DC Marriage Profile: ‘I made her talk to me and open up.’

Posted by Ellen McCarthy on Washingtonpost.com:

"It was one of those flip, impulsive gestures. Kevia Shepard had worked all day at the Pentagon before rolling down the windows of her Corvette, turning on the radio and driving to Northeast Washington to visit a friend.

"When she saw a cute girl whose abs were shown off between a sports bra and athletic shorts, Shepard honked twice, waved teasingly and drove on.

"Then, as she began unloading her trunk a block up the street, she saw the woman walking toward her.

"'I was like, 'Ohhh, okay -- she's coming over here,'  Shepard recalls.

"She couldn't have known, in that instant, how much courage was required for Shannette Matthews to take those steps. Matthews can be profoundly shy, and wasn't sure Shepard was a lesbian, but a friend who'd witnessed the honk pushed her to take the chance.

... "For months it turned out to be just what Shepard had hoped -- a series of low-pressure dates to clubs, parties and each other's houses. They introduced each other to their families, but there was no expectation of serious commitment.

... "'In the beginning, you really don't want to tell people all your problems. They might think, 'Oh she's crazy.' Or, 'What's wrong with her?' ' Shepard says. 'So I kinda kept it [unhappiness with her job] bottled up inside.'

"But one day in October, Shepard unleashed, pouring out her despondency to Matthews.

"'I said, 'Then why are you doing it?' ' Matthews recalls.

"And more than that, Shepard says, Matthews surprised her by saying, 'I'm here for you. And I'll be there to support you. Don't worry -- whatever you decide to do, I'll be there for you and everything will be okay.'

"Leaning on others did not come naturally to Shepard, nor did letting anyone in on the less sunny corners of her interior world.

"'So I was just all in her face, every day, 24/7,' says Matthews, who is an assistant director at an after-school program in Gaithersburg. 'I made her talk to me and open up.'

...  "for two years, they planned what they expected to be a May 2010 commitment ceremony. But in March, they saw that the freedom to marry would be legalized in D.C., 'and that immediately changed our commitment ceremony into a wedding,' Shepard says.

"Heeding the advice of their officiant, Bonnie J. Berger, they exchanged official vows quickly, fearing the legislation would be overturned. On April 16, in a booth at Ledo Pizza on Georgia Avenue NW, they pledged their lives to each other during the lunch time rush. Then Shepard ate a calzone; Matthews had the pizza.

"A month later, on May 16, 100 family members and friends watched as Shepard and Matthews placed rings on each other's fingers...  After the ceremony, guests cheered loudly as they exited a gallery of the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown to the Rick James song 'You and I.'

"Even after the wedding, Shepard marveled at the way a quick horn honk and the constancy of a much younger woman brought her back to married life. 'Once I let the guard down and let her in and realized, 'Okay she really is here for me, she really is about me'-- that made me feel a lot more at ease and allowed me to just fall in love with her,' Shepard says. 'And I just love her more today than I did yesterday.'"

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