Sunday, May 9, 2010



It had been fifteen years since I first spotted him in a crowded New York disco. We weave relationships with threads from fabrics made from so many different sources. I didn’t think our relationship was so unusual, after sixteen years we were like many other couples trying to tie together a series of old rips and broken threads.  Many of the flawed fissures of our relationship were damaged threads I had brought with me. Some we wove together. Rick had his own issues. As is the case in most relationship we all arrive with our own bits of damage and it is up to us to then try to repair what we can and form a new patchwork that holds together and makes a new tapestry out of tattered goods.
Being gay and growing up in the fifties and sixties has not been an easy road to travel. For many of us it was a destiny ending in a life lived in a world of denial and anger and self-hatred.  Growing up in the age of Eisenhower there were so many hurdles we still had to jump before we could even think about weaving ourselves into the accepted fabric of our culture. It was out of necessity I chose a life of over achievement. It was the way I saw life. In order to pull myself along life’s highway I thought it was necessary to try to appear as perfect as I could, flawless and above it all. I can only now begin to imagine how hard this had to be for the ones I loved. You know when someone gets that arrogant look on his face that says, “I can’t believe you would do something so stupid.” It’s just the slightest arch of an eyebrow or the raising of the corner of your mouth that can inflict more pain than a million harsh words. It was my way of beating them to the punch. Always having to let the world know I thought myself better than them when in truth I was just this scared little boy trying to hide the shame he continually carried in the bucket of his life. In my youth I could do this and not even know I was doing it. Denial is so prevalent in my background, denial and the manly quality of dealing with any kind of conflict with silence rather than words. This characteristic of silence in the face of conflict, a characteristic so many of us possess, can be the most harmful and destructive of all the weapons we use in trying to deal with relationships. I can remember this fear of communication residing inside me most of my life. Maybe it comes from never seeing my parents argue. I had no real teachers to show me the skills of constructive verbal battle. Maybe it came from the Germanness of my background where you were supposed to be strong and emotionless. Any signs of opening yourself up and exposing your feelings were looked at as signs of weakness. Or maybe it was just another gay thing that coupled itself with the sense of being different and not worthy. When conflict raised its threatening head a sheet of ice would form around my body. A snowstorm would begin to blow in my brain and the tips of my fingers would begin to tingle and burn. Everything inside me would freeze, everything. There’s a great blankness that happens with this kind of frigidity. Memory flies away and the ability to comprehend speech is as difficult as doing a crossword puzzle in a foreign language you have never used before. You can recognize bits and pieces of words but there is no true connect. I can remember trying desperately to follow Rick through a verbal tête-à-tête by focusing on his mouth and watching it move to form sounds that I wasn’t really sure I knew. His history was different from mine. Like snowflakes none of us develop identical personalities. Each of us is different. So when he brought up adoption I had to read his lips to make sure I had heard what he had said.
“I just think I’m too old for this now” was the best I could come up with.
The adoption dialogue had begun again. Earlier in our relationship I had hinted at how I wanted to have a child, It was a risky request for a gay man to present to his lover in the early 1990’s. Men where not supposed to be the nurturers in our Reagan/Bush society. Women raised the kids and feathered the nest. Attitudes were opening up but the world of male parenting was still a frontier that hadn’t been probed by many men, especially gay men. The prevalent image of a gay man was one of a guy who couldn’t be monogamous, a guy who was interested in sex and sex alone and was definitely not parenting material. AIDS had reached epidemic proportions. Gay men were dropping like flies and whole communities were being wiped out. With that looming over my head how could I think I could consider myself to be a good or viable candidate for making a baby or raising a child?
“I want you to really think about this. I think it’s something I really want to do now”
I guess its human nature to want to pigeonhole everyone into a stereotypical mold. It just makes living that much easier.  If you’re blond you’re dumb, if you have a well paying job you’re happy, if you’re gay you’re not fit for parenting. Why should this be the image someone else was going to pin on us? I think I thought if we could present ourselves, as the perfect couple people wouldn’t notice we were gay. In order to protect ourselves and a potential child we would have to show ourselves as not just good at parenting but better at it than any straight couple. There wasn’t going to be anyway anyone could speak an evil word about us. Patenting would just put more pressure on us to appear perfect. There’d be no chance for fingers to be pointed in our direction, and there in lay the rub.

Seven years ago David Strah approached us to be a chapter in his book, Gay Dads. 

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