Tag Archives: marriage

Perfect

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This is Sammy Long Legs.

We have weird cats. Sammy has long legs like a professional basketball player. He lays on his back with his body curved like a question mark. His head is at a constant tilt as if he is forever wondering what was that? what was that? He likes to have the top of his head scratched. If you do it right–hard with the tips of your nails–his lip will flip up like he’s Elvis and he’ll show a single tooth.

Last night, Sammy was laying stretched out on my lap, and I was telling him about the book of essays by Ann Patchett that I’m reading. And about how he is such a good, good, handsome boy. W reached over to pet him and tell him what a good, good, handsome boy he is, and he did that Elvis thing and showed his one tooth.

“How come I can love him just as he is but I can’t love myself like that?” she asked.

I didn’t have an answer.

“You can,” I said in a way that annoyed even me.

We are all perfect, but we don’t live that way. We’re always striving for something else, something better, something different, something more or maybe something less.

We’re too hard on ourselves. We expect too much. We’re all broken from childhood, broken from life and we’re doing the best we can with our shattered selves.

Maybe that’s why we search for love. For someone who will love us in all the ways we can’t love ourselves. Someone who sees our beauty when we can’t. Someone who holds us when we feel like we don’t deserve to be held and tells us all of our good points until we finally start believing them. Like they are truths that were there all along.

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More cats.

Here’s the thing about me and W. We’re opposites.

She’s flip flops and tank tops and let’s sing all the words to Les Miserables at the top of our lungs. She’s car window open, hair blowing, naked toes pressed against the inside of my windshield. She’s lick the side of my face when I’m grumpy just to get me to smile.

I’m bright white T-shirts and cargo shorts and NPR. I’m crew socks, new sneakers, hair short and tight. I’m Windex and right angles and notebooks with lines. Always lines.

I could have chosen a thousand girls. But I chose W.

Sometimes she has to remind me that I like her wild ways.

“C’mon, you like it when I leave little toe prints on your windshield,” she says.

“No. I don’t,” I say. I roll my eyes and make that face.

But she knows it’s not true. I know it’s not true.

I like her quirks and oddities. Those things that make her unique. Those things that make her W.

Those things that make her perfect.

* * *

What makes your significant other perfect?

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Sleeping with drag queens

images[2]If my calculations are correct, W and I have been sleeping in the same bed for about seven years. Not continuously like we are in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Although that idea always seemed appealing when I was younger and depressed.

On Friday, the kid will have been in the hospital for three weeks, save the three days he spent at home. W has stayed with him every night, which means our bed is empty when I turn in.

I pile clean laundry and things to take to the hospital on W’s side of the bed to keep it from seeming so empty.

IMG_0190I look at our pillowcases that say “Big Spoon” and “Little Spoon” and wonder when the Big Spoon will be coming home. Yes, folks, I’m butch enough to admit that I’m usually the little spoon.

One of our cats is so distraught over W’s absence that he cries and deposits random items in a pile in the middle of the bed — socks, a cloth to polish shoes, cat toys. I’m not sure where he’s finding these items. I’m pretty sure some of them aren’t even ours.

At night, I stay up way too late and watch mindless TV shows — Shark Tank, Teen Mom 2, Bar Rescue, Catfish — until I am so tired I pass out.

imagesSWB6O19BFor some strange reason, I find RuPaul’s Drag Race especially soothing and often find myself falling asleep to “I’m Every Woman” or some other disco tune and instructions to “sashay away.” Because drag queens always make me feel better. The are like a Band-Aid — a sequined Band-Aid with rhinestones and wigs and high heels.

This new habit has made for some very weird dreams.

When I was a kid and my grandmother visited, she always slept in my double bed with me.

This was weird and annoying for a variety of reasons but mostly because my grandmother slept with a transistor radio that she kept on until she fell asleep.

It was an old radio, one of my grandfather’s, and seemed unable to broadcast anything but static.

My grandmother loved music but always listened to the news on her handheld radio.

I used to think she was an old lady way too interested in what was happening in the world.

But when I got older, I realized she missed my grandfather, who had passed away years before, and it was impossible for her to fall asleep without some kind of distraction.

I wonder what it was about the sound of the radio that soothed her. If the buzz reminded her of his rhythmic breathing or snoring or if she just needed noise, any noise, to fill the void he had left behind.

So with that, I’m going to sashay to bed. Just me and the cats and a gaggle of drag queens. That’s what you call a group of drag queens, right?

* * *

What about you? How do you sleep when your significant other is away?

 

Wife power

After W and I were married, I felt weird about using the word “wife” to describe myself.

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I’m more of a Fred than a Wilma.

Wilma Flintstone was a wife. Donna Reed, wife. Carol Brady, wife.

Middle-age Butch? Not so much.

You can read all about my wife angst here.

“How should I refer to you?” W asked.

“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” I replied.

We joked around with the term “hersband.”

“My hersband will not be attending,” she texted a friend.

But then life went on and we had bigger things to worry about. I never decided what I wanted to be called.

I saved “wife” for certain situations. Like when I made a phone call to get information about local taxes W owed.

“Who is calling?”

“This is her wife.”

Or when I wanted some extra attention at home.

“Geesh, you’d think you’d have some time for your wife.”

“Remember me? Your wife?”

Yeah, I’m that guy.

I find myself using “wife” a lot during our son’s hospital stay. I use the word to explain not only who I am but why I have a reason to be in the emergency room or in the waiting area outside the room where they are performing a procedure on him for the third time.

“That’s my wife.”

“Can you take me to my wife?”

I say the word with authority.

I never really understood the importance of this tiny word. Who cares what we call each other, I used to think. It’s between us. It’s our business.

I was always satisfied with the word “partner.”

I mean, when someone who looks like me drops the word “partner,” everyone knows I’m not talking about my business partner. Trust me.

images[5]But “partner” doesn’t carry the same punch.

Now I see the power packed in the word “wife.”

And I wonder why anyone would want to deny another human being the basic right of being a spouse.

So, yeah, I’m good with “wife.”

* * *

What do you call your other half?

 

Silent partners

One of our kids was in a serious bicycle crash almost two weeks ago. He spent a week in the hospital. W stayed with him around the clock.

“You make him feel safe,” I told her.

I visited each day.

He was home for a few days but had a setback and is back in the hospital for at least another week. W is by his side.

Once again, I am making a daily trek to the hospital.

W sends me a list of what to bring that day: nail clippers, a travel-size bottle of shampoo from the top of her dresser, Advil.

I usually visit late afternoon and stay until it starts to get dark outside. I run out for whatever the kid wants. It is always sweet tea and something else. Today it was a single glazed donut. I tell him I am going to buy him a Smashburger with cheese and bacon and a Nutter Butter milkshake when he feels better.

W and I sit on the couch in his room.

“What’s new?” I ask.

She gives me the update.

“What’s new with you?” she asks.

I tell her what’s happening at home.

We eat take-out for dinner.

We watch silly videos about Prince beating Jimmy Fallon at ping pong and cats doing silly cat things.

We stare at our phones.

Sometimes I bring the newspaper or a magazine to read.

But mostly we sit without speaking. I might squeeze her hand or rub her back to remind her I am here. That I will always be here, especially in times like these.

I think of our cats at home. The two brothers who silently sit on the pink blanket on top of the washer to watch the birds or on the bed to take a nap or in the window to warm in the sun …

And I remember how lucky I am to have W by my side as life storms by.

 

Queen of my heart

Four years ago today, W and I had a commitment ceremony.

Because that’s what gays and lesbians did in 2011 before marriage equality.

I just read the vows that I wrote the morning of our ceremony. Leave it to a writer to sneak in right before deadline.

Queen of heartsI ended my vows with a story that my grandfather used to tell. He said that when he married my grandmother, she told him that she would treat him like a king if he treated her like a queen. After she died, he confessed that he never did live up to his promise.

Those are perhaps impossible standards to place on any relationship.

There’s a saying and a matching bumper sticker: Chivalry isn’t dead … She’s a butch.

That’s always been my ideal. Not just because I think all women should be treated like queens. But because I derive pleasure from being the knight in shining armor, the butch in a pair of blue jeans and tie, opening doors, pumping gas, sending flowers, tucking love notes in her lunch.

These are the vows that I made to W four years ago:

  • I promise to be your friend, to stand by your side in good times and in bad. To always listen and be your soft place to fall. And, to giggle with you at night, when no one else can hear.
  • I promise to love you just the way you are right at this very minute. To love all the things that make you special — the good, the not-so-good and everything in between.
  • I promise to encourage you to reach for your dreams.
  • I promise to always be caring, understanding and forgiving. To never judge you but to just love you with my whole heart.
  • And, last but not least, I promise to be your partner as we navigate life’s challenges together. Kids, work, bi-focals, the Phillies play-off tension …

I don’t know if I’ve made good on all of these over the past four years.

But I do know that we are best friends. That we both look forward to the end of the work day when we can share our days with each other. That we giggle a lot. Ok, ok, it’s mostly me. (If a butch giggles and no one hears her except her wife, does she really giggle?) That we love each other not despite our foibles and faults but because of them. I love that W is bold and impatient and that the window glass shakes a little bit when she sneezes.

Like when the Grinch's small heart grew three times that day.

Like when the Grinch’s small heart grew three times that day.

Sometimes I love her so much that I feel like my heart will burst. This usually happens when she doesn’t know that I am looking at her like when she is falling asleep on my shoulder or preoccupied with some task.  But then I remember that I pass out when I see blood and reign it all in.

Other times, I get so caught up in my own stuff that I forget she might need care and understanding at this very moment, too. But that is that nature of relationships. When we are loved, we learn how to love.  When we are forgiven, we learn how to forgive.

When gender does not compute

Smoking laptopAt W’s family reunion, we sit inside an old firehouse at long tables covered with vinyl tablecloths. At the end of one of the tables, a woman with a laptop is trying to piece together the family tree.

This year, W and I are legally married. This year, my name can go on the tree.

W leaves me to sit with the lady with the laptop and give her my information.

She is gone a long time.

“Her software won’t let you be a girl,” she tells me when she returns.

“Story of my life,” I reply.

Getting ready for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is almost here.

I am a romantic at heart.  I am like Elizabeth Barrett Browning in flannel.

I am a traditionalist.  I am like the Rick Santorum  of gift giving.  Roses.  Chocolates.  One of those fancy greeting cards with the word “Wife” embossed in gold and sprawled across the front in cursive letters.  Maybe a poem or a special note if the muse is present.

I am a planner.  I am like a survivalist when it comes to gifts.  I look for little gifts and trinkets throughout the year.  Things I think W or the kids might like.  I buy them and place them in my gift stash located in the basket on the bottom shelf of my closet.

xx

Shhh …

I am sneaky.  I am like Sylvester the cat trying to catch that poor old canary.  If W and I are out shopping and she points out something she likes, I make a mental note.  I’ll go back when she’s not with me, buy the item and save it for later.

The first Valentine’s Day that W and I were together, I gave her a big basket filled with books, CDs, DVDs, candy, coffee …  It was like she had won one of those basket raffles.  Or a gift horse had just thrown up all over my apartment.  I was in full-on wooing mode.

But this Valentine’s Day, I won’t be pulling out all the stops.  We have all three kids.  And W has been in a funk.  I’m pretty sure she won’t be up for a full-on Valentine’s day celebration.

And that’s ok.

Will you go see Kinky Boots with me?

Will you go see Kinky Boots with me?

We are at that point in our relationship where we celebrate occasions in a clump.  We are going to New York City at the end of March to see Kinky Boots on Broadway, and that will be our Christmas/Valentine’s Day/my birthday celebration all rolled into one.  We keep the fires of romance burning with these little getaways once or twice a year.  It’s like injecting our relationship with a shot of testosterone but without the facial hair.

On Valentine’s Day, I will give the kids and W candy from a little chocolate shop down the street.  I like to support our local businesses.  Two of the kids like these thin patties of caramel covered in milk chocolate.  The other one prefers dark chocolate-covered cherries.  W loves their milk chocolate salted caramels.  I’ll hand out a few other surprises and call it a day.

Our relationship is solid, so there’s no need to buy or persuade or prove with gifts.

I have tried to provide W with a soft place to fall while she sorts things out.

Patience is quiet.

So is love.

Those are the gifts I offer this year.

Butch wife

I never wanted a wife.

I never wanted to be a wife.

Kate and Allie

Kate and Allie: I would have been the hilarious one on the right.

I figured a way around all of that tradition sometime in the ’80s. I suggested to my college roommate that after graduation we get a place and live, you know, like Kate and Allie.  It would be a 24/7 slumber party eating raw cookie dough right from the tube and staying up late to watch reruns of The Facts of Life.  (I watched way too much TV back then).  I would be Allie, played by comedy legend and pioneer Jane Curtain, because of my rapier wit and she could be Kate, played by Susan Saint James, because she had darker hair.

“Yeah, no,” she replied.

I offered for her to be Allie, but she still wasn’t buying into my vision of two women living under the same roof and raising kids.

Yes, she was narrow minded.

And I was deep in the closet, back with the unused ski equipment and broken umbrella.

Flash forward almost 30 years, and I am a wife. I have a wife, too.  Who even knew such things were possible?

I do not look like a wife.

Did anyone else have a crush on Donna Reed?

Did anyone else have a crush on Donna Reed?

Wilma Flintstone was a wife. Donna Reed, wife.  June Cleaver.  Laura Petrie.  Carol Brady.  Jane Jetson.

Before W and I said I do, we had a conversation about her referring to me as her wife.

“I wouldn’t say anything in front of anyone, but I would cringe inside every time you said the word ‘wife,'” I said.

It is the association with traditional female roles and stereotypes that bothers me. It is fingernails on chalkboard.

It is the same way I felt when I was 10-years-old and forced to pick out back-to-school clothes from the girls’ section of the department store.

W comes home these days and greets me as she’s walking through the door.

“Hi, wifey.”

“There you are, wife.”

I laugh.  She laughs.

We are still dumbstruck by the fact that we are married. Legally married.  Like non-gay people.

It is all new. We are still adjusting.

When W asks what she should call me, I tell her I don’t know. I don’t know yet.  Sometimes I feel I’m still in transition, in flux.  That it’ll all shake out one day.  That I’ll know the answer then.

I feel bad for W, because I make everything so difficult.

If I’m not a wife, what am I?  I’m not a husband.  A spouse?  Partner?  That’s how we referred to each other in the old days, before we had a piece of paper that says we’re married.

I think about what it means to be a butch. Sure, it is about flannel shirts and comfortable shoes and football on Sunday and Monday and every other day of the week and beer and treating your lady like a queen.

images[7]But it is also about having the courage to be different, to be who you are. To answer to “sir” when you are anything but.  To be mistaken for a young man when you are nearing menopause.  It is about wearing a necktie when every other woman in the room is wearing a dress.  And venturing into the women’s bathroom — that room with a door marked with the silhouette of a person wearing a dress — when you don’t know what kind of reception awaits.

So, yeah. Butch wife.  Maybe I can handle that.  On my terms.  In my way.

Listening to sports radio when I bake cookies for the kids. Or wearing a tie when I take my wife out to dinner on date night.

Anyone got a problem with that?

* * *

What do you call your significant other?

What I learned about love (and bowties) on my wedding day

Keep calmW and I were going to say “I do” in about two hours. I had this marriage thing, this love thing down.

I have been married before.  And civil unioned.  Practice makes perfect they say.  Third time’s the charm.  This time around, there would be no surprises.  How could there be?  What could this 47-year-old butch not know about commitment, about love?

A group of friends and family were at the pavilion stringing up lights and placing vintage Mason jars filled with fall flowers on the picnic tables.

W and I were at home getting dressed.

I knew to stay out of W’s way as it would take her longer to get ready, W being the bride and all.

I was looking good.

I was looking good.

I took my time and put on my jeans and white button-down shirt, rolling up the sleeves just so. I slid on my custom Converse with the wedding date emblazoned in back and laced them up.  I folded up my vows and placed them in my front shirt pocket.  Only one thing left to do.  I flipped up my collar, wrapped my bowtie around my neck and went to use the mirror in the downstairs bathroom to tie that bad boy.

I almost got it on the first try. But then my nerves got the best of me.  Despite all the YouTube videos and the bowtie tying drills earlier in the week, I just couldn’t get it tied.  I took some deep breaths and kept trying.

One side longer. Over, under.  Long side out of the way.  Form a bow.  Long side down in front.  Taco, taco.  Stuff.

Now I was sweating. A lot.  I brought my iPad in the bathroom for video aid.  Still no luck.

Stay calm. You can do this.

I thought a change in venue might help, so I tried the upstairs bathroom.  There was no bowtie tying magic in there.

I was starting to panic. And curse.  We had to leave soon.  What if I couldn’t get the bowtie tied?  I had been blogging about this damn bowtie for a month.  What would I wear?  It was too late to run out and buy a necktie.  And at this point, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to tie a one of those.

“I can’t do it,” I yelled out to W.

“Yes, you can,” she encouraged.

I ventured into our bedroom where W was getting dressed.

“It’s too hard,” I said, pouting like only a middle-age butch and a six-year-old girl can.

“I don’t want to hear it,” W said. “I have to put on Spanx.  You want to trade places?”

I quickly left the bedroom and continued my futile attempts at tying a bowtie. I swore more quietly so W wouldn’t hear.

One side longer. Long side out of the way.  Form a bow.  Long side down in front.  Taco, taco.  Stuff.

Time was running out. We were already running late.  The bowtie is aptly named the Jack & Ennis after the leads in Brokeback MountainI can’t quit you or tie you! I yelled out to no one in particular.

It was time to think alternatives. Glue gun.  Or maybe nail gun.  I needed tools of some kind.  Possibly a Dremel.

xx

I almost looked like this guy.

Or maybe I could wear the bowtie like a tiny, jaunty silk scarf. Or tie it in a big bow and wear it Colonel Sanders style.  Desperate times and all.

I retreated to the bedroom one last time and sat down on the bed next to W. W grabbed her iPad and watched a two-minute YouTube video.  She tied the bowtie perfectly on her first try.

“Just so you know, I will learn how to tie my own bowtie,” I said.  It was my attempt at piecing back together my butch bravado that lay scattered in tiny shards on the floor around my custom Converse.

“You don’t have to,” W said.

xx

Perfect.

When we got to the pavilion, W pointed out my bowtie to some of the guests.

“Doesn’t it look great?”

I just smiled and told everyone that I had pulled on my own underwear in the morning and that’s about all I had done. That is pretty much the truth not true at all.

We had about a half hour before we were to say our vows. Usually, I’m not good on the fly, but I was able to work the bowtie into my vows.  It was the least I could do.

Here are some snippets:

You are the first person with whom I share good news and bad.

You are the person I go to when I am feeling down, scared, unsure or frustrated.

You are the person I look for when I am feeling happy or triumphant and want to share my good luck and fortune.

And you are the person I go to on my wedding day when I can’t tie my bowtie.

* * *

There’s a line in a Melissa Etheridge song that I quote to you all the time.

“You found out to love me, you have to climb some fences.”

You climb those fences with grace and most times even a smile on your face.

But isn’t that what love is? Climbing fences.

And that is my promise to you. To love you, to support you, to encourage you, to forgive you.

And climb those fences every once in awhile so you know that I am here and that I’m not going anywhere and that you are worth the extra effort every single time.

I figure I scored some butch bonus points for admitting that I didn’t tie the bowtie.  (And working in a Melissa Etheridge song.)

* * *

Today, I’m fairly confident that I will be able to master the tying of the bowtie. I mean, I can drive a car and give a cat a pill and remove spaghetti sauce stains from a white shirt.  But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.

I like the idea of having W tie my bowties from this day forward.  While W is tying, we will laugh about our wedding day and my bowtie tying ineptitude and how she saved the day.  We will be reminded that we are not on this journey alone but have a constant companion to share the ups and downs of life.  I will remember that I can’t do everything on my own — contrary to what my butch ego says — and that there is wisdom and courage in asking for and accepting help.  And that I am so very lucky to have by my side a strong, competent woman (who happens to excel at tying things) as my wife.

Wedding tomorrow … gulp

WeddingThe wedding is tomorrow and this butch has a case of the nerves.

We have an outside venue, and it is supposed to rain, at least in the morning.  Looks like we are clear in the afternoon when our event will be taking place.  Phew.

It is supposed to be cooler than we had expected.  Right around 60 degrees.  I ran out this week and bought that old lesbian staple to wear over my white button-down and keep me warm — a navy blue knit vest.

xx

This is where everything will be happening.

W picked this park/pavilion because it has a fireplace, so we will have a source of heat.  It was supposed to be for “atmosphere” but now it looks like it will be for “warming of people.”

We are organized and ready to go, which helps.  Everything we are bringing is boxed and labeled.

I keep worrying that I’ll forget how to tie my bowtie.  (I got it tied on last night’s practice run in under two minutes.)  Or that my custom Converse will get muddy.  Or that I will totally freeze when it is my turn to say my vows.  Did I mention that I hate speaking into microphones?  These are the things this butch worries about.

Ok, time to take a deep breath and get through today.  I need to make the ziti.  Press my shirt.  Get a haircut.  Finish writing my vows.  Pack a bag for the weekend.

What do you do in times of craziness and stress to calm yourself down?  Any suggestions for your favorite butch?