I proposed.

I proposed to my boyfriend in June. We were in Peru visiting the Incan ruins and I decided to propose marriage to him on the top of Huayna Picchu. It’s the tall mountain behind Machu Picchu ruins.  It takes about 45 minutes to climb to the top of the mountain.  It sits at ~9000 feet, and is ~1000 feet higher than Machu Picchu.

Let me back up and tell you how it started. In February, I thought about proposing. I am not sure why I thought about it, I never considered marriage very important, but I decided that it was something I would like to do. Then came the busiest spring of my life, and I did nothing propoal related but browse a few rings on etsy.com. By the time May came around, I realized I needed to push off proposing to another time. I had not planned enough, thought about how to do it, or even bought a ring.

Our trip to Peru started a few weeks later. Fast forward to our evening in Aguas Calientes, Peru with our guide. We had just finished a day long hike. I had just seen Machu Picchu for the first time and was feeling thrilled. Our guide walked us through the market on the way to dinner and I spotted a silversmith selling rings. Instantly, I regretted not figuring out this proposal.

While we sat at dinner, I started to figure out how to pull a proposal off. Was my very Peruvian guide homophobic? How could I get a ring? Should proposals be surprises or discussions?  I wrote my sister a note on my phone that said “Occupy Sam after dinner,” and decided to go for the surprise proposal. (Is that selfish or romantic? both?)

After dinner we decided to pick up some food for the next day. Sam started to buy chocolate and water from a store, and I announced I was going to go grab some empanadas and ran down the street. I ducked into the market and found the first silversmith booth. I scanned for men’s rings, found one I liked, paid in USD, and did not haggle. I was back in our group in under 10 minutes and no one questioned my lack of empanadas.

I decided not to tell anyone my plan in case I wanted to back out last minute. Backing out was not about fear of commitment, but about eclipsing a memory like Machu Picchu with a memory like one’s first engagement. I thought I could hold both memories equally, so decided to go through with it.  That was a bit arrogant. As much as I wanted to be in awe of Machu Picchu, my nervousness got in the way.   Today, there are parts of Machu Picchu that feel like a blur.

I had assumed the top of Huayna Picchu was flat, and I could make a formal proposal. It was not flat. It was a leaning rock that had very little space to sit on. We were on top of the world, it was a breath taking view, and I got down on one knee and asked him to marry me. Did I practice a great speech? Yes. Did I deliver a great speech? No. It was brief, I was nervous about falling down a mountain and/or him saying “no.” I didn’t fall and he said “yes”.

My sister and brother-in-law were there (surprised) to witness and record it. Our guide was also with us and about 10 other hikers that once can only assume were surprised. The other hiker’s applauded and our guide wished us a congratulations.

It was a really happy day for me.

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Putting on Makeup

The other night I was sitting at dinner and I recalled a very funny story from my childhood. When I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, I would go to a babysitter near my home. Her name was Betty. Betty kept her rouge and powder on the back of the toilet and it was in a clear case. For months I looked at that makeup and ignored it , but eventually I broke down. Every time I was in the bathroom I would apply what I thought was a very little amount.

No one seemed to have noticed until one day I was playing in the living room and Betty came out and asked me me, “Are you using my make up?” Apparently, I had forgot to put the cover back on the powder case. Obviously, I lied and said I had nothing to do with it. The other kids were all too small to have done it, but I didn’t budge from my denial.

Nothing more was said and the make up was then stored in the (out of reach) medicine cabinet.

Goulash

When I was a kid my mom would make goulash for dinner occasionally. The goulash my mom made was a pound of ground beed with onion, mixed with spaghetti sauce, and box of elbow macaroni. It was basically a poor man’s pasta dish. I did not even realize that goulash was actually a beef stew until I was in college. I have no idea why my family called that dish goulash, but I remember it being one of my favorites.

A Decade of Pitt News

The Pitt News did a news story montage in December of the big stories of the 00’s. I am proud to say yours truly made the cut.

Pitt extends benefits

Staff report

Sept. 2, 2004

In a University Update issued Wednesday, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg announced that Pitt would join the two-thirds of Fortune 100 companies and the nearly 80 percent of Association of American Universities members that offer domestic partner benefits.

Beginning January 2005, Pitt will offer domestic partner health insurance benefits for eligible employees. The benefits, which will be available to both same-sex and opposite-sex partners, herald the beginning of the end to a battle that has spanned the coming and going of chancellors, Pitt professors, students activists and Pitt spokespeople.

“I’m totally excited. It’s about time Pitt decided to do the right thing and catch up with the rest of the world,” said Josh Ferris, former president of Rainbow Alliance, Pitt’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer organization. Ferris devoted much of his time as a student leader to activism and education about the the case.

“I feel like I could give money to Pitt right now. Well, if I had money, I could give them money,” Ferris added.

Although the eight-page University Update was distributed throughout campus in University media boxes, the health insurance coverage issue was not addressed until the fifth page. Preceding the topic were sections addressing individual achievements of students, faculty members and alumni; governmental support; meeting challenges; and building Pitt’s collective strength.

Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill said the timing of the announcement affected how the chancellor chose to present it.

“He thought that it was a good time to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous year,” Hill said of the chancellor’s use of the University Update. “And it’s also a good time to indicate important news.”

Hill said the three pages of text surrounding the announcement and providing background on the case and debate were included “so the people would have a full understanding of what brought us up to that moment.”

In the past, Pitt’s argument for not providing the benefits depended largely on the fear that state legislators might react negatively to a same-sex benefits decision and cut Pitt’s appropriations. Pitt discussed the issue with many state lawmakers as the University moved toward the decision, Hill explained, saying he hopes legislators will recognize that “this is an appropriate action for Pitt at this time.”

But not all readers found the presentation appropriate, and most student leaders on campus still did not know about the decision by Wednesday afternoon. For Ferris, the experience reading the letter was bittersweet.

“You sneak it in there, and you sound like the good guys,” he said of the letter. “Why couldn’t this have been accomplished eight years ago?”

On campus, student opinion was largely in favor of the provision, even among those, such as freshman Amar Mehta and Dan Sheidy, who personally oppose homosexual relationships.

“I can’t say that I would view a heterosexual marriage and a homosexual marriage under the same terms,” Mehta said, but added, “I’m not against gays having the same rights.”

Sheidy also voiced concerns over eliminating differences in treatment of different sexual orientations.

“I think, stereotypically, [homosexual relationships] are less monogamous,” he said, but added that, if a couple could prove their monogamy, as in the case of a signed affidavit like the one Pitt will require, they should be granted benefits.

Sophomore Jennifer Hopkins went further.

“We are all humans and we have equal rights,” she said. “Maybe this will bring more and better faculty to the University — insurance benefits are important to people.”

Although the announcement pleased Rainbow Alliance President Monica Higgins, she pointed out that the process of obtaining domestic partner benefits will probably still prove tricky to navigate.

“I figure it will be a fairly difficult process, but they are making concessions,” Higgins said, noting that applying for any benefits at Pitt entails a complicated process, and that she doesn’t expect Pitt to change that process.

Gary DiNardo, who is also involved in Rainbow Alliance, believes Pitt’s decision marks a victory, regardless of complications that might arise in the coming months.

“No matter what this includes, it’s a step up,” DiNardo said.

Addressing fears that Pitt’s offering might be as disappointing to supporters as Temple’s 2002 benefits deal, former Pitt student Cecilia Frerotte suggested that Pitt would not offer an unrealistic solution after such a long battle.

“I can’t imagine that they would make this concession, then go only one-fourth of the way,” Frerotte said of Pitt’s effort to meet the demands for domestic partner benefits.

The following article ran in a prior edition of The Pitt News. It has not been edited or updated from how it was originally published.