Their Second Date Could’ve Been Their Last

The incipient relationship of Andrew Shoulders and Charles Reese II might have reached an unfortunate end on just their second date had it not been for Mr. Reese’s well-developed listening skills.

“He really pays attention to what people say,” Mr. Shoulders, 40, said.

For their first date, in November 2010, the men met at a wine bar in New York. Three bottles of wine were consumed and the two, both gregarious anyway, chatted for hours. Their second date, a dinner, took place later that month. But when it was interrupted by a call from a friend to Mr. Reese, who is 45 and known as Corey, and he abruptly announced that he had to go, their future suddenly looked bleak.

“The debacle,” Mr. Shoulders said, remembering the event. “I was checking my breath, checking my hair, wondering what the hell happened.”

Mr. Reese didn’t want to leave Mr. Shoulders with the wrong impression, so when he was done helping his friend, he tracked down Mr. Shoulders, showing up at a birthday party that Mr. Shoulders had told Mr. Reese he’d be attending after their dinner together.

“He circled back to where he’d heard me say I’d be — very smart guy,” Mr. Shoulders said.

The two had originally connected on a gay dating website, Connexion, after Mr. Reese sent Mr. Shoulders a note saying he thought it was great that Mr. Shoulders had included a picture of himself with his mother. (Mr. Shoulders said he felt it was important to say in his profile, “Listen guys, I’m a big momma’s boy.”)

Of his initial impression of Mr. Shoulders, Mr. Reese said, “You could really tell Andy was such a caring person, and really sweet and genuine — a nice Midwest boy living in the city.”

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Reese has a law degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in cosmetics, fragrance marketing and management from the Fashion Institute of Technology. He is now a vice president for strategic initiatives at the Estée Lauder Companies.

“I really was taken by his honesty and his authenticity, and his really beautiful blue eyes,” added Mr. Reese, who is originally from New York.

Both said they felt a chemistry emerge between them on their first date, which ended with a first kiss (“On the street, before we said goodbye,” Mr. Reese said).

Mr. Shoulders said it was “the best first date I’d ever had,” and that, a few months later, the two were in love.

“I remember saying ‘I love you’ for the first time, at his 35th birthday,” Mr. Shoulders said. “He brought me a drink and I was, “Thanks! I love you!”

Of that moment, Mr. Reese added, “He stopped and put his hand over his mouth. He just kind of blurted it out, in front of a group of people.”

But before the night was over, Mr. Reese had reciprocated.

“It was definitely new for me — I’d only felt that feeling once before,” Mr. Reese said. “When we would kiss, I just felt completely enveloped by him, and that was the sign for me. It was a feeling that was just all encompassing.”

Nine years after their first date, the two became engaged in February 2019. “Andy proposed to me on a corner of 15th and 10th avenue,” Mr. Reese said. “I was shocked. I had always thought I would be the one to propose, but he’s the one who has been taking the leaps forward and dragging me across the line.”

The couple were married Nov. 14 in their apartment in Manhattan, with Jason Mitchell Kahn, a Universal Life minister, officiating. On Oct. 30, the couple had a wedding celebration at the Bowery Hotel in New York. Federal District Court Judge Richard L. Young of Indiana, an uncle of Mr. Shoulders’s, led the couple in reciting their vows. About 100 people, all vaccinated against the coronavirus, attended. On Dec. 28, they will have a second celebration in Mr. Shoulders’s hometown, Evansville, Ind., also with about 100 guests.

After the date that could have been their last, Mr. Shoulders told friends at the birthday party that his dinner with “a really great guy” had come to a perplexing conclusion. So when Mr. Reese unexpectedly appeared, Mr. Shoulders was thrilled.

“It was the perfect movie moment,” Mr. Shoulders said. “Smile on my face. ‘Oh! He came! So it must not have been me!”