On their first date, Dan Strachan and Tom Masog found themselves involved in an undercover caper.
It was August 28, 1987, Tom’s last day at his job. He’d packed up his desk and handed in his badge before heading up the street to meet Dan for dinner at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in Dupont Circle. The two had been introduced that summer at a meeting of Dignity, a social group for gay Catholics. It wasn’t love at first sight — Dan couldn’t quite figure out this 30-year-old engineer who also sang opera, and Tom took 24-year-old Dan’s initial shyness for snobbery. But over the next few weeks, they’d hung out among mutual friends and decided to pursue the connection they felt forming between them.
(Evy Mages/For The Washington Post) - Tom Masog, left, and Dan Strachan pose in a gazebo after the ceremony. They have been a couple for the past 25 years.
Married couples reflect on what they would have done differently for their wedding.
Things were going well as they shared their first one-on-one meal — until Tom realized he had left a favorite pair of shoes behind at his now-former office. It was well after business hours, and Tom had no way of getting back into the place. But they decided that if they walked in as though they knew what they were doing, no one would stop them. They played it cool, avoiding the cleaning crew and absconding with the forgotten dress shoes. It was a low-stakes ruse, of course — “I knew the place! I wasn’t going to steal state secrets or anything,” Tom remembers with a laugh — but the thrill of the moment was a perfect capstone for the date. And their goodnight kiss was the dash of romance that suggested it might not be their last adventure.
Both planned to take things slowly. The specter of AIDS that loomed over the late ’80s made both men cautious. But Dan was also still partly in the closet. The successful date with Tom had come at a crossroads moment: He was flying to Florida the next day to come out to family and friends. They “were much more supportive than I had ever expected them to be,” Dan remembers. When he revealed that he had just started seeing someone, his Irish-Catholic mother was mostly relieved to learn that they had met at church. By the time he returned home and found Tom waiting to pick him up at Dulles, he felt as though a new chapter was beginning.
“It wasn’t that we were immediately madly in love. It was that we were slowly growing closer and closer,” Dan says. Before long, they were inseparable. They started going to football games, trading stories of college fraternities, watching Fourth of July fireworks from the rooftop of Dan’s P Street apartment and spending weekends at Tom’s home in Laurel. They were a natural complement to one another, with Dan chatty and full of big ideas, and Tom quieter, logical and even-keeled. “He’s so passionate about a lot of things. I kind of need that to offset my sane, sensible side,” Tom says.
After a year, they moved in together, and one year turned into many. A day at a dog show inspired them to get a chow chow together. “Our dogs are a very big part of our lives. They’ve helped us grow together because we worry about them the way other people worry about kids,” Dan says. They soon dived into the dog show world themselves, adding more chows to their family and traveling around the country to show off their prized pets. In that quirky community, they found a new set of friends who knew them as a couple; in fact, many simply call them “Tomanddan” — one word, one unit. Years later, their first two beloved dogs died within two weeks of each other. Tom and Dan were grief-stricken, and they found they could rely on each other for love and support during a time of profound sadness. “We needed each other at that time. We are each other’s best friends,” Dan says.