Dinner parties have proved tricky for plastic surgeons Troy Pittman and Michael Somenek. When introduced as “partners,” guests commonly mistook them for business associates, not companions.
“There is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting at dinner with 10 people, introducing Michael as my partner and having the guy across the table ask us, ‘Where do you guys practice? Are you guys traveling together? Where are your wives?’ ” Troy says. “There is no easy way to pedal out of that situation. I mean, what do you say — ‘We’re not those kind of partners, we’re these kind of partners’?”
Troy, 39, and Michael, 33, met in 2006 on the first day of their surgical residency program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Both said they were attracted to each other right away but too distracted by nerves to consider romance.
“I wasn’t going into this intense residency thinking, ‘I’m looking to find someone to fall in love with.’ I was too busy thinking, ‘I really hope I don’t hurt a patient!’ ” said Troy, who practices at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
As surgical interns, they became very close, very quickly, spending almost every waking moment together on and off the clock, either at the hospital or at intern social gatherings.
Troy, who had recently left professional acting in New York to pursue a medical career, knew no one in Chicago at the time. Lucky for him, Michael, a Chicago native, was more than willing to help him navigate the city.
After several weeks, it was clear that there was a mutual spark. They decided to break away from the intern pack and go on their first “real date,” without scrubs, to a nice restaurant.
“It was the best first date, because . . . you have all the first-date butterflies, but you’re on a first date with your best friend,” Troy says.
Michael, a facial plastic surgeon with Ruff Plastic Surgery in Georgetown, agrees. “There was never an awkward moment with him. Ever. It was just so easy to be with him.”
The two quickly fell into a relationship and within six months, Michael had practically moved into Troy’s apartment. As Michael explained: “We knew where we were every minute of the day, so he knew I wasn’t going and dating somebody else.”
The second year of residency proved more difficult, as the two had to learn to balance completely opposite schedules. “For almost an entire year, there was not a single day where one of us was not woken up by a pager,” Troy remembers. “If that doesn’t solidify your relationship, I don’t know what does.”
The more time Troy spent with Michael, the more assured he was that Michael was the person he wanted to spend his life with. “You know you’ve met your soul mate when all of your inhibitions go away. You can act totally silly, like running around the house with a towel on your head, singing at the top of your lungs,” Troy says. “I could do all of that with him.”
Troy encourages Michael to try new things. “I really love that I’m not with a couch potato,” Michael says. “I’m with someone who loves life and encourages me to experience new things.” Favorite pastimes include watching reality television and debating what plastic surgery procedures various stars, particularly the Real Housewives, have had done.
After completing their medical training, they moved together to Bethesda in 2012 and later to Baltimore in 2013. A couple of months ago, they bought a home in Bethesda and are planning to move there in December.
Troy surprised Michael in 2012 with a set of tungsten rings as a sign of their commitment to each other.“I would have initially been okay with a commitment ceremony when we first started dating, but as our relationship developed, we were both on the same page — let’s wait for marriage,” Michael says. “In our minds, we were already married.”
As gay marriage gradually became more of a hot topic in 2012, their dream of nationwide legalization appeared to be more of a reality. When two highly anticipated cases on gay marriage were slotted for the Supreme Court last year, both nervously followed the proceedings.
On June 26, 2013, the court overturned both a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, a huge victory for same-sex marriage. After six years of waiting, Troy and Michael felt the time was right.
Unable to contain his excitement, Troy texted Michael: “DOMA repealed. Will you marry me?” Almost immediately, Michael texted back yes. The two later celebrated with a bottle of champagne and dinner at Black’s Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda.
More than a year later, the pair exchanged handwritten vows Oct. 25 in front of 75 guests at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore. The grooms were escorted down the aisle by their parents and wore classic tuxedos.
“I think the thing that I’m most looking forward to is . . . just being able to walk into a room and say, ‘This is my husband,’ ” Troy said a week before the wedding. “There are just no words to explain how that feels.”