Friday, April 17, 2009

Compliments for Gay Couples

I had the opportunity to talk to Maureen, our Vancouver lawyer, today regarding the purchase of our property in __________.

Unexpectedly, she made some great comments about gay couples. She said that when gay couples are stable in their relationships, it's pretty hard to beat them. She wasn't sure why this is the case, but she guessed that perhaps gay men are more in sync with each other. She said that they are often more stable, especially financially, because of their two incomes. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with Chris and me because I haven't been gainfully employed since July 2007; however, I've taken a different path--to pursue a lifelong passion--and, like Chris always says, you never know where that might end up. But Chris and I are definitely stable in our relationship, that's for sure, and I'm grateful for that every day we're together.

Maureen also mentioned that she'd recently been on a vacation in Mexico, and that she'd been in contact with two gay male couples there, who were really together, got along well with each other, and were a lot of fun to be with.

I had to tell Maureen that, of all the relationships I know, Chris and I are among the most stable. There's divorce in our families, as well as long-term singles (one of whom is now in a new happy relationship), and one in a complex, on-again/off-again relationship. I understand that people can't always know how their relationships will turn out when they link up with people they think are right for them, and that Chris and I are both incredibly fortunate to be with each other and to be as happy as we are.

Then, I just got a wonderful email from Lynn, a straight female friend, we spent time with at dinner and the casino last night (along with a few other people), who said she loves being around Chris and me, as well as other gay couples, because we're gay and because we're in a long-term monogamous relationship. She said she knows another gay couple who have been together for about forty years, and that they, like us, are a joy to be around. Finally, she said: "I like to surround myself with people who have positive energy, make me laugh, and treat each other with respect. You two [Chris and me] are all of the above."

I don't need to tell you that Chris and I rarely receive compliments about our relationship, and seldom are people supportive of us, not only because they like us as people but also because we're gay and bring a certain sensibility to our lives and how we interact with people.

Two compliments in one day, from two completely different people, thrill me, and I'm so happy to be able to share them with the readers of my blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Feel Sorry For

I'm going to write this exactly as I see it:

I feel sorry for any gay man not in a long-term, monogamous relationship.

I feel sorry for any gay man whose own homophobia leads him to self-abusive behavior, like smoking, drinking, drugging, and sleeping around. 

I feel sorry for any gay man whose own homophobia prevents him not only from loving himself but also from giving his heart to a special man.

I feel sorry for any gay man who says he's happy being single, when loneliness consumes him inside.

I feel sorry for any gay man who thinks he can rely on his youth, and his cuteness, and his muscular body to get whatever he wants in life.

I feel sorry for any gay man who doesn't believe that being with someone special, in a committed, loving relationship, is the preferred way to live.

I feel sorry for any gay man who doesn't think he's going to age, who believes he'll be young and beautiful and carefree forever.

I feel sorry for any gay man who gives away his body, as though it were not the most precious gift he has.

I feel sorry for any gay man who thinks his body is more important than his mind, his love for himself, and his self-respect.

I feel sorry for....

Affirmation of the Purpose of this Blog

Below the title of this blog, I wrote "Yes, long-term, monogamous, gay relationships really do exist." I thought it was important to add this sub-title because it's the whole point of what I try to do here every time I sit down to write another post. More than anything else, I want to bring readers, straight or gay, into the lives of two gay men, who have shared a monogamous relationship for nearly seventeen years. I want readers to see that our lives are no different from theirs, that we live day-to-day just like they do--getting up in the morning, getting on with completing daily tasks, and getting the opportunity to love and cherish other human beings. We're really more alike than we are dissimilar, and I hope that whatever I write here will prove that once and for all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Following Your Life Partner

I have a new appreciation for what Chris went through when we moved to Victoria in August 2000. In a previous post, I may already have written about how Chris didn't want to move, and how I told him that I had no intention of going to Victoria without him.

Some men in gay relationships may have decided to go their separate ways at that point, claiming they had grown apart and developed separate needs. But, in the end, after we had been together eight years, Chris followed me, demonstrating his love for me and the importance of our relationship to him, and, for that, I will be forever grateful.

Both of us recognize that Victoria was good for us. It's here that we earned relatively good incomes that allowed us a high quality of life. It's also the move to Victoria that allowed us to own a townhouse there and a rental property in Vancouver. We sold the Vancouver condo when the real estate market was red hot, which made us a lot of money so we could pay off all of our debt, and so that I could quit my job and pursue my lifelong dream to write. Had we not moved to Victoria, we wouldn't be in the financial position we are now.

From the beginning, I knew that Chris paid the steepest price for our move to Victoria. In the end, he spent most of nine years away from his mother, his sister, and his niece and two nephews, visiting them once in a while when he went there or they came here, but not seeing them near enough. Now, we're about to return to the Lower Mainland, when it will be easier for him to spend time with his family members, but we'll still live some distance from each other, and it won't always be convenient to get together.

I'm not attached to anyone in particular in Victoria (other than Chris), at least no one that would make me question moving back to Vancouver; however, there are many aspects of the city that I love, and, admittedly, I probably always thought we'd stay here indefinitely, even as I said to people that we'd likely move back to Vancouver sooner rather than later.

Victoria has it's charms, that's for sure. I love the slower pace, the beautiful setting, the generally more hospitable weather, the friendly people, and the home we've made for ourselves. It will be some time before I feel that anywhere else is home as much as Victoria and our townhouse are.

As I ponder a change of lifestyle in a new and strange place, I find myself thinking about the sacrifices people make all the time when they follow a spouse or partner or loved one to another place to set up life.

This past weekend, I spoke to my mother in Kelowna, and I asked her how she felt when my father was transferred many years ago through his work, and she had to follow him to places she never dreamed she'd live. She said she wasn't thrilled about it, but she went because she was married, and she had two little babies to take care of, and that's what people did and do all the time. She spent several years in Grimshaw, Alberta, and Trail, B.C., away from her parents and her in-laws--just her, my father, and my sister and me. It couldn't have been easy.

When Chris and I talked this past weekend, I'm afraid I may have led him to believe that I was drawing a comparison between my mother moving to places she didn't want to go to back in the early '60s, and me following him to __________. That comparison is not appropriate--in fact, there's no comparison between Grimshaw and __________--and I had no intention of hurting him with what I said, if in fact I did.

I always knew the day would come when his career would take off, his opportunities would be elsewhere, and I would be in the same position he was back in the summer of 2000, finding the courage to move to another place to start life anew. Unfortunately, I haven't handled it with as much patience and grace and love as he did, but I'm working on that. I know I need to be supportive, that this is Chris's time, and that we have a great opportunity ahead of us.

I don't know why things happen in life the way they do, but I know nothing happens by accident. There are good reasons why this opportunity came up for Chris in Vancouver, why we bought a house in __________, and why we're leaving Victoria at this particular time. I don't have perspective on all that yet, but one thing is for certain: I can't think of a better reason to leave Victoria than to follow Chris, a man I love dearly, to see what life holds for us as a couple at our new home.

Pictures of the Happy Couple

It's been a while since I've included pictures in my blog, so here are a few of Chris and me.

The first one is in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris early last October.

The second one was taken early last June on our annual winery tour in the Okanagan Valley. It's a rare photograph with Chris showing a full-out smile, but he looks great, don't you think?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

17th Anniversary (in just 2 months)

In just a few short months, Chris and I will celebrate our 17th anniversary. That comes as a shock to me, when I think about it, in part because, in some ways, it feels like Chris and I just met, the time has gone by so quickly, and in part because, at the age of thirty-two, just before I met Chris, I couldn't envision myself with the same man for seventeen days, let alone seventeen years. I was alone, lonely, and miserable. Who knew I was about to meet a wonderful young man, whose spirit, patience, and generosity would transform my life in ways I couldn't imagine.

There's a picture of Chris that keeps coming back to me. I took it several months after we met. He sat on the small, grassy hill below Beach Avenue, facing English Bay. His knees were up, and he wore a pair of white Spandex shorts (they were in fashion then) and a white T-shirt. Chris was no more willing to have his picture taken than I was, but I insisted on it. By then, I knew he wasn't like the other fellows I'd dated--here today, gone tomorrow--but I didn't know how long we'd have together. At the very least, I planned to end up with a picture of him, a memory perhaps of the longest relationship I'd ever had--two or three months. Little did I know.

What strikes me about that picture now is how young Chris looked. He was twenty-three years old, chronologically a young man, but a little boy, really. He had a shock of wiry, light brown hair in front, that he called horse hair and that has since thinned to a few brave strands. And his face was boyishly innocent, reflecting his inherent sweetness and lack of experience with the world. But, remarkably, he had a sense of himself that I didn't have when I was his age. He was cool and laid back, even though he may have been nervous about what was happening between the two of us (I know I was), and he was confident without being the least arrogant. Oh, and he was kind and gentle and considerate and respectful and sweet (I mentioned that before, but it bears repeating; it's one of the qualities that I was most attracted to). I remember telling him then that his parents raised a fine human being. I believe that more today than ever.

Over the years, we've hit milestones in our relationship. You've heard of the seven year itch? We passed by that unscathed ten years ago, and I didn't even have to scratch.

The first milestone that was most important to me was ten years, a complete decade. I always thought that if our relationship reached that point, we'd really have something. I felt a sense of pride when I told other people that Chris and I had been together ten years. We didn't have just a fly-by-night gay relationship after all--we had a real gay relationship, one that other people, gay or straight, had to recognize and respect. Once we passed ten years, in June 2002, who knew how many more we'd be blessed with. I set my next goal for fifteen.

There's no point being together in a relationship for one year, let alone seventeen, unless you love each other and the life you share is good. There's no question that Chris and I love each other, and, frankly, our life together couldn't be better. I still look forward to him coming home from work every day. I still look forward to preparing dinner for him, to sitting down with him at the table, enjoying our meal, and catching up on what happened during the day. I still look forward to talking with him, to sharing ideas and concerns and hopes with him, to planning what we'll do together that evening or that weekend. I still look forward to the end of the day with him, when we shower together, when things quiet down, when we share a few last words, and when we say good night to each other.

I love when he's in bed, his naked body completely covered, only his head visible on the pillow above the bedding. I love looking at his cute face, that little boy face I fell in love with all those years ago, still unmistakable behind the manly goatee he sports these days. I love wrapping both of my arms around his entire head, and embracing it, and kissing his freshly shaven face. I love looking at him closely, at the grey hairs on his chin, at that crooked incisor that adds charm to his smile, at his water blue eyes. I love knowing in my heart that this human being, this wonderful human spirit, is a part of my life, that he's my partner, and that we share a life together. I'm one fortunate guy.

Among my prayers at night is that God keeps Chris and me safe, that he continues to strengthen our relationship, and that we're fortunate enough to be together for many decades to come. Who knew we'd be together for seventeen years? Who knows how much longer we'll be together? But one thing is for certain: I treasure every minute with this wonderful young man. I can't believe how lucky and blessed I am.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bitchy Me

This past Saturday afternoon, I finished my memoir writing course at the University of Victoria, and Chris picked me up around four thirty. Unbeknownst to me, he had spent a large part of the day working in the garage to get the contents ready for our upcoming move.

Let me describe our garage. It's actually a two-car garage. Since we have only one car, half of the garage can be used for other things, which is exactly what we've done--putting things there that have no place (for now) anywhere else in the house. In other words, with no place for it anywhere else, let's stuff it in the garage, where we can deal with it later.

Not a good philosophy because, frankly, as we all know, later never comes. Oh, Chris has dealt with some of it in the past, but, really, it's a big, stinking mess. And we intended on cleaning it out and better organizing it last summer, including installing a worktable and storage cabinets, when we found out about Chris's boss's intention of consolidating the Victoria office with the Vancouver one. At that point, why bother putting the money or the time and effort into getting it all organized if we're just going to move, right? (not realizing we might have helped out ourselves in the long run now that we're forced to deal with it in preparation for a move).

Fast forward to last Saturday. Chris and I pull up to the house in the car, Chris opens the garage door, and, despite his best efforts to tackle the challenge of the garage, it was a holy mess. There were piles of things everywhere. Chris had tried to organize similar items (like all electrical supplies in one box, all packing materials in one box, all tools in one box), but all I saw was a holy mess. And, with several hours before dinner, I knew Chris was looking for some help in dealing with the mess we had, after all, jointly created. Even though I had jokingly delegated the garage mess to Chris to deal with before the move, how could I leave it all in his hands and go watch TV or read upstairs? It wouldn't look very good.

So, there I was, standing in the middle of the garage, not sure I wanted to cry or scream or sit on the cold cement floor and pull all my hair out. I felt so overwhelmed by everything all around me, seemingly in complete disarray, that I nearly lost it. Could a nervous breakdown get me out of having to help with the mess in the garage, let alone the entire rest of the move?

The bottom line is, I was unprepared for what I saw and for having to help. I looked at everything all around me and didn't know what to say or where to start. I was dumbfounded.

Chris is so sweet. He was happily dealing with the item in front of him, oblivious to the whole, while I had taken in the enormous confusion and overwhelming room full of stuff, and I was unable to cope. As he kept busy, I stood there, wondering what to do first, how to organize everything, how to get through this experience. I'm sure he wondered why I was just standing there, doing nothing, but I had to take it all in so I could get a game plan in my head.

I wasn't quiet about my confusion or distress either. While I stood there, like a zombie, my mouth worked perfectly well, spewing off all manner of sarcasm and insults and barbs about the situation I found myself in, and essentially aiming straight for Chris, who had initiated the mess and now expected me to help him deal with it. I felt ambushed, and I didn't appreciate spending the rest of my Saturday afternoon working on it when I was unprepared for this challenge.

Chris and I had our disagreements. First, after I'd figured out what to do, I tried to convince Chris of my system for getting the job done. Touch everything as few times as possible. Deal with each item in a definitive way. Put all packed boxes in one location, labeling them properly (as to what's in them and where they're intended to go at the new house), so we don't have to come back to them later. What's the point of doing only half the job?

And Chris, dear and sweet as he is, is just like the Kositsin side of the family--from what I've heard. There isn't much they like to throw out. We haven't used the damn thing for the past six years--in fact, we'd even gratefully forgotten we had it--but now that we opened a box and rediscovered it, we have to keep it because, you never know, we might need to use it someday.

I don't subscribe to this nonsense at all. I'm from the school that says, if you haven't used it in six months or more, find another home for it or throw it out. But Chris says, "Why spend good money on a new one when we have a perfectly good one right here?" To which I roll my eyes and try to ignore him, or I may end up doing something I'll regret (like grabbing the damn thing and hitting him over the head with it).

Our biggest disagreement (and Chris and I rarely disagree about anything) was about an old banker's box filled with ancient Christmas junk. This box contained, among other things, old spools of silver tinsel (which I'll never allow on my tree, although Chris loves it); old Christmas ribbon for wrapping gifts that must have originally cost Chris two or three dollars for rolls in nearly every color imaginable; old, junky, half torn apart silver garland for the tree (again, which I'll never allow on my tree); and, best of all, old bows to place on wrapped gifts, which have been packed in this box for so long, they are squashed and misshapen and need to be reconstituted before they might even begin to look decent enough to place on a Christmas gift. It's over the contents of this damn box that Chris and I went at each other, and during which I was my bitchiest best.

In the end, I didn't win. As adamant as I was that that box, and all the contents in it, were going to hit the garage can, Chris insisted on keeping it. He got as impatient and as angry with me about this box and its contents than he ever has about anything in the seventeen years we've been together. I can usually reason with him about nearly everything else, small and large, but not about this box. He still thinks he might need to use its contents on an upcoming Christmas gift (even though we don't buy Christmas gifts for adults in our families--haven't for years). Never mind that he could spend a few dollars and buy something really nice to wrap a gift with, if he needed to.

And he still thinks he's going to put that old tinsel and stringy garland on our live Christmas tree at the new house. Over my dead body, which, I guess, could happen, if I don't leave him alone about this.

Yesterday, I took some boxes of packed books downstairs to put with the rest of our prepared boxes. And, guess what I discovered? The old box of Christmas supplies. I opened the lid, looked at the pathetic array of disheveled contents, and swore to them that they were this close to hitting the nearby garage can.

Then I let the lid fall closed and moved on. I can't deal with that box now, knowing that Chris has made such an issue of it, and knowing how much it would hurt him if I did anything to it behind his back. As angry as that box and its contents make me, I can't risk hurting Chris over something that important to him. Sometimes, you just have to give in. It's better that way.

In the meantime, I'm sure he'll come around, as he does on most things, and realize I'm right about letting go of this box that's travelled with us to nearly every place we've lived together as a couple.