I have a story I want you to listen to and remember on Valentine’s Day and hopefully beyond.
When my former husband Gerald was staying with me at the end of his life in 1984, preparing to die from AIDS (see Goodbye, I Love You), he slept on a couch and I slept on another near him. Once in the middle of the night I awoke to his very agitated voice. “Come on, come on…!” I went to him and asked what was happening.
“The curtain won’t go up. It’s ‘La Cage’ and the curtain won’t go up. Come on…come on…!” The landmark gay musical “La Cage Aux Folles” was coming to San Francisco, and with the last of his money Gerald had purchased one ticket. How he was looking forward to attending.
Later, I gave Gerald’s ticket to one of his friends.
“La Cage Aux Folles” was ground breaking because it was about two men who love each other, yes, two gay men. It was the first musical ever to appear on Broadway where two men held hands. And the ballad “Song on the Sands” was the first love song in a gay context to be widely embraced by us non-gay folk.
…Through the crash of the waves,
I could tell that the words were romantic:
Something about sharing,
Something about always.
Though the years race along,
I still think of our song on the sand.
…And I’m young and in love.
The curtain never went up for Gerald. His dream of finding true love in the gay world died with him. Once, after telling me of yet another disappointment, he said, “Blossom, if I could just find a man like you I’d be in seventh heaven.”
So now, my dear gay and lesbian friends, listen up. Do you understand the remarkable day in which you live? Yes, we still have a long way to go. But you–you–live in a day in which the curtain can go up.
You came here to be the hero in your own love story. Not the hero in your own sex story. You have an opportunity so much larger than being able to have sex with the person of your choice. You have the stunning opportunity to fall in love and create a lasting relationship with the person of your choice. That, you know, is something that frightens those who would rather keep you in the closet, even keep you in the bars and the alleyways–-that you will actually fall in love and create lasting joy with your friend/lover/husband/wife. Marry? When Gerald was dying nearly thirty years ago, that thought was unthinkable. And now state after state is allowing gay marriage. Do you appreciate what a privileged time you live in?
So here is my invitation, my challenge, my hope for you. Write and live your own love story, full of all the delight, the heartbreak, the learning, the sweetness that romantic love offers. I know some gay people who seem so enamored with the new availability of sex that they don’t see past that to the larger prize. Love. Romantic love–one of the variations of Real Love that is–-to my observation and experience–-about as close to Divine Love as you are going to get. I had tears both times I recently saw “Les Miserables” and heard, To love another person is to see the face of God. Combining Eros (erotic love) and Agape (Christlike love) creates a richness that leaves plain old sex outside the window looking in as the feast is spread.
Something about sharing,
Something about always…
As I began writing this I went to YouTube to listen to that lovely love song from “La Cage,” and I’d like to ask you to listen too– Song on the Sands. Share it with your loved one. Or dream of your loved one if he/she is not yet present. Then make yourself into the kind of person he/she will find honorable and irresistible. Love each other. And let your love shine on the rest of us.
Finally, I ask you to read this poem I wrote long ago, found now in my book In Love Again and Always. This Valentine’s Day I send every good wish that you will find some one person who, for you, can truly be–
Outside your arms
Is a place I like to visit
But I wouldn’t want
To live there.
This is home now
This small cozy structure
We build of an embrace.
This is comfort–
It is fireplace, lamp,
And softest chair.
I will go out
From time to time
For exercise and such
And to keep in touch
With the world where people
Eat and laugh and work.
But I’m a stranger there now,
A stranger in a strange land,
And I never get warm enough
And I’m always alone.
The touch of your hand,
And I know I’m nearly home.