Saturday, June 30, 2012

Twentieth Anniversary Rings

In early March, Chris and I bought twentieth anniversary rings, even though we wouldn't reach that milestone in our relationship until June 13, the day we met in 1992.

For those of you who've followed my blog, at least since December 2009, you'll know I've been without Chris's ring on my finger, representing my love for and commitment to him, since then.  I still believe I lost it somewhere around the house, but, as yet, it hasn't turned up.  I'm hopeful the next time we move–whenever that may be–the ring will turn up.  I wore it for about sixteen years, it was bought under very happy circumstances, and losing it felt awful.

To mark the occasion of our twentieth, I asked Chris in late 2011 if we should buy new rings, especially since I no longer had one.  He said sure, and I thought there was no better time to do that than when we received a little money back from the Canada Revenue Agency.  Since I look after everything in our household, I made sure we ordered the rings and paid for them before we found some other place to spend our income tax refund money.

And where did we go to buy our new rings?  Where else?  To Shamin Jewellers, the same place we'd bought our original rings (although Shamin's is no longer located in Metropolis at Metrotown, having since moved across Kingsway in Burnaby).  There was never any question in my mind we'd return there when the time came to buy new rings, whatever the occasion–for nostalgic reasons, as well as how good we'd felt during that initial transaction.  

On that cold and rainy, early March Saturday morning, Chris and I stood in front of the counter at Shamin's.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to tell our salesperson, Deborah, the circumstances surrounding the purchase of our first rings.  I said the young man who'd helped us all those years before–who we learned is a nephew of the owner and was no older than fourteen or fifteen at the time–had been utterly unfazed by two men buying identical rings for each other.  I said that had gone a long way toward legitimizing the love Chris and I shared, and our commitment to each other as a couple.

Before long, we were joined by the manager, Shamar, whom I'd seen working in an office at the back of the store.  At some point–I don't know how she did it, because I recall her being with us virtually the whole time–Deborah must have told Shamar about us.  I repeated Chris and my story to him, and he was thrilled to hear our first experience had been such a happy one.  He congratulated us, and we talked about his nephew, who is now in his mid-thirties and lives in New York, where he designs custom jewelry only the one percent can afford.

And what type of rings did Chris and I buy?  As much as I'd hoped we'd choose something completely different from before, we didn't.  We tried on many different styles but kept coming back to the same one.  Not only is it reminiscent of the style of our original rings–a simple, ten-carat gold band with a thinner white gold band around the middle–but also it's wider (not excessively so).  I look at it this way:  our new rings pay homage to the past twenty years with the same style, yet recognize the enduring nature of our relationship with a thicker band.    

Chris and I couldn't be happier with our selection.  And, as we left Shamin's, Shamar reminded us that twenty-five years is also a milestone in any relationship.  Yes, it is.  I couldn't agree more.

To read the original post about losing Chris's ring, please click here.

To take a look at the Shamin Jeweller's website, please click here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thought for the Day, #46

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.  
                                                                      –Mother Teresa

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eliminating Disconnectedness in the Gay Community

This week, The Vancouver Sun is running a series on how, in our age of social media and supposed connectedness, so many of us feel disconnected from each other, like we don't belong.  The problem is apparently worse in large cities, where you'd think, because of the proximity of so many people in such small areas, they'd be more likely to greet strangers, or make lots of new friends, or have busy social schedules–in other words, to feel connected to those around them.

I remember when I moved from one of Metro Vancouver's suburbs to the West End, right in the center of the skyline that's come to define the city over the decades.  I didn't feel I belonged in the suburbs, where it seemed most of the people were single and straight, or married with children.  Once I got to know Vancouver better, I learned the place I needed to be was the West End, where the majority of the city's young, single, gay community lived.

What happened next can only be described as ironic.  When I lived in Burnaby (the suburb), I managed to become friends with two wonderful single gay men, whom I remained close to for many years–until one passed away in 2000, and until I lost touch with the other.  But when I moved to the West End, I made no new friends.  Not one.  I saw plenty of people I wanted to meet–a few of whom became temporary acquaintances–but none became close friends (other than Chris, who became the closest).

The reality of the gay male community, I found, is that true, close, platonic friendships are tough to make.  Because sex is a constant undercurrent in the community, gay men are more likely to look at each other as sexual prospects than as mere friends.  I'd be curious to know how many gay men have close friendships with other gay men–that is, you could count on them for virtually anything–yet have never had sex with each other, initially or at any time during the friendship.  My guess is, not many.

I can't tell you the number of times I wanted to meet someone–not for sex but just to connect with them as human beings–and I was blown off.  In many cases, if I even looked at them, I got the cold stare of death (if they bothered to do that).  They couldn't remove themselves fast enough from my orbit.  At the time, I assumed it was because they thought my looking at them meant I wanted to have sex, and, obviously, I wasn't attractive enough, to have sex, let alone be friends, with.  

I don't remember a time when I didn't feel like an outsider in the gay community, because I wasn't conventionally pretty enough to appeal to the boys, and because I was conservative in my lifestyle (that is, I respected myself enough not to have sex with just anyone).  I know I'm not alone.  Many of us within the gay community are marginalized, because we don't meet some cultural standard of physical beauty, or because we don't smoke, drink, or drug, or because we're old, or because of whatever.  

But we need to change this.  Honestly, there's no reason on earth to account for why, when all of us have experienced rejection from the straight mainstream community around us, we should feel like we don't belong to the gay community* (if there is one). We can do better than that.  We must do better than that.  So I'm challenging you to reach out to other people who you know or suspect are gay.  Remember, friendship isn't about sex, it's about validation.  And who better to validate us than each other.    

(*Two or more people–in this case, with the same sexual orientation–can be considered a community.)      

The Primary Relationship

About the time I decided to take a hiatus from writing this blog, it occurred to me for the first time I'd named it "This Gay Relationship," yet the majority of the posts I'd written were about aspects of my life as a gay man, as well as how to improve one's self-esteem as a gay or lesbian person.

It didn't take me long to figure out that the name of my blog still works, because "This Gay Relationship" refers as much to the relationship I have with myself, as it does to the one I've shared with my partner, Chris, for the past twenty years.

The greatest relationship any of us will ever have–and that has the greatest affect on our relationships with everyone in our lives, including a life partner–is the one with ourselves. Think about that.

Are you your own best friend?  Do you respect and love yourself the way you want others to respect and love you?  If not, what changes will you begin to make today to improve the way you see yourself, so others will look at you the way you want to be seen?    

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thought for the Day, #45

But I had no reference for an emotional life with another man.  All I knew was sex.  I didn't know what was required of me to be, and keep, a boyfriend.  No doubt that was the cumulative effect of more than two decades of homophobia in the Arab world and the complete absence of any discussion of emotions when you're a man....  I could enjoy the sex and the gay identity but not the emotional life and responsibility that came with it.

(From Kamal Al-Solaylee's Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes, pages 139 and 140)

You don't need to originate from the Middle East, Kamal, to know this experience.