Jon and Gaar definitely win our “Most Adorable” LGBT love story award!
Remember back in the good old days, when you had to walk ten miles in the snow uphill both ways to get to school, when penny candy actually cost a penny, and when you had to have a certified college email address to sign up for Facebook? Well this was when I first encountered the man of my sad-little-gay-ginger-dreams.
By the time I was ready to date (aka out of the closet) it was time for college. I waited with bated breath for a letter from New York University. For my graduation party, I created a mural on the back of our house of the city skyline — I was that sure it was the place for me. And more importantly, it was the place to finally meet a guy. Leaving behind the small town, and moving to — BAM! — bright lights, big city.
And then it came. Acceptance. Into a future of LGBTQ-sista’hood. Into a life of glowing bars with cute bartenders in the West Village. Into a diverse college of over 20,000 where even I had the chance to meet someone. All the odds were in my favor, as Sally Bowles sang.
But more importantly than the actual acceptance part of the NYU acceptance letter was the golden ticket: my email address. A key into the world of Facebook connections. Now was the most important part of my college career — making friends…in CYPERSPACE. These were connections that could make or break me. Maybe I’d even meet him…
Growing up in the middle of nowhere in small-town, conservative Wisconsin as a gymnast with ever-changing hair color and an affinity for musical theater made me, you know, stand out a little bit. I didn’t love the Packers. I didn’t yearn to take the hour-long drive south to Milwaukee on sunny summer days to watch a Brewers baseball game. Hell, I didn’t even like venison meat.
Oh, and the whole being gay thing didn’t help either.
So when this country boy logged onto Facebook for the first time with my brand new New York University e-mail address, I started looking around online for offbeat new students who shared the same overwhelming sense of excitement at the prospect of starting their college adventures in the big city. I started looking for people who were different from those I had known in Wisconsin. I started looking for people who were more like me.
Turns out I didn’t have to look too far. The first profile I clicked on was that of a tall, handsome redhead from Albany…dressed up in a Luigi costume. Dorky taste in retro video games? Check. Upon further inspection of his profile: loved the same obscure spy TV show as me? Check. Obsessed with the same Oprah book club book as me? Check. Relished the same witty banter in our flurry of back-and-forth messages all summer before we moved to NYC? Check. And it sure didn’t hurt that he possessed the warmest, sincerest smile I had ever seen.
Though we had planned on meeting during our first week in New York, the ensuing schoolwork, exciting club activities, and new friends meant our epic meeting inexplicably never happened. …And thus began our close encounters of the gay kind. We had many of the same friends. We almost went to the same parties. We almost took the same classes. But it was always almost.
The summer after my junior year spent in Yemen, I came back to New York a totally different person than when I had left it – longhaired, dusty, a lover of the Arabic language after my travels in the Middle East and — above all — ready to start my post-college life. But then suddenly, there he was: that cute guy from Albany who was my first-ever Facebook friend. After three years of just-missed meetings, it was finally happening. We would be working together all summer at the same job.
And he’d be my boss.
Meet Jon and Gaar!
I couldn’t get over the fact that it was happening.
After all this time, he looked so different than I remembered (and I had stalked his profile many a time).
“It’s great to finally meet you!” Way too ‘perfume guy in the mall.’ Why did I sound so fake?
“Yeah, I can’t believe it.” I can’t believe this.
And then our first encounter was over as soon as it began. But we’d have many more – soon, the same witty banter that we had had in Facebook messages three years early was happening, but this time, it was happening in person. Instead of writing about Alias back and forth online, we were watching it together. Joking. Laughing.
…And soon, kissing — on July 7, 2009, we stood in a cramped East Village dorm room and, holding hands, decided that after three years of bizarrely never meeting, we shouldn’t have to spend another day apart.
But then something unexpected happened. Jon got offered a job in Abu Dhabi.
And so did Gaar. On the same day. At the same company. But for six excruciating hours, neither of us knew the other one got the offer.
We both walked home to that same East Village dorm room where we declared our love for one another thinking that this could be the place where it might have to all end – we both thought we would have to move halfway across the world without the other.
“I just got a job offer in Abu Dhabi.”
“So did I.”
Now, almost three years later, neither of us remembers who actually said it first. But it doesn’t matter. We were both moving to the Middle East. Together.
We helped each other enjoy our last few months together in New York. We helped each other prepare for the daunting prospect of picking up our lives and transplanting them halfway around the world. And for our second anniversary, one month before our plane took off from JFK airport bound for the United Arab Emirates, a simple gift: necklaces with a map of the world and a single engraving – From New York to Abu Dhabi. With you anywhere.
And it’s been true. Whether in America, the UAE or our travels through places like Sri Lanka, Turkey, Oman, and Armenia, we are together. From small town America to New York City and beyond. With each other always.