I miss the word Lover. It’s an action word. One that can be taken as a verb,‘to love’ or as ‘one who loves.’
When I was a kid men took lovers. And I’m not just talking about dark, blue-eyed men who gazed into each other’s eyes on dark moonlit streets and felt their hearts race and sweat. Hell, Cary Grant and Rock Hudson took lovers in the old 60’s flicks. Peter Gunn had a lover, Edie Hart. He called her ‘Silly’. It was playful and sexy and gorgeous and dangerous all at once. Exciting and adventurous. Spontaneous. It was cool.
Back before all this arguing about men marrying men went on we were rebels. Guys who took lovers. It was sort of dark and mysterious the way we’d meet, fall for each other and become something active: men who engaged in love. It always made my knees go weak when someone—the coolest guy I knew—cause, who the hell else would you fall for, right?—told people I was his lover. I still remember the first time it happened. It was an exciting and rich and powerful experience. A man and his lover can do anything together. If you don’t believe me look up the concept of an army of lovers in ancient Greece. Love inspires courage: romance, enthusiasm and hope.
Lovers gave you their leather jackets to wear. They took the diamond stud out of their ear and slipped it into yours. Lovers showed you their tattoos on dark patio bars and flexed their muscles for you while you laughed and stared into each other’s eyes and told each other how much you fucking loved that song that was playing and, oh yeah, by the way, they fucking loved you even more. Lovers walked you home in the dark and grabbed your hand protectively when creeps walked by—especially cops. Lovers knew what you loved and surprised you with it. Even if they didn’t read they brought you a bookcase cause they knew you read. Lovers gave you a ring no matter what the world said about how the two of you could or couldn’t love each other: and that act of defiance was what mattered more than any piece of paper ever could because it meant they were willing to fight by your side which is a real rarity right now. Lovers danced with you slow to the fast songs. They were your friends. And that was the best part. Cause you could tell them anything. Your rebel status made you partners in crime. And the fact that they could walk away at any time made you appreciate them more. And hopefully, hopefully: you gave them twice as much.
Then, at some point, some pinhead sociologist who worked for some god-awful University and who desperately wanted the acceptance of everyone around him, even though he’d never fought for anything in his life, raised the banner of mediocrity in the name of all male lovers and decided he wanted to take what was exciting, adventurous and rich and sling it to what already had proved to not work: marriage. He and all his mediocre buddies made the word 'lover' shameful. Asserted that it implied only sex, which means that’s all they had in them. To them being ‘one who loves’ only meant ‘fucking’ because it was the height of their romantic imagination and capabilities.
I know a little something about Romance. It’s not just that I write about it. It’s a driver in me. I have this sort of innate aversion to anything that threatens it because Romance is a powerful force that can propel us to greatness. King Arthur knew this. So did Guinevere. They used it to build Camelot. And the ancient Sage Kings in the East used it to build unbreakable, powerful and prosperous kingdoms that people would die to defend.
So, why? Why this hue and cry for marriage when being lovers worked so wonderfully? I have a dark theory about it. When you see something dangerous and exotic: exciting and tantalizing and you want to destroy it, the best way to do so is to feed it apathy and sloth. You bring it from its mysterious shadows and make it mundane and it dies in the sunlight like a night dragon. You expose it to the light and suddenly the precious and exotic moon flower that only bloomed in the glistening silver of night suddenly becomes tawdry and common, shriveled up all the way to the roots.
Of all the generations who had witnessed the pitfalls of marriage, GenX is the one that should’ve known better. And yet, true to GenX form, it wanted exactly what had proved to not work in its life to become an enforceable law. They wanted to be “husbands” because the people they’d watched on television growing up had been “husbands”. Instead of wanting to be something bigger. Because being something bigger meant being a maverick. And that scares people.
Husbands make promises to be active then lie on the couch and watch TV. Husbands believe secretly that the piece of paper is the magic talisman that keeps them bound together even though they tell people it isn’t. Husbands can neglect what’s real important in their lives because the law makes it more difficult for the other person to take off on them. Husbands are all about security and banality. Husbands prefer baked goods to adventures. They get fat and stop working out, because, after all, they got the security now, so what the hell have they got to prove? And if they let themselves go and get sick then the legally appointed ‘caretaker’ in their lives has to baby them: if not, their social support network will ostracize them. Husbands overlook. Husbands are proud of their jobs and their toys and all that shit that doesn’t matter in the world more than the fact that their lover is the coolest person they know.
We watched our fathers do it. Our friends. Our uncles. Our grandfathers. Our TV role models. Why the hell would we want to take what was vigorous and rare and magical as lovers and turn it into that?
There’s a reason why women are so drawn to writing romances about men loving men. And it’s not any of the reasons they’ll tell you. They are drawn to it because male lovers are mysterious, forbidden, exotic and luscious. The whole world of lovers is full of romance in its truest sense: so far from the mundane: marriage, children, jobs and taxes that it represents real excitement to them. As a man who has experienced it in both its fullest, craziest, most passionate and at its most boring, neglectful, mundane incarnations I can say: they are right. Romance is truly magnificent when treated as the rare thing it really is. Grasping at security (which is only an illusion anyway) kills romance. It’s a game we run on ourselves. We tell ourselves that if we are married we will not die alone. We will matter. We will be cared for without having to work to maintain our worthiness for those things because, after all, weren’t we born deserving unconditional love like Oprah told us?
And yet, more and more people are dying alone every year regardless of the constant emphasis in our society on the power of marriage.
Now, before I continue I want to say that I’m not saying that only men can have that kind of romance. Everyone can have the romance of lovers. Man-man, man-woman, woman-woman. So long as they treat it as the exotic special and rare thing it is and choose not to force it into the pressures of a system that’s designed to inject cynicism, stress and commonness into our relationships like wedges. Men who loved men had an advantage, though, that’s now being taken away. They’re getting their 'rebel status' revoked and are being sorted into a system that works less than 50 percent of the time. Jesus! Would you buy a smart phone that worked only fifty percent of the time? Then why the hell would anyone take those chances with one of the greatest driving human forces out there: romance?
There are several assumptions about marriage that need to be broken right now before this madness continues.
- First: the concept that marriage, as we currently know it, works to begin with is a joke. The divorce rate proves that’s just not true. Just because the law says you're married doesn’t suddenly mean some dude is gonna stay with you forever. It just means any break up that happens will now be bloodier!
- Second, the concept that marriage will somehow heal mens' souls is a fallacy. If you don’t love yourself now, no publicly sanctioned ritual is gonna make you love yourself. In fact, it’s gonna do more damage than good because it’s going to create an event in your life full of expectations that you then have to live up to. When you don’t live up to them you will either feel you’ve failed or start to lower your expectations and settle. Both are detrimental to your health in general.
- Third: marriage is the apex of romance. That’s not true because legal marriage removes one of the essential pieces of romance: scarcity. It’s hard to appreciate the rarity of something that the law has lashed you to by contract. If I had a dollar for every couple I knew who hated each other but stayed together simply because a divorce would be too costly, I could insulate my house with bread.
Now, I know that many of you are gonna hate me like poison after this blog or erroneously assume that I’m cynical. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I prize romance as the jewel it is: rare and precious and to be cherished and upheld. And I do have an alternative for those of you who also cherish romance. You rare few who see the heinousness of what’s going on with this marriage jive will truly dig this.
Instead of standing in front of some judge you’ve never met before or will meet again and saying “Please tell me my relationship is valid,” consider looking into your lover’s eyes on a full moon night and saying this to him, which is much more honest and healthy: “I’ll stick around as long as the laughter lasts between us.” And then stick by it.
This is a vow that can’t be broken. Because as long as you and your lover laugh you will be able to overcome any obstacle that life throws your way. And as long as you know that, at any moment, if you choose to indulge in selfishness, misery or self pity, you could lose this precious individual who makes you laugh, you will appreciate them for their rarity and specialness. And you will take every action in your power to care for the beauty you have found in him. Because, and remember this my friends—words are cheap and easy. Vows are quickly broken. But actions are undeniable.