It was a Friday evening after a rough week and I had gotten home a bit late. Tristan, my Irish Setter and Josh, my Belgian Shepherd/Newfoundland mix were waiting attentively at the door. They really wanted to go for their walk. So I dropped the mail on a table by the entryway, put on their collars and we hurried across the street to the park where the boys quickly relieved themselves.
When we returned to the condo I put their dinners together and sat down with an adult beverage for myself, kicking my shoes off and resting my tired feet on the coffee table in the living room. I was just starting to get comfortable when the phone rang.
I debated for a moment whether I wanted to bother answering it or let Jeeves the Butler, the voice on my answering machine, pick it up. But I was feeling a little more relaxed and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to unwind on the couch as Tristan had finished his dinner and wanted me to play with him. So I told him to stay on the couch and went into the library to grab the call, setting my scotch on a coaster on my desk.
The caller was a friend named Marty. I could tell he was upset and the reason for that soon became clear. His lover of three years, Ted had dumped him and told him he had to move out of Ted’s apartment.
I’m not quite sure why, but for virtually my entire life, people have always asked for my advice or looked to me to provide a shoulder to cry on when they needed one. I guess that’s a sort of compliment. But sometimes I feel like the proverbial pile to which flies are drawn.
Because I try to be a compassionate person, I normally acquiesce to their request to provide counsel. Usually, this leaves the person making the request feel good – and me feeling rather drained.
Anyway, Marty and I talked for a few minutes but I was really tired and the scotch was beginning to kick in. So rather than go through the blow by blow, I invited Marty to dinner the following evening. I had planned on making a roast and there would be more than enough for both of us and the two puppies who always expected to get some of whatever it was I was eating.
So the following night, Marty came to the apartment for dinner and he told me the whole story.
The two of them had met about four years earlier at a party which a mutual friend had hosted. At the time Marty was 24 and working in a salon as a stylist (or in the parlance of the gay community was a “hair burner”). Ted was 41 and worked in a corporate law department as an attorney. About three months later they began dating and nine months after that, Ted asked Marty to move in with him.
Ted had an apartment in the Halsted Street area of Chicago’s near north side which was alternately known as the “Gay Ghetto” or “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” I was always incredulous that people who lived in this neighborhood could ever develop lasting relationships. In a five block span there were at least 12 gay bars, each of which had a special night to attract revelers. And the bars usually overflowed onto the street. So many men – so much temptation.
And that is what ultimately did their relationship in. Ted had gone out one night for a “walk”, met someone coming out of one of the bars; their eyes met and before you knew it the two of them were passionately in love and having sex in this new person’s apartment.
As Marty told me this story I tried not to show that I felt that was all rather sordid and shallow. But that was a story not unlike many others that could be told in and of the gay community. I learned that when I was first introduced to the phrase, “Your future ex-husband.”
Whether straight or gay, we’ve probably all had a relationship that ended – or hoped for one that never began. So in that regard I could understand what Marty must have been experiencing. But I realized how relationships were even more difficult within the gay community than in the straight world when Marty said, “You know, if I could choose to be, I would choose to be straight.”
I knew Marty better than I knew Ted. And he always impressed me with his boyish good looks, but more than that with his romantic soul. On several occasions he told me that he couldn’t be happier because he had met the man of his dreams and was deeply in love with him. He looked forward to living out the rest of his life with the love of his life. It just happened that the two of them were gay. And because they were gay, there was no legal commitment into which they could enter.
I decided to stay up late tonight and write this piece (it’s nearly midnight) because I just read an article that gay marriage is going to become the law in the UK within a matter of days – although it won’t be implemented for a year. And, of course, we all are familiar with the same issue being heavily debated in the U. S.
I have to admit that I can see both points of view on this issue and can’t say that I have really come down firmly on either side. If I were on my high school debating team and the subject of gay marriage were the topic, I think I could advance arguments equally effectively either for the “Pro” or the “Con”.
As I think back thirty years to my conversation with Marty that Saturday night, I wonder, if gay people had the right to get married back in the ’80’s and Marty and Ted had tied the knot, might that have provided some stability of which they were deprived and might that have resulted in their relationship continuing, even today?
On the other hand, I look at the failure rate of marriages among the straight community and wonder if having a contract “until death do us part” has any relevance in today’s world.
And let us not forget that there are any number of our Hollywood types who simply move in together, have some kids and years later decide to make it “official”. Or not – as they deem fit. No one seems to raise much of a stink over that.
Perhaps the solution, whether for the straight or gay community, is to enter into a “time limit” contract – for say, three or five years, renewable on expiration. It’s only a thought – but it might save thousands in the fees for attorneys who specialize in divorce.
After dinner, I told Marty that I had an extra bedroom and he would be welcome to use it until he situated himself. He thanked me for my offer – but Hyde Park was too far removed from his familiar stomping grounds and, to my knowledge, there was never a gay bar in the community. So I think he felt that if he moved in he would be hampered in his search for the next love of his life. He declined my offer and took an apartment with one of the female stylists from the salon.
He was involved in two more semi-long term relationships by the time I left Chicago. I never did run into Ted again after the two of them broke up.
I believe that each of us has a need for love – both to give and receive it. It’s hard enough to do that as a straight person. And my heart goes out to our gay population who the straight world tells, even if they find that special someone, that relationship is forbidden.