An Answer to A Mother’s Prayer
Jarrod Banning & Khang Pham
An Answer to A Mother’s Prayer
Jarrod and Khang were both coming out of relationships, and neither had long-term expectations when they discovered each other. Both were casually browsing on Grindr, and each swiped right on the other. They only lived about a mile away from each other, and they struck up a texting conversation. They found they had many common interests, so they decided to meet in person – but just as friends.
Over time, they spent more and more time together.
They worked out together.
They went running.
They ate poke.
They felt comfortable,
And secretly, Jarrod says, he was attracted to Khang.
Popcorn and Poke
Valentine's Day is like any other day when you’re not dating anyone. Since neither Jarrod nor Khang was dating anyone, they planned to go for a run. When Khang showed up at Jarrod’s, however, he didn’t arrive empty-handed. He’d put together a gift bag. Poking fun at Jarrod’s “dramatic” dating life, Khang says it was a “casual gift.” It was a bowl filled a bowl with popcorn “to eat while Jarrod recounted the dramatics of his dating life,” and he put poke at the bottom for them to eat later.
Jarrod took Khang at his word that they were on this journey as friends, so he didn’t buy a gift for the traditionally romantic holiday.
But inside, Jarrod was screaming: HE’S INTO ME!
Jarrod saw Khang’s gift as a green light and seized the opportunity the next day to present Khang with a “day-after Valentine’s Day” gift that posed the question: will you be mine?
Khang said yes.
Jarrod grew up in the small town of Dayton, Texas, and came out during his sophomore/junior year in high school. His biological father had passed away, and he lived with his mom and stepdad, with whom he didn’t really see eye to eye. His stepdad certainly wasn’t interested in hearing about any of his love interests. His mom was accepting when he came out, and even, he says, “kind of helped me figure out what it meant to be a gay man.” He didn’t have any gay man role models, and she didn’t know any gay men, but they were committed to helping each other navigate their new normal.
Khang left VietNam and came to America with his parents and siblings when he was six. He’d been in previous relationships and had come out to his siblings during those relationships but had not come out to his parents.
After Jarrod and Khang dated for about six months, they moved in together. Growing into the relationship slowly, Khang says, allowed them to be clear with each other about their expectations. They both moved deliberately, they say, wanting to get it right. Khang said he was clear about the “mixture of things” he wanted in a relationship. “Someone who was responsible and had similar priorities,” he said. “Also, I wanted them to be easygoing but willing to bring up difficult topics and be committed to discussing them and working through them.” They both wanted open communication, and when they disagreed, they didn’t want a partner who jumped the gun and reacted angrily because that builds walls. “Trust each other enough to say how you feel,” said Khang.
The World Shuts Down
Six months into dating, they moved in together. And then, the world gave us a pandemic, and they were confined to home like all of us. They’d started their first business project - flipping a house, so the overall stress level in their lives and relationship was dialed up, but they could see how the other worked through unexpected detours. It painted a true picture of how they handled stress and juggled responsibilities. Without any red flags waving, things were looking promising.
In fact, everything looked so promising that Jarrod decided to make this a forever thing and called on some close friends to plan and witness his surprise proposal to Khang.
THEY CAN LIVE WITHOUT MARSHMALLOWS TONIGHT!
Still in the thick of the pandemic, the friend group took all necessary safety and testing protocols and rented a house in Austin. Every single person there was in on planning the secret proposal except, of course, Khang.
They had a pool party on Saturday afternoon and discussed what they wanted to fix for dinner. A list was compiled, and Khang and their friend Blaine were “selected” to go on the shopping trip.
As soon as Khang left, the group readied the house and backyard for the surprise proposal. Khang and Blaine found everything on the list except firewood. They stopped at three places and couldn’t find any, and Khang was getting impatient while Blaine was getting text messages imploring him to keep stalling because the house wasn’t ready yet. Khang says he just wanted to get back to the house to relax and chill, and he was getting annoyed. When yet another stop produced no firewood, he exasperatedly exclaimed, “They can live without marshmallows tonight!”
When they returned to the house, Khang said he was taking his sweet time when he heard, “Come on! We’re going to take pictures!” which was the signal for everyone to move outside for the proposal. When he made his way outside, he saw lines of lights and everyone dressed in white, and he thought, “Wow! This looks nice!” As he scanned the area, he saw all his friends holding up letters spelling out, “MARRY ME.”
THE NO WORD PROPOSAL
Wait, he thought. Who’s getting married?
Then it hit him. He started running down the sloped backyard toward Jarrod, shouting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” before Jarrod even asked.
“Best surprise of my life,” Khang mused.
They started planning their December wedding and decided to make it a destination extravaganza for 54 of their closest friends and family.
They’d been to a wedding in the Dominican Republic earlier in the yea,r and loved the atmosphere, they said. “The energy was intoxicating!” It also gave them a behind-the-curtain view of how a destination wedding works.
They chose Mexico because it is affordable and easy to travel to. The El Dorado Casitas Royale in Riviera Maya, Mexico, is an all-inclusive resort that offers “the escape of a lifetime.” The wedding was perfect, punctuated afterward by a choreographed wedding party dance the group - comprised of people from all over the world - managed to choreograph after their arrival in Mexico.
Both sets of parents attended and were happy for their sons. After the wedding, Jarrod’s stepdad hugged him, told him he was proud of him, thanked him for wanting him to be there, and wished him and Khang the best. In high school, Jarrod could not have imagined they’d be sharing a moment like this. It showed Jarrod that people’s hearts can change.
At the reception, Jarrod’s mom offered a toast. She remembered that when she was pregnant with Jarrod, they could never determine by ultrasound whether the baby was a girl or a boy because of positioning. She said her prayer for her child then became, “I don’t care what you give me, God, all I ask is my child love and be loved by people.” She looked at Jarrod and Khang, then scanned the assembled group of friends and family.
“I can see today that my prayers have been answered.”
Mom was accepting and they kind of had to learn together - Jarrod dint’ have a gay man role model,
She was going to ultrasounds, could’t determine gender -
Mom said I don’t care what you give me, God, all I ask is that my child be loved by people, and loves people. She looked at him during the toast, and I can see today that my prayers have been answered.
Stepdad was never interested in his relationships
Stepdad was very engaged with Khang -
Mom - is DOnny invit4d> if he wants to come
He wanted to come - not big on travel -
To go out of the country was quite the thing