“My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.”
“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
~~ Charlotte Brontë
Today, as all days, I am grateful for my husband, “R.”
Of course today is special. Today is his birthday.
And certainly a day that I celebrate.
R stepped into my life at a very appropriate time. He really was like a knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse….
I was still living with my ex. We weren’t together—not in any way—but we were rooming and as far as I was concerned, just being friends was working. When I wasn’t worrying who he was cheating with, and he was just “D,” then things were fine. He was still trying to convince me to take him back though, and I’m not even sure why.
That weekend we were at a science fiction convention and he had requested that I not spread it around that we weren’t together any more. It annoyed me but I was willing as long as I didn’t have to actually pretend we were together. No pretend lovey-dovey.
And right from the beginning of the con, I ran registration at the convention, R was there. I remember looking down the line to see how many people were there before I might be able to take a quick break and there he was, leaning out and looking at me. His eyes were blue. Very blue. My heart started pounding—just like in a romance novel. I tore my eyes away and returned to the person who was buying their membership and mentioned to D that there was a gorgeous guy in line and it looked like he was looking at me.
This R guy was shy. He hardly said a word to me the who weekend. But time and time again I would look across the room and see him…looking at me.
Saturday night D disappeared and everyone was asking where he was and I figured he was off porking someone and I was getting more and more pissed covering for him. He wasn’t with me after all!
Now quick sidebar. In the science fiction and fantasy circles people are a lot more open minded about homosexuality. Not only that, but it’s quite normal for some not totally straight guy to get drunk and let his bi-curiosity come through. I am a very open and happy person and I have a good reputation in fandom as being friendly. And so, as it gets late in the evenings and some people get drunk, I’ve had—through the years—more than one drunk mostly-straight man make a pass at me. Except when I might try and take him up on it he would suddenly sober up and run away—leaving me…ah…frustrated.
R appeared to me as straight as a man could be. So when I went to the con-suite to get a beer and there he was staring at me—in the midst of being asked again where D was—and R’s flirting pissed me off. I strode right up to him and said, “I think you’re f*cking hot!
I thought he would run away.
Instead he said, “Really? I’ve thought you were hot for years.”
I was shocked.
I thought he was straight.
And fifteen years later we’re still together.
R is the straightest gay man I’ve ever known by the way. And no one ever thinks he’s straight. There was a manager at work who thought we were brothers and some eight years after R started working there the manager heard R call me, “Babe.” He turned to another manager and said, “Wow. Babe? I’ve never heard a brother call his brother ‘babe!’” The other managers started laughing. “Mike,” he said. “Ben and R are not brothers!”
R wears stripes with plaids. He doesn’t like musicals. He doesn’t like Bette Midler, Cher, Dolly Parton, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, or Judy Garland.” I was like, oh come on, not even Judy Garland? How can you be gay and not love Judy Garland? There are those who believe that the death of Judy Garland was the catalyst that caused the Stonewall riot and began gay rights!
I had all but decided that R wasn’t really gay—when there was wonderful proof positive that he was *blush*—when we happened to be strolling through The Plaza, a very wonderful and famous shopping area of Kansas City. They had piped in music. Abba was playing. And I quite suddenly realized he was singing along. And he had it, every word, every little inflection, every little “ah!”
I grinned. “Oh,” I said. “You’re an Abba Queen! Okay. You can be gay!”
R was quite wonderful. He hadn’t been out very long. A year or so. He lived in a tiny town two hours away (and he came to see me almost every single weekend) and he hadn’t seen gay men at their worst. Hadn’t seen how they could be mean and vicious and drunks and drug addicts and cheaters. Of course he hadn’t seen gay men at their best either. He hadn’t seen any of it. He was pretty much a total innocent.
And after ten years with “D?”
I needed innocent.
I asked him early on why, if he’d thought I was hot for years, why he had never made a move on me. Never flirted with me.
“Because I was with my girlfriend. And besides, you were with someone.”
The answer took my breath away—especially after all those years of being with a cheater. A man having a girlfriend never stopped him from cheating with men before. Why they could even excuse it because they weren’t cheating with another woman. After all, a man could give him something a woman couldn’t. That’s the beginning of how they excuse it. And since when did anyone being with anyone ever stop the average man from flirting? The average gay man wouldn’t have been stopped for one second because I was with someone.
In R’s two sentence answer to my question he pretty much had my heart.
R isn’t a very exciting man. He would much rather stay in his basement/man-cave than go out and do almost anything. I can rarely get him to go to the movies—I’ve put my foot down about the new Star Wars movie coming out though. He, until recently, hasn’t liked to travel and I want to go on a world tour. He doesn’t like to dance. He doesn’t like crowds so concerts and stuff like that are pretty much right out. He likes to eat very late and so rarely sits and has dinner with me. He doesn’t like hardly any of the movies and shows I like so it’s rare that we sit and watch something together. He is pretty much strictly a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so more exotic foods like Indian or authentic Mexican (give him Taco Bell anytime). We like almost none of the same music—although when we agree, we really agree. R likes terrible, corny, very unrealistic movies and TV shows. Lord, he likes the recent Flash Gordon and (OMG!!) Cleopatra 2000!
He loves me—even if he isn’t overly romantically expressive.
When he is romantic, he makes up for weeks and months of when he isn’t.
A “for instance?”
We were standing before two hundred people saying our vows for our commitment ceremony—we couldn’t get legally married ten years ago. I had just given my vows, including the line about him being my knight in shining armor and saving me that fateful weekend.
And then he said, “Ben, don’t you see? You were the one who saved me.”
This big football playing straight man in the first row wept.
How about the way he proposed?
I was out of town in Portland and gave him a call one evening and he casually asked me if I would want to go to Baltimore.
Baltimore? I thought. Baltimore? What the hell is in Baltimore?
I didn’t say that out loud of course. Hell! R wanted to travel!
“Sure,” is what I said instead.
Then a week later, while we were both taking our break at work and I was busy reading a book on my e-reader, R very casually said (at a table full of people), “You know why gay men go to Baltimore, right?”
Without looking up I said, “I don’t have the slightest clue.”
“So they can get married,” he said.
I nodded and kept reading.
Then I froze.
And I looked up. Everyone was staring at me. “D-did y-you just ask me to m-marry you?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied with a smile and a twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes (they haven’t lost one iota of their wondrous sparkle).
Everyone at the table cheered.
And that was the beginning of how we got legally married.
R does so much for me. House stuff and car stuff and all that man-stuff that I can’t do and am immensely grateful that he is in fact about the straightest gay man on the planet.
Except he doesn’t like sports.
Thank God! That was often a deal breaker on a first date—liking sports that is. I think watching paint dry and grass grow is more interesting than sports and I refused to be a sports widow.
R is a truly wonderful man. There are so many stories I want to tell, so many examples, so many sweetnesses…. How he took care of me when I was recovering from my knee operation and couldn’t get up and down the stairs without him, couldn’t use the restroom or shower without help. And all the other times I was in the hospital—the appendicitis and the heart atrial fibrillations. The surprise of finding us a new dog—I’ve wanted two for years and he never really wanted our first, he’s a cat person. Supporting my writing and giving me ideas and watching my finances. Making sure I had a proper 401K because I was too money-brainless to figure out I had messed everything up.
I could write a novel on how wonderful he, all those “wonderfuls” far outweighing what could be called weaknesses. I know how lucky I am.
And I know he will be at my side until the very, very end.
He tells me so.
Today I celebrate my husband’s birth as well as my gratitude that he is indeed my husband. I think I must be one of the luckiest people on Earth.
I love you R! You’re my knight in shining armor. And I will continue rescuing you, just as long as you keep rescuing me.
photograph by Michael Murphy from me and R’s wedding day–that’s R gazing at me…and my heart is pounding even now, just like in my romances….