For most couples, tradition dictates: date, marry, have children. However, none that know Nini and Brooke would ever accuse this couple of following convention.
The couple, now the happily married mothers of a son, Marco, are independent and artistic spirits who traveled in parallel alternative circles before they were officially introduced. "I knew Brooke for a long time as our music worlds often collided, but she wasn’t really on my radar," Nini told us about the early days of their romance.
Nini Camps, now the well known singer and songwriter for NYC all-female rock band Antigone Rising, first met music exec Brooke Primont, a fellow music lover and urban explorer, in the thriving bar and club scene of Manhattan’s West Village. At the time, Brooke was a young single woman with a West Village studio apartment of her very own, newly liberated from her Syosset, Long Island hometown, and Nini was a Miami native of Cuban-American descent who had just recently come to town and had snared a groovy bartending job at the Bitter End, a legendary Manhattan jazz club and hot spot which Brooke also frequented.
Theirs wasn’t exactly a life-partners-at-first-sight story. For one thing, this was more than a decade ago, and each was then living a bachelorette lifestyle. In Nini’s words "I was up late into the night and slept well into the mornings. I was single, living in a tiny but amazing studio apartment in Manhattan (a dream!), making money at the bar, playing some great cities and really just enjoying myself." Brooke, an exec at Cherry Lane Music, tells a similar story: "Before I met Nini, my life was simple. I’d get up, go to work, go out and see some music (for work) with friends or coworkers, and then go to sleep in my studio apartment in the West Village. I’d wake up early the next morning and do it all over again. To say my life was routine is an understatement."
It didn’t help that Nini had no clue that Brooke was a lesbian when they first met. "I mean, I had no idea she was gay or even sort of gay or even knew the word gay," says Nini. "But she did like Ani Difranco, come to think of it. Hmmmm…" It took both Brooke and Nini a while to set off each other’s gaydar, and the breakthrough came when, at a mutual friend’s party, they discovered they were both in unfulfilling long-distance relationships…with women.
After a brief friendship, these two free spirits made their way to a life together and, when they did, they became virtually inseparable. Each woman credits the other with profoundly influencing her world. "My life before I met Nini?" Brooke muses when we ask her to describe how her sweetie and her marriage have changed her. "Booohring…. Since meeting Nini," she elaborates, "I have to say I’ve learned to live a little more in the moment, wing things when possible, and stay up a little later if something fun is going on. I said a little later."
The two dated on and off — mostly on – for nine years before considering formally tying the knot; and regarding marriage, as regarding many things, Nini and Brooke did it in their own original way.
Most couples, for instance, tend to marry or decide to "get serious" at the height of their relationships — but it was not so with Nini and Brooke. "After about 4 years into our relationship," Brooke explains, "We hit a pretty big bump in the road. We split for several months before finding our way back to one another."
Rather than driving them apart, the obstacles they overcame made them more determined than ever to stay together. "It was when we got back together that the relationship redefined itself as a ‘marriage,’” Brooke remembers. "As gay people, marriage as an institution never really seemed like the end game for us since it never really felt attainable. However, it was at this juncture that we established ourselves as being in a long term committed relationship and knew that we wanted to share our lives together in a lasting and official way."
As time went on and same-gender marriage started to become more of a reality, both for the couple and in the world at large, the two talked about getting on a plane to California or taking a road trip to Massachusetts or Connecticut to tie the knot, "but we were busy and already comfortable in our personal union…and besides, the thought of planning a wedding was overwhelming! I mean, who would wear the dress?"
It took Nini’s pregnancy to turn an idea into reality. "About nine years into our relationship, we knew we wanted to start a family," she explains. "All of a sudden the inequality of the law with respect to gay unions was no longer something we could ignore. It was not only important for us to seek protection for ourselves financially and personally (we mean power of attorney, health care proxy, living will, etcetera), but most importantly for the welfare of our future children."
As Nini’s stomach grew and as the state of marriage equality became more contested in the United States, the couple’s desire to officially tie the knot became ever more urgent. They knew that it was not just the two of them in the relationship: there was another life, that of a child’s, for whom they were responsible. So they packed up one weekend – the proposal came in the form of airline tickets Brooke bought one day— and went on a "wedding excursion" to Toronto, where they became formally and legally married in a civil ceremony.
Nini and Brooke emphasize that their decision to marry was at least as much a pragmatic as a sentimental one. As Nini puts it: "We ran off to Toronto to get married. For our honeymoon we came home and started throwing money at our lawyer to ensure we had all the paperwork to back up our marriage, since there was no long term guarantee that our marriage certificate would be good for much other than a placemat." Brooke seconds Nini’s perspective: "We were already committed to one another but now that there was this underlying responsibility with the advent of our first child, knowing and ensuring that we were officially ‘married’ in the eyes of the government became incredibly important."
They acted quickly, getting married first, and celebrating their love with a public ceremony later. This left a lot of people, friends and family included, out of the loop. "The only reaction that surprised us was that our friends and family wanted to BE THERE. We didn’t really tell too many people – we just eloped,” the couple told us. “We didn’t think it was such a big deal to others, I mean, we’d already been together for nine years! We owned an apartment together, our families vacationed together, we had a cat, rings, and a baby on the way… it was weird to think people wanted to witness us being ‘married’ since we already felt we WERE everything a marriage consists of.” With the exception of equal protections under the law, that is.
And, since their legal worries took precedence over sentimentality on the day of their civil marriage, the couple decided to celebrate their union with a night out on the town, this time making sure to include the people who were closest to them. So Brooke and a very pregnant Nini booked Superfine, the famous DUMBO restaurant, after they had come back from their Canadian weekend as wife and wife. “Nothing says party quite like swollen ankles and a formal black muumuu,” the couple laughs about the day. They ended up hosting a "party to celebrate our lives together" in October 2009 for about 90 of their most beloved friends and family. The festivities included lavish food and drink, a Cuban band, and rose petals strewn throughout the restaurant as decorations.
Their practicality aside, the couple really felt the love at their wedding party. “We were exhausted and amazed at how special it was to have everyone together. “People flew in from all over, and it was really moving to have our union validated by a room full of people we loved and cared about.”
After the party, Nini and Brooke were almost immediately thrust into the difficult, and wonderful, life of parenthood. Marco was born on December 2 of 2009, and they “have been delirious and sleep deprived since that day,” they say. “Everything, everything, everything has changed! We’re MOMS for Chrissakes! Having a little baby depend on you for everything is an outrageously intense responsibility. In the beginning, any kind of crying on his part could bring either one of us to tears in an instant. There is an emotional component that is hard to explain.”
As to their honeymoon, the busy moms haven’t gotten around to that second round of fun yet. "Unfortunately Nini was too pregnant for us to really go too far from home so our honeymoon will have to wait a bit," says Brooke. "That will be fun though in 15 years or so, though – to go renew our vows and sip margaritas on a beach somewhere while our kids throw a party at the house without telling us." It’s a nice vision, and it might even become a reality. Considering this unconventional duo, anything’s possible.