”

“In September?”

“When we decide the time is right,” Allen sighed, which I took as an enthusiastic “yes.” With less than half a year to go, he’s beginning to wear down, recognizing that it might be better just to let us have what we want instead of waiting until he doesn’t have cold feet (which could be a long time because he has huge troll feet, which I am willing to overlook because I am not a shallow person — despite the fact that I just got a haircut that makes me look really good and could probably land a dude with smaller feet, if we’re being real).

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But, to be honest, I know it’s going to happen. Marriage is important for both of us. Not only because I want to make sure I get Allen’s laptop if he dies amidst mysterious circumstances right after I take out an insurance policy on him, but because we both believe that the flimsy piece of paper allowing the government into our private lives (and also forcing Allen to take on half my debt) is not only a strengthening of our already platinum-plated bond — “because platinum is classy, Mark! Put that!” — but a reminder of the progress we’ve made as members of a group whose relationships have been seen as less than and illegitimate by a majority for a very long time. As gay men for whom coming out was a difficult process due both to our families of origin — Allen and I are both immigrants — and the cultural stigma of being gay and Russian (me) and gay and Mexican (Allen), the desire for public acknowledgment of our relationship by the government doesn’t make it any more legitimate than it already was, but it certainly helps us to feel that we’re not second-class citizens. Those are the things I remind Allen of when we discuss the future, including that upgrade from guinea pigs to real, live children.

And it helps that it seems we’re being invited to a wedding every weekend this summer. With so many of our friends getting married — people even younger than us — Allen can’t help but start thinking that it really might be time to tie the knot while everyone important (the guinea pigs, his parents, Laura Beck) is still young enough to enjoy the event. The only problem? He wants our wedding to be themed like a Parisian carnival. Do I look like the type of guy who’d love to have trapeze-swinging harlequin clowns at his wedding? No, and I refuse to believe that Allen is that type of guy either. No Clowns — only prom.

Just last night, when I told Allen that I’d invited another couple I’d just met to our ceremony, he sighed and told me that we could discuss it over the weekend, which we’ll be spending with his friends at a baby fair (which I signed us up for but also didn’t tell him about). I think he’s coming around.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.


Contact the author at mark.shrayber@jezebel.com.