A lot of women say they were shocked or speechless when their fiancé pulled off a surprise proposal. But Pat Skala was completely flabbergasted. After all, she’d already been with Corey Weinstein for over 30 years.
“He told me he didn’t want to get married and I took him at his word,” Skala says. “I was getting everything I needed out of our relationship, so I wasn’t asking for anything else.”
Weinstein, 69, and Skala, 68, met a few years after the Summer of Love in 1967. While they didn’t define themselves as hippies, in the alternative cultural circles in which they traveled, marriage was beginning to seem like a relic of the past.
Weinstein was married when they met — he and his first wife moved to San Francisco from Chicago for his medical residency — but their marriage was slowly unraveling. By 1975, Weinstein was divorced and dating again, though in retrospect, he says, “I was more upset about my divorce, emotionally, than I believed.”
Both Weinstein and Skala, a native San Franciscan, lived in communal homes that belonged to “food conspiracies,” in which small groups of people pooled their money to buy food from local farmers. The food was delivered to one house, where members would pick up their purchases. The two first met through this network, and while Weinstein had his eye on Skala, he was dating a lot post-divorce. “He went through several girlfriends before me,” Skala says wryly.
Then, in 1978, Skala and her roommate planned a party. But suddenly, something shifted for Skala and she came up with a scheme.
“I canceled the party and told everyone it was canceled but Corey,” she says. “I don’t believe I did it intentionally” — to which he responded, “I like to believe she did.”
Weinstein and Skala spent that night in a long conversation, the first one they ever had. The next day Skala left on a trip, and Weinstein sent her a letter saying he’d like to see her when she got back.
While she sensed that this might be the beginning of something serious, Skala worried because they had so many mutual friends. “If it didn’t work out, we’d have to divide up the friends,” she says. “But luckily we didn’t have to deal with that.”
Weinstein was up front with her from the beginning that he was quite sure he didn’t want children. Since Skala was ambivalent herself, that wasn’t a deterrent.
And so it went. Weinstein began a private homeopathic practice in their home, and Skala worked as an IT specialist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health until recently retiring.
So what changed? Blame it on equality.
Some years ago, Weinstein, a clarinetist, began playing klezmer music (which, incidentally, brought him back to Judaism). He was invited to join a band, and then others. Last year, his band Gay Iz Mir was asked to play at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav’s annual Pride Shabbat, which took place a few days after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
The energy that night “was amazing,” Weinstein recalls, “with people asking their partners to marry them in the middle of the service. I got so totally carried away by it, that at that moment, I thought, ‘I have to ask Pat to marry me. She’s put up with me now for over 30 years.’ ”
“He drank the Kool-aid,” adds Skala, “as I had never asked.”
Weinstein proposed after dinner one night at home, with champagne and a ring. Because he had already given Skala rings (including a diamond), after 10 and 20 years together, he had a malachite turtle ring made for her, since she loves both the green stone and turtles.
While Skala assumed they would have a City Hall wedding, she was surprised to learn that Weinstein had grander plans. They married Feb. 16 at the Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabil-itation Center, which overlooks Lake Merced.
Skala, who was raised Catholic, now serves on the board of Or Shalom Jewish Community along with Weinstein, its president. She took a few women friends to a spa for her mikvah a few days before the ceremony.
The couple rewrote their ketubah, or marriage contract, to include taking care of each other in old age. An Or Shalom member made their chuppah, which now serves as the official wedding canopy for the S.F. congregation.
Skala’s friend made a toast in which he refuted those who say that gay marriage is an affront to heterosexual marriage, citing the newlyweds as living proof that gay marriage inspired them to finally go through with it.
So, do they feel different now?
“We went through this afternoon together, with all of these people, and it added a level of depth of love to each other and to everyone appreciating us as a couple,” says Weinstein. “It was a real blessing for us to go through, because while we had a 25th-anniversary party, this was absolutely, completely different.”
All weddings symbolize some kind of hope for the future, Skala says, and theirs was no different — though “we’re way beyond childbearing age,” she cracks. “But people get uplifted by it.”
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