Krystal & Brook - Love & the Military
Krystal, the lovely blonde, (she/her/hers) & Brook, the fierce brunette, (she/her/hers) are probably the world's cutest couple. They have been together two years, engaged a little over one. Krystal is an elementary school teacher and Brooke is employed by the Navy. Brook proposed at the site of their first date, at the top of the Saint Augustine Lighthouse, after a picnic. (Y'all, did I mention Brook is scared of heights!?) I can't even y'all. They're absolutely and positively adorable.
How do you identify?
K- Um. I’m a girl and a lesbian.
When did you come into your identities?
B- I was really young. My cousin is actually also gay. So, it was really easy for me. I was really close to her and I kind of envied her a little bit. I didn’t realize, but it was there. Later, I started dating this girl when I was 14 years old. When I told my mom she was really mad. Like really mad. She told me I didn’t know what I wanted because I was too young. So, I kind of took that into consideration.
K- For me, I was not raised in a household where being gay was an option. It was grow up, date a boy, and get married.” So in high school, I dated a boy for 5 years. A lot of my developmental years were with him. I think that affected a lot of my realizations. But then I met a girl who got those thoughts moving. I cared about that girl in a different way than I cared about the boy I was with for 5 years. And that stood out to me. After trying to date boys regularly and realizing it just wasn’t there, I would get frustrated with them and angry and I didn't know why. I'm not an angry person. But I was angry inside. And upset. Finally, I confided in a friend and she asked, “why are you lying to yourself?”
What was it like coming out?
B- I didn’t start really being ok with it until I was an adult. Once I left my house it was easier. I'm from Iowa. That’s just not how it goes. When I left I still identified as being bi-sexual. When I was deployed the first time my mom kept asking if I was dating any guys. And I kept getting mad at her. It just wasn’t obvious to her. But now, it's such a casual thing.
For me, when I told my family I basically laid it all down on the table. I’m a strong woman, if my parents aren’t on board, I was ready to let them go. This is who I am. I don’t have any choice. And I was done pretending to be someone different because they didn't like it. I know it sounds harsh, but it was long overdue.
K- Now your parents are really open. I talk with your mom all the time. They’re really loving.
B- Yeah, my parents are really accepting about it now. I mean, it took years for them to move from denial, but now they get it and they love Krystal.
K- Her family actually helped a lot with the tough times with my family.
Coming out for me was a long two-year process. When I was hanging out with the first girl, they would ask me questions. I remember one night after hanging out with her, my parents basically cornered me in the kitchen and they were asking if I was gay. They just kept saying, “you’re gay, you’re gay, just tell us!” I was sobbing and of course, I denied it. I think I was just scared.
B- Yeah, but you came out immediately when we were dating.
K- I just knew that this was it. It sounds crazy because we had just met, but I knew that this was it. So it gave me the push I needed to tell them. I was the happiest I had ever been and my parents were missing out on that. So I wrote them a letter so we could talk about it after they had time to process. When I came back, my parents were sitting together and my mom was crying. My dad just said, “If this is true why haven’t you said this the whole time?” And that’s what hurt me. He wasn’t mad, he was just hurting because I lied about it for so long. And I never wanted to hurt them.
Do you have any advice for people coming out?
K- Do it when it’s right for you. People tried to push me for a really long time to come out but I wasn’t ready. I don’t think that my family was ready either. I waited until it was right for me and then I did it in a way that worked for me and my family.
I also think you need to come out. I just, I think you don’t realize how much it affects your life until you come out. Like I didn’t even realize how much weight it had put on me. I didn’t even realize until it was gone. I’m happier now than I've ever been. There's no comparison.
And once you are out, you're not alone. There is so much love out there. It’s 2017, people. Come on. Get on board. Drink the Kool-Aid already.
B- Yeah, it's such a great feeling to finally lay it all out there!
I think the best advice I can give someone is now is the time. I mean, you can legally get married now! I'm in the Navy right, I work with Trans people. Now you can be Trans and serve and the Navy will even pay for your transition. This is the time. And things are only going to get better!
How did y’all meet?
K- Do you want the real answer? I swept right!
For a woman that’s gay but doesn’t look gay, it was great for me. Brook can go out and half the time meet whoever she wants. For me, if I went to a bar, guys would hit on me, meanwhile, I could not get girls to give me the time of day!
B- For me, it was the easiest way. I'm attracted to very feminine girls. So the girls that I would try to hit on had boyfriends. So you kind of have to give Tinder a try. People use Tinder for all kinds of reasons. But it doesn't have to be for hookups.
What was your first date like?
B- On the drive there actually I doubted the whole thing. I just thought that Krystal was a little too attractive for me. I was driving and debating turning around. I just kept thinking, “I don't feel like being upset today.” But I got to the restaurant and was looking for her and saw her and was kind of in shock. Then when she told me she liked me too, I was really confused. I kept thinking she couldn't be real.
We hit it off immediately. The server kept coming over and asking if we were ready to order. But we just kept talking and didn't even open the menu!
K- I was working earlier that day and was nervous. I had to get ready in the bathroom at work and I smelled like food. I thought, “she's not going to like me, I smell like food. I'm pretty sure I have ketchup dried on my elbow. Like what's happening!” But when she first walked in, she was holding a boutique of flowers, I mean come on.
For me, I kind of already knew. We had been talking for a while. I was just so excited to meet her. And it was this immediate connection. We were just so into each other.
B- Actually, this is kind of cheesy. Right after our first date, I hung out with my friend afterwards and he asked how the date went. I said, “I'm pretty sure I just met Mrs. Driscoll.” And then after that I told my mom about her and said, “I don't really know what a soulmate is, but I think I have one.”
What does love look like?
B- Love looks like a lot of things. So like long-term love or new love?
New love is an obsession and it's more individual. It's this crazy butterfly feeling, but then it turns into something more, something that you show through actions and words. Long-term love is knowing and trusting the other person.
K- I agree. New love and developed love are so different. In the beginning, we did so many cute things for each other.
K- We were obsessed with each other! And I am still obsessed with her, but in a way that is secure. She could go out to a club with her friends tomorrow and I would be like, “Have a good time babe, I love you.” Our connection is so unique and special that we built a life together.
Brook, you're about to be deployed again?
B- Yeah. This will be my third time. I'm going back to Japan. Which is nice, actually. I know what's there waiting for me. I've been there before. I work on the Air Side of Navy. When you deploy you know nothing will be too scary. I'm not worried about my safety. I'm not on a ship. I'm just there for surveillance. I just take pictures.
How has deployment impacted your relationship?
B- Well, you know if your relationship is going to make it right away. Imagine six months without seeing someone. You can talk to each other, but not all the time.
For our first deployment, I was in Japan. And it was super nice, actually. Japan is super up to date on things. So it was easy to talk to her. We actually would sleep on FaceTime together. It was like sleeping next to her.
K- Don't admit that! I actually went through a lot that first deployment. Sleeping with her on FaceTime was the only thing that calmed my anxieties so I could sleep.
You have to be really understanding on both ends. The hardest thing for me was that her dates to return kept getting pushed back and I just didn't understand why. I would get really excited for her to come home but then it would get bumped back two weeks. So I had this date in my head, and was marking days off my calendar, and got really excited. But then things would change.
B- That was hard. I stayed longer than everyone else. I was the supervisor of my shift. So I was setting up for the next one when everyone else was returning home. I was out there a month and a half longer than everyone else when I was originally supposed to be the first one out.
Krystal, did you ever think you would be in a military relationship?
K- NO. NO. NO.
B- When I told her, in the beginning, she was like, not ok with it.
K- So, before Brooklyn, when I was on Tinder, there was this other girl that I really liked but she was in the Army. So I actually shut her down because I didn't want that lifestyle. Now Brook’s Tinder did not say she was in the Navy and I know that for a fact because I would have never swiped on her, but by the time I realized she was in the Navy I was already in too deep.
B- Yeah, it was a trick.
So how did you adjust to military life?
K- I was terrified at first.
B- When we met I knew I had a year with her before I was going to be deployed again. I waited a little while before I told her. I knew we had time to get to know one another. When I finally told her, she was really scared. I was scared when I was first deployed. It’s the same on both sides. It's an unknown area that you've never dealt with. So I helped ease her into the military life. She didn't know the lingo or have the support. We worked on that together so she would be ready.
K- Yeah. It was a process that I didn’t understand. And we had the pressure of a ticking clock. That was a constant reminder. But Brook was really diligent and patient with me in introducing me to the lifestyle and her friends. That helped a lot.
Tell me about your care packages.
B- I sent her several care packages. Flowers, a leather teaching bag, one time I sent her a whole pizza. We actually sent each other a lot of food! We did the best we could despite the distance. You always want to lift the other person up. So I would send her care packages frequently. Anything I thought she would like. Money, candy, chopsticks.
K- She was always super encouraging! When I got my first teaching job, she sent me like $300 worth of things off my Amazon list. Things that I had never even dreamed of. I was checking out yard sales and Swip Swap. Everyone else at the school had their spouse to help set up their classroom. I was independent, but she still found a way to help my classroom come together!
Sending care packages was really fun. It was fun to see how much you could fit in a box! It sounds so lame, but my favorite thing that she sent me was a t-shirt that she had worn and it smelled like her.
Talk to me about your "longer" engagement.
B- I actually asked her parents beforehand. I just wanted to make sure that they were on board and understanding. I told her if they still didn’t understand the relationship that they could call me anytime and that I was willing to answer any questions they still had. I told them that Krystal was still going to have a normal life. That nothing would change. They would still have grandchildren. Everything would be the exact same. I think that really gained their respect.
Straight people see things different. They follow a guideline. For us, marriage looks different. We're content making our own way. We've been engaged for a while now. Which people don't seem to understand. A lot of people think we already secretly ran away and got married. But we're young and were waiting for financial purposes. We're not in a huge rush. Marriage is really serious and we want the right marriage. So we’re content to wait it out for a bit.
K- We're happy to wait. You know, where am I going to go? I love her. What’s going to change? Plus, I would rather live off ramen noodles than get married for the wrong reasons. I want to get married one time and I want our marriage to last forever. I also think it’s different for us. Up until recently gay people couldn’t even get married. A piece of paper means nothing to me. Like I’d put it through the shredder. What's important is the relationship we have.