Friday, March 27, 2009

How Chris and Rick Met

Let's go back in time, to Saturday, June 13, 1992, when two young men's lives were about to change forever.

Rick, 32, decided to go out that Saturday evening, just for a change of scene. Although he'd always intended to meet someone special every time he went out to the clubs, he didn't that night. Being in the crowd and listening to the dance music were his only goals.

Chris, 23, also decided to go out to the Odyssey that evening, first building up his courage by going to straight bars for a few beers and walking around the block a few times before stepping into the club.

Already the music was pulsating, although it was still early for the club crowd. Rick sat on a stool near the wall, a glass of Coca-Cola in hand, and Chris leaned against a column nearby, a beer in his hand. It was before the bar became really crowded that Rick noticed Chris. Rick thought that Chris was attractive enough but probably not his type. Chris seemed to pay no attention to him, so Rick didn't pay much attention to him either.

Fast forward a number of hours. The bar was very busy now and crowded with lots of attractive men having a good time--drinking, dancing, and carrying on.

As the song changed, the beat even more pumped and loud, a young fellow asked Rick if he wanted to dance. "I'm going out on the dance floor anyway," the fellow said, making his offer even more appealing.

But it was in those few minutes, as he walked out into the dancing crowd with the young fellow, that Rick noticed Chris watching him, moving from the outside of the column to the inside, facing the dance floor. And was that an expression of disgust Rick saw on Chris's face that he was dancing with this other fellow?

Over the next several tunes, Rick and the young fellow did their thing on the dance floor, paying little attention to each other. Finally, needing to make a trip to the washroom, Rick excused himself and left the fellow dancing by himself, losing himself in the crowd.

Returning from the washroom, Rick noticed Chris still standing against the column near the dance floor, and he was drawn to him in a way he'd never been drawn to another young man before. Rick asked Chris if he wanted to dance, and Chris seemed pleased to be asked. He set down his beer on the small bar nearby and followed Rick onto the dance floor.

For the rest of the night, Rick and Chris danced together, stopping only briefly to get a drink or to watch the hot, young men in the shower above the dance floor, stripping off their clothes and getting wet under the water. Rick and Chris talked only a little during the evening; the music was too loud, and they both wanted to dance and let off some steam more than anything.

Just after 2:00 a.m., the music ended, and Rick and Chris decided to go to Hamburger Mary's on Davie for something to eat. It was there they got to know each other better while trying to extend the excitement of the evening. Rick especially liked the way Chris pursed his lips when he was skeptical about something, and they seemed to get along well, their conversation never difficult or uneasy.

Finally, it was very late, and time to go home. As they walked down Davie to the bottom of the hill, Chris gave Rick a copy of his business card, having already penciled his home phone number on the reverse. Rick told Chris he'd call, that he wasn't into phone games, saying he'd call when he wouldn't. Rick also said he didn't want Chris to come over to spend the night; he'd done that before with other men, and he didn't want to get off on the wrong foot with Chris.

At the bottom of the hill, Rick and Chris parted and walked off in opposite directions.

It wasn't until the following morning, when Rick and Chris got together for coffee at Waterfront Centre, that Rick learned Chris had been mugged on his way home after they had said good night. A group of thugs had overcome him, knocking him to the ground, kicking him in the face, and stealing his wallet, which turned up empty several days later in a West End back alley. The left side of Chris's lip was swollen, and several of his front teeth were loose and sore. Rick would always feel guilty about not inviting Chris over to stay the night.

As I write this now, Rick and Chris have been in a committed, monogamous gay couple for nearly seventeen years.

Don't let anyone tell you you'll never meet the man of your dreams at a gay club. Let everyone tell you you'll never find love if you go looking for it or expect it to happen. In matters of the heart, when it's meant to happen, it will.

In the meantime, make sure you're the best you you can be, so you're ready when the right one comes along.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I don't want this blog to be just about our move to __________, so, today, I thought I'd cover the subject of money, and how Chris and I, as a couple, have dealt with that over the years.

A few years ago, one of our friends from a gay couple asked us how we managed money. There's no written rules on that, as far as gay relationships are concerned, but I think many gay couples are curious about how other couples handle it. I know I am.

When Chris and I first moved in together, in 1993, both of us worked, and both of us kept our money separate. That is, my money stayed my money, and Chris's money stayed his money...EXCEPT for shared expenses. (I think both of us felt a little insecure about our relationship, which was very young then, not knowing if it would last, and we kept our money separate in case each of us had to go his separate way. Fortunately, that didn't happen.) Every common expense, including rent, food, utilities, and the like, was shared 50/50. I looked after paying everything, gave Chris a detailed list of his portion of our shared expenses, and he wrote me a cheque. That's the system we used for many years.

When we bought our first home together, in late 1994, we shared all those expenses 50/50 as well, again, because it would just be easier that way if our relationship didn't work, and we had to divide everything in half.

After we moved to Victoria in August 2000, we still kept our money separate, and we still shared common expenses. But I made about 60% of our household income, and Chris made about 40%.

I learned from a book I read long before I met Chris that money is power in relationships. The person making more money has more "power," so to speak, and, if something isn't done to equalize the amount of money between two people, the couple is generally restricted, as far as what they can do, to how much the lower income earner can afford. So I tried to equalize the situation between Chris and me by taking on a larger share of our expenses, giving us a better chance to live a less financially restricted life together.

Two and a half years after we moved to Victoria, Chris and I decided to buy our townhouse (the one we live in now and recently sold so we could move to _________). Chris didn't have enough money to help with half of the down payment, so I paid the full amount. But it was at that point that I began to look at my money as more our money. As far as I was concerned, Chris had put in half of the money required for the down payment.

The above financial arrangements between Chris and me as a couple remained in place until I left my job to pursue a writing career in July 2007. Both of us understood that I may not earn an income for some time, but we knew, having sold our condo in Vancouver and having paid off all of our debt, that we could easily live on Chris's income alone.

This was a big adjustment for me. For the first time in nearly thirty years, I didn't earn a penny. I haven't earned anything in over a year and a half now. Sometimes, I feel guilty and believe that I need to earn an income to help with our expenses.

But our lifestyle hasn't changed as a result of me leaving my job, and Chris has been wonderful about supporting my writing efforts and reminding me repeatedly that his money is now our money. He has never once made me feel guilty about not earning anything, and I'm most grateful for that and for his generosity.

When our household income was reduced from two wage earners to one, Chris made me joint on all of his accounts, as I did on mine. When he gets paid, "we" get paid. And I look after all of our finances, ensuring money is set aside for uncommon expenses, paying all monthly bills, and putting aside funds so we can afford to do things in the future. This arrangement has worked great for us, Chris has been completely supportive, and I imagine we'll continue this way for some time to come...until there is another change in our lives.

If I've learned anything over the past seventeen years, it's that financial arrangements in a couple can change as their lives together change, and you have to be prepared to adapt to those changes, keeping what's best for the couple foremost in mind. If you do that, money doesn't become an issue between the two of you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chris is #1 in My Life

I know this blog, at least so far, has been mostly about our upcoming move to __________; however, I really wanted it to be about a real life gay relationship in action. And I thought, What better action than something as stressful and as anxiety-producing as a move from one city to another.

No, we're not exactly moving across the country. Chris and I are familiar with the Vancouver area because we lived there, both as singles and as a couple, for a number of years. And it's only across the Strait of Georgia from where we live now.

But that doesn't negate the very real changes to our lives a move will precipitate. There are times when I'm completely on board with what's happening to us, as I wrote before, and other times when I'd be much happier keeping everything just as it is. You've caught me on a good day today--I'm on board and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that await us. But, as Scarlett O'Hara said in "Gone with the Wind," "Tomorrow is another day." Let's just say that, for the weak of heart, a move, perhaps like bungy jumping or skydiving, reminds us that we're still alive. There's no substitute for being shaken up so you're forced to rediscover what you're all about.

What I didn't write in my post from yesterday, about our trip to Modern Country Interiors in Duncan to look for new bedrooms suites, is that, on the way back to Victoria, Chris was very quiet in the car. Although he's generally quiet by nature, he was much more distant and removed than I'm used to, and I didn't know what to say or do to get him to open up. In the end, I decided to remain low key myself. I thought when we returned home to our usual pace of life, I'd be able to talk to him before the end of the day. Which is exactly what I did.

As I said good night to Chris, I asked him about earlier in the day--why he'd been so quiet; what was going on in his mind?

He said that he'd felt under pressure to buy his new bedroom suite at MCI, although I didn't see that at all. I was definite about the suite that I wanted, but he hadn't had the chance to look yet, and he wanted that opportunity before he made a final decision. I appreciated that, and I apologized to him if I had put him under any pressure by what I'd said that he should buy the bedroom suite from MCI. I told him that, by all means, he had the right to check out furniture elsewhere, and to make the right decision for him.

But I also told him that I didn't want him to make a decision on which bedroom suite to buy just because it was cheaper, just because he didn't want to spend as much money as I had. I told him that he deserved every bit as good as I had, and that I wanted him to base his decision on what the right bedroom suite was for him, not on the price.

But when I went to my bedroom, not only did I feel guilty for any role I may have played in how he felt, but also I began to think that perhaps I'd been frivolous in my spending earlier that day. I wondered if Chris felt he had to spend less money because I'd spent more. And, more than anything else, I was upset because in no way did I want Chris to put himself last in our relationship, or in a position less than me. He's first in my life, and he will always be first. He means more to me than any furniture we might buy for our new house, and I want him to know how special he is and how much I love him.

It hurts me to think that he might put himself last, that he might not see himself as an equal of mine, which I've seen more than once in what he buys for himself in relation to what I buy for myself. Sometimes, the dynamics of relationships are difficult and touchy. For the most part, Chris defers to me, but, I know from past experience that, when it really counts, he speaks up, often as the voice of reason, and sets me back on the path we should both be on as a couple. I need my partner to possess that levelheadedness because, sometimes, despite my practical side, I can be a little out there, and I need to be reined in. I realize it's only for my own good that I get pulled back to reality.

Anyway, Chris and I talked further about the bedroom suite issue the following day, and everything is fine. I reiterated that I want him to satisfy himself that he's chosen the right set for him, and that I fully support him spending the right amount of money on it, because, 1). he deserves it, and he has every right to it, and 2). because it's in our new house furniture budget, which I wrote about yesterday. We can afford to do it right.

Who knew that the purchase of a bedroom suite can bring up relationship stuff that makes you take a closer look at what you share with another person? But what an opportunity. This needs to happen once in a while, so that you don't become complacent, and ultimately, so you reorient yourself around what's really important in your life. A human being you love and cherish will always win over any of the stuff you surround yourself with. Always!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How Will the Neighbors Receive Us? -- Update

So I spoke with Chris about this the other day. I told him my concern about being a gay couple moving into a neighborhood where there may not be any other gay couples, and where the straight couples may not take kindly to living next door to gay men.

Typical of Chris, he took the high road. He said that maybe our being in the neighborhood would break stereotypes some straight people might have about gay men. That we could prove incorrect any preconceived notions they have about gay people by being there, by being ourselves, and by being good neighbors.

Even though we've lived together as a couple only in larger centers, like Vancouver and Victoria, I have no doubt that we've caused some straight people to look at gay people more positively, in general, because we've always tried to set an example through the way we live.

I think that's important when you're a part of a minority. If you conduct yourself in a positive way, then others will see you more positively, and they may change any negative opinions they have not only of you but of other people like you. I know the opposite is also true.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Will the Neighbors Receive Us?

I hope you have found a "gay friendly" neighbourhood. =) You never know what you'll find these days (unfortunately) but we'll all think positive!!!!!

The above is a comment one of my friends Jenn wrote in an email I received from her today.

I won't pretend that I haven't already thought of this. When Chris and I went looking at houses with Denise, we saw in several homes that people had written religious expressions or inspirations on chalkboards in prominent locations. Chris commented that we were in a bible belt, which, right away, made me think about how intolerant some religious people can be toward gay people.

I have no doubt two fellows moving into a house together in __________ will get the attention of people who live nearby. The neighborhood looked like it could have a lot of families with lots of little children. Who knows how concerned adult parents might be that their children are exposed to a gay male couple, keeping in mind, of course, that there is a considerable difference between being gay and being a pedophile. The two are not interchangeable.

So our living in this subdivision in __________ could go in two directions: Either people will embrace us in the same way that they always have in Vancouver and Victoria (although perhaps people in larger centers are more worldly and accepting), or we could be isolated altogether, with no one wanting to have anything to do with us.

Of course, there is a third option, which scares the hell out of me: The neighbors could be downright belligerent toward us, making our lives in our new neighborhood intolerable, and trying everything they can to force us to move. What we'd do if that happens I have no idea, but I sure hope it doesn't come to that.

I'm going to take the cup-half-full position on this: That the people in our new neighborhood will be open-minded and warm and accepting. And that in every way that matters, Chris and I will be welcomed and embraced.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Quadra Elementary School

On a walk to an appointment downtown this morning, I passed by Quadra Elementary School, at the corner of Quadra and Findlayson. My attention became focused on the students running about the school grounds when I heard the bell, signaling the end of recess. I watched as the children ran from the field behind the school, around the side of the building, to the front door entrance facing Quadra. All the yelling and laughing and excitement. I watched the cute children, with their happy, carefree faces, in their warm clothing, running around each other, heading for the door to resume their late morning classes.

And I watched for little boys who were by themselves, who lagged behind, who weren't included in the groups of other little boys, as they reluctantly stopped their games and trudged back indoors. I watched to see if anyone was left out, if any little boy had spent recess by himself, if any little boy appeared apprehensive about returning to the school with the other little boys who didn't understand him, who singled him out for being somehow different, who teased him and made him feel badly.

Surely, in all those children, I thought, there had to be at least one or two who were different in the same way that I was different when I went to Canalta Elementary School in Dawson Creek in the late '60s and early '70s. Was their experience of school today, around their peers, different from mine--better, more understanding and accepting? I hoped so, for the sake of those impressionable children who will take from their experiences in the school yard and in the classrooms today, interacting--or not--with their peers, a sense of themselves and their self-worth and their potential. Who may, years down the road, when they are fully adult, and even well into middle age, remember the children they were, and how they felt when they were isolated and misunderstood and taunted, for no reason that made sense to them at the time.

I pray elementary school now, and school in general, is much better than it was back then. I fear it probably isn't.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bill & Lloyd

I realize this blog is supposed to be about "this gay relationship," and not just about our moving plans, so here's a little something I'd like to share.

A couple of summers ago, Chris and I had the pleasure of meeting Bill and Lloyd at Il Terrazzo, a shi shi restaurant in an extraordinarily old and beautiful red brick building in downtown Victoria. Along with us, Bill and Lloyd were dinner guests of Connie, Chris's sister, and Brian, her boyfriend at the time, both from Vancouver. It was summer, the weather was beautiful, and both the company and the dinner were delightful.

Part way through the meal, I had to find out if Bill and Lloyd were a couple. My gaydar had gone off when I'd walked into the restaurant and had seen them sit across from each other at the dinner table.

Turns out Bill and Lloyd were (are) a couple. If I had to guess, I'd say both of them are in their late sixties or even early seventies. Bill looks like a grandfatherly type, someone you might see in a old, comfortable leather chair, surrounded by doting grandchildren. Bill, on the other hand, is old too but doesn't look his chronological age. He's mischievous, funny, and spritely--the true definition of bon vivant.
And here's what floored me. Lloyd told me that he and Bill had just celebrated their forty-sixth anniversary together and were looking forward to their fiftieth. They had been together since 1962. To put that into perspective, I was but a mere three years old then. For most of my life, they've been a gay couple. They were a gay couple when it was most difficult to be one, when they would have had to hide their love for each other, their living arrangement, their connection, unlike many gay couples today, because it just wouldn't have been accepted then.

What an incredible achievement. Chris and I were fortunate enough to spend a few more occasions with them, and we learned more about their long and richly textured life together, which I won't betray here. Perhaps, one day, they'll tell their own story, in their own words.

When I think about Bill and Lloyd, I think not only of how much a struggle it must have been to be a gay couple in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, but also of how far Chris and I have to go to catch up to them. I used to think that Chris and I had achieved a lot being together then fifteen years, but Bill and Lloyd certainly have us beat. There is much to admire about the trail they blazed before us, but also about their enduring commitment to each other and what it says about the love that is possible between two men.

A funny story: That first night Chris and I met Bill and Lloyd, all of us were invited after dinner to their lovely condo in downtown Victoria, located on the Inner Harbour. They paid a lot of money for their home, but the previous owner had had it professionally decorated, and it must truly be a beautiful place to live.

In anticipation of the evening, Lloyd had made some yummy dessert to serve to his and Bill's guests. The food put out in serving plates, he went in search of napkins. He looked through several drawers in the kitchen, finding nothing, and finally located an unopened package in a drawer in their dining room. I heard him mutter that he hadn't had the opportunity to use these napkins yet, but they were perfect for that evening and everyone who was gathered there. He tore open the package, handed a number of napkins to me, and asked me to hand them out to everyone.

I took one look at the napkins and lost it. Written in bold letters on the face of them were the words, "WHO INVITED ALL THESE TACKY PEOPLE?" I laugh about it even now. Given how much fun the dinner and evening were, and what I increasingly learned about Lloyd, not only were the napkins perfect for all of us, but they were perfect for him to hand out to a room full of guests.

I must have been in a particularly giddy mood that night because the question on the napkins hit me in such a way that I couldn't stop laughing. I laughed so hard, I cried, soaking many tissues trying to dry my eyes, and I'm certain there were people in the room who thought I was on something. The only thing I was on was the good feelings of the evening, the honor of meeting Bill and Lloyd, true inspirations in the longevity of relationships, gay or straight, and on the possibilities for Chris and me all those years down the road, God willing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yet Another Picture of My Sweetheart

Let's end on a positive note today: another picture of Chris.

This one was taken on the front lawn of The Empress Hotel, on Victoria's beautiful Inner Harbour, this past Canada Day 2008.

Isn't he a handsome dude? No wonder I love him as much as I do.

Homophobia in the Gay Community #1 (Loving Yourself)

This is one of my pet subjects, and one I want to return to again and again.

Today, I just want to say that I believe homophobia is an epidemic in the gay community. There are so many ways gay men show how they hate other gay men and themselves. How can we not? We're raised to believe that being gay is unacceptable and an abomination and filthy and disgusting. When you receive that message enough times, year after year, it's impossible not to hate whoever is gay, whether it's other gay men, who we should support, or even ourselves, whom we should love unconditionally.

I believe that drugging, drinking, smoking, whoring around, and the like, are examples of behavior from people who, if they respected themselves more--that is, if they loved themselves more and accepted themselves as the wonderful gay human beings they are--wouldn't indulge in self-destruction. I've seen it time and again: Friends who bought into the negative aspects of the gay lifestyle, either because they believed that's what was expected of them, or because they didn't believe they deserved any better.

I can only speak for myself, but it wasn't until I was well on the road to liking myself more as a gay man that I was in a position to allow a wonderful young man into my life, whom I am still with today after nearly seventeen years. I never did the drugging, the drinking, the smoking, and the whoring around. At the very least, I always valued myself enough to reject those dead end behaviors. I'm grateful for that, because I avoided contracting HIV and AIDS at a time in the early 1980s when many, many gay men got sick and died. The world will never have those wonderful souls back.

So my point? If you're a gay man, and you're alone and lonely, and you want to be in a long-term relationship, and you don't know why you haven't found the right person yet, please take a hard look at yourself first. Work on yourself first. See the ways in which your own homophobia sabotage your efforts to value, and to validate, and to love yourself. See for yourself the incredible human spirit you are, regardless of your upbringing, or the experiences that have made up your life. You are a human being first, and you are gay second, and you are worth so much more than you probably believe now.

There is nothing in the world wrong with being gay. Believe that. BELIEVE THAT! Believe in yourself. Believe in the possibility that, not only can you love yourself, but someone else can love you too. That was one of the biggest lessons I needed to learn. That I was lovable. That I was deserving of love. That I deserved to love myself (a goal I continue to work on even to this day because of the early experiences I had related to being gay), and that I was worthy of love from someone else whom I loved myself.

My God, don't get caught up in the lifestyle of being gay and don't self destruct. There is someone out there who can and will love you. I promise you that. I promise you that. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you too. I believe that with all my heart.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Alone and Lonely

So I've been alone for just over twenty-four hours, after taking Chris to the ferry late yesterday morning to spend a long weekend in Vancouver (in one of my previous posts, I explain why he's gone).

I'm not good at being alone. I should be, after spending the first thirty-two years of my life essentially alone before I met Chris. My family members weren't especially close, and I didn't have a lot of friends as I grew up, so I know what alone feels like.

And I know I should look forward to when Chris and I are apart, like many other couples do, making full use of the time to myself until we're back together again.

Like Rob and Yvette. When Rob, my friend and financial advisor, took ten weeks several summers ago to kayak around all of Vancouver Island, his wife Yvette couldn't wait for him to leave. With a flip of the hand, she said in her unmistakable way, "Smell ya later," and she meant it. She was thrilled to be on her own for most of the summer, while Rob roughed it along of the vast coastline of Vancouver Island, meeting up with a few kayaker friends at various intervals along the way. Yvette loved her new single life, making bold claims that she would whoop it up while Rob was away. She was committed to make the most of every minute she had away from Rob.

I don't get that. It makes no sense to me why people who are in couples want to be apart. Are they really unhappy in their relationships and look forward those occasions when they can pretend they're not coupled so they can come and go as they damn well please? Do their relationships really stifle them that much? Perhaps they'd be better off alone then. Maybe they're not the marrying kind. Maybe some people are better able to be themselves when they're not coupled. Then why did they get into their relationships in the first place? If they're so damn unhappy, maybe they should be apart. Maybe then they'd see that being single isn't such a great life either. (I don't suggest here that my friends Rob and Yvette would be better off without each other--not in the least).
Anyway, over the past seventeen years Chris and I have been together, we've spent several times apart every year, sometimes for as long as two weeks at a time. And I hated it. Every time. I'm a different person when he's not around. I think too much. I obsess too much. I have too much time on my hands. I don't like who I am. I'm much better off when Chris is with me.

Here's another thing: I hate shopping and cooking for one person. I buy a few red nugget potatoes, a small clump of broccoli, and a tiny cut of meat. They scarcely take up any room in my shopping basket. I take them all home, prepare them, and sit down to eat. In front of me is a plate of food that looks to me like a pathetic little meal for one. It reminds me I'm by myself, and I hate the reminder.

There's no sign of life in the house (I could put on the radio or TV, but it's not the same thing). Everything feels so big and vacuous. Home doesn't feel like home anymore because the warmth and spirit of that other person, who normally helps to fill the space, isn't there. There's only me, and, at the best of times, I'm my own worst enemy (or at least my mind is).

I know I sound pathetic, like some useless tit who can't get along by himself. That may well be true. But if I had the choice to be single or coupled, I'd choose coupled without question. There is nothing like sharing your life with another human being who you love so deeply and so vastly that you can't imagine life without him.

I'm ashamed to say that, as I get older, I begin to think about what life without Chris would be like. What if, God forbid, he left me, or, worse yet, he died, and he no longer existed in the world so I could have even one more chance encounter with him somewhere on the street?Frankly, the thought of that scares the shit out of me. I suppose that's the risk we take when we fall in love with someone else.

I hope I go first. Yet, I hate to say that because, assuming Chris and I were still together at the time I died, and our relationship was really good, he'd be alone after all the years and experiences we shared. And he, who is not always in touch with his feelings, might have a harder time dealing with me going than I would with him gone. At the very least, I hope I would be able to focus on the fact that I'd had the chance to share so many years of my life with such a wonderful human being, and that I wouldn't have given that up for nothing.

All I know is this. I have right now. Right now, as far as I know, Chris is safe in Vancouver, and, God willing, he'll be back home late tomorrow. I can't wait to see him again. We've only been away from each other for one full day, but it already feels like such a long time. I'm anxious for our life together to resume. I miss him so much.

In the meantime, I've included yet another picture of him to remind me of why I love him so much (as if I need the reminder).