Robert, Richard & Dale, Savannah, Georgia
When I was a schoolboy in Pennsylvania, I never thought geometry was going to help me understand my love life at age sixty-four. The desire in any “triad” relationship is that of an equilateral triangle and not of an isosceles triangle. But, as we are human, the lines are always changing. The key in maintaining an equilateral triad is open, truthful communication on a regular basis. When that fails, tension rises and threatens the triad’s delicate balance and the entire relationship is jeopardized. Our first serious triad attempt lasted about a year and a half and ended after this photograph was taken, when Dale left for greener pastures. Much of what precipitated the breakup was Dale’s inability to openly communicate his feelings, negative and positive, for me and Robert. Once Dale did leave, it opened the floodgates of understanding, and Robert and I now have a stronger sense of what will work and what will not. On paper, the perfect man to complete our triad in the future is one who is strongly sexually compatible with me— and Robert, to a smaller extent—enjoys antiques and gardening, and works in massage therapy or hospitality. Robert has been HIV-positive since I first met him, and therefore our physical relationship is more affectionate than sexual. He has always kept me as the “china doll” on the shelf and will not do anything to put my health at risk. On top of that, he is not jealous, which is another key to a good triad relationship. Robert is happy for me to have other lovers. I am a full blown romantic. Robert is not. I would describe him as a “classicist.” He believes romantic love is bullshit and has no time for it—now that isn’t to say I can’t get him to cuddle a bit now and again. But he is not that kind masturbation life. But as I was raised a Roman Catholic, I would occasionally feel guilt, and purge my magazine collection. My guilt generally lasted less than twenty-four hours. As a young man and now, I always came across as fairly straight. When I went to an all male college in Pennsylvania in 1965 and joined the theater group, I met and got close to gay men. The problem was that they were mostly flaming queens. I wasn’t like that, but knew I liked men and the male body. If a very masculine male, such as a football or soccer player, had come on to me in college, I probably would have come out then. In my senior year I applied to ten business schools for my MBA and one master’s program in theater at Smith College. I was rejected by all the business schools and accepted to Smith. But it was 1969, and Vietnam was hot and heavy. The last thing I wanted to do was to be “cannon fodder” for our government, so my stepfather very gracefully got me into the National Guard, and I then moved to New York City and joined Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. I didn’t fully come out until I was about forty. At that point I was a respected husband, father, churchman, and businessman living in Pelham Manor, New York, trying to be a good guy. But once I came out sexually, I returned to my late teens and needed to grow up as a gay man. I took to male sex like a duck to water. I would visit the old raunchy Times Square in New York City, get all the male porn I desired, and visit the various theaters and baths. (Today Times Square is pristine and Disneylike.) I would fall for single gay men, but they would push me away because I was married. They did not want to be the cause of a family breakup. I did not deliberately come out to my former wife, Carol, but I did leave a porn magazine lying around one day, and of person. Robert was very active sexually in the pre-AIDS era of New York City when you could enjoy anonymous sex in the parks any time of the day or night. To him, sex is not emotional. Robert’s feeling is that as gay men, we are out of the box to begin with—so why do we have to pattern our gay relationships and families after the straight community, which has failed miserably? Robert is the first man I lived with as an openly gay male. We have been together for the last sixteen years. In late spring of 2003 we decided to cash out of our lives in New York City and move somewhere else. I wanted to move to a place that had palm trees and lizards. I figured we would move to Ft. Lauderdale because I wanted to work in massage and I needed a large gay community to serve. However, my mother raised me to believe that Florida was “God’s waiting room,” and Robert and I really did not wish to relocate there. Before we made any decisions, two men called Robert within ten minutes of each other and both recommended Savannah, Georgia. As a Yankee, I had no interest in moving below the Mason-Dixon Line and certainly not to Georgia—a curse worse than death. But as a spiritual man, I saw these two recommendations as the universe sending us a message. We visited Savannah for about four days and were sold. That December, we moved to Savannah lock, stock, and barrel and haven’t looked back. This city truly is a state of mind, full of beauty, elegance, and grace along with a fantastic gay community. My growing up was all about men with shirts off and muscular torsos, like Steve Reeves and Tarzan. I found bookstores in downtown Pittsburgh at an early age that sold used and new physique magazines to supply my secret the “genie was out of the bottle.” She was very calm and intelligent about it, though she wrestled with my orientation quite a bit. After my coming out, we stayed together for about six years and she permitted me my freedom. But one evening, while having dinner with my now longtime partner Robert at Café Sha Sha in Greenwich Village, he showed me three incredible co-op apartments, all next to one another in Hudson View Gardens in the Washington Heights neighborhood. He said, “Wouldn’t it be great if these three apartments were bought by gay men and we could all be neighbors?” I went home to Carol that night and thought about how I would probably never be able to participate in anything like what Robert had proposed. After I got into bed that night, Carol turned over and said, “You are itching to leave again, aren’t you?” I agreed and she said, “I think it’s time. I think it’s best for both of us if we part.” I had been released! Carol and my two wonderful children are very close to me and Robert today. Periodically, the straight world communicates that we—gay men—are too sexually focused. Well, sexuality is the best thing about being gay. To be able to make a sexual connection to another male—whether it is through a relationship, a lover, a casual encounter, or through my massage practice—is extremely powerful and fulfilling. Sexuality is something I am gifted with and one of the reasons I am here on this Earth, and I feel no shame in that. Without sex, being gay is meaningless to me. I mean, otherwise you are just a eunuch.