Sunday, October 3, 2010
192 Hours of Togetherness
Gabbie and I flew home from Quebec City last night.
It was the last destination of an eight day vacation together, just the two of us.
Quebec City is beautiful! I had no idea that a European city existed in North America.
After the difficult year I've had with Gabbie, I saw this trip as a test of our relationship. I wondered, without the buffer of the kids, would we feel awkward and uncomfortable when we were along together? Or, would our relationship feel natural and strong?
I also wondered, would any of our underlying issues bubble to the surface? After all, we hadn't spent so much time alone together in years. If issues did bubble-up, what pivotal conversations might happen?
Now that the trip is over and we're slipping back into our usual responsibilities and routines, I've been reflecting on our time together and what it means for our future.
My biggest problem with Gabbie has not been our illogical pairing (Why would a gay man WANT to be with a woman? Why would a woman WANT to be with a gay man?) but rather her lack of a clear commitment to me.
I don't want to be kept around for practical reasons. I want a partner who cares about me and wants to spend time with me.
The most important thing I learned from our eight days together is that Gabbie does not question whether we have a future together. MANY times she spoke about future plans together and she spoke without qualification or hesitation. She spoke about our future together so naturally and so frequently that it became clear to me that I was the only one who was still questioning our relationship.
I hadn't expected that.
It took me a few days, but I think I can accept it as fact that Gabbie does not intend to leave me any time soon.
If I am the one who has a commitment issue, I have to ask myself if I am happy to stay in an imperfect marriage.
With some reluctance, I have decided that is the best answer is to stay.
I made that decision on our 6th day together. In retrospect, I wonder if our surroundings exerted some important influence.
We were on a cruise ship where the average passenger's age was in their 70s. Out of roughly two thousand passengers, fewer than 10 were in their 20s or 30s. Fewer than 15 were in their 40s. And while those in their 50s were definitely represented, they were still overwhelmed by a sea of white hair and white faces, shuffling along.
Also, most of the passengers were coupled. During an early gathering of about 500 people, we were supposed to raise our hands if we had been married at least 20 years. Almost every hand was up. And the hands stayed up even as the number of years of marriage increased. At 45 years of marriage about half the audience still had their hands up. It wasn't until 60 years or more of marriage that few hands remained.
All of those older, long-term couples...they sure seemed happy to be together. After witnessing many interactions it was obvious to me that life-long commitment is a wonderful thing. At minimum, you have someone who can remind you to take the right pills or to lend you their reading glasses when you forget yours.
Getting old sucks and being bonded to someone who loves you no matter how much your body has deteriorated...well, isn't that what true love is all about?
Without question, the many older married couples around us increased my own desire to someday be among them; to grow old with my pain-in-the-ass Gabbie.
Homosexuals were the least obviously represented demographic group on the ship. (Well, except for teenagers. There were literally none of those.) By my count, there were eight homosexuals on the ship - four of the six male dancers, one gay couple and probably one lesbian couple. (An aside. An easy test to see if you are a homo: if you are watching a stage production with young, good-looking, scantily clad men and women, and you barely notice that there are women on the stage, you're definitely a homo.) The lesbian couple I couldn't be certain about because I never really saw them alone together. Their look was distinctly lesbian, however.
I saw the gay couple together frequently, but even the first time I saw them together I knew they were gay. The whole ship knew. But not because they were physical with each other in any way and not because they dressed like fags or were effeminate in any way. The reason they were obvious was because they were two men who frequently stood next to each other. That's all it took for everyone to know. Perhaps if there had been other single guys on the cruise they wouldn't have been so noticeable. But in this setting, they really stuck out.
In fact, I felt bad for them. I never once saw them interact with anyone else. I wanted to talk to them, of course, but there was never a good opportunity. Neither of them was very out-going and they appeared to be content talking only to each other. I should mention that I found it easy to identify with this couple because one was about five years older than me and the other about five years younger. Curiously, the older one was white and the younger one was Asian. What's up with that stereotype?
Whether it was their personalities, their ages or their sexualities, this couple seemed to be very isolated from the always-smiling, white-haired heteros. They even seem isolated from each other, perhaps because they always stood a foot apart from each other and rarely touched.
So, in addition to a test for Gabbie and I, the week was a study of contrasts. The older, straight, happy couples versus the solitary younger gay couple, who even together appeared to be somewhat isolated from each other. Which did I most want to be?
That's a hypothetical question I don't really need to answer. Or least it wasn't a question I thought I needed to answer only a day ago. As our time together was ending, and having been reassured about Gabbie's commitment to me, I decided to put an end to my fantasies about finding a long-term male partner.
Yet, this morning the doubts rose again within me.
Before she left to spend most of the day at the bar with Charlie, Gabbie commented on the noise of the kids, "We're back for two hours and it's like we never left."
I wonder if perhaps Gabbie isn't right. It's like we never left.
I wish I could be at peace with my decision to stay. Perhaps in time I will have the peace I had for many years, or even the peace I had for most of the past eight days.
But for now I still can't escape the feeling that I'm an accommodation in Gabbie's life.
Should she ask to leave again, my gut instinct is to agree to let her go.
I worry that I will not be able to find peace by staying if I continue to write about gay issues. I'm going to give it some more time before I make a decision. For now, my next post will be about the third option for bisexual and gay men who are married to women.