Friday, September 19, 2014

Astute Observations from a Recent Reader

I have to share this with you.  It's a response I received from a recent reader to a post I published here some years ago titled "The Trouble with Many Gay Relationships" (if you wish to read the post, you'll find a link below).

Every comment Simon's written me, on a variety of posts, has been noteworthy, but this one goes a little deeper and is, to use a common expression today, brutally honest.  I hope you'll appreciate what he says, especially if you still insist on finding Mr. Right (a myth, by the way).

(Note:  For clarity, I've edited Simon's comment slightly, but I've left in a few words some readers might find offensive--they are original to the comment and help set the tone for the piece.)

Thanks, Simon.  I look forward to hearing from you again.

It's true, and very very sad.  The world has so few models for healthy relationships, and the gay world has even fewer.  This notion is self-perpetuating, really.  If we don't have models for healthy love, then who are we to aspire to be?  Oh, fuck it, just go get laid...that's what men are meant to do, etc. etc. is the main rebuttal.  Why not try to become that healthy role model, as best as you can?  Why not seek out role models instead of magazine models?

The ease of getting laid as a gay man, coupled with the ease of communication and instant gratification in the new digital age, gives us a lot of distraction from ourselves.  It's a permanent candy store mentality.  By the time we find someone we click with (and it's always an accident), we don't know what to do.  So we stare into our phones, and dream of getting free from them.

I know many men who were presented with someone that worked well for them, but they got bored and dumped them to be single again.  How many times can a gay man do that?  Just as many times as he can, given the current climate of instant gratification, until he's left a graveyard of lost love in his wake, and wonders how it got there.

At this point for him, it's all too easy to keep self-medicating with sex, claiming that no guy is good enough to really partner with, and maybe going so far as to be honest that they really aren't either.  

"Hey, I need to have a partner that's attractive.  If he isn't attractive, then it isn't going to work!"  I've heard this one a lot.  I've even heard the laundry list that some of my gay friends rattle off, which would include all the attributes they require, many of which they don't even possess themselves.

Well, "attractive" is something that morphs in time.  What's attractive to you in your youth can be very different from that in middle age, and ideally it should be, I think. When I was young and coming out, I wanted someone young and boyish looking like myself, and I never got to have that.  I got interest from older guys, and was all, "Um, no".  When I got older, I wanted guys my own age, and these younger, boyish-looking guys are simply cute, but not interesting to me now (even though I did get to have a few fun encounters with them in my 30s).

But I know guys my own age (mid 40s) who are still hung up on getting a cute young thing...and sometimes they get one, and it's fun for a while, but that's how they still define 'attractive', and what must be for them to retain interest in a mate.

Ultimately, attitude is important.  If your attitude is that you will never get a mate, then you probably won't...or you'll get a masochist who wants to prove you wrong. If your attitude is that you deserve a mate, and where the fuck is he, well, then you'll attract a sadist who will tolerate your demands.

If your attitude is that you're willing to be open to it, and try to meet as many people as you can, in as many ways possible, while continually doing what makes you happy, and nurtures your soul, without a mate...then IF you do meet someone, you'll be more likely to discover that it's the right one. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Old Man Down the Block

When Chris and I lived in Victoria, an old man lived down the block from us.  Most often, we saw him walk past our townhouse, probably up from Mayfair Mall, a short distance away.  For a long time, I didn't know where he lived until I was walking down the street one day and saw him leave a decrepit-looking house.  In all the time we lived in the neighborhood, I never saw the lawn mowed there, the drapes open, or a light on.  Yet, there the old man was, by himself, trudging from the back of the house to the front, going about his business.  

Do you do this?  Do you make up stories about people you see?  Do you look at them and imagine what their lives are like:  who they are, what they do day-to-day, what their houses look like inside–that sort of thing?  I do it all the time, and seeing this old man got me thinking.  

See, I'm convinced he knew Chris and I are gay couple.  How could he not?  Sometimes, when he passed by our townhouse, I was alone, working in the small front yard, walking out the door, whatever I happened to be doing.  Maybe he would have been able to tell, just from looking at me, that I'm gay.  But, often, he'd pass by when Chris and I were doing something, like planting a tree, or watering our garden, or sitting on the front porch (a rare occasion in Victoria, since the wind is cool and incessant, even in the summer).  And he'd always look at us and smile, like he was interested in what we were doing.  Every time I looked into his eyes, I believe I saw a spark of recognition–that he knew about Chris and me, what we are, and he understood.      

Not only that, but I also thought he might be envious.  In the life I imagined for him, he never married.  Rather, he was gay himself, coming from a generation or more before me (assuming what I've read of a generation being twenty-five years is correct), when being gay was not only tougher than it was for me, but when it wasn't spoken of, when it was kept hidden, when, in fact, it was still illegal in Canada, because that was the case until 1969.

Back then, by my calculation, the old man would have been in his early 30s.  Who knows what he could tell me today about what it was like to be gay then?  Who knows how difficult it was for him to meet other young gay men like himself, how the stigma of being gay was so severe that he had to keep to himself, remain isolated for decades, not even imagining the possibility of finding someone, falling in love, and building a life together?  

When I looked at that old man, I saw envy in his eyes.  But I also saw regret.  Regret for how he was forced to feel about himself because of society's attitude toward homosexuality.  Regret for making connecting with other men like him so difficult.  Regret even for never experiencing love fully, for never being able to give of himself completely to another man.

Sometimes, when the old man passed by and smiled at me, I smiled back at him.  I felt so sorry for what I imagined his life story to be.  For how things were back then, particularly in relation to how they are now, when, despite the challenges Chris and I still encounter from time to time, circumstances are so much better for us than they were for him.

And I hope my smile conveyed to him that I understood his situation, and I wished things could have been different for him all those years ago.  I hope it conveyed that the life and love Chis and I share is not only a victory for us, but a victory for him too, and all the other men of his generation and before, whose lives were forced to take a different course because of nothing more than their sexual orientation, and their need to love and be loved by someone of the same gender.

I hope every time he saw us together in our front yard, he felt our implied thank-you for all the risks, large and small, he took over his lifetime, to help us, collectively, get to where we are today.  So that Chris and I can be openly gay, share a house, a life, a love, and be more ourselves than most gay men ever got to be in the past.  We owe a huge debt to those who came before us, who pushed the boundaries, who, in a sense, helped set us free.    

To the old man down the block, this one's for you.        

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I'm embarrassed to admit I have pairs of underwear…well, shall we say, not in the best condition (I suspect that's a minor thing to be embarrassed about, considering some of the other admissions I've made in this blog).  The crotches have multiple holes or are wearing so thin you can see through them, and, in several places, fabric's torn off the elastic waistband.  In fact, some of my pairs have been so bad, I've told Chris, one of these days, when I put them on, they'll be nothing more than the waistband.  (When I told Chris I might write this post, he assured me most, if not all, of my readers would know a thing or two about worn underwear.  Please tell me that's the case.)  

Fast forward to yesterday.  Chris and I took a mini-vacation to Park Royal in West Vancouver, something we do from time to time in various parts of the Lower Mainland.  While we looked at Banana Republic for black dress pants for Chris, and a fall shirt for me, I discovered the shelf with underwear, in my size and favorite colors (grey is okay, but black is better).  And they were even discounted.  How could I say no?  I mean, I didn't need them, but…     

This morning, I went through my dresser to locate any pair of underwear I should have retired years ago.  (In the past, I've shown Chris the condition of some of them, holding them up so the holes were visible–and even peering at him through some.  He just shakes his head.  That's when I've looked at him and said, indignantly, "What?  There's at least another ten years worth of wear here."  He ignores me.)  I found several pair today, and showed Chris what I planned to throw out.  He rejoiced.

Before I tossed the pair in the worst condition, I came up with an idea.  I tore everything off the elastic waistband–a task easier to do than I expected (I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised).  Then, scarcely able to hold in my laughter, I got inside the elastic waistband and secured it around me.  I walked out of my bathroom and stepped into the upstairs hallway, where Chris had his head down, pulling clothes out of the laundry hamper.     

I wish I could have been deadpan when I delivered my line, but, glancing down at myself, and seeing how ridiculous I looked, it was all I could do to get out, "So what do you think?  This should give me a lot of support, huh?"  (I'm laughing so hard as I type this, I can't see what I'm doing.)  Chris looked at me and rolled his eyes.  I couldn't stop laughing my face off, and he was as straightfaced as he could be (sometimes, he has no sense of humor).

His response?  "Sure," he said.  "Go ahead.  Give it a try.  See how it works for ya."

No, kids, there are no visual aids.  You'll have to use your imagination on this one.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chez Moi

I cut Chris's hair.

It's really easy to cut (although I didn't think that when I first started doing it about six years ago, as I had no training whatsoever).  Since Chris is bald on top, all I have to do is use a No. 3 attachment on the clipper and shave his whole head the same length.  Then I square off the back, trim around the ears, reduce the sideburns and sides, clean up the neck, and scissor the odd long hair here and there on top that escapes the clippers.  And that's it.

Takes me about half an hour or so.  (I probably take a lot longer than an experienced stylist would, for the amount of hair involved, but this is my partner's hair I'm talking about, not some stranger's, and I want it to look nice–for him and for me.  A little extra time to do a good job doesn't hurt).

Oh, my "salon" has a name.  A long time ago, I branded it Chez Moi.  For those of you who don't speak French, that means My Place.

When it gets to the point Chris wants his hair cut, he'll ask me, "Can Chez Moi open this weekend?"

Now, you have to understand, Chez Moi is a French salon–with attitude.  So I'll answer, "Well, I don't know.  Chez Moi might be busy this weekend.  We'll see."  Then I'll pretend to slam a door.  I'll say to Chris, "Oh.  I'm sorry.  Did you hear that?  Chez Moi was just open, but now it's closed.  That's it for this weekend." 

Sometimes, Chris will laugh along with me and say, "Well, I guess I'll have to wait."  Other times, he'll have none of Chez Moi's attitude.  "Well, open it," he'll say.  "I need my hair cut."  Apparently, customers have attitudes too.

Other times, I'll answer Chris's question by saying, "Oh, I heard Chez Moi will be open on Saturday, from 3:23 am to 3:27 am.  If you make yourself available then, we might be able to fit you in."  Chris just gives me a look.       

(For the record, over time, Chez Moi has gotten involved in other businesses (I suppose being open for only four minutes in the middle of the night isn't so profitable).  Some of these other businesses coincidentally include just about everything else I do around the house to make our lives run smoothly–from making travel arrangements, to doing all our financial stuff every two weeks, to cooking our dinner meals, and so on.  Believe me, those businesses aren't exempt from that surly French attitude, either.)

I started–I mean, Chez Moi started–cutting Chris's hair to save money.  Why pay a hairstylist to trim his fringe every six weeks or so when I could do it for free?  So, after we finally figured out we needed to buy a professional-grade clipper to do a decent job (a $45 Wahl doesn't "cut it"), several cuts later, not only had we recovered our money but also we'd started saving it.  And, over six years, I've gotten good enough that I don't think my cuts look any different from what a pro would do.  (Although there was that time when I took a large notch out of the back–by mistake, of course.  But what Chris can't see won't hurt him.  Shhh!  Don't say anything.)

All kidding aside, cutting Chris's hair–a simple, innocuous task–has had benefits I could never have imagined.

First, it takes a degree of trust on his part to put his hair in my hands and expect I'll do a good job.  Of course, he trusts me with everything; why not his hair?  Fortunately, I don't think I've ever let him down (except for that notch).  If I can stand to look at him after I'm finished–and, believe me, I'm nothing if not fussy–then I must be doing something right.  So, the confirmation of the trust he has in me makes me feel good.

And, yes, cutting someone's hair, especially your partner's, has a sexual component too, because you're doing something very personal, even intimate.  (But a hair-cutting session's never gone there (hmm, that I can remember), because I'm too focused on what I'm doing, and it creates one hell of a mess all over his bathtub (and on him), where he sits naked, on a cold stool, patiently waiting for me to stop fussing around.  Oh, by the way, I recommend naked hair-cutting–something you could never get at a professional salon.)

But what I really love about cutting Chris's hair is how connected I feel to him.  I mean, I always feel connected to him.  He's my partner, after all, the love of my life, my soul mate.  But there's just something about touching his hair (what little there is of it now), playing with it, working with it, that connects me to him in ways nothing else does.  That reinforces for me how much he means to me, how much we mean to each other.

Who knew something as simple as cutting Chris's hair could end up being so much more?


Oh, Chez Moi also clips those nasty errant ear hairs and trims eyebrows (ain't being male and getting older a kick?).  If you can ever get the damn place to open at a convenient time, and for long enough to get the job done.

If you'd like to make an appointment to get your hair cut at Chez Moi–  Oh, did you hear that?  It was the door slamming again (I'm surprised it hasn't fallen off its hinges, it's been slammed shut so many times).  You didn't really want to go there anyway, did you?  That French attitude…  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Make Peace With Your Looks

How do you respond when someone says something positive about your looks, tells you you're attractive–for example, likes the way you wear your hair, or the sparkle in your eyes, or your beautiful smile?  If you're like most people, you probably dismiss what they say, because the critic in you doesn't believe it, or, at the least, is suspect of it.  So you put yourself down. You say something self-depracating, something that says you know you're not worthy of their kinds words.  

I was reminded recently, when I received an email from a reader in the United States, of how I used to do this all the time.  In part, he wrote:

Another insecurity is my body.  I don't feel fully confident with my body, though I'm not heavy.  In fact, I'm tall and I think [I have an] "average" build, though X. tells me "I think you are perfect the way you are." He's so sweet.  Following our recent trip, he told me that he can sense I'm insecure about my body.  I asked him how and he said when I touch you, I can tell.  I told him the insecurity about my body comes from the pressures of the gay world, how we are so visual and that having a lean or muscular body is the goal.  X. told me it's all in how you see yourself, think about those pressures and standards.  It's true.  I hope to get more secure about things soon.

Wow!  Could I relate.

Here's what I wrote to my reader in response:

What I learned from being with Chris is this:  I used to put my body down [how I looked] all the time too, because I struggled with feeling good about myself (for the same reasons you do).  Yet Chris would always compliment me.  He said I looked great, that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  Later, he pointed out that, when I put myself down after he'd complimented me, I put him down too, because I called into question what he’d said about me.  If he said I looked great, but I said I didn’t, wasn't I calling him a liar?  Didn't I suggest he didn’t know what he was talking about?  See what I’m getting at?  

If someone pays you a compliment, accept it gracefully.  You don't have to do anything more than say "Thank you."  You are not expected to object.  X. obviously sees something in you.  Maybe you don’t see it now, but you should.  Until then, go along with it.  Believe me, he's looking at you in a more levelheaded, fairer way than you’re looking at yourself.  Don’t insult him by suggesting you’re not as attractive as he thinks you are.  In other words, don’t give him a reason to push away from you.  Just accept what he says and believe he’s being sincere.  Make sense?

The lesson here is, we need to see ourselves as others see us, which is far less subjective, harsh, and unrealistic.  Sure, we have to live with ourselves all the time.  Sure, we see what we consider our flaws whenever we look in a mirror, or when we're in the shower, or when we get dressed.  But are they really flaws?  Not at all.  They are nothing more than those things that make us human, that make us who we are, and they are neither worse nor better than anyone else's. They just are.

Learn to love what you don't like about yourself, because there's a good chance you're the only one who's hung up on it.  Chances are, someone thinks what you're hung up on is what makes you special, what makes you, you.

Accepting how you look is foremost on the list of the things you need to do to improve that relationship with yourself–and, coincidentally, with those around you.  Make peace with how you look.  Like I've written before, your body is merely a vessel.  It's what's in that vessel that means the most.  That's what you should work on.  

There are so many more important things in your life than how you look, which, as you get older, you'll (hopefully) come to realize.    

Looks are fleeting; character is forever.        

Monday, July 21, 2014


So here’s what we know:

    A 14-year-old boy in San Diego, Calif., killed himself last fall after a fellow
    student snuck into their high-school bathroom and recorded a video of him
    masturbating in a stall.  The student…posted the video on social media, it…
    went viral, and two weeks later, on American Thanksgiving weekend, Mat-
    thew, bullied, friendless and beyond comforting, took his own life.*  

When I read this, I was angry, really angry.  But perhaps not for the reason you might think.  Sure, there’s a whole lot wrong with what happened here; however, I don’t believe one of them was the young man masturbating, not even in a bathroom stall at school. 

No, the real problem is our culture’s perception of masturbation.  If jacking off was not so stigmatized, there’s a good chance Matthew’s classmate wouldn’t have recorded him doing it.  With no video, nothing would have been posted online or gone viral, and a Southern California family would still have their son today. 

I don’t care where you stand on the subject of masturbation, I think we all agree this young man should not have ended his life because of the embarrassment, shame, or guilt associated with it.   

Over the years, I’ve learned a good number of my readers, particularly those who take the time to contact me, are young people, both male and female.  No one in their family is gay (that they know of, anyway), so, in a sense, they see me as a surrogate father, someone they can trust.  I’m gay and older, I’ve been in a relationship with another man for over twenty years, and I have some experience behind me.  As a result, they feel comfortable talking to me, opening up, telling me what’s going on in their lives, what some of their concerns are.  And they ask questions.  I believe, from reading my posts, they know I’ll be straight with them, and tell it like it is. 

That’s why I’m going there today–all the way there.  That’s why I’m talking about masturbation.  As we’ve seen in the case of Matthew Burdette, the stakes are too high if we keep silent, if we don’t tell young people what they want to know, what they need to know.  If parents or guardians or someone in authority isn’t comfortable telling them, then I will.    

And I’ll start, as I usually do, by talking about my own experience, so you know I know what I’m talking about.    

I masturbate.  There.  Another closet behind me.  If admitting I masturbate makes you laugh, or squirm, or somehow lessens your opinion of me, then so be it.  I’d rather be honest than not.  As I see it, what’s the point of writing this, or any post here, if I don’t tell you the truth?  If I don’t opt to help instead of hide.   

I’ve masturbated for as long as I can remember, starting when I was a little boy and had no idea what I was doing.  All I knew was, it felt good, I liked it, and, after it was done, I felt sleepy (in fact, many doctors recommend insomniacs masturbate before bed, because it reduces anxiety, relaxes, and encourages sleep).   

I continue to masturbate today, even though I have a partner.  I enjoy having sex with Chris, but I also enjoy having sex on my own.  Chris knows I masturbate and has no problem with it.  He doesn’t believe, as some do, that it takes away from our sex life.  Sometimes, we even masturbate together.  Sex is a multi-faceted experience.  There are all kinds of things to do, either with someone or alone.    

A lot of myths surround masturbation; perhaps you’ve heard some of them.  Like, if you do it, you’ll go blind.  Or you’ll grow hair on your palms.  Or you’ll get acne.  Ridiculous.  Believe me, if they were true, I’d be afflicted by all of them.  And, just in case I need to say this, I’m not.  Nor are 95 per cent of men, and 60 to 80 per cent of women, who are reported to also masturbate.   

When it comes to masturbation, I’m particularly concerned with our culture’s misguided perception of it.  And how you might perceive it, as a result, or perceive yourself, if you do it.   

So, let me be clear on this.  It’s possible you’ve gotten information from somewhere that jacking off is wrong.  Or shameful.  Or self-indulgent.  Or something else that’s negative or awful or even sinful, because of religious beliefs, or because whoever told you was embarrassed and wanted the subject to go away, or because he didn’t want to admit he does it himself.  But all of that is nonsense.  To repeat, it’s nonsense.  Don’t believe any of it.  

Masturbation is useful.  If you have no one in your life, which a good many people don’t, you can still be sexual (as you should be), and still enjoy one of the most pleasurable experiences available to us as human beings (and it’s completely safe sex).  Masturbation is good for learning what you like and what you don’t like; what feels good and what doesn’t feel good.  There’s nothing wrong with knowing your body, exploring your sexuality, enjoying what you’ve been given–even if it’s by yourself.  What you learn will make you more self-aware, and it will make your sex life with a partner more fulfilling. 

So, if you feel guilty because you masturbate, stop it.  You have no reason to.  

In the end, masturbation is no different from eating, or sleeping, or going to the bathroom, or any other function we do.  It’s perfectly natural and normal, not shameful or self-indulgent or sinful.  And we owe it to ourselves, and each other, to see it that way.  I do it, and millions and millions of people around the world do it.  There’s no reason why you shouldn't too.    

In his article, referred to below in the footnote, Peter Scowen, editorial writer and editor at The Globe, writes:  

    In the absence of even nominal public education about masturbation, what Matthew
    Burdette needed was some person of stature in his social circle–a teacher, or a jock, or
    maybe a celebrity–to step forward and admit, I do that too.  In the absence of that,
    and if it could help other boys struggling with the fear, guilt and shame of being
    caught, maybe all of us men should find the courage to stand up and say, don’t worry,
    guys, you’re not alone.                              

So here I am, standing up and saying it.  You are not alone.  I masturbate.  And it’s okay if you do too.
* Quotes are from “Masturbation is…a Sin, Selfish, Healthy, Harmless, a Weakness, Human Nature, the Last Taboo,” by Peter Scowen, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, July 19, 2014, p. F4.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Is It Love?

From time to time, a reader asks me, Is it love?  Or, How do I know it's love?  Or, How long does love take?  Or some variation of that.  A good many of my readers are younger and haven't experienced love yet–not romantic love, the kind you feel toward someone other than a family member, for example.  I've done my best to answer their questions over the years, but I've never felt totally comfortable with what I've said.  After giving it some thought lately–and inspired by a recent email correspondence with a new reader (thank you, Chad)–I want to give my answer another try.

I begin with a little about my own experience of love.  Before I'd met my partner, Chris, just over twenty-two years ago, I'd never been in love.  I was thirty-two at the time and thought, if I keep going like this, I'll never know what love is.  I knew I couldn't accept that, and I'd keep trying until I found someone to love and to love me back–even if it took the rest of my life.  I would never give up, not about something as important as that.  (I'll say a little more about the experience of learning to love oneself in a bit.)

So I met Chris on a beautiful, warm late spring evening in June 1992.  I knew he was special from the start, and I knew he was different from all of the other men I'd met over the years-different in a good way, different as in, I could see myself with him.  We complimented each other.  We clicked.  Our rhythms were the same, if that makes sense.  Was it love at first sight?  No, I don't believe in that.  I believe in infatuation at first sight and lust at first sight, but there was none of that with Chris.  It was all very level-headed, and tentative.  I'd been down this path with a few other guys before, and it had never worked out.  With Chris, I planned to be cautious.  But I was also hopeful.

And needy.  Yes, I'll admit it.  I needed a man in my life.  I needed not to be alone anymore.  I needed not to feel like it was just me against the world.  I needed someone to come home to.  I needed someone to talk to about the day I'd had at work.  I needed someone to spend evenings and weekends with.  I needed someone to share some of my interests.  I needed someone to hold me.  I needed someone to kiss me.  I needed someone to want me.  I needed someone to care.  That's what I needed most of all–someone whose very presence in my life told me I mattered.  Sound familiar?    

I told Chris I wouldn't play games with him.  If I wanted to call him on the phone–this was before cellphones, smartphones, and the like–I would.  I had no intention of waiting for him to call, just to stroke my ego, to prove to me he was genuinely interested.  I owned how I felt about talking to him or being with him, and, if I wanted to, I'd do something about it.  In other words, I would not wait for him.  (What I'm trying to get across here is, don't play games with someone you're interested in, or you might play yourself out of the best thing that might have ever happened to you.  Don't be insecure, and don't be a fool.)  

I'm a shameless question-asker.  I will literally ask anyone anything, given the opportunity.  The worst he or she can do is tell me to mind my own damn business (it's never happened, by the way, because I'm convinced most people like to talk about themselves, if someone is genuinely interested in what they have to say).  So, when Chris and I spent time together, I asked questions.  Lots and lots of questions.  Never once did he tell me it felt like I was interviewing him for a job, but he could have–the job of being my partner.  I needed to know everything about him.  And Chris being Chris, he told me what I wanted to know.  And I knew what he said was sincere.  I knew I could trust him.  That way key. 

Okay.  So back to love.  My recent reader asked me, how did I know when I loved Chris?, or something to that effect.  It's the same as asking, Is it love?  Or, How do I know it's love?  And my answer was, I didn't.  Not really.  I kept waiting for the fireworks to go off, but they didn't?  I kept waiting to feel head-over-heels for Chris, but I didn't.  I knew I felt something toward him, but I wasn't sure what.  I knew I felt connected to him.  I knew I felt invested in him, the more time we spent together.  I knew I didn't want to lose him.  But were all of those facets of love?  I had no idea.  I'd never experienced love before.  I hoped I'd recognize it, but I wasn't sure I would.  I just went along, because I'd never felt better than when I was with him.

Ten months after we met, Chris and moved in together.  A big step.  A big change in my life.  Was I ready to make it?  Oh, yes, I was, if it meant I'd be living with Chris, if it meant I'd see him every day, get to share everything with him.  Was I in love with him then?  Maybe.  I still wasn't sure.  But what I'd felt toward him at the outset had certainly gotten stronger.  It was undeniable.  And I felt less cautious about feeling it.  I was pretty sure Chris wasn't going anywhere, and it was safe to invest in him completely, but I still wasn't certain how he felt about me.  I mean, people say and do all sorts of things, but do we ever really know exactly how they feel?  That's where faith comes in.  And hope.  I had the faith and hope that Chris and I were the real deal, that what we had would last.  So we rented a new, beautiful apartment in Vancouver's Yaletown, and began our life together. 

Every night before we went to bed, I told Chris I loved him.  I made a point of telling him that.  No one had ever told me he or she loved me.  We weren't that sort of family.  So, when I got to know Chris better, I told him I'd tell him that I loved him.  Again, no games.  If that's how I felt, I'd say it.  The problem is, I still didn't know if what I felt toward him was love.  We'd been together a year or so by then, and I still wasn't sure that's how I felt.  When you have no experience with love, how do you know if what you feel is the real thing, is what all the writer's write about in great literature, what the recording artists sing about in great songs?  How do you know?  Love is exalted to such a level that, unless you can relate exactly to what you've read and heard, you have no idea if what you feel is the same thing.

Some time between then and today, I fell in love with Chris.  To put that into perspective, some time over the past twenty-one years, I fell in love with the love of my life.  Can I narrow it down from that?  No, I can't.  Did I fall in love with him closer to the time we met than to today?  Of course.  I know in my heart I've loved Chris for many years.  But do I know exactly when it happened?  No, I don't.  All I know is, it happened.  And that's good enough for me.  I have what I've always wanted, and it's everything I ever thought it would be.  I've experienced great and deep and abiding love, and, even if Chris were taken from me today, at least I can say that.  My love for him wouldn't end.  I'd continue feeling it until the end of my days.  In that respect, I'm a lucky man.

So, where does that leave us in our discussion of, Is it love?  With the very best answer I can give you.  Perhaps with the very best answer anyone can give you:  What's the hurry?  Why do you need to know right now?

Sure, I'll admit that when I told Chris early on I loved him but I didn't know for sure, there may have been a part of me that thought, if I tell him I love him, maybe it'll happen.  Maybe if I say it, say it often enough, my feelings will match my words.  In other words, maybe I can will myself to love this man.  And maybe there was an element of that.

I know for sure there was an element of, if I tell him I love him, he won't leave me, thereby guaranteeing the success of our relationship.  Remember, I was needy as hell.  Did what Chris had to offer satisfy that neediness?  Absolutely.  But did my telling him I loved him guarantee we'd stay together?  Of course not.  I see that now.  Lots of people are madly in love with each other and break up, for a variety of reasons.  Just because you love someone doesn't mean you'll be together for the rest of your lives.  But I thought, if Chris doesn't really love me, but I tell him I love him, then maybe he'll come around, feel the same way I do, and everything will be great between us.  Delusional, for sure.  But, hey, you do what you've got to do, right?  Or what you think you have to do at the time?

Love.  It's the experience of a lifetime.  It's what we're here to do.  There's nothing else like it.  Life is meaningless without it.  And I believe the greatest tragedy is when one dies and has never known true love.

But, if you've just met someone, and you're having fun together, and you can't wait to see him, and your days are filled with thinking about him, and you wonder if what you're feeling toward him is love?  Don't.  Don't wonder about it at all.  What's the hurry?  Why does it need to be love right away?  Like is just fine too.  Or strong like.  Or whatever you want to call it.

There is no need to fall in love right away, or to know you've fallen in love.  Frankly, if you have to ask yourself if you're in love, you probably aren't.  Because you'll know.  You'll know when you're in love.  The knowing won't come from your head, from intellectualizing it, it'll come from your heart, the center of love.  Your heart will tell you when it's love.  And I doubt you'll look up one day and realize you're in it.  I don't think it happens that way.  You'll just feel it.  It'll be there.  The ground beneath your feet will finally feel solid.  And you'll know.   

So, take the pressure off.  Just be with that person.  Do things together.  Have long conversations.  Go for walks.  Laugh a lot.  Then laugh more.  Spend evenings at home.  Enjoy nice meals at restaurants.  See a good movie.  Dance.  At this point in what you have together, you're doing exactly what you should be.  There's no reason to complicate it by asking yourself, Is it love?  Give it time.  Let your feelings work on their own timetable.  Don't rush anything.  Be sure.  Relax.  Just enjoy yourself.  If it's meant to happen, it will.  It will.

And, in the meantime, if you haven't already, fall in love with the most important person in your life:  You.  That is the person you should ask if you're in love with, because he or she is the greatest love of your life.  If you don't know that yet, I pray you will.  Because that love is the source of all great love.  Don't believe me?  You will.  At least I hope you will.