For Ande Flower, the first year of the pandemic coincided conveniently with a personal commitment to staying single. Mr. Flower began transitioning from female to male in 2018, following a move from Seattle to Pacific Grove, Calif., for a new job. At the turn of 2020, he began a new chapter of his life publicly living as a man.
To allow time to adapt to this huge change, Mr. Flower, an urban planner focused on affordable housing in the Central California region, vowed to spend the year getting to know himself. “No dating,” he promised. Instead, he spent time meditating, kayaking on nearby Monterey Bay and biking the windy roads around Pebble Beach.
Toward the end of the year, he looked in the mirror and “finally recognized myself,” he said. So, in December 2020, he cautiously ventured onto OkCupid and quickly became captivated by Veronica Savage’s unique dating profile.
In one photo she was riding a unicycle wearing a T-shirt that read “Black and Nerdy”; in another, she was in Uganda on a gorilla trek. Ms. Savage’s extensive — some might say encyclopedic — profile proclaimed a love of travel, an open mind and a decades-long passion for music. “I’m a wannabe rock star with my head in the clouds,” she wrote. “I’ll try anything once short of jumping out of a plane.”
“Veronica was clearly adventurous, and I could tell she didn’t take herself too seriously,” said Mr. Flower, 51. The idiosyncratic autobiography made Mr. Flower all too ready for his year of self-reflection to be over.
Coincidently, Ms. Savage, 56, was also keen to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. A whirlwind romance that had begun in 2019 had ended suddenly. “I was devastated and embarrassed and needed to focus on what I truly wanted in a partner,” she said. So, she, too, had spent time during the pandemic soul-searching.
Swiping on each other triggered a volley of fun texts. Mr. Flower’s profile was brief, but Ms. Savage was intrigued by his bright smile. “I’m quirky,” Ms. Savage said, with a laugh. “Also, in my head, I’m 36, but in reality, I fall into the old lady category.”
During their first phone conversation, which seemed unusually easy to both, Mr. Flower floated the idea of attending an online meditation course “together.” But during the class, she was puzzled by Mr. Flower’s preference for male pronouns; she remembered nothing about gender in his profile. “I honestly didn’t catch that Ande was trans,” she said.
After the meditation class, Mr. Flower called Ms. Savage to ask if him being transgender was a problem for her.
“I guess not,” Ms. Savage replied.
But in truth, Ms. Savage was flummoxed; her entire identity and social life in Oakland, Calif., was built around the lesbian and women’s music communities. After a childhood in Rocky Mount, N.C., Ms. Savage, now a senior quality engineer at a Bay Area tech company, had lived in several southern cities and London before landing in the Bay Area in 1993. There, with a former female partner, she raised a daughter, now 20 and attending the University of Oregon.
She also immersed herself in the nascent lesbian punk music scene, playing bass and singing in multiple bands including the Hail Marys, Dolorata, MILF! the Band, and the Halford Wives, a Judas Priest cover band. She currently plays in Easy Queen, which is described on their website as “three fierce, feminist, funny folx forging fabulously funky rock.”
In January 2021, on the exact anniversary of Mr. Flower’s then-expiring no-dating vow, Ms. Savage agreed to a rendezvous in Santa Cruz, a coastal city midway between their homes. During a seaside stroll, they volleyed questions; Ms. Savage was curious about Mr. Flower’s transition journey. “I asked maybe 800 offensive questions ,” she said. “And Ande rolled easily with every one of them.”
While Ms. Savage didn’t foresee a romantic future for the two of them, Mr. Flower, true to his sunny sensibility, remained optimistic about a relationship. His journey to becoming who he was and knowing what he wanted had been a long one. An athletic, social child with many friends, he was raised by a single mother in St. Cloud, Fla., and when young, was often mistaken for a boy. “That always delighted me,” he said.
In 1994, then in his early 20s, he briefly was married to a man and gave birth to a daughter, now 29. Some people close to him assumed he was a lesbian, but that never felt right to him. “I longed to be with a woman, but preferred to be with a woman as a man,” he said. “I am comfortable with who I am even if others aren’t.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from the University of Washington Tacoma, he graduated with a master’s in urban planning from the University of Washington in Seattle.
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Ms. Savage found Mr. Flower understanding, empathetic and willing to talk through any issue with a full heart. “Quickly it felt like we had known each other a long time,” she said.
A few months later, after intermittent correspondence, they eventually met again when Ms. Savage visited Mr. Flower at his home in Pacific Grove. That morning Mr. Flower had baked cinnamon rolls. Upon Ms. Savage’s arrival, he enlisted her to help deliver the fresh buns to his neighbors and friends, a gesture that piqued Ms. Savage’s attention.
“Who does that? Ande was so full of kindness and generosity,” said Ms. Savage, whose resolve to remain just friends weakened with each hour spent together. That night the two stayed up late talking, but by morning their platonic relationship had morphed into something profound.
“Both of us value and appreciate intimacy and our ability to go deep is evenly matched,” Mr. Flower said. As Ms. Savage prepared to return to Oakland, both shared feelings that erased any doubts or misgivings.
Over the next year, the couple bounced from Mr. Flower’s small beachy community to Ms. Savage’s urban home, referring often to each other as the country mouse and the city mouse. With Ms. Savage parenting on alternate weekends, their time alone together was precious. In their country life, they kayaked, hiked and watched the fog roll in and out. In the city, they attended concerts, visited art galleries and sought out unusual restaurants. With each visit, the relationship strengthened.
“I didn’t know if friends would judge me for being with a man,” Ms. Savage said. “But every time a friend met Ande, they adored him and saw how happy he made me.”
In April 2022, still under the shadow of Covid, the couple spent a month working out of Mr. Flower’s mother’s home in Mount Dora, Fla. After that togetherness, they were loath to part. So, in May 2022, they decided to make a home together, moving into an Airbnb in Sacramento and putting Ms. Savage’s home on the market. After the sale, the couple purchased a house in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento, where they both now work remotely.
In September, on a windswept beach, Mr. Flower proposed marriage to Ms. Savage, who joyously accepted. “This is a later-in-life relationship,” Mr. Flower said. “We have been around the block enough times to know what we need and are thrilled to have found it with each other.”
On April 29, a hot spring day, the couple wed at Shangri-La, a restaurant and event venue in Fair Oaks, Calif., not far from the couple’s home. Kristin Masters, ordained by the American Marriage Ministries, performed the ceremony in front of 130 guests, many in yachting caps, tropical print dresses and hats big enough to make their own shade which gave a cruise-ship vibe to the event’s theme of “Yacht Rock.”
“It’s love-centered, positive and has that ’70s groove that reminded both of us of when we were growing up,” Mr. Flower said of the theme.
At the entrance, the costume-happy crowd was encouraged to don leis and pick up a brightly painted maraca or two. Oakland musician Kofy Brown arrived dressed as Isaac Washington, the bartender on the television show “The Love Boat,” complete with a stick-on mustache, pink Hawaiian shirt and white slacks. Ms. Brown’s wife, Margaret Belton, a singer in a Patsy Cline tribute band, arrived dressed as Julie McCoy, the Love Boat’s cruise director from the same show.
In her vows, Ms. Savage shared decades of hard-won relationship advice: “There will be dozens of people who will take your breath away,” she said. “But the one who reminds you to breathe is the one you should keep.”
“I give you this ring as a reminder that we face this world together,” said Mr. Flower while holding Ms. Savage’s hands. “We’re an unbreakable team.”
“If halos were a thing, Ande would have one,” Ms. Savage said. “I had lots of questions for Ande when we first met, but in the end, his answer was ‘I’m just Ande,’ and now he’s my Ande.”
On This Day
When April 29, 2023
Where Shangri-La, a restaurant and event venue in Fair Oaks, Calif.
We are Family At least three of Ms. Savage’s longtime former partners, including the co-parent of her daughter, attended to cheer her on. Leigh Crow, a guest, musician and female Elvis impersonator who once performed as Elvis Herselvis, noted, “If queer weddings didn’t include exes, there’d be no one there.”
The ’80s are (Also) Forever During the reception, Ms. Savage jumped onstage and played bass with the wedding band, Popular Demand. Both bride and groom took the other’s last name for a middle name (she is now Veronica Flower Savage and he is Ande Savage Flower), with one guest noting the combination captured the spirit of the couple: beautiful, fierce, and a perfect moniker for a punk band. (Mr. Flower, however, plays the flute.)
Feel the Heat Large white umbrellas, palm trees and banana plants shaded tables on the sprawling patio, but by midafternoon, the temperature was in the high 80s and guests stripped off whatever they could to hit the dance floor. Before leaving, the couple embraced, dipped, and shared a kiss under a rainbow flag emblazoned with “Everyone is welcome here.”
Stephanie Klassen contributed reporting.
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