We’d gathered at a friend’s place for gaming, and we were reminded not to turn on a particular light switch because the fixture needed replacing. My husband, Michael, pointed at it and said something along the lines of, “Is there a hardware store nearby?”
“We were going to get someone to come in and—” the friend began.
Michael had already pulled a multitool from his pocket and was checking the wires. “Naw, this will take me a couple minutes, tops.”
Michael and the friend walked to a nearby store while the rest of us set up food and reviewed what happened the previous gaming session. When they got back, Michael set to work.
One of the other friends there looked at me and said, “You’re married to MacGuyver!”
Before I could answer, another one of the friends there said, “You’re just now figuring that out?”
Fixing some badly mangled wires and installing a new fixture is not a super complicated task, obviously (though the number different kinds of things my husband can repair, refurbish, or build is a quite impressive). No, the extraordinary thing is how blithely and eagerly he jumps into such tasks, and the fact that he’s always got a number of tools, spare parts, et al handy.
Sometimes I think he physically feels pain when he sees a machine not functioning correctly. He certainly empathizes strongly with people who are struggling with a device that isn’t working properly. I’m constantly finding computers, phones, or other gadgets stashed around the house in various states of repair he’s got in process. When I ask, about half the time he says, “so-and-so needs a better computer/phone/iPod so I’m trying to get them something newer and more reliable.”
When he doesn’t have someone specifically in mind for a device, he says, “I figured if I get it fixed, I’ll start checking around to see if someone could benefit from the upgrade.”
And those are just a few of his more obvious sterling character traits. I’ve written a few times before about what an incredibly sweet, kind, smart, talented, knowledgeable, skilled, patient, and funny person my husband is. And I am hardly the only person who thinks he’s awesome.
I hope you have a happy birthday, Michael. You’ve more than earned it!
When I first met Michael, I was part of a small group hosting a room party at NorWesCon. He came into the room, gave me a big infectious smile, and said, “Hi! I’m Michael.” Even though more than half the people in our fannish project are introverts, he was a lot quieter than everyone else in the room, coming off as very shy. He had very recently moved to Washington state from Missouri. He didn’t know many people at the convention.
I have to be honest, here, and say it wasn’t love at first sight. He seemed like a really nice guy. I thought he was really good looking, that’s true. My late husband, Ray, was still alive then, and Ray commented (later, when we were cleaning up after the party) that “the new guy, the super shy one from Missouri? He’s cute. Too bad he’s straight.”
Because Michael had mentioned his girlfriend when he was introducing himself.
I didn’t see him again until the next NorWesCon. We here hosting a room party again. For whatever reason, that year the room party (our room parties were always more like a writers’ group or artists’ jam than a party—for one thing, we didn’t serve alcohol) was more crowded and busy. And the shy guy from Missouri showed up again… except he didn’t come off as shy that year. He’d grown his hair out, he was much more outgoing. And he managed to mention the fact that he worked as a bartender at a gay bar a couple times.
But the first thing he said to me when coming into the room was once again, “Hi! I’m Michael.”
A couple months later, a new season of the British science fiction comedy, Red Dwarf, premiered in the U.S. with marathons on PBS stations. Ray and I hosted a watching party, which we had announced on a couple of fannish e-mail lists. And once again, when I opened the door, I got that irresistible smile and he said, “Hi! I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Michael.”
That was the last time he introduced himself to me. He hung out at the party (which got pretty crowded), and since he’d taken a bus up to Seattle from Tacoma, and the party went a bit longer than he had anticipated, he wound up crashing on our couch. By the next day he and Ray had bonded as if they had been friends for years. We gave him a ride back to Tacoma after we found out how long the bus ride would be.
He and Ray started corresponding online after that. So several weeks later, on a Friday night when Ray picked me up after work because we were going to go out, Ray said, “I think we should drive to Tacoma and surprise Michael at work.” We had a great time hanging out and meeting the regulars at the small lesbian bar where Michael was a bartender.
It got to be a fairly regular thing, where Michael would take the bus to Seattle on a day off (which were usually in the middle of the week) and meet up with Ray, or we’d go to Tacoma to meet up with Michael. Ray had had his first round of chemotherapy by then, and was no longer working. I was grateful that someone was available to hang out with Ray at least some of the times when I was at work.
He was a great friend.
And then, not long after the second round of chemotherapy (the first one had appeared to help a lot, but it hadn’t gotten everything), Ray had a seizure in the middle of the night and fell into a coma. Michael wasn’t able to make it to Seattle before Ray died.
Michael was one of a rather vast group of people who helped me deal with the aftermath of Ray’s death.
I have another confession to make. I don’t remember when I fell in love with Michael. There’s a lot during that first few months after Ray died that is very fuzzy and confused for me. I remember Michael meeting me a couple of days before Christmas to give me a Christmas present and to tell me he hoped I managed to have a good holiday at my mom’s, even though I wasn’t in a holiday mood at all that year. One of my favorite pictures of Michael was taken that holiday season in my living room, next to the Christmas tree that I almost didn’t even put up (except I had a frantic moment where I became convinced that Ray would be upset at me if I didn’t put up at least a little bit of Christmas; which was followed by a bigger panic when I thought about digging into all our Christmas stuff in the basement because I knew I would start crying and never stop, so I bought new decorations that didn’t have any memories with Ray attached to them). I don’t remember that visit at all. For various reasons, I know I didn’t take the picture that time he came up just before Christmas, but I don’t recall the visit where I took his picture.
Somewhere during all that upheaval, I realized I had fallen for him. We had one awkward week where I thought that maybe he was spending so much time with me because he felt obligated because I was grieving, so I tried extra hard not to do anything that might be considered flirty or otherwise showing that kind of interest in him. And he took my sudden emotional reticence as a signal, and he worried that the earlier signs of interest had actually been because he was taking advantage of me when I was in a fragile state. So he tried extra hard just be be a friend and nothing more. Which I interpreted as a sign that he really was not at all interested. And so on, and so on. It was like the middle act of a romantic comedy for a bit there.
But eventually I asked him out on a date. And he said, “yes.”
It was soon enough after Ray’s death that I was more than a bit nervous about how some of my other friends would react to the news that I was dating someone already. I was incredible relieved when I told Kristin, and her reaction was to grin, make a little victory motion with her hands and say, “I hoped something like that was happening! He lights up whenever you come into the room!”
Sometime long after that, he overheard me explaining to someone why I never called him Mike. “Because every time he introduced himself to me, he said, ‘Hi! I’m Michael.'” He interrupted to say that wasn’t true. So the next several times I heard him answer the phone with, “Hello, this is Michael” or saw him introduce himself to someone at writers’ night or a convention committee meeting by saying, “I’m Michael” I would catch his eye and mouth silently, “Hi, I’m Michael.”
A lot has happened since first meeting him at a science fiction convention in 1996. I could go on and on with stories about what a wonderful man he is. I know that over that time, to the extent that I have become a better person, it’s because of Michael. He’s wonderful, smart, capable, kind, unselfish, funny, and constantly helping people. He laughs easily, and he always finds ways to make other people laugh or feel better. I often suspect that most of our friends only put up with me because my weird opinions and annoying quirks are a small price to pay compared to how awesome Michael is.
And I’m okay with that, because he is so darn awesome. And I’m not just saying it because it’s his birthday.
I have one more confession to make. When I started writing this post, I titled it, “He’s my guy.” But that isn’t true. I could never “have” a man as incredibly talented, sexy, warm, loving, kind, smart, giving, compassionate, practical, unwaveringly cheerful even when he’s being cynical, unselfish, funny, charitable, or just plain incredible as Michael.
He’s not mine. I’m his.
Happy Birthday, Michael. You deserve to have the happiest and most wonderful day all of the time, but especially today.
About a week after we eloped a friend said, “I’m going to ask you a question that may seem weird, but I’m asking because so many people asked me the same question after I got married: do you feel different?”
My answer was, “Actually, yes, I do. It’s a little weird. Great, but weird.”
There are several reasons I didn’t expect to feel different. Michael and I have been together for nearly fifteen years, living together for 14½ of them. We already know each other’s quirks, bad habits, good habits, who is most likely to misplace his keys/wallet/watch/phone (me), or who is most likely to not check to see if his keys are in his pocket until he’s out of the house but know exactly where they are inside the house (Michael). We’ve registered as domestic partners, first with the city, and then when the state offered it, the state. We even had a small party with friends the first time. We’ve been through medical emergencies together. We’ve bought two cars together. We’ve been calling each other (and thinking of each other as) “husband” for many years.
When voters in our state approved the referendum three years ago affirming the legislature’s vote that extended all the state-given rights and responsibilities of marriage to domestic partnerships (but not to call it marriage), one of the changes was that the process of dissolving a partnership became the same as getting a divorce. When we received the official notice from the state that we had a certain number of days to dissolve the partnership under the old (much quicker and simpler) process before the new law went into effect, I remember we had a few moments of joking that if either of us wanted out, this was our last chance. It was a sobering thought, and one which I don’t think most couples entering into marriage think about as much as they ought.
So while I think the latest vote that got rid of domestic partnerships and extended marriage to same-sex couples was important, I didn’t expect to feel different. Having been through so much with Michael already—having covered all that emotional ground together—I figured the actual being married part would feel like the same old same old. I knew I would get emotional during the actual ceremony. I cry at tearful scenes in movies that I’ve seen millions of times, for goodness sake. Of course I was going to tear up a bit.
Okay, so I didn’t just cry a little bit. I cried while reading news stories of couples who had been together for many decades getting their licenses. I cried seeing the pictures and watching the videos of crowds of people congratulating strangers. I cried when they took our picture after we picked up our license. I cried when relatives and friends sent their congratulations. And I cried at our elopement. I cried a lot.
And I still get teary-eyed. While I was tidying the house on the afternoon of Christmas Eve it struck me that this is our first Christmas as a married couple. And I teared up and had to go give Michael a hug.
I know part of that is because it is new. I know another part of it is because I’ve had to fight for legal equality my whole life, and it’s still just a bit of a shock that a majority of voters in my state agreed this institution should be open to gay people, too. Related, over the last few decades I have become painfully familiar with just how many legal rights and responsibilities are utterly unavailable to couples who don’t have the flimsy piece of paper from the state saying you’re married.
A few years ago I read an editorial about how important marriage is to society. In building her argument, the author pointed to several gay rights web sites that had lists of legal rights available only through marriage and heart-wrenching stories of long-term partners being kept out of hospitals or funerals by bigoted relatives as the best source of information about how deeply entrenched the concept of marriage is in many of our customs and laws. “No one understands the value of a social or legal institution more than the people who are not allowed in,” she said.
Which brings me to the people who feel such a burning desire to keep the institution an exclusive club that only allows people of whom they approve. People don’t raise millions of dollars, compose disingenuous television commercials, and pass laws to exclude people from a mere piece of paper. They don’t amend state constitutions, try to oust judges, or fire teachers to prevent the mere public acknowledgement of the “true commitment that happened in private.” To do that sort of thing you must believe that this institution is something more important than a simple piece of paper or public declaration.
So one shouldn’t be surprised if one does feel something once you’ve managed to join that very institution.
I’ve been failing to complete this posting for several days because I can’t quite put into words the difference that I’m feeling. Searching the web, I see that in other blogs and articles it’s split about 50-50 between people who insist that nothing feels different, and those who admit that it does feel different, but they can’t quite explain what it is.
One thing I know it isn’t: the ceremony was not the culmination of our relationship. It isn’t a pinnacle. It was a high point, but it isn’t the highest we will ever reach together.
It was a wonderful and very moving day. It was and is fabulous to feel the genuine excitement from our friends. The love and support and well wishes that we’ve received have been palpable and have made me grateful to have so many wonderful people in our life. It’s the beginning of a new phase in our journey through life together. Not radically different on a day-to-day basis, but very subtly different.
I can’t fully describe all the ways I feel different. And I certainly don’t claim that the way I feel is the same way any other married person ought to feel. But I do know that I feel very, very, very lucky to have this wonderful man as my husband.