Scattered notes from an anniversary

Herewith, scattered notes and photos from the beloved’s and my anniversary date  (a la the Baba’s Day pictorial), because the main dealie sitting on my shoulders these days still defies direct address, and yet squashes close to flat so much of everything else.  Thus making truthful personal narrative somewhat challenging.  The “main dealie” to which I refer still being the weighty, utterly unexpected early passing of a dear old friend.  Her hometown memorial will be just this Saturday.  My dear dear friend, her beloved, was on planes and in rental cars all day today in a long, long journey to go speak at it.

Emily Dickinson said “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” and she’s right.  “Too bright for our infirm Delight/The Truth’s superb surprise,” says she, and I’m telling you I still need sunglasses to make out my morning eggs and toast.   ‘Til I can even get to the point of telling that truth slant — “The Truth must dazzle gradually/Or every man be blind–” — best I can do is gather up a breezy narrative of my beloved and me celebrating many happy years together.  Because there it is, sitting there alongside the eggs and toast, irony and all.

We secured an unprecedented twelve hours of childcare and were shocked — shocked! — at the number of distinct conversations that could be initiated and completed during this time, when no toddlers or children under five were present. (Note to other parents of young: DO IT! Quarterly at least! It’s so worth it! And I’m not talking date, I’m talking extendo-date, several hours past the length of your ordinary night out.)

After a delightful conversation-filled subway ride, we strolled on impulse to… tea at the Palace Hotel! Preceded by champagne! Sure, it cost an arm and a leg. Sure, we’re living on borrowed time. Whatever. It was grand, and I’d do it again in another week if given half the chance. Fortunately for our family budget, the beloved doesn’t even give me a quarter the chance.  Or an eighth. How do you think we made it fifteen years without being impounded?

anniv1-bubbly

The pianist at the Garden Court — where they serve tea at the Palace — may as well have been a potted palm or a ficus benjaminus.  One or two folks posed by him for photos, but rarely was he directly addressed.  He was part of the pretty, pretty scenery.  I wanted to applaud after each song (“S’wonderful,” “You Are So Beautiful,” and a respectful rendition of “Never Can Say Goodbye”) but the beloved told me It’s Just Not Done.  Since she’s a theater professional/musician and a vet of the food service industry, I believe her. (The two terms are nearly redundant, don’t you think?  Theater professional, food service industry worker.)

Incidentally, I am so not kidding about her vet status in the food service industry. Nary a block would pass by, as we toodled around her native Minneapolis in our courtship those many years ago, during which she wouldn’t find a restaurant and causually intone, “Worked there.  And there. Got fired  from there for being a spy.  Totally not true. Worked there. Quit there.” And so on.  The life of an actor.

At the table to our right were two debutantes in matching peach-colored mini skirts and matching white three-quarter length coats, whom the beloved and I both felt sure signed their checks (separate!) with their parents’ money. We, on the other hand, signed our check (together!) with what should have been our kids‘ money. We both felt okay with that.

Further on past the spendthrift debutantes was what the beloved dubbed the “Ladies Who Lunch” table (for the musically inclined, here, from the 2006 revival). Who are we to judge. Some of them might have thought the same of us, except we were a party of two, only one of whom could reasonably be accused of being a lady. The other of whom, if you accused her of being a lady, would remove her pocket square from her jacket and slap you with it.  In as gentlemanly-like a fashion as could be mustered.

anniv2-gardenctceiling

The ceiling of the Garden Court is gorgeous, but not the kind of thing you want to be under in an earthquake. Just a guess. While we nibbled our tea sandwiches, I told the typical exaggerations about Enrico Caruso’s experience here at the Palace during the 1906 earthquake — that he exited the hotel in nothing but a towel, vowing never to sing in the city again, and so on.  He did stay at the Palace, and had sung in Carmen at the opera house the night before the earthquake.  And he did skedaddle as soon as he could — took a ferry to Oakland and hopped the nearest train to New York and thence off to la bella Italia (his account here).  But the towel part was a bit of an exaggeration.  By now, the beloved is fairly used to them, and rolled with this one with characteristic aplomb.

Full-bellied from the tea, we were off to a side alley pedicure! For her, not for me.  I had never been into a nail emporium, and it was an education.  Slash kinda creepy. Several of the gals there asked me more than once whether I’d like one too, and I kept having to find gracious ways to say NO WAY ARE  YOU KIDDING ALLOW A PERFECT STRANGER TO HAVE AT MY CUTICLES WITH SHARP OBJECTS?!!

(A gal quoted in this ditty on la vie butch opines that the Butch of Today submits to mani/pedis with a casualness with which our kind once approached auto repair and hating men. I have clearly not received the email, neither about the mani/pedis nor the mani/haties.)

My discomfort over the notion of a pedicure was difficult to convey gracefully, but I tried. I might have slipped a bit and mentioned something about the sharp objects and cuticles in earshot of a woman whose every extremity was being ministered to by the nail emporium staff, and thus was unable to move.  I might have attempted to apologize to her.  It might or might not have worked.  Still, the beloved left very, very happy, with shiny red toenails.  I mean burnt sienna toenails.  I mean burnt cabernet toenails. Whatever. They shined.

davinia

From pedi to the SF Museum of Modern Art! And the Avedon exhibit! Scrumtious. I adjusted my pocket square in the reflection of his über-famous  photo of Davinia with elephants (above), thoroughly appreciating how apropos such a gesture was, in the room of the exhibit dedicated to his fashion photography.

En route to our dinner (below): doesn’t she look like a movie star? I trotted next to her for half a block taking paparazzi-like pictures, just because. Ah, young love.

anniv4.5-moviestarenroute

We dined at a swank, much-Yelped & –Chowhounded restaurant!  Whose matire d’ had the good sense to consult his notes about our reservation and wish us “Happy Anniversary” upon our entry!  A card bearing the same wishes greeted us at our nifty corner table.  Nice touches, and befitting a restaurant in a city that prides itself on being the nation’s gay mecca.  I noted when I made the online reservation that it was our 15 year relationship anniversary and our one-year legal gay-married anniversary.

One day, people, one day, this kind of gracious and courteous support of our seasoned love will not be notable, even in other towns. One day. Just who knows when.  Meanwhile, I appreciated it. When our love began to sprout, back in the mid-1990s, this sort of graciousness would have been even more notable.  Fifteen years before that, I wouldn’t have even been comfortable being evidently lovey-dovey with my partner in a restaurant.  Alright I was still a coupla years shy of coming out thirty years ago. But still.

At first, I wanted to spank our waitron for being too perky and brash (“ladies”!! she kept traipsing up to the table and addressing us as “ladies”!!), but after enough of the perky and brash Pinot Noir I was willing simply to talk about spanking it instead of the waitron.  But over time I got used to her.

Not more than a few minutes into the meal, the hetero couple nearby us had complaints about their wine.  I stifled the impulse to offer ours up for a spanking, since it deserved one probably more than theirs did. Then another hetero couple sat down between us and the wine-complaining hetero couple, and the two couples traded stories about various vacation spots and fancy restaurants and such-like.  The beloved noted a perfect criss-cross man-to-man convo, with the gals offering demure, occasional, decidedly minor side chit-chat. I thought stuff like that only happened in movies. Of the 1930s.

If we weren’t so busy having fun, we would have listened in some more and learned a bit about how the other 9/10ths live. Geezum peezum, though. I mean, we were digging into our kids’ lunch money for this dinner, and the folks next to us just thought, on a lark, they’d pop into the city and stay the night.  You know, at a hotel.  Which notion had occurred to us as a way to celebrate our 15th anniversary, but, you know, it would have cost us our kids’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner money, so nope.

As I say, though, no neighboring snootery could squelch the enjoyment of two harried parents out to dinner at a place that served food accompanied by sauces. On the food. That took time and skill to cook.  O lordy lord do I look forward to the time either or both of the kids’ palates can bear anything close to a sauce, since I rather like cooking them. Meanwhile, we slog through the culinary wilderness, hacking away at the underbrush of kid-friendly fish sticks and pasta-with-parmensan and peas-with-butter.

Incidentally: one of the many things I love about my beloved is that,  in full view of the snooty couples, she ran her finger down the side of her steak knife to pick up the dripping juices.  And popped the finger into her mouth to suck ’em off with a satisfying smack.  I’m just saying.

Another thing I love about her is how very different she is than me in oh so many ways. We had been recollecting memorable moments of the past fifteen years, and had seguéd into quizzing one another on the random, rare factoids we either of us might not know about one another. You know, old couple hi-jinx. I had just won a string of three quiz questions, and she eagerly pressed me to quiz her.

So I did: What activity filled my summers, my 5th grade through my 7th grade years? It took a heavy hint or two, before she recalled that I used to play “Star Trek” with my childhood chum Darla (yes: her real name), in the vast fields behind my house. I wore a blue velour shirt, Darla wore an orange one; we taped on our home-made Starfleet insignias and brandished plastic phasers and communicators we’d made from kits. Hours and hours of buddy-bonding enjoyment.  My beloved, unfortunately, was blurry on some of the details, and not because of the perky and brash Pinot Noir.

“Okay,” I say. “But who played who?”

“She was the Captain!” the beloved blurted out.

“Whose name was….?”

“Piccolo! Cuinard! Something like that!”

“Wrong Star Trek!”

“Dang! Okay, okay, but you were #1!”

“Wrong Star Trek again!”  We’ve got a cultural divide here, plus the May-December thing going on.

“You were– you were– you were Scotty!”  It was so sad, the look of triumph on her face. I told her I knew she loved me anyhow.  (Darla: Kirk. Me: Spock.  But many of you knew that already.)

On the other side of us was a pair of women who were clearly not a couple. I suggested to the beloved that they were sisters. One had blond hair, the other brown, but otherwise their features were quite similar. I launched into the gazillionth re-tread of an old joke of mine (singing the first five words of the Donny & Marie song, “I’m a Little Bit Country (I’m a Little Bit Rock n’ Roll)”, and the beloved commenced to guffawing. Why? Fifteen years. You only need the joke cues; no longer the whole joke.  In another fifteen, I’ll be able to shave it down to even fewer notes.

anniv5-dessert

We had neither the belly space nor the money for desert, but it came anyway, thanks to the graciousness of the fine upstanding establishment.  All manner of confections, all featuring chocolate. I went to say something to the beloved just after she had sunk her teeth into the first of them, but she waved her hand in front of my face.  “Don’t interrupt me,” she said, as soon as she could catch her breath.  Thereafter I didn’t.

When the waitron came with the tab, she proved her queer-cultural ignorance by placing the tray down next to me. The mannish one.  “Close, but no cigar, my sweet naïf,” I think to myself, as I push the tray over to the be-lipsticked beloved, our family’s CFO and primary breadwinner. We lesbians do things differently.  We’re kind of like Canada.  Only the day before the beloved had demonstrated to some of the gals in her summer theater production how you can lead in a dance, even while you hold the arm position of the follower. “Polly and I have danced this way for years,” she said, to muffled chuckles.

With any luck, we’ll continue to.

anniv3-selvesportrait@sfmoma

25 Responses to Scattered notes from an anniversary

  1. SAHD Dad July 17, 2009 at #

    First, “Hi” from a new reader. Looking forward to reading more. Although you couldn’t possibly do this good a job all of the time. And if you do, I’m very jealous.
    Mazel Tov on your anniversary!! My wife and I will have been married for 16 years come September (although we’ve been together for 22). Yeah, yeah, I know. hen we announced our engagement everyone said “Good, it’s about time.”
    But most importantly, I had a question about your “extendo-date” theory. How do you manage to actually do anything? Every time we have the chance to be alone for more than a few hours, all we ever want to do is sleep (and yes, I mean really sleep). Lord knows our four-year-old doesn’t ever let us rest any other time.

    • Lesbian Dad July 17, 2009 at #

      Welcome, brother! And thank you. Mazels tov back at you!

      A key extendo-date point: extend the EARLY part of it! Not the late. It was a revelation to look at one another in broad daylight. But it was key to have the extra time before we got tired and the many, many, many sleep-deprived nights came a knockin’ at the inside of our eyelids. We’d never make it past midnight, unless there was a thumping funky beat and the twinkly disco-ball-lit room.

  2. Maggie July 17, 2009 at #

    Wow. Just wow! What a wonderful, special story, thank you so much for sharing that with us! And the photo, well thank you…we don’t get many of you & the Beloved! Your story made me giggle & smile from ear to ear at the thought of MY love of 2.5 years…and the hope that we, too, one day, will be celebrating our 15th anniversary. Thank you for this, truly.

  3. Lesbian Dad July 17, 2009 at #

    Thank you Maggie, for the wow, for the ear-to-ear, for the giggling. I am stingy with the pictures of me, (& less, so, but also stingy with the beloved). But it’s true, it’s nice to have faces to attach to the stories.

    Much love to you and your sweetie for the next 12.5 (+) years.

  4. lesbianbride July 17, 2009 at #

    You guys are too cute. Happy anniversary 🙂 As someone who plans to start a family next year, I love your parenting stories, but this one is even more special – shows that the relationship is still ever present.

  5. angelina...in oakland July 17, 2009 at #

    Brilliant, and beautiful! Wonderful post and we here at casa Bustos-Wright wish you blessings and much continued joy, and a surcease of the pain, soon soon soon. It is inspiring to read of you holding your loved ones closer and more dear as a response to tragedy, but I really hope that as the newness wears off the sharpness will too.

    Thinking about you.

  6. The Tutugirl July 17, 2009 at #

    Y’all are such a wonderfully cute couple. Happy Anniversary! I loved reading about your day- y’all are clearly still so in love.

  7. Cat@PinkAsparagus July 17, 2009 at #

    My favorite part? The perfectly fantastic picture of you both! I can’t recall seeing such a thing on your site before. It should happen more often. I wish for everyone to be lucky enough to have someone to have someone to spend their kids’ lunch money with 🙂

  8. dykeevolution July 17, 2009 at #

    LD, thanks for sharing this story! I wish you both much love and happiness for the next 15. <3

  9. weese July 17, 2009 at #

    i’ll confess…i have been lurking. its your photos. i simply love them and i heart your wee ones. when you get all political and newsy and such, i will admittedly skim…if that. o well. if you knew me…you would simply nod. i am an ex news junkie… one must be careful of falling off the wagon…ah but i digress.

    i wanted to say…even created a login just to say – happy anniversary.
    you (meaning the both of you…together –as a collective you) are adorable.
    we (meaning us…my wife and I… the collective us) will be celebrating out 25th next week. our children are grown now – so its easier for us to slip away… as long as we are home soon enough to let the dog out. but i couldn’t agree more about taking the time… for the two of you. its so important. its what gets us to 10,15 25 and 50 years – still in love. still smitten.
    happy 15 dears.

  10. Vikki July 17, 2009 at #

    You are a fine lookin’ couple! Congrats to you both!

  11. tisworthwhile July 17, 2009 at #

    I recently stayed at the Palace hotel (at $135/night it was as cheap as a La Quinta, believe it or not) and we ate breakfast in that tea room every morning. It made me whisper. It made my son scream. Thankfully, the maitre’d had us in the back corner FAR from the entrance. I hope we didn’t interrupt any sweet anniversary teas…

    I think the antithesis of an “extendo-date” is traveling with your kids (which I’ve done a lot of lately). It’s exponentially more work. I hear an extendo-date calling my name very soon – thanks for the tip. It’s a great one.

    Happy to hear another happy story of couplehood. Congrats and thanks for sharing!

  12. rev2bebt July 17, 2009 at #

    Once again, you made me laugh, you made me cry happy tears at the love that infuses your photographs. You two are beautiful.
    Happy Anniversary, and best wishes for many more.

  13. megincl July 17, 2009 at #

    I love this recounting. And I can get the joy, love, and PLAY that the two of you have together. Many congrats!!!!

  14. Lesbian Dad July 18, 2009 at #

    Thank you thank you thank you, lesbianbride, angelina…, The Tutugirl, Cat@PinkAsparagus, dykeevolution, weese, Vikki, and tisworthwhile! And welcome you new-to-the-chatroom folks!

    You know, as with all personal narrative blogs (as vs. political analysis or news reportage or what have you), it’s an interesting challenge, where to draw the line around the content. I realize (just this scant 4.5 years into parenthood) that nurturing one’s relationship is every inch as valuable as nurturing one’s kids. Just as challenging, just as rewarding. I think it took us this long to realize it. And of course it took the sudden death of an old friend to remind me how little it can be taken for granted.

    Party like it’s 1999, basically. In a good way.

  15. Lesbian Dad July 18, 2009 at #

    Hey and thanks you gals, rev2bebt and megincl. Your notes came during the epic pause it took me between starting my comment, responding to a kid or two, and then finishing it.

    Thank you all. Love, and the aiding and abetting thereof: it’s some of our finest work as a species. Thank you for cheering ours, and inspiring much more of it.

  16. francesca July 19, 2009 at #

    Hello lovebirds!!! This is just such a stellar reminder of who is writing this underneath it all – under the giant suck and fallout of Prop 8, under mourning and loss, under financial pressure and the balance between time/energy. Look how radiant you are together – print that out and stash it in your wallet. This is just a wonderful post and I’m thankful the two of you got to reconnect and fall in love all over again. You’re the couple we want to be in 15 years 🙂 xoxo f

    • Lesbian Dad July 19, 2009 at #

      XOXO back, francesca! I’m absolutely positive that all the stressors, every loss around us has made us that much more acutely aware of what we have, what we ought to care about, what we ought to simply let go.

      Not sure I’d have asked for any of them (several I would have made a deal with the devil to keep from happening). But we just can’t have that insight, so dearly bought, go for naught. Living and loving as fully as possible seems to be the only sensible response. (Elswhere, madness lies.)

  17. Jennifer PM July 19, 2009 at #

    What a wonderful way to celebrate your anniversary! Muchas felicidades!

  18. Lesbian Dad July 19, 2009 at #

    !Gracias, Jennifer PM!

  19. Sinclair July 20, 2009 at #

    Aww! Congrats on the anniversary, I love hearing the stories of how you’ve made it work all these years. I just adore the photo of the two of you at the end, you look so happy and beautiful.

  20. Lesbian Dad July 20, 2009 at #

    Thank you, Sinclair. One of my favorite aphorisms about longevity in relationships came from a woman whose memoir I was helping edit (she’s a “deep ecology” Buddhist speaker/activist).

    When she and her husband were being married — this was over fifty years ago in New York; he just died last year at 80-something — the pastor who married them sealed the ceremony with the words, “May you ever be strangers to one another.” At first the words seemed puzzling. But over time, I’ve realized that it’s really a precious gift we give someone we don’t yet know: spaciousness, a lack of prejudgement, a willingness to discover.

  21. Lesbian Dad July 20, 2009 at #

    Okay and one more thing. Not that you asked. But you opened the door. One of the other most precious things I’ve learned is that there are a few utterly non-negotiable traits one needs from a partner that are way less insignificant in other people in one’s life. There are many traits & qualities that fellow collective members can have, political comrades, folks one canoodles with (or f*ck buddies, whichever term suits!).

    Over the long haul, though, what’s been indispensable for us is a shared willingness to work at discovering and articulating the most painful emotional truths. This, coupled with a decisive lack of narcissism. Chronic narcissism and long-term relationships are really hard to reconcile, if you ask me.

    The absence of these particular skills may or may not sink one’s relationship with political or intellectul or sexual comrades. But it feels to me that their absence (or fatal flaws) will surely sink a long-term partner relationship.

    It’s true that we never tire of hearing what the other thinks about this and that, we love to listen to each other talking to other people, negotiating complex intellectual or emotional terrain. But it’s the skills and willingness that we bring to bear on the relationship work that we simply couldn’t persevere without. In this regard, for every one of the past 15 years, I’ve felt like I was playing tennis with someone who’s better at it than me, by just enough to keep me working hard (but not so much as to make me feel like it’s a hopeless mismatch).

  22. dimplecheek July 22, 2009 at #

    Congrats to you and the Beloved! Thank you for sharing this great love story and inspiring me to make that extended date for me and my love. We will have known each other 10 years on the 31st of this month!

    I hope it is okay with you that I wanted to share this post with some of my readers and friends. I posted a link to it on my blog (http://www.dimplecheek.blogspot.com/). If that is not okay, please let me know and I will remove the link. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission I guess.

    As always, I love your writing and learning more about you and your life. This 42 year old hetero wants to be just like you when I grow up!

    • Lesbian Dad July 22, 2009 at #

      You are so sweet! And jasureyoubetcha (all one word, at least as it’s written in Minnesota), link away. And by all means, on your extendo-date: start it early! Rather than stretch it late. I didn’t make that clear in the post, but that’s what totally worked for us. Seeing each other by the light of day, WITHOUT HAVING OUR EVERY SENTENCE INTERRUPTED, and having the leisure to continue the conversations. Wow, that was nothing short of a revelation.

      Happy upcoming anniversary to you, too, dimplecheek!

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