By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Marcus Cooper
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
It’s not unusual when Rose Chiauzzi, age 28, and her 50-year-old girlfriend Kimberly Garland, go out in public to be mistaken for mum and daughter rather than lovers.
Rose is a full-time student who isn’t averse to posing in her bikini on Instagram and has worked in the entertainment industry while Kimberley is a former military employee from Tennessee who only came out as gay in her forties.
The pair, who now live together in Warsaw, NY, first connected through a mutual friend; and after four months of talking on the phone and emailing one another, Rose said she decided “on a whim” to book a plane ticket down from New York state to Tennessee and meet Kimberly in person.
Kimberly said: “To see her walk into the airport and immediately run to my arms and kiss - it was romance from the start, and it's never stopped.”
Rose added: “There's not just one thing that I love about Kimberly, it's her as a whole. I don't know if I could find a way to describe her. But I can say that I don't think I've ever been in love before I met her. And I know that for a fact.”
With a 22-age gap and several states between them, it took unusual circumstances for the couple to even meet. Kimberly had signed up to online dating but was being taken advantage by scammers.
She said: “Everyone you met online they were looking for money. I didn’t understand that that was the catfishing scheme.”
After coming across the number of someone who was also potentially about to be duped, Kimberly decided to call them and warn them.
That person was Rose’s friend. Rose then called Kimberly to warn her off the dating sites altogether and they hit it off from there.
Rose said: “I'd say we probably messaged for about four months before we actually met up. I took the initiative to actually buy my own ticket to go down to Tennessee and see her so I kind of just went on a whim - and I found love.”
With Rose in full time school, Kimberly came to visit her girlfriend – and never left.
She said: “I found the move up from the south very liberating, I could be myself here, I can be who I need to be and who I want to be and then the love that I want to share.
“I didn't come out publicly until after the military because I was under the ‘don't ask, don't tell’... we didn't discuss it. So I was hidden basically in a closet until I could leave the state of Tennessee.
“Most of my life I have been hidden with the gay thing because in the bible belt it's discriminated against so to have a profession and have a career you're not to talk about your personal life in that matter.”
By contrast Rose came out in her teens. And despite being the younger person in the relationship, at the beginning it was Rose encouraging Kimberly to be more open in public.
Rose said: “I kind of broke her out of her shell and she’s a lot more touchy and feely.”
Kimberly added: “She had to teach me to kind to hold hands, that’s something we didn’t do, we don’t do that in uniform we don’t do that in the military.”
But the couple acknowledge that their age gap love attracts some attention.
Rose said: “People come up to us saying how I look like her daughter and she looks like my mother type of thing.”
Reaction from friends and. Family has also been mixed.
Kim said: there was some reservations about me dating a younger person and I have tried to conquer those fears with both myself and her.”
Talking about when her best friend found out she was seeing an older woman, Rose said:
“She kind of thought that I was a little bit crazy for dating somebody that was 22 years older than me.”
Best friend Lexi added: “When rose first started dating Rose I thought why the hell and how did this happen? I thought she wanted Rose’s money.”
Nine-months strong, for Kimberly and Rose, their sights are set on the present and future.
Kimberly said: “I'm finally living the life that I've never got to live in Tennessee. I feel I've been let out a cage, that I was an animal being held back. And I finally get to love freely and thank God I can.”