On Gay Modern Love: How My Partner Won Back My Vote

21Jun08

In which The Gay Recluse presents a gay alternative to this week’s Modern Love offering in The Times. Please note that The Gay Recluse is an evil traffic whore and the essay on which the below parody is based was “lifted from The Times without permission.” Those looking for our quantitative analysis should click here.

Gay Modern Love
How My Partner Won Back My Vote
Published: June 21, 2008

LAST year I boycotted our 18th wedding anniversary. My partner, Andrea (yes, that’s her name, too!) had gone out of town for our anniversary day but had left me a gift. I refused to open it. She called at least 10 times. I didn’t answer. And, for the first time, I didn’t give her an anniversary gift. I desperately wanted to make a statement, to shake us out of our ingrained and selfish habits.

Louisiana had suffered two devastating hurricanes in 2005, and Andrea happened to run the state’s recovery program. It was intense, stressful work, and my partner is as dedicated as they come. But two years in, something had to give, and I was afraid it was going to be us.

I was no stranger to Andrea’s all-consuming jobs, but now her work had begun to consume our family.

She would routinely enter the house at night with a finger to her lips so no one would greet her while she finished a work call. Most family dinners she spent pacing the back porch on her BlackBerry, solving another can’t-wait crisis.

Her work obsession was so notorious that our friends made sport of snapping pictures of her glued to her phone at the few nonwork events she attended, like the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Grouchy and neglected, I became the quintessential bitch, maligning her in advance of an anticipated slight.

Then came our Easter beach trip to Alabama. No sooner had we buckled our seat belts than Andrea announced she needed absolute silence for the first hour of our drive while she took a call from a Washington bigwig. We grumbled and pouted but restrained ourselves admirably.

Or so I thought. When my once relaxed and fun-loving partner got off the phone, she turned and chewed out our kids for laughing in the back seat. Laughing!

That’s right, I thought, nothing to laugh about here. We argued, and I proceeded to sulk through the weekend, freezing her out at every opportunity. On the sullen drive home, I schemed up my anniversary boycott for the following month.

Andrea’s anniversary present to me sat unopened on our kitchen counter for 79 days, from May to August, when I finally conceded that she could re-gift it for my birthday. But all summer it served as a daily reminder that we needed to treat each other better and make our marriage a priority again.

The way we had in the beginning, when, six days after our wedding, we left behind our gifts and friends to fly off for a three-month seat-of-the-pants European bicycle journey, and then to Tanzania, where Andrea had won a yearlong Rotary scholarship.

Ours was a marriage launched in adventure, risk and the unknown. We cared for each other through intestinal worms, malaria and schistosomiasis. Often isolated by language, race and culture, we discovered that being strangers together in a strange land built a special intimacy, respect and trust.

After we returned, Andrea pursued a career of high-profile political work, including stints as chief of staff for two Louisiana governors. Although raising two children, now 13 and 14, certainly could be considered another joint foray as strangers in a strange land, we often found that parenthood left us more alone than together on everything from discipline to car-pooling to weekends at the La Quinta Inn for an away swim meet.

Then we fell into the black hole of hurricane recovery.

After two decades together, our relationship was on the verge of becoming another storm casualty. My anniversary boycott succeeded in pulling us from the brink: we established rules about BlackBerry use, committed to official date nights, bit our tongues and tried to listen to each other more.

Months later, when the time came for Andrea to transition out of her job, she cut back her hours, allowing her more time for bike rides on the Mississippi River levee, children’s soccer games and movies. All of which helped, but we were still in the same basic situation, just better behaved. I feared our days of transformation were behind us.

Until, that is, our congressman quit midstream to become a lobbyist. The Louisiana governor called a special election to fill the job, and Andrea said she wanted to run.

At first I didn’t know what to think. I was intrigued but worried that the stress of a campaign would undo the stability we had recently achieved. Our son, recalling Andrea’s intention to spend more time with us, viewed it as a broken promise.

Only our daughter saw a potential upside, saying, “Do you know how popular I’ll be?”

But in chewing over the decision with Andrea, I began to feel something familiar stir in me. It was the same feeling of passion and teamwork from our early days, that adventurous time in our lives when we had more dreams than answers, when we realized that what remained in the bank, if all else failed, was each other.

For two weeks we wrestled with the question, weighing our financial concerns, the children’s after-school schedules and the two dream jobs she would turn down.

What if she lost? Then again, what if she won and had to commute between Baton Rouge and Washington every week?

Finally we decided to go for it. I forced a nervous smile as she launched her campaign with a speech she had practiced endlessly at our dining room table. As her tempo built, I stopped listening for “ums” and missteps and started nodding my own “amens.”

The lady knew what she was talking about. All those years of dedicated work had given her a wealth of insight and experience. Our leap off the cliff sprouted wings.

As the campaign began in earnest, I shoved aside my work and activities to serve the cause. The children’s social lives were also put on hold for a relentless series of events: meet and greets, fund-raisers, debates.

In Andrea ’s previous positions, I skipped many of the social events she was expected to attend, preferring to spend my time working alone. But in this mad dash of a campaign, I was fully on board.

Our daughter embraced it, too. She loved the media attention (especially being in a television commercial) and the crush of activity at our house: late-night strategy sessions and speech practice.

Our son felt abandoned for a while but then became swept up in the excitement as well, and soon he and his sister were distributing fliers, waving signs, entering names into databases, creating a Facebook page for publicity, even dressing our dog in a campaign T-shirt and parading around the farmers’ market.

I attended Andrea ’s first meet and greet as moral support, arriving late and frazzled, not intending to participate. I devoured three powdery lemon bars before sinking into the couch to listen to Andrea present her vision to the small crowd. Someone asked about health care, and Andrea talked about her plan for managing the skyrocketing costs. When I raised my hand, she looked at me in surprise.

Earlier in the day I had been at the state Office of Group Benefits looking into our own insurance needs, and I told the group about how I had commiserated with a woman there, talking up Andrea and her candidacy, and had left with the promise of a bunch of votes.

The living room crowd clapped wildly. Shyness be damned. For 36 days, multiple times each day, I found myself erupting with stories about the qualities I love most in my partner: her scrappy nature, her ability to get along with that person in the office no one else can tolerate, how we love to cook together, how we stay up too late talking and strategizing.

I bragged about her unusual accomplishments professionally — leaping the partisan divide to serve consecutively as chief of staff to a Republican, then Democratic governor. How she came home at night determined to create the most talented and racially diverse Louisiana state agency ever. Plus the gays!

At one event late in the campaign, a battle-hardened lobbyist asked me, “So what’s your take on this campaign?”

She was a political junkie seeking insider opinion. I gave it to her, though it wasn’t exactly what she was expecting: “I recommend a political campaign to anyone whose marriage needs work.”

When she looked at me funny, I said, “After two decades together, it was all too easy for me and Andrea to insult each other, despite how much we love each other.”

She nodded as if she had been there. And frankly, who hasn’t?

How often, I explained to the lobbyist, do you have the chance to stand up and broadcast everything beautiful and impressive about the person you love? And to do it over and over again?

Later that night she caught up with me and thanked me for what I had said.

AFTER 18 years, anyone’s marriage can fall into a rut. But campaigning for my partner made me fall in love with her all over again. This was never more true than on that unbearable Saturday night in March when I stood beside Andrea as she gripped the podium and faced the crowd of friends and supporters who had believed in her campaign as wholly as I had. The returns were in, and Andrea had lost.

Ever the optimist, Andrea used her concession speech to extol the virtues of our community, recalling the strength of people who had rebuilt after Katrina and Rita. She also sent a message of love and appreciation my way, thanking me for how I had pushed her to dream, to imagine better, to never settle for the status quo. She was talking about politics, but she might as well have been speaking about our marriage.

The next day, Andrea and I drove around Baton Rouge thanking her supporters and collecting yard signs. Plucking those signs from the earth felt as if we were yanking up flowers by the roots.

But I wore my silver necklace, the one I had ignored for 79 days, my anniversary-cum-birthday gift. With its hundreds of delicately crafted silver fingers, the necklace far outshined my khaki shorts and campaign T-shirt.

I wore it that day knowing I had earned it. We both had — giver and receiver. For taking a risk and venturing back into a strange land together. For needing each other again. The campaign took us to great heights and led to a bruising fall, yet it also gave us a cushion to ease our landing.

__________, a writer in Baton Rouge, La., recently completed her first novel.

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2 Responses to “On Gay Modern Love: How My Partner Won Back My Vote”

  1. 1 Sierra

    That was sooooo sweet.


  1. 1 homo-neurotic · Blog Links: boy culture is not afraid of Katy Perry

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