05 March 2008
It Was 20 Years Ago Today......
Relationships and trust do not remain constant. They are maintained and deepened only as you actively nurture and build on them with regular acts of kindness, consideration, appreciation and service. I learned that both the quality of our marriage and my own happiness had very little to do with what she was doing for me, and everything to do with whatIwas trying to do everyday to foster her happiness, share her burdens, and partner with her in the things we care most about. I've learned that unity in my relationship with my wife is one of the greatest, enabling sources of power in my life -- not only in our most significant work in the family and community together, but in every area of my life, including professionally. It creates a well of strength, peace, joy, belonging and energy that fuels my best work, creativity and drive to contribute.*
March 1998:I'm sure I was out that night, at some bar or club somewhere, otherwise I doubt that I would have wound up at the after hours club, The Last Stop. A (barely) converted warehouse (someone told me they they made and stored coffins there sometime during the building's history), it was one of the centers of House Music in Baltimore. It was also a place some friends of mine warned me about: dark, smoke-filled (both cigarettes and weed), illegally selling alcohol after hours....'dangerous.' I went anyway. I liked the music, and felt comfortable with the crowd.
Mark was probably in the club that night, and we probably saw each other, but didn't speak. Didn't really meet until after we'd left the club. We talked. We connected. We 'hooked up.' We exchanged phone numbers. And, being 'typical men' we didn't call each other.
A week or so later, I got a phone call from someone I didn't know, who was one of Mark's friends. Apparently he had been talking about me so much his friend, Butch, couldn't take it anymore: If Mark wasn't going to call, he would. Butch invited me over to his place to meet Mark again. (By one of those 'Baltimore is an Overgrown Small Town' coincidences, the home is within walking distance of where we live now). Amazingly, I went over to visit this person who I didn't know, to meet someone I'd only met once. He was lying on the floor in the club basement, watching TV when I arrived. I lay myself down beside him.
We've been together ever since. (Thank you Butch...we miss you and Jayson!)
It has not been easy. I am not the easiest person to get along with. However you feel about astrology, it is unfortunately true that I embody many of the negative features of Cancer the Crab: Moody, mercurial, silent, slow to change. And (to tell tales on myself here)....well, let's just say that over the years there have been occasional flare ups of my family's (apparently genetic) inability to keep our pants on. He's no angel either (although you didn't hear that from me!). Through it all, however, we've managed to hang in there with each other.
Time is a very odd thing, and memory plays tricks. There are things that I remember from before we met that I think he experienced as well. There are also events that we both attended that I sometimes don't remember him being there. Whenever I have to go someplace without him, even though we may not call each other every day, I usually find myself thinking, "Mark should be here to see this," or "We have to come back here together" (at which point I'll call 3 or 4 times, with a step by step description of where I am!:) Our being together just *is* some times, like the air is always there, allowing you to breathe without even thinking about it. He really is my 'Other Half,' my solid foundation, and I'm not entirely sure I'd even be here if it weren't for him to help hold things together.
For various reasons, we didn't do a big blow-out celebration. I took the day off. We sat in the front row for a performance of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Center Stage (Mark had seen the film version on cable, and wondered about a possible 'gay subtext'. The local production, using two African American actors, Michael Jean Dozier and Howard W. Overshown, as the title characters (and the only black people on stage; photo above) did little to disabuse him of the notion that R & G were involved in some kind of long-term relationship. The production also starred one of our favorite local actors/characters, Laurence O'Dwyer (photo below), as The Player). We also ran into (the cute) Mr. Dozier outside after the play and congratulated him on his performance. Then it was on to one of our favorite 'hangs' for something to eat between glances at election returns from Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island, and then home. "Special," yes, but also 'just another day' in what has felt to us for quite some time as our 'married life' together (even though we took a pass on actually tying the knot on our last visit to Toronto. This year, the Maryland Legislature looks like it's moving toward something vaguely like civil unions even as we speak.)
Just like Charles Barkley, we do not consider ourselves Role Models. We are too imperfect and there have been too many bumps in the road for us to comfortably pass ourselves off as people others should emulate. And we're not unique: another black gay male couple we know (but don't see anywhere nearly enough) will celebrate twenty years together later this year. Don't believe the hype: It happens. But it happens with a lot of communication and a lot of work, day by day, week in, week out. And it's worth it.
(The Other Half points the way to the next 20 years...I love you, boo!:)
Finally, I'm learning that strong relationships require real effort and sacrifice. They require putting someone else's well-being, growth and happiness before your own. And oh, how it's worth it! For such effort is the door to our own happiness. What would we do without the pull of such relationships that help us get outside ourselves and become equal to our potential? -- *Quoted in The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey