Couples are frequently faced with challenges, but the current global pandemic has put many in close quarters, requiring some definite maneuvering when it comes to getting the space they need as individuals, while keeping their relationship thriving. New Jersey based couple Joey & Eddie Pietsch may both work at home, but between fire pits, endless laughter, and copious amounts of whiskey, they have managed to find the right blend of frivolity and love throughout not just this year, but their marriage as a whole. For Instinct’s ongoing series on couples throughout the country, Joey & Eddie represent an East Coast sensibility, but the kind of dedication to their community and each other that so many across the country should find aspirational.
Michael Cook: How did the two of you meet?
Joey Pietsch: We both worked at Feathers in River Edge, NJ. I was a bartender and Eddie was a performer. We had crossed paths several times, but never officially said hello. Then one day, we started discussing quantum physics over a Facebook post and the rest is history. Our first date was at Liberty Science Center. We both have a love for science, so it made for some interesting conversations and it really brought us close.
MC: When did you both know that this was truly “it”?
JP: There really is no one point when we truly knew. Every day brings something new to the relationship and that helps to reinforce the “it” factor.
Eddie Pietsch: Speak for yourself Mister(LOL)! I knew after we had our third or fourth date that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He is genuine and caring. He wasn’t interested in “hangin out”; he was interested in more than that. I had been single for two years, living on my own and not really interested in a relationship and then bam-I met Joey. Every day I fall in love with him more and more. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s true.
MC: What has it been like merging your families? Are the backgrounds very diverse?
EP: The first parent meeting took place over Thanksgiving dinner a couple years ago. Our fathers both come from a law enforcement background so got along immediately. Our mothers are both comedians and share a love for cooking and family time. Thankfully, everyone gets along perfectly. Joey’s parents live in Ocean County and mine are in Newark. Logistically, it’s tough for my in-laws to drive up north, but we stay connected with Facebook and daily phone calls. I fell in love with his family the first day I met them and they truly welcomed me with open arms. My family loves Joey, he fit right in with our crazy. They always say we were made for each other because we balance each other out so perfectly.
MC: New Jersey is home to Asbury Park, known as such a home for the LGBT community. What do you love the most about your own community? Any favorite spots you have to grab a cocktail or meet up with friends?
JP: I grew up in Lodi, NJ and Eddie in Kearny, NJ. Before he moved in with me, we spent a lot of time in Kearny. I picked up a bartending shift down at The Snug Harbor and Eddie at Reilly’s, both in Kearny. Now we live in Hawthorne, which is a small town in Passaic County. Anida Tension (more on her later) has been present in town at it’s Pride Flag Commemoration last year, and we have friends in the Hawthorne Pride Alliance. Community, whether it be gay or straight, is who you surround yourself with and choose to share your life. And as far as favorite spots, we have a spacious yard and a firepit, so during the pandemic, that’s where we’ve been cocktailing with friends (safely)!
EP: I basically lived in Kearny, NJ my entire life. Other than when I left NJ to join the military. Kearny has always been a place where I felt accepted and celebrated as an individual. It has such a diverse community and can really make anyone feel at home, I think that’s why I love my hometown so much. I tried to convince Joey that we should get a house in Kearny, at least until I saw those property taxes (LOL)!
MC: Eddie is also known as drag performer Anida Tension, who performs all over the state. What is it like for each of you to include such a big alter ego in your relationship? Eddie, how did Anida come to life?
JP: Anida is definitely a driving force in this house. I’m her biggest supporter and fan. Working at a gay bar for years, I’ve been around drag performers for most of my adult life. I even dabbled in drag years ago. It’s all a matter of balance. I let Anida have her space to move and grow. Plus, if I ever decided to do drag, I have closets full of clothes.
EP: All my outfits would need to be taken in for him to fit anything. Luckily for him, I make all my costumes and I’m sure with all the fabric I have, I can whip him up a few outfits. He truly is my biggest supporter and fan, however I try to not make him feel like a “stage husband”. I don’t want him to feel obligated to help me get dressed or prep for shows. I like to see him in the crowd, cheering me on and enjoying the show with everyone else. Anida has taken years to bring to life. I started drag at such a young age that over the years, like most queens or people in entertainment, I went through many phases and a couple of name changes.
Deep down, no matter what name I had, I was always Anida Tension. Even before I started drag, I was that kid at the center of a circle on a dance floor soaking up as much attention as I could. Why?-I have no freaking clue. It just always felt like it was where I was meant to be. After my time in the service, I was surrounded by darkness, battling drug addiction, jumping from couch to couch; sleeping behind a diner some nights and stopped doing drag entirely. I think truly accepting myself, knowing who I am as a person, cleaning up my life and then figuring out what I wanted my life to be is what really created Anida Tension. I mean that took years of hard work and dedication but eventually, I figured out that she is the joy in my life; well, second to my husband.
MC: What do you think the key is to staying together and making your marriage work? Do you see yourselves as an example to the younger generation and to some of your single friends?
JP: Communication and trust. Those are probably the two biggest things needed in a relationship. We always talk through any differences or concerns, and we never go to sleep angry. Do we argue?-Yes. Do we disagree?-Yes. But we listen to each other’s side and go from there. We also laugh; every day. Are we an example to others?-I hope not! Everyone is different. What may work for us, might not for others. If there is one piece of wisdom we can impart, it would be to not give up. We were not looking for a relationship when we met, but the universe had different plans for us. No regrets.
Eddie: We talk about absolutely everything, leaving no stone unturned. No matter our differences, including our age, we make sure to truly understand each other and each other’s needs. We can literally sit together and laugh for hours. I think to truly make any relationship work you have to put the work in. Like anything in life, no one hands you anything. You have to work for what you want and I want him, so I put the work in. I make sure that I do everything in my power to make sure he is happy, putting his needs before my own.
MC: What has it been like in quarantine together? What have you each learned from each other during this time?
EP: We both work from home and that can be somewhat challenging. Joey’s office is a block away, so sometimes he will go over to his office as needed. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to cope with each other’s need for space. But we made it a point to take time and go for a walk, or have lunch, or enjoy a mimosa. We learned to love mimosas during this quarantine. Well, that and our love for firepits and whiskey. We also work in separate rooms of the apartment, so we can both focus on our daily task. I work two full time jobs from home so I can’t be distracted by his charm.
JP: Honestly, I haven’t minded it as much as I thought I was going to at the beginning of all this. I think it’s brought us closer as a couple. We understand each other better because we see what the stress of our jobs does to one another. Not that we didn’t understand each other before, but I feel like I’ve gotten a better understanding of my husband outside of our little paradise.
MC: What do you celebrate the most about each other?
JP: We celebrate each other’s individuality-all the time. You need to embrace your individuality and what that brings to the relationship. I had been single for seven years before I met Eddie and it was a big adjustment, especially when we decided to live together. Luckily, we never lost who we were. I still play video games and he still plays dress up. Only he gets paid to do that.
EP: Haha! Well everything Joey said, but we also push each other to reach our individual and joint goals. We aren’t just husbands; we are best friends. We cheer each other on in everything we do.