Tim Prestridge and Derek Bowley have been together for 7 years and married each other in Massachusetts in 2005. They have lived in the District ever since.
Q: How did you meet?Derek: We met through friends. I was working at a theater company, and my roommate was the costume director there, and he went to college with –Q: Did you date in DC?
Tim: with my roommate at the time; they were college friends, and he had hired her to work on a show. I was driving up to actually do a touring gig as an actor, and we stopped in Massachusetts because she was stopping there to work with him for the summer, and then I was going to drive on to New Hampshire. So we met that summer for like one night, because we all spent the night at their apartment.
Derek: And I was dating someone at the time, and he was just passing through, so I met him, and that was it. And then, a year and a half later, she (his roommate) was back up working again, and staying with us again, and so he came to visit again, and we were both single at the time. And so that’s when the relationship started. He was living in DC, I was living up there, so it was long distance for June, July, and August, and then he moved up to Massachusetts.Derek: I came and visited twice, after we started – but we pretty much call that night the night we started dating, it was pretty clear that it was going to be something. I took a trip to London for work and had a layover at Dulles for two hours, and so he drove out and I left the gate and we sat in his car and talked for like an hour before I had to go back through security to get on my connecting flight again. And then 4th of July weekend I came down to visit for the weekend.Q: Who popped the question?Derek: I did! And it was clear, from early on, that I would be the one that would.Q: So you were already thinking about marriage early in the relationship?
Tim: We made that determination.
Derek: I forget the conversation that we had or what, but from very early on in the relationship, we knew that if somebody was going to propose, it was going to be me.Tim: Yeah, I think so – by the time we moved to Massachusetts and were living there, and the relationship was really getting going, all the marriage equality was happening in Massachusetts.Q: And so when the moment came, what happened?
Derek: When the marriage bills were going through, we started dating in 2003, he moved up in August, and it was in May of 2004 when it became legal.
Tim: So yeah, for us it was a natural progression, because we had been together for a year, and now all of this was starting to happen, and it very much looked like it was going to be a reality that Massachusetts would be the first one to legalize gay marriage, so –
Derek: So that’s how we probably had that conversation.Derek: It was Christmastime, so we had been together for a year and a half. Christmas was the one holiday we spent separately; he’d go see his family in Alabama and I’d spend Christmas day with my family in upstate New York where I grew up. So he was flying back to meet me, so I hired a limo to pick us up from the airport. And I got him a couple of things because I wasn’t going to get him a diamond ring. I got him a leather scrapbook and a clock as two tokens of the ways that we could measure our lives together.Q: And did the limo driver applaud?
Tim: Good stuff, right?!
Derek: So he came out of the plane, and we were walking through the parking lot and he said “where’s the car?” And we get to where you can see the limo and he says “oh nice, you got a limo to take us home from the airport.”
Tim: And I was totally just being an asshole!
Derek: And I said, “yeah, give him your bags.” And he looked at me and was like, “what are you talking about, where’s the car?” I said, “no, this is the car, you just give him your bags, he wants to put them in the trunk.”
Tim: And at this point, I still had no idea what he was doing, and I thought this was just some clever birthday present or Christmas present, and I had never ridden in a limo, so –
Derek: So he gave the guy his bags, and he put them in the trunk, and then we got in the limo and I asked the guy to stay in the parking lot, because when that layover in Dulles when I came down to visit, that was sort of when –
Tim: Well, we just knew that it would be -
Derek: It was when I told him for the first time that I loved him, and I officially, like the junior high kid, I asked him to be my boyfriend. So because that had happened in an airport parking lot, I also wanted to propose in an airport parking lot.
Tim: See, it just got better and better.
Derek: So, the car stayed there, he got in, I pulled out the stuff, I had written something on the inside of the scrapbook, and he pulled it out and read it, and I sang a little to him, because I’m a musician, and then I proposed to him. There were lots of tears, calls to parents.Derek: The limo was kind of ghetto, and the divider didn’t go up, so the whole time it was happening, I had to listen to whatever he had on the radio, like adult contemporary bad music. So then I told the guy he could drive, and then we opened Christmas presents on the drive home to my parents house.Q: So I noticed that you’re wearing rings.
Tim: It technically happened after midnight, so I say that it happened on my birthday.
Derek: I was doing it on the 27th so it wasn’t on his birthday, because it wasn’t intended to be a birthday present, but he loves for it to be on his birthday, so it’s fine.Tim: They’re identical. We knew that we wanted identical onesQ: How did your family react to your engagement?
Derek: And the funny thing is that they’re the same ring and they’re the same size. So the nice thing was on the wedding day we didn’t have to worry about whose was whose, since they’re the exact same size.
Tim: It was sort of a very odd feeling to be shopping for wedding rings, because that was just not something that even I had ever imagined that I would ever do.Tim: My mother is extremely supportive and extremely lovely and was at the wedding. My dad, however, is a different story. I’m originally from Alabama, and he’s a Southern Church of Christ preacher, so I was born and raised extremely strictly and religiously. I always tell people if you watched the movie Footloose, that was pretty much my life. No dancing, certain music was banned, TV was bad – basically up until my parents got divorced when I was in high school. It wasn’t until then that life opened up after that. It was hard for a while, and even now, we didn’t tell my dad for a really long time. He found out on his own; basically, we’d already been married, he’d actually visited us and thought we were roommates –Q: What was your wedding like?
Derek: It was before we were married that he visited, but we totally did the separate bedrooms and the whole thing, the charade, just to not deal with it.
Tim: Through the wonderful social networking world, I randomly get a phone call from my dad one day, and dad basically just asked, “is everything that’s on the internet true?” And my stomach just dropped, and I was like, “oh shit, this is the day, this is when everything stops.” I mean, it was great, because I don’t think I ever could have done it on my own without prompting, but it was nice to sort of have that catalyst to just let it all out, and be like, “yeah, it is.” And he asked if it was Derek, and I was like, yeah it is, because he had met Derek at that point. Things now are fine. He’ll never come to visit, I don’t think, and I see him one day a year. He’s never mean or anything about it, he was like, you know, “it doesn’t change the fact that I love you”, he was like, “I don’t understand and I think that it’s wrong,” etc. etc. He sort of started to go into the “what did I do wrong,” and I was like, this is not anything to do with you, it’s nothing you did, this is just who I am. It was sort of like at that point we cut off the conversation and it was sort of like something we agreed never to talk about again. Only this past year, 3 years later, did he physically ask about Derek and asked how he was, and that was one of the biggest strides he has made in the entire time. But we see his parents a lot more, and they’re great.
Derek: And they love Tim, they always have, they were happy when I said I was going to propose; my brother was thrilled. My brother and his wife started dating the same year that we started dating. So then we got married, and then everyone was like, “well, when’s Gabe getting married? What do you think, when are Gabe and Tanya getting married?” And we’re like, I dunno, and they just got married last October, and we were both in the wedding.
Tim: His brother and his wife are great, because the first thing they said to us when they asked us to be in the wedding was, “we want you guys to know that at this wedding, you are married, you should dance together, we want you to be comfortable, this should not be anything that you need to be concerned about. We want you to know that you should be yourselves at this wedding.” Which was great, and we were, we danced together at the reception, it was a great time and we had a lot of fun.Derek: Our wedding was very casual, we did it all ourselves, it was like a barbeque with a ceremony. It was outdoors at this house of this old eccentric gay man in this beautiful yard. So we did it all ourselves: Tim’s mom stayed with us and our best friend stayed with us and her daughter, and the night before we made potato salad and pasta salad and-Q: Has there been a time when you felt you had to draw on each other for support to face a particular challenge?
Tim: And more baked beans than I can ever eat again!
Derek: And two or three of our friends stood at grills and cooked burgers and hot dogs after the ceremony.
Tim: We didn’t really have a “dance” reception, we just kind of threw an iPod on and had selected some songs…
Derek: But during the ceremony, we did have this one girl, who is gorgeous and has a gorgeous voice, to sing at the wedding. So we walked down the aisle to –
Tim: to the same song that he had sung when he proposed.
Derek: And so, during the ceremony, she sang “Unexpected Song” from “Tell Me on a Sunday,” because on my trip to London, that was kind of the first song that I was watching a show and a song made me think of him. For the rings part she sang “One Hand, One Heart.”
Tim: And then we left to “Ever After” from “Into the Woods.”
Derek: Because we love musical theater.
Tim: So clearly it was one of the gayest weddings ever.Derek: I lost my job. And that was a big change, because at that time I was the one earning more money, I was the one that had the health benefits for both of us through my job. I do much better as the provider; I naturally want to do that, I want to be the one that is taking care of, that’s why I was proposing and all that stuff. So, I lost my job, and it was a big shift. So I freelanced; I never would have been able to freelance on my own. If I had still been single or just been in a sort of dating relationship, therefore if I were still supporting myself fully, I never would have allowed myself to continue freelancing, I would have forced myself to take a job that was going to bring me money and pay the bills.Q: Who’s the better cook?
Tim: Because at that time at the Kennedy Center I got full domestic partner benefits.
Derek: But yeah, that was a big thing, and then we got the dog, and because I was unemployed I was home a lot so I was the one taking care of it when it was a puppy and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. He had to talk me through some of that.
Tim: For me, I’m very much a mama’s boy. So, not seeing her all the time and being away from her can be really hard, sometimes, and for that reason, I do lean on him a lot. And right before we got together, my grandmother, her mother, who I was extremely close to passed away not long before we got together. So that was really hard, so I think there are times when it comes to me living so far away from my family, that having him as my family means a lot to me.Tim: Him, by far; he is a crazy, crazy cook. He does the CSA, and gets the vegetables and will decide what to cook based on what comes in that week.Q: So what’s his specialty?
Derek: I just love it, I love to cook. I’m doing summer camps with kids right now and I’m doing cooking camps, even, that’s what I did all day; I’ll cook all day with kids - which is frustrating and wonderful all at the same time - and I’ll come home and cook dinner. And I’m not bothered by it, I don’t think it’s a chore, I just love it.
Tim: And he’s very cool with the aesthetics, like last night he grilled a whole bunch of random vegetables and he stacks them so that they’re always very pretty. And all of our friends when they come over they’re like, “oh my God, do you eat like this every night?” And I’m like, “yeah, pretty much!”Tim: Derek will cook just about anything. I only make things that I am allowed to cook.Q: It’s not chicken-fried cube steak?
Derek: He cooks cube steak. He cooks sweet and sour pork. And he can cook; he cooks too, it’s just that I love it, and so I just do it naturally all the time.
Tim: I cook things that are Southern. You bread it and fry it, and it’s so much better!
Derek: Every Valentines Day we always cook together, because his birthday is three days after Christmas and my birthday is February 1, so by the time we’re done with Christmas and his birthday and my birthday, the last thing we need to do is spend more money either going out to dinner or buying each other things. So for Valentines Day we give each other a card, but then what we do is make a nice dinner together. We’ll get something nicer to do, like we’ll get filet or whatever, but for Valentines Day we cook together.Derek: It’s not.Q: Do you see children in your future?
Tim: It’s the one day we stray from that.Tim: The crazy thing is I think that after having a dog, it made us realize that we couldn’t imagine what it would be like with a child.Q: Do you see eye-to-eye on religion or faith?
Derek: A dog changes your life so much, and a dog you can leave at home – our dog’s sitting in the living room right now. You can’t do that with a baby.
Tim: We totally admire families who have children; our best friend has a daughter who we think the world of. And she’s completely happy. But I just know it’s not for us.
Derek: The funny thing is that we didn’t have that conversation before we got married. And somebody asked me one day, not too long after we married, and I was like, “I don’t know, we never talked about it. Maybe we should have talked about it!” But at that time we realized we were in the same boat – we were like, “absolutely not now, maybe down the line, I don’t know.” It would just be a huge financial change too, that I’m not ready to make.
Tim: That’s the other thing too, we both work for – well, he’s a teacher and I work for an arts non-profit, so it’s not like we’re raking in the dough or anything.
Derek: We could never live in DC and have a child.
Tim: We could, but we could never give it the life that I feel like it would deserve.Derek: We don’t talk about it much. I’m not overly religious. I was raised Catholic. And at that time, I didn’t know I was gay. I came from a small town and graduated with a class of 55 students; my town had like 2,500 people in it. I was not exposed to gay people at all, or even the concept of it.Q: How do you deal with conflict?
Tim: And for me, I grew up with my father being a preacher, so religion was very much in my life for a really long time. But for me, there was so much hypocrisy in what I saw going on with people that sat in the same building with us and were going to church…
Derek: The older I get, and especially as we get into issues like gay marriage, organized religion is just alarming to me in a lot of ways. That people believe things because the Bible tells them that gay people shouldn’t get married, or the Pope says it shouldn’t happen so we blindly believe that it shouldn’t happen. That’s alarming to me.
Tim: Yeah, my issue is definitely not with religion, it’s with organized and blind religion.Derek: Not very well.Q: Got any words of advice from your 4 years of marriage?
Tim: Yeah, he sucks at it!
Derek: I hate it. And so I avoid it at all costs!
Tim: Which mostly leads to me not speaking to him until I’m angry enough to confront him about it and make him talk about it.
Tim: But I think in those events, we know that it’s not anything hugely important that could tear our relationship apart. And I think if ever something came up that was that important, I’m sure we could talk about it and deal with it.
Derek: But we don’t fight, we’ve never had a knock-down, drag-out, throwing things… And a lot of the time, I’d say 50% of what annoys one of us just has to do with miscommunication, at which point I think it’s his fault, he thinks it’s my fault, and that’s why we get annoyed, basically. The chances are, it’s probably both of our faults because we just didn’t connect properly.Tim: For us, it happened so naturally. Marriage was such a natural progression: we met, we dated, we moved in together, then we got married. It just very much followed that tradition of any typical relationship, whether it be two men, two women, a man and a woman, whatever. I would just make sure that your relationship is progressing that way, that you know what that commitment means, that you know what getting married fully entails before you sign on for it.
Derek: Yeah, because every couple’s different. I don’t know, it’s just that what we have works; it was clear from the get-go that we were in it for the long haul, and for me, the ability to get married was a chance to validate it in the eyes of whoever
Tim: And it’s one thing to have all the rights and benefits, but it still goes back to the equality issue, that for me, I was finally able to call him my husband. He was the man that I was going to spend the rest of my life with, he was the man that I was committed to, in Massachusetts and now in other states. No matter where we move, I don’t care whether they recognize it or not, he will always be my husband. Even when we moved to DC, it was not like we changed terms, or took off the wedding rings or anything like that. He is my husband and will always be my husband. And I think just that validation – yes, we’ve entered into this relationship, this is who I’m spending the rest of my life with, and dammit, he’s my husband!