Nineteen years and one week ago, Michael and I went on our first official date.
We had known each other for a few years. Ray and I had met him at a NorWesCon a couple years before that, and then again at the next NorWesCon (where he signed up for the Tai-Pan mailing list), and then he came to a Red Dwarf Marathon Party at our place and we started hanging out a lot. Then, when Ray died, Michael was one of the friends who kept me from completely falling apart.
It hadn’t been quite three months since Ray’s death when I asked Michael on a real date. I was nervous, not about the date, because we were already friends, but I wasn’t sure how some of my friends would react to the news. The first person I told was Kehf. She put her fists up, went “Woooo! I hoped something like this was happening. He lights up when you walk into a room.”
And the only thing I could think of was that I wanted to keep making Michael smile. I wanted that smile in my life forever.
I didn’t propose that weekend. But it wasn’t long after. We didn’t tell people, because I was still getting some weird reactions from several friends (and even worse from family) at just the thought that I was dating so soon after Ray’s death. So we made this very sober and rational plan that we would wait until at least November before moving in together. And we might have sticked to it, too. But some weirdness happened with a pair of new roommates at the house he was sharing with several (they weren’t hostile, they just had no sense of boundaries and did weird things like decide to switch rooms with him and moved all of his stuff without consulting first, and other creepy things) and I barely stopped myself from going ballistic. He was being calm and telling me I was overreacting, and I was “No! We’re getting you out of there now!”
So he moved in with me in August of ’98 and we’ve been together ever since.
I would have to go dig around in the filing cabinet to remember the date of our commitment ceremony. My then-employer changed the rules for adding domestic partners to insurance, and we had to have certain papers signed by a particular date, so the times was thrust on us. We decided to sign medical powers of attorney while we were at it, and since you need to have a notary and witnesses for that we made a small party out of it. It was fun, but wasn’t timing of our choosing. Neither to I remember the exact date we officially signed the paperwork for the state level civil unions, when they became legal.
Our wedding when marriage became legal in the state was also a date that wasn’t entirely our choosing (the very first day you could legally do it), but because of when the law passed the previous spring, and its implementation being delayed because of the anti-gay referendum attempt, and ultimately the voters getting to approve marriage by a comfortable margin, we had months to plan. And our friends threw us a great shindig. So that date I remember. It’s an anniversary, legally and otherwise.But while I don’t remember other details of our first date, I do remember it was February 7, 1998, and it was clearly one of the most important days in my life. We didn’t have a meet-cute. We didn’t experience a lot of hijinks or drama. I still can’t quite believe such a funny, smart, talented, wonderful man can put up with me at all, let alone love me. But he does. And clearly I’m completely and totally gone on him. Happy Valentine’s Day, Michael!
“For those alone today, I didn’t find my one until I was 30. She was 50. There’s no ticking clock on finding the right partner.”
I’ll just add that there are many kinds of love. That you can love and be loved without being in a relationship. That you can find love and be loved by more than one person. That a lot of love is discarded or missed by some people because they assume that the relationship escalator is true and that all relationships have to ride that thing to the exact same destination.
And don’t believe the myth that you can’t love others until you learn to love yourself. Sometimes, it works the other way around. Sometimes, letting someone you love into your life is what helps you find the lovable in yourself. Love isn’t always symmetrical and mutual. And it doesn’t have to be.
We’re celebrating a friend’s birthday with a group of mutual friends today. Because love is love.
Particularly in the online world, February 14th is a terrible mine field. You can’t go online without running into angry rants and bitter commentary about those of us who are happy on this day. If you make the mistake of actually admitting that you are happy and wish other people a happy day, someone’s feelings will be hurt. If you try to avoid the topic altogether, someone will ask you why you’re not waxing eloquent about your husband/boyfriend (or wife/girlfriend or whatever significant others you normally talk about). When I avoided saying anything anywhere online at all one year on February 14, I got an angry message accusing me of being too busy celebrating with my boyfriend to even spare a moment to help some of my single friends feel less unloved.
How can you possibly answer that?
Not that I don’t understand where all these mixed feelings come from. I do. I haven’t always been in a relationship. I got so used to being in the emotional space of being single and not terribly happy about it, that it’s still something of a shock to me every morning to wake up and discover I’m not alone. Even after seventeen wonderful years with Michael. So, yes, I understand what it’s like to be single.
I know what it felt like seeing people happily paired off when I wasn’t. I knew the pain of being completely smitten with someone who was in love with one of my best friends. I knew the double-pain of having a crush on a guy and not being able to share my misery with anyone else or seek sympathy from anyone because not even my closest friends knew I wasn’t straight. So I understand, really, I do, why just seeing Michael and I together being happy can cause someone else heartache.
There were times I felt that heartache. There were times I said something to one of my friends that might have made them feel guilty for being in a relationship. There were times I lashed out, making a snide remark to make them hurt as much as I did. So I understand where the negative comments come from.
I’ve had the incredible luck (and luck does have more than a little bit to do with it) of falling madly and deeply in love with someone who loved me back. When you find that kind of relationship it’s impossible to keep it to yourself. You want people to know what a great person your significant other is. You want to share the joy with your family and friends. Even when you’re a gay man living in a very homophobic society, it’s very difficult to be in love and keep it a secret. So I understand why people want to talk about their relationship with other people they care about.
I don’t need the calendar to remind me to tell Michael I love him. I don’t need a holiday to give me an excuse to buy him presents. More than once we’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day by just taking an exhausted nap together. I don’t think we have ever remembered to make reservations for a dinner at a restaurant on the big day. Michael scolds me for buying flowers on the day because prices are always jacked up. Just a few days ago I asked him if he wanted his Valentine’s gift then (since it had arrived that day), or wanted me to wait until the actual day.
I don’t believe in the so-called coupled ideal. I don’t believe that there is one and only one soulmate out there for everyone. I don’t believe that no one is capable of loving more than one person at a time. And I don’t believe that everyone would be happiest if they were in a relationship with their “one true love.”
But I refuse to feel guilty for being in love. When I was single and made other people feel guilty, their guilt didn’t alleviate my loneliness by one iota. When I lashed out and hurt their feelings, it didn’t get me one step closer to happiness. All that happened was they were hurt, and I wallowed in self-pity.
So, it’s Valentine’s Day. The eve of the Ides of February, which was the beginning of an ancient Roman celebration of fertility and purity (hard for some people to believe those go together). Some parts of the Roman festival were rather shocking to the prudish sensibilities of the early Catholic church, which is probably the reason that a pope declared Feb. 14 the Feast of St. Valentine in 498 AD. The oldest surviving Valentine Greeting (a love letter which specifically mentions St. Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate one’s love) is a letter written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415, while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London (take that, everyone who claims the holiday was invented by greeting card companies; in fact it was the other way around).
For the last several years, the biggest celebration we’ve done on Valentine’s Day is meeting up with a bunch of friends to celebrate our friend Jared’s birthday. It’s an evening of laughter and love with a diverse group—some single, some not. The important thing is that we’re together and not mired in bitterness nor guilt.
I remember meeting him, at the Northwest Science Fiction Convention, in 1996. I remember meeting him at a room party I was co-hosting. He tells me we actually met the day before, at a panel discussion. I do remember discussing the cute, shy guy from Missouri with Ray after the party. I remember meeting him again, a year later, at NorWesCon. I remember him showing up for a Red Dwarf Marathon Party Ray and I hosted a couple months later, and because by the time the party ended there were no more buses going back to Tacoma, he crashed at our place and we drove him home the next day. By that point, he and Ray had bonded like they had known each other for years. So we started seeing him a lot more often.
When Ray died suddenly (only days after the doctors had given a cautiously optimistic report on how the second round of chemo had gone), Michael was one of many friends who kept me from falling completely to pieces in the aftermath… Read More…
Now that we are finally legally hitched (and given what a struggle it has been to get it legal here), shouldn’t our wedding anniversary be the one we observe?
Or course, it’s impossible to forget about Valentine’s Day. I know this because I have been told many, many, many times by various people how the way our society deals with Valentine’s Day amounts to oppression or even abuse of people who are not in a relationship… Read More…