Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Peloton senior instructor Christine D’Ercole tells her love story.
From my lens, love looks like this—utterly unexpected. The strangest thing about falling in love with Brian was the fact that he is not female. For over 10 years, I thought I had figured “it” out. “It,” meaning who I was. And who I was, was gay.
Our friendship started with a (coveted, but random) shoutout in a Peloton cycling class. As an instructor, we scan the leaderboard to congratulate riders on milestone rides and interesting usernames. “Hi #BreatheNitrox! What’s Nitrox? Are you a dentist?”
#BreatheNitrox was a home rider in San Francisco who just liked taking Live classes. My timeslot fit his schedule. He wasn’t even a fan. I didn’t play metal and at first, he thought I was too introspective.
He did, however, care enough to send me a Facebook message explaining his username. Nitrous Oxide is what dentists use. He was, in fact, not a dentist. He was a scuba diver and Nitrox is a gas mix that allows him to stay underwater longer so he can photograph sea slugs, manta rays, and octopi.
I shared that scuba diving was on my bucket list. I am obsessed with octopi. With their eight thinking arms, they can see, sense, and solve from multiple perspectives. I imagine how we all might all live more mindfully if we considered things from eight different perspectives. He could talk about sea creatures all day long. He shared that he hadn’t biked outside in 17 years and was looking to start again and asked if I could offer any direction on shopping for a bike. I could talk about bikes all day.
The conversation began with good food, luxury kitchen fantasies, big red wines, fancy cameras, rules of thirds, and having “an eye.” He got a bike. I learned to dive. And, we talked all the time. We were driven to conversation. I found myself finding things to talk about just to keep talking. And so, we dove pretty deep. Gradually, it became clear that he was going to be a forever friend.
I remember on a couple occasions—randomly on the subway, driving to a bike race, making a playlist—feeling this sort of swell in my heart and hearing these words in my head: I REALLY like this guy. What an amazing friendship we have. I just love him (in that chummy, buddy, comrade sort of way).
Until one day, “I just love him” rang in my head a little louder. A lot louder. The volume of my heart couldn’t be turned down. All I could do was accept and surrender. I had fallen in love. More words kept playing over and over in my head with increasing volume and I listened. “I am going to marry him.” It never occurred to me to need to make sense of it. It just was. I told my friend Rachel. She snarfed her Cabernet right out of her nose. Blotting up the wine, laughing, she said, “Okay, but you’re gay. And, he’s a man.” “This is true. But I think it’s gonna work out,” I replied.
I have a tattoo on my arm, “To thine own self be true.” The whole quote is: “This above all, to thine own self be true, and it shall follow as the night the day that thou canst then be untrue to any.” While it may take a moment to realize one’s truth, no matter what it is, it is always the way. When I realized my truth it was the clearest moment of my life.
I had no fear or anxiety over saying it out loud, and I had no concern over how he might respond. I was compelled to let him know that he had permanent residence in my heart—whatever that ended up looking like. However he furnished that space was fine with me.
I also did not then think to myself or feel compelled to proclaim to the world that I was now “straight.” I fell in love with this person. Period. Some of my friends joked, “You switched teams,” or “Oh no, we lost one!” or “Folks don’t go back INTO the closet.” None of this was funny to me.
Others asked me to declare my position on the spectrum of queerness. Are you a lesbian in love with a man? Are you queer? Bi? Pan-sexual? Fluid? Ally? I thought, for all the boxes the community at large has fought to not be put in, why then recreate new boxes, and then scrutinize whether or not someone was enough of something to belong in a particular box? Why are there any boxes or closets at all? If I had a closet and was in it at some point, then my closet was made of glass and had a revolving door.
So, I don’t wave a flag around and I don’t need to declare to the world which box I’m in. I love Brian. And that love is so big and healthy it cannot be contained in a box.
Back to the moment…We’d been chatting about food—demi-glace and reduction sauces—when I said, “We need to talk.” He took a large sip (gulp) of wine and excused himself to the bathroom saying, “Okay. Gimme a sec.” When he returned I looked him in the eye. “I am in love with you,” I said. He lit up. “That was not at all what I was expecting to follow the dreaded ‘We need to talk.’ I have been, for some time, preparing for the other conversation. The one where you say, ‘Listen, you need to calm down and pull back. Nothing is ever going to happen here. Remember, I’m gay.’ In fact, I have been telling myself, ‘It is so hard to make good friends in your forties, so don’t screw this up with delusional aspirations.’ I have been rehearsing my response in case this came up, to say ‘I honor your boundary. I deeply value our friendship. I will do whatever is needed to preserve this. Because I, too, am in love with you.”
So it began. Like the octopus, I came to see love from another perspective: unexpected. By embracing the unexpected with curiosity instead of judgment, we open ourselves up to fantastic possibilities. We have since breathed Nitrox under the sea to see those incredible eight-legged creatures. And, we cycled all the way to the tops of mountains like Haleakalā. The view from up there is profound. It’s not the vista that is so moving, but the new view of ourselves having done something so challenging. We climb mountains together. So many relationships ARE a mountain. This one is the vehicle that will get us up any mountain we encounter.