Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Me and Joe

I met my partner Joe (that's his real name - not Howard - but thanks for playing along Michael) in the summer of 1996 and we have been together since. We are very much a 'together' couple; we do everything together. We go to the grocery store together, we go to family and office functions together, etc. We don't have 'my friends' and 'his friends' - we have 'our friends'. But it's that way because we like it that way, not because we're trying to fit into some conventional design of what an ideal couple should be. Despite the way it might look, we are not trying to mirror married straight couples. We're just living our lives together as we feel comfortable. And even though we are not legally married, we very much FEEL married and committed to each other.

Now, if you're not heaving and gagging over all that, you'll be happy to know that we do not always agree. In fact, despite our many similarities, we are also quite different. Much of that I believe comes from the way we were raised. Joe was raised in a very-Catholic family and I was raised in a very-Jehovah's Witness family. Joe and his siblings were raised in a 'do unto others' household, and were encouraged to go to college and become independent. (Note: this encouragement worked on 3 of the 5 kids.) My siblings and I was raised in an apocalyptic household, and were encouraged to convert all we could, as 'the end of the world is just around the corner'. These different types of upbringing molded our thinking, and even as adults who no longer identify as Catholic or Jehovah's Witness, we still recognize their occasional traces in our lives. But as the saying goes: Variety is the spice of life. I think we compliment each other.

When a member of the Jehovah's Witness religion decides to he/she no longer wishes to be a member, or if the congregation leaders determine one no longer qualifies for membership, one is disfellowshipped. That means he/she is no longer allowed to associate or have any contact with anyone who is still a Jehovah's Witness - even one's family. When I 'came out' I knew that I no longer qualified to be a JW nor did I desire to continue being a JW so I was disfellowshipped. Since all of my immediate family and most of my extended family are JWs I felt quite a loss. (More on that in a future post.) But I felt very fortunate when Joe introduced me to his family, who is warm, loving, and accepting. They have welcomed me into their family.

Joe and I would frequently have Sunday dinner with the family at his parents house. Rigatoni with sausage and salad; a Sunday tradition I gladly accepted. When Joe's father passed away in 1999 due to leukemia, the Sunday dinners stopped. Joe and I wanted to be sure we regularly spent time with his mom and cared for her, so we decided to pick her up on Thursday evenings and take her out to dinner. (More about Thursday night dinners with Joe's mom in future posts.) These visits have given us the chance to really become close, and she treats me like her son, rather than her son-in-law. We always laugh and have a good time!

Joe and I are fortunate to have a great circle of friends with whom we enjoy spending time, traveling, eating, and just hanging out. Not all of our friends are like us, which is just fine with me. (Remember: Variety is the spice of life...) We've enjoyed weekend trips to the mountains and the beach with friends. Joe went to Alaska with a friend. And next month we are going skiing in Vermont with friends. We also enjoy eating out a lot with friends. My two favorite food types are Mexican and Thai, and living near DC there is no shortage of places to eat ethnic food. We also enjoy entertaining in our home. Most years we have a big holiday open house! We invite neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, everybody and for a few hours we all pack into our house and enjoy homemade food, drinks and friendship. It's a lot of fun, but a lot of work too. For that reason, we don't have it every year. It's a fun chance to see some of our friends we don't see often, as well as a good chance for some of our friends to meet each other. We also enjoy very casual entertaining with some of our closer friends. Since we know each other so well, we eat in the kitchen and use our everyday dishes and flatware. After dinner we'll just sit in the living room and talk and laugh and have a good time. To me, 'this is the stuff that life is made of'.

Joe and I love being at the beach. Just a few months after we met, we went on a week's vacation at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We rented a beach house, just the two of us, and had a great time. Neither of us are the types to lie for hours baking in the sun. (Joe is afraid of skin cancer and I am just to fair-skinned to tolerate all that sun.) But just being near the water has a soothing affect on us. We've been back to the OBX several times since then, both with friends and just the two of us. Then, in 2001 a friend of ours invited us to stay in her little mobile home near the beach in Lewes, DE. (Lewes sounds like Lewis.) She'd bought the trailer (mobile home) from an older couple who used it as their summer and weekend get-away for many years. It was built in 1955 and still retains much of it's vintage charm. We enjoyed staying there several times, so when our friend's circumstances changed and she decided to sell the trailer, we bought it from her in March of 2003. Since then, we have spent at least one weekend per month, every month, at the beach. This month we invested with another couple and bought a house in Lewes. We've just started moving our stuff from the trailer to the house, and look forward to spending our first weekend there. We're looking for a new 'care taker' for the vintage trailer.

Joe is a social worker and psychotherapist by training. He is currently the Associate Director at an HIV/AIDS and GLBT clinic. Much of my career has been spent in the telecommunications industry. For the last 2 1/2 years I have been the Client Services Manager for a web conferencing company. I produce live web conferences on the internet for our clients.

We have two pets: Jordan and Pouncer. Jordan is a Lemon Beagle. Typically beagles are brown, white, and black but a lemon beagle is tan and white. Many times people are not sure what breed she is because of her confusing coloration. We got her from a rescue league when she was almost 2 years old. She was already named Jordan. We considered changing her name to something less trendy, but since she had so many bad habits (getting on the furniture and bed) that we had to dissuade her from, we thought that changing her name might be too much. So, we added to it. Her name is now Jordan Merna Louise. :-) Pouncer The Wonder Cat is our domestic short-hair cat. We got him from the local animal shelter a few months after Jordan. He was just a few weeks old, but since he was tan and white like Jordan, Joe thought it would be funny to have 'matching' pets, so we brought Pouncer home. I picked the name Pouncer The Wonder Cat, but we usually just call him Pouncer. In the movie 'Beaches' (one of my all-time favorites), Hilary's daughter Victoria has a cat named Pouncer, and in one scene she sings to the cat "Pouncer, Pouncer, the Wonder Cat. I'm so glad you're not a rat... or a bat... or too fat." Our Pouncer truly IS a wonder cat: he responds to verbal commands! When I tell him to 'come here', or 'get down', or 'stop' - just about anything - he does it. He is not at all the typical cat that ignores people. Pouncer is quite affectionate, and loves to sit on my stomach and chest while I watch TV. He also licks me. The vet said it is a bonding behavior, similar to the licking that dogs commonly do. He is the first cat I'd ever heard of that licked. Jordan and Pouncer get along great. We have a sweet photo on our mantel of the two of them sleeping together on the same pet bed. :-)

More to come...

9 comments:

Michael said...

I want a cat who thinks its a dog!

This is a really good blog. I will be back to read your continuing adventures. Ciao bello!

Mike

Anonymous said...
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RussCinDC said...

Ah, isn't domestic bliss wonderful? I've been with Ken nearly a decade too.

Mike said...

Hi Mark, I just found your blog this morning. My man and I have been together for 23yrs. We live in Studio City Ca. Nice blog, will be visiting often. Later, Mike and Glenn, Hollywood.

Daryl said...

Hello, I just found your blog from another link. I will be back, I'm not usually one to leave comments, I'm a lurker. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mark,
I am Carlos, Bob's b/f (from I should be laughing). I am writing after I read that your b/f, Joe, is the director of a HIV/AIDS clinic.
I work as an outreach peer for a community based health care center with a Ryan White Part-C section in SC. If possible, I would like to exchange notes with Joe about what he is doing regarding community education. SC is sooooo behind in time it is not funny. He can email me at ooblast@aol.com
Thanks and congrats.
Carlos

Tai said...

I'm glad of getting to know a great story of you. Thanks for sharing :D

Muppet said...

I too am usually not a comment leaver, but this blog was refreshingly honest, candid, and witty... well done you...I'm hooked! ;D

My Big Itch said...

Hi Mark.. I like your blog a lot and have been reading it since I found it, weeks ago. It gives me encouragement with regard to my own relationship of almost 9 months. I started my own blog called My Big Itch (www.mybigitch.blogspot.com) and I hope you will check it out and add yourself as a FOLLOWER. I too am a gay man, who took some time to accept that. My relationships are difficult and self acceptance for me at times is difficult as well. Thats what I write about. I could sure use the help, feedback and support as well as knowing that you and others are out there. Thanks, Steve