“I want the fairy tale.” —Vivian (Julia Roberts) in Pretty Woman (1990)
By Donalevan Maines
Photo by Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak
Randal Fry and David Olivier are taking a year to plan their fairy-tale wedding.
When the newly engaged couple tells you they’ve booked St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church for December nuptials, they mean December 2016. The timing isn’t out of character for Olivier, who was 50 years old before he experienced true romance last year. That’s when he came out of his shell and got to know Fry, a 60-year-old former “religious fanatic” who hadn’t had a partner either.
“I would be happy to get married next month,” says Fry, “but David wants a fabulous wedding. He wants fabulosity.”
Growing up in New Orleans, says Olivier, “I never went to some backyard wedding, and I don’t want to have a very simple ceremony with a justice of the peace. Our marriage is going to be just as good as any straight people’s, so I think we should have a wedding in a church with candles and tuxedos and a reception with food and a cake—the kind of wedding like I grew up going to. We are not big on dancing, but we would like a three-piece string orchestra for background music.”
“We are going to comfortably slide into marriage,” says Fry.
Two-by-two, with the patience of Job, the meticulous pair of retired air traffic controllers plans to enjoy every minute of deciding what will go into their big day. “We got rings to wear as engagement rings until we get married,” says Fry. “We’ve been wearing them for a couple of weeks now, and it’s amazing how much we get treated as a couple instead of as just two guys together.”
Fry grew up as a member of the Cameron Road Church of Christ in Austin. “I was a nerdy religious fanatic who saw everything in black and white,” he explains. “Church people liked me because I did everything they wanted me to do, but to everyone else, I was just a jerk who was very vocal about explaining to them how they were going to hell for not being a member of my church.”
Meanwhile, Fry worried that he wasn’t going to make it to heaven, either. “I was constantly afraid of committing a sin and not knowing it was a sin, so I was always praying to God to forgive me for anything that was sinful that I wasn’t aware of, just in case a car hit me before I repented,” he explains.
At age 15, Fry confessed to his congregation that he was gay, “but the common wisdom was that it was a phase that I would grow out of,” he says. “For my part, I kept begging God to take it away.”
At Lubbock Christian College (now Lubbock Christian University), Fry earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical languages, which he followed up with a master’s degree in biblical Greek at Abilene Christian University.
In between schools, he worked as a youth minister and got engaged twice to females who knew he was gay, but he called off both weddings.
In contrast, Olivier never dated, period. “I wasn’t born to be active socially,” he says. “I was in a closet by myself. I wasn’t leading a double life.”
At the all-boys’ Brother Martin High School he attended in New Orleans, says Olivier, “You probably wouldn’t have known me. I was shy; I wasn’t athletic. I had a few friends, but we never got together outside of school.”
After graduating, Olivier entertained the idea of becoming a flight attendant, but eventually set his sights on becoming an air traffic controller. He was hired for a spot in Houston, and when he bought a home in Humble, his parents followed from Louisiana. Olivier’s younger brother and his family moved close by, too. “We did a lot of things together as a family,” says Olivier. “AIDS was coming out and I thought it better to stay away from the gay scene.”
He and Fry worked in the same department at Houston Intercontinental Airport, but only passed each other in the hall occasionally, without speaking.
For a while, Fry says, he turned to random partners to fulfill his need of physical closeness. “If I had a few hours free, I was at the bathhouses, holding my body against someone who wanted to be with me.”
Fry says he found a healthier way to meet gay men when he started the Homosexual Christian Support group that met often in his home in the Heights. “Its purpose was to provide a safe place for us to encounter God and be responsive to God,” says Fry. “The group lasted for about 10 years. We ran the spectrum.”
Fry retired from his job as an air traffic controller about 10 years ago, moving to New Zealand, where he hoped to become ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church. He succeeded in becoming ordained as a deacon, but was denied ordination as a priest because he’s gay, says Fry.
Olivier retired last year and began wondering how he could meet someone to share his golden years. “I never had sex with anyone until I met Randal,” he explains. “I didn’t know that much and I couldn’t imagine meeting anyone who just wanted to hold hands for six months. Even the thought of going out to dinner with someone, I knew I would be so nervous I wouldn’t have been able to hold a glass.”
Olivier and Fry got to know each other on a hike arranged by the Houston Outdoors Group, and began dating thereafter. “I knew pretty quickly that we meshed. Randal is such a sweet guy, and considerate,” says Olivier. “From the very start, we were very honest with one another—sometimes painfully honest. He was very accommodating.”
How easily and effortlessly their romance bloomed surprised Fry as much as it did Olivier. “After a few months of dating,” says Fry, “I knew that I was more than just an experiment, and this was the real thing. I can have a partner—amazing! I want to live with him until we are both very, very old.”
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.
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