Karl and I are days away from our 40th anniversary, and I simply can’t let that go by without some reflection. Before marriage equality, same-sex couples could choose what day to call the anniversary. For some, it’s the day they met. Or it might be the first date. Some might use the day on which the relationship was, shall we say, consummated. We have fixed ours on the anniversary of when we had “The Talk.”
If that sounds complicated, one should bear in mind that this chain of relationship events doesn’t necessarily follow the order in which I identified them, particularly with male couples. Although I think it’s fair to say that’s true for all types of couples.
I won’t tell on myself, but for us, the timeline didn’t drag out for years. We checked all the boxes in a month’s time.
In those days before answering machines, we actually picked up the phone when it rang. So Karl was sometimes there in my apartment when the also-rans called, and I somewhat awkwardly got them off the phone. Returning to Karl, I would say, “Oh, that was just Michael. He hasn’t taken the hint yet.” There was no Mark, Rick, or Steve, but there was two Michaels and a Mike. Eventually, they did take the hint.
Karl may have wondered if he should be looking for a hint, but having that talk meant there would be no more Michaels—or Marks, Ricks, or Steves for that matter. What Karl didn’t know (and didn’t need to know as I far as I was concerned) was that I knew he was the one the moment he showed up for our first date. I opened the door, and he was wearing a camel corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches. And that, as they say, was that.
We went for Mexican food at a long gone restaurant called Tamale’s, followed by a movie at an equally long gone theater off Central Expressway. That combination is still pretty much our favorite date.
I’ve previously written about that talk I referenced earlier, so I’m just going to quote myself:
“The Talk” was less a proposal and more a statement of expectations and understandings. For example, it seemed important to me that Karl understand that my idea of heaven was never going to include a rustic cabin on remote acreage—anywhere. That it would include less domesticity and more society, and that simple is nice, but it sure isn’t me. There was also making my other expectation clear—the one which involved his hearing the expression “kissy kissy bang bang” for the first time.
It would be 30 years before we could make it legal, but we spent most of that time with both our names on shared mortgages. Those are harder to get out of than a marriage anyway.
I’ve also written about how the terms for relationships have changed over the years:
Back in the day when gay life was sub rosa, couples were called “lovers,” and I always liked that term. It seemed worldly and sophisticated to have a lover, not to mention the more blatantly sexual association of the word. As we all got less closeted and more public, we started using the more innocuous term “partners”—which always sounded like a business relationship. A lot of folks, gay and straight, say their spouses are their “best friends.” That’s sweet. I love him, but Karl isn’t my best friend. He doesn’t know the relative advantages and disadvantages of cream versus pressed powder blush, and he doesn’t need to know. Karl is my lover and my partner; he is my husband. No other word even comes close.
By the way, the only expectation he stated in “The Talk” was never to be referred to as my “latest” or “current” or “new” anything. If I had known then what I know now, I could have assured him his adjective would be “only.”
Earlier this month, TCM sponsored showings of On Golden Pond for its 40th anniversary, the movie Karl and I saw on our first date. So all these years later, we had Mexican food and went to visit Norman and Ethel Thayer once more. It just seemed so serendipitous, that we could go and do this all again.
You know, like it was meant to be.