In May of 1991 I had just moved back to Madison, Wisconsin after four years in Denver, Colorado. Denver was beautiful and I loved it and had made many friends there, but it was never home. I had also recently broken up with my boyfriend after a five-year long relationship and countless break-ups and make-ups. I was tired of the emotional yo-yo and had also decided that it was the last break-up and that I didn’t need anyone else in my life to be fulfilled and to be a complete human being.
Shortly after moving to Madison I was at the pinball machine at Rod’s bar, a basement bar in the old Hotel Washington building which burned down several years later. I looked up and saw my friend, Billy, coming down the stairs with someone I hadn’t seen before. I can’t remember if I thought it to myself or said it aloud to my friend, Dan, but I remember my first thought was, “Damn, that boy’s cute.” Billy introduced me to Brian, they wandered off, and I went back to my pinball game. We bumped into each other again a little bit later, but that was about it.
By that time in my life I was sober. I had quit drinking after more than a decade of nearly constant drunkenness. Still, I went back to Rod’s for several nights in a row hoping to bump into Brian again. There was something about him. I wanted to talk to him some more. One night when I was there by myself with an empty bar stool next to me Brian walked in the door and asked if he could join me. He sat down and we ended up talking for hours–about gay politics, other politics, theater, movies, music, philosophy, religion, and on and on. There was a connection there, some indefinable understanding that while we were different we shared many interests and convictions.
After five years with my ex I was not looking for a relationship at that time, but at some point after that long conversation in the bar we had our first date, and then another, and another. On my birthday on May 27 we had another date and kissed for the first time as Brian was at the door ready to head home for the night. Happy Birthday to me! By June 1 we had determined that we were a couple. Within a short time I knew that it would be the longest relationship of my life. Within a short time after that I knew that we were meant for each other and that it would be a lifetime (and beyond) relationship.
We have been through a lot together. We have worked together to make Proud Theater, an LGBT youth theater group, a success. We have worked together in other theater work, primarily at Broom Street Theater. We work well together. We are each other’s biggest fans. We make each other laugh. After twenty-five years we still laugh a lot and I truly believe that is one of the important keys to a long-lasting relationship.
On the other hand, we have each watched the other lose a best friend–my friend to suicide, his to AIDS, as well as other friends and family. We have watched as his mother died of cancer and as my mother has slowly degenerated into dementia. We have supported each other through many difficult emotional issues. And with each tough day that we have experienced we have grown stronger together.
Twenty-five years later our love continues to grow. Now we don’t have to finish sentences. We support each other in all we do, but are honest when we don’t agree. We rarely disagree strongly and we have had only a few major disagreements or fights in our time together. We joke about growing old together. We appreciate each other more with each passing day. We still hold hands all the time. We still kiss each other upon leaving or arriving. We still say I love you every day, many times. And as we grow older we both fear losing the other, not being able to imagine life without each other.
Interestingly we are each our own men. We do not need the other to be complete, and yet we complete each other in some way. We complement each other (and compliment each other). We are whole beings by ourselves but we are made more whole together.
When I was younger I couldn’t imagine finding a life partner. I couldn’t imagine a day when I could marry a partner. When that became legal we decided to wait until our 25th anniversary because we wanted to make sure it would stay legal and that it would be legal in our home state of Wisconsin. We are now planning that for sometime in the fall. We don’t need that to know that we are committed to each other. We don’t need to pronounce it aloud so that others know. Our love will outlast the paper. I look forward to the next twenty-five years.