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It’s hard to believe that Jeff and I are celebrating twenty -nine years as life partners; five married. Equally surreal was realizing it had been nineteen years since we had made a return visit together to the city where we met.
In 1983 I moved to Washington DC. in hope of creating a new life. My path to self-acceptance, happiness, authenticity. So much has changed in thirty-five years. Standing on the corner of 14th and F street, one block from the Treasury Department and less than two blocks from the White House. Julius Garfinckel & Co. would become my second home for seven years. My clientele grew quickly in the salon that was housed inside that grand department store. It’s now divided into office space and a restaurant.
My first apartment, The Windsor House, seems unchanged. But as I watched families with strollers pass I remembered a very naïve young man maneuver between hookers and drug dealers on this very street; on my way home. The corner deli had a sign over the register that read NO PIMPING.
The fountain at Dupont Circle where I would sit and watch artists painting, elderly men play chess, homeless sit and sun themselves. I’d stop on the way to the fountain and buy a salt bagel with cream cheese. I’d never heard of a bagel and the rock salt with the crème cheese seemed so decadent. I’d watch gay couples laugh and hold hands and I’d wonder where my place was in all of this? The voices of my past still chanting “You’ll never be happy being you. They are incapable of commitment and a productive life.” All the old haunts brought back our past. The plague that was killing gay men which was dubbed the ‘Gay Cancer.’ My first march holding my boyfriend’s hand in public for the first time. Personal growth, extreme loss and terrifying fear. Independence, discovery, pride, love.
Jeff and I had forgotten how beautiful the Lincoln Memorial was at night. Three teenage boys were next to us and Jeff asked if they’d mind taking our picture. He showed them the old one that we were trying to recreate from when we’d first met twenty- nine years before. In unison the boys exclaimed “How cool and congrats!” The voices in our present sounded different than those I’d listened to in my past.
Which brings me to Cher. People often have asked what I was thinking or feeling when I’ve met Cher though the years. My answer always the same. I become that ten –year- old boy sitting on his grandmother’s sofa, her high-heels dangling from his feet, while holding the Tiger Beat magazine he’d discovered her in. This meeting however proved different. As Cher took my hands and kissed my cheek she asked about our poodles and congratulated Jeff and I on our anniversary. Cher, in person; takes your breath away. Her exotic beauty is as present as it was when I met her for the first time in 1982. Her youthful energy is timeless and you felt it the moment entering that room. As she turned to Jeff and took his hands I thought about this full circle moment. That mysterious image I’d discovered in Tiger Beat that somehow, in a ten-year-olds mind projected freedom and strength. That image became a poster on the same boy’s bedroom wall a few years later. Giving him the strength to push back against his father’s anger and tyrannizing ways. As Cher kissed Jeff’s cheek he flashed that beautiful smile and beamed with pride over the beautiful weekend he surprised me with. I’m reminded of the magic created through a shared life of truth, love and commitment. Our full circle moment.