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…