Amena was pretty much done looking for love when Nikki came, unexpectedly, into her life. Two years after their first meeting, this Maryland couple is happily planning their fall 2015 wedding. The couple shared their story over dinner at their Maryland home:
Black Lesbian Love Lab (BL3): Why did you decide to get married?
Nikki: It was almost instinctive. I took her last December to the jewelry store to find out her taste. I got the ring later on when I was with my sister.
Amena: When Nikki and I went to the jewelry store over Christmas, I rolled my eyes all the way to the back of head. I just didn’t think it would happen anytime before my birthday in June or our second anniversary in September.
Nikki: One day I kept driving past the jewelry store with my sister. I started interviewing myself. When a person influences you to change your life for the better … that’s how I knew Amena stands out from the others.
Amena: I often say that marriage was always more important to Nikki than me. Before we got engaged, Nikki would always say she wanted her family to validate our relationship because I think she’s gotten the message that these were the only kinds of relationships that her family values.
BL3: Tell us how the actual engagement went down.
Amena: Nikki asked me to put some pictures on her website when I came across a picture of two rings in her [folder]. A couple days later, the pictures were still there so I copied it and sent it to my friends because I knew she would ask their opinions before buying it. I still didn’t think it would happen when it did on March 22. My friend Jamillah came to town for brunch at Busboys and Poets [a Washington, D.C., restaurant] on a Saturday at 11. She wanted to go to the one all the way downtown when there’s one nearby.
When we sat down to breakfast, I felt this presence over my shoulder. I looked up and saw Nikki. She gives me a nervous kiss and I was wondering why she was there because she’s crashing girls’ day. She’s normally good about that. She got a chair and I’m wondering what is going on. Then Nikki pulls the ring box out of her pocket. And I’m like, is this really for real? Nikki slides the box over to me. She tried to get on one knee and I said, “Don’t do that because people were looking.” My friend finally asked if I’m going to say something. I said, “Yes!” My friend then jumps up and leaves. I then started texting people to tell them, “Hey, I just got engaged.” But nobody was saying anything. It turns out Nikki told 48 people about the engagement. Some people wouldn’t give it up until the very end. Apparently Nikki was supposed to have proposed at 3 p.m. but she couldn’t wait and did it at 1 p.m. People have this idea that I’m nosy.
Amena: After brunch, we went for a boat ride on the Potomac [River]. When we pulled up to the house, there were balloons on the fence. And I realized that there were people in my house. Apparently my friend Jamillah had put together a surprise engagement party at my house. There was definitely a fear that I would say no, so after I said yes at the restaurant she rushed home to put the party together.
Nikki: Amena is a hard person to surprise so to pull this off this is amazing. She has an amazing way of surprising me. And I get mad because I can’t surprise her for anything. This was probably the best surprise.
BL3: Amena, why did you say yes?
Amena: There was no reason to say no. I interviewed myself and didn’t want to say no just to say no. She’s the person I want to be with. She could have not proposed for 10 to 15 years and I would have been fine. I’ve never been so sure about anything. It sounds crazy for even me to say that. Any big decisions from buying a house to going to school to buying a car, this is the one I’m most confident about. It doesn’t mean I haven’t questioned it but maybe for a second and then I tell myself, “You’re crazy. You know this is what you want to do.”
Nikki: And so going to the jewelry story was instinctive, it’s like I was supposed to do it.
Amena: Everything that happened, it wasn’t suppose to happen before this. When we first met, we knew a lot of the same people. There had to have been times that we had been in the same place and never met. So when you talk about the universe, it was probably like, you ain’t ready.
BL3: You moved in together in June. How has that been?
Amena: I’ve never lived with someone that I plan to be with for the rest of my life so we had a fight over chicken. I’ve lived with people before but ignored certain things because I wasn’t as invested. But this is for real and it’s daunting on many levels.
BL3: How do your families feel about your relationship?
Amena: Both of our fathers have been deceased for years. My mother doesn’t condone lesbian relationships but she loves me. About 15 years ago when I told her, she pulled out the Bible and pointed to a passage that says, “how can you love your heavenly father who you can’t see but not love your brother who you see every day.”
When we got engaged, my mother told me that because of her beliefs she’s not going to come to the wedding. It hurts, but my mother is the one who taught me to hold fast to my beliefs. Nikki loves old people been to [visit my mom] twice and she likes Nikki.
Nikki: I remember my mom was dropping me off at [college] and she said, “Don’t turn into one of those freaks.” I said to myself, “But I am gay.” So I basically came out to myself on the way to college. Inside I always knew. I came out to my mom in 1995. My cousin said I shouldn’t, but for me it felt like a weight. It was so heavy and I don’t lie to my mom, I just don’t. I called her on the phone, which was tacky. She was so upset and started throwing the Bible in and telling me that’s not the way to live. I also grew up in the church and I chose to be saved. It wasn’t something forced upon me. I felt God in me.
I was battling with … being gay and is God going to love me. I had this traumatic experience and had a little break down. One of my friends came to see me in the hospital and told me, “God’s love is so infinite, he doesn’t care who you are. No one is judging you. God loves you and it’s evident by the people that surround you.”
BL3: Are you both religious?
Amena: I was raised Southern Baptist, but yeah I don’t like church. I don’t even like gay church. But I believe in God. When I’m out in the garden, cooking or creating, that’s me and God—I don’t need an intermediary. I worry about it but Nikki doesn’t worry about it like I do.
Nikki: She loves God. She doesn’t like anyone telling her what to think. I never judged Amena and me being here is evidence of that fact.
I do feel like the woman that I am and the things she loves about me is concentrated on my spirituality.
BL3: When will the wedding be?
Amena: Next September at the Billingsly House in Upper Marlboro, Md. Our dear friend Freda got ordained so she could marry us. I’m not religious so I didn’t want us to get married in a church or have one of God’s representatives involved and I didn’t want a stranger marrying us.
BL3: Do you have a theme for the wedding?
Amena: Wine, art and music. I love wine! I don’t know if Nikki loves wine but she plays along. She is an artist and we both loooove music!
BL3: What are you looking forward to most?
Amena: I’m an extrovert so weddings are for extroverts. But the wedding is not just about us. It’s about our friends and family—our chosen family and our blood family—they have helped me get to a point where I can have a relationship like this.