26 Years a Spouse


Last week , the Significant Other and I celebrated our 26th anniversary together.  This is not particularly significant for anyone but us.  Except when it is.

I always thought in my heart that I was a relationship kind of guy who would never be in a long-term relationship.  I just couldn’t see myself as part of one of those wise old couples dispensing advice from their comfy old home surrounded by photos and artifacts of a life well-lived and loved.  And is it any wonder?  Just writing those lines makes me (and probably you) want to run retching as far away as possible from that nobler-than-thou image of stability.

I did, however, easily see myself as a rich and famous Malibu loner lying back on an off-white linen couch in my fabulous beach house while staring out into the Pacific Ocean.  This, of course, would be done nightly as I drank brandy and pondered the meaning of life both on the page and, intermittently, to the many friends, relatives and fans who would brave the Pacific Coast Highway or go to their local movie theatre or Broadway stage to view one of my great works of art or hear any one of my many grand bon mots in person.  Oh, the isolation of it all!  Oh, the burdens of genius!  Poor, poor – but rich and famous – ME!!

So basically I'm Diane Keaton in any Nancy Meyers movie

So basically I’m Diane Keaton in any Nancy Meyers movie

Yes, I really did think this way.  And if nothing else, it should illustrate how misguided and just plain wrong (Note: and full our ourselves) we can be about our lives and predetermined destiny.

I’m not a religious person so I don’t believe God has a plan.  And if there even is a God, I doubt He/She/or HESHE has granted us anything but free will to steer our own course.  Architects have plans, which are not dissimilar to a screenwriter’s step outline.  And as every good writer/builder of anything knows- nothing is ever executed exactly as conceived in your mind or on paper.   In fact, sometimes the final result bears little physical resemblance to your original vision but somehow captures the spirit, and even betters, what your best intentions indeed were.

Of course, none of this means you enter into a project blindly or unprepared.

Here’s what I’ve noticed after a quarter of a century of being in a relationship.  People who want to be in love, try to be in love, or think they’re in love but find it’s not going well – all believe that if you’re in something that looks happy and long-term  (and one where they actually suspect you still have sex with your beloved – uh yeah, they often ask) that you must know something they don’t.

Hmm, I am not always sure that’s accurate but, as I stated above, I’m not always the best judge of my true abilities.  Clearly, I must have something to impart other than the fact that I don’t know anything all.  (On That Note:  please do not believe ANY of those uber successful artists who look down shyly and say things like: Oh, I don’t knowI just do my work and hope for the best, when asked about their good fortune. They are the best storytellers in the business and know full well, even if you don’t, exactly why and exactly how they were able to get where they are.  They just have no intention of sharing it with you).

For what it’s worth, I do.  Here is what I’ve noticed after a quarter of a century of – okay, don’t retch – being in a 26 year relationship where I am still very much in love with that very same person I started out with – and not with their best friend, my co-worker or the person I met at the gym two years ago who lives down the street.

Like all advice, feel free to take it or leave it – as you see fit.


Go for the laughs.


If you’re a drama queen, you need someone to lighten the load.  If you’re the Joker – be it Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson or even Caesar Romero – someone has to reel you in.   Even if you’re none of these things, your life can, in its bad moments, seem like its worse than the ending of the most tragic 1940s melodrama you’ve ever seen.  It is at these times where you’ll need the other person you’re with to not only be there but amuse you – if only for a moment.  This doesn’t mean you marry Robin Williams (especially since he just got divorced for the third time).  But it does mean you get with someone who you can depend on to occasionally bring a smile to your face.   Or at least steer you towards something or someone who can.   It also helps if you can laugh at the same things – even if that’s only each other.

Lust in Your Heart

As sure as your hair will go gray or go missing, you can count on occasionally getting tired of your mate.  This should not be alarming.  Tired doesn’t mean done or unexcited.  It just means tired – for a lot of reasons.

Consequently, If you think you won’t occasionally be attracted to or fantasize about getting with some random other human at some moment of some given day, and believe this also doesn’t go for your mate, you have become John Lithgow in Footloose – the kind of guy who won’t let your daughter even listen to music because you believe it’s the gateway to some sort of epic downfall or betrayal.

Everyone has fantasies and wanderlust.  Including the person you’re with. That’s different than the real thing. When either of you venture into the real other thing, that’s when you’re asking for trouble. Call me old-fashioned on that score and some have.  In fact, one person I was with years ago got so exasperated that he shouted back that me and my values were hopelessly middle-class.  Uh, yeah, so — I’m supposed to be insulted by that? 


Hollywood's sweethearts

Hollywood’s sweethearts

Many decades ago I worked on a movie that starred Anne Bancroft and when some interviewer asked her what the secret was to her long term Hollywood marriage to Mel Brooks she answered, We just look at life and the world in the same way.  Plus, he makes me laugh.

Well, not everyone is as funny as Mel Brooks and not even Mel Brooks makes everyone laugh.  What you value most in the world – honesty, money, security, world peace, beauty, macaroni and cheese instead of caviar – needs to coincide with the person you share your life with.  This doesn’t mean a liberal can’t marry a conservative.  Only that Bill Maher and Michelle Bachmann couldn’t be happy together.

By the way, several years before I worked on that movie I went to see a double feature in Santa Monica that included Volker Schlondorff’s The Tin Drum.  Between shows I looked to the front/side of the theatre and saw a middle-aged couple giggling in their seats as they playfully poked each other.   That couple was – and I’m not lying  here – Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks.  So I knew first-hand that everything she was saying in that interview was true.


Not So (Joined at the) Hip

Not so cute, actually.

Not so cute, actually.

You can only continue to truly appreciate someone special if you consistently go out into the world and experience how many real, unadulterated assholes there are.  This means you need to have your own experiences and some of your own friends, hobbies and interests.   That way you get to have some of your excitements and share  your fatigues.  You will also be the kind of interesting person your partner wants to spend time with because you’ll have something new to offer.

No – you are not endlessly fascinating despite what the mirror, your checkbook or your friends, co-workers or job title tell you.  Like an old borscht Belt comic, your routine will get old.  Try something different and don’t always drag the poor schnook that’s sharing your bed along with you.  You’ll both be a lot better for it.  Plus, you can make the experience seem a lot more desirable than it really was when you share it with them.  That’s not lying, just merely accessorizing.

Sheets and Towels

I’m a firm believer in 400-thread count or more sheets, soft towels and as large of a bed as possible.  You can share all of these (though I do like my own towel).  But just know that the more comfortable they are the more intimate the experiences between them will be.  (Note:  Yes, it’s true, I don’t like camping.  At least outdoors).

Scents that make sense

Don't take notes from Monsieur Le Pew

Don’t take notes from Monsieur Le Pew

Passing by a candle or perfume store in a mall leaves me with a headache the size of the national debt.  Also, when I enter an empty elevator I literally start to bitch slap the invisible people who left it an empty pungent mess in a desperate attempt to pay them back for all the sneezing and nose tickling I am going to have to endure the rest of the day.

There is a reason why they invented perfume-free and dye-free laundry soap as well as various other unscented accouterments.  Don’t assume everyone, especially a date or someone more serious, wants to swim in a sea of Chanel. Or even Calvin Klein.  Your house, your bedroom and you are not in Paris at the turn of the century – unless this is the agreed upon routine for both you and the S.I.  And if so, don’t expect any invitations to my (I mean, OUR) house.

Body Rot…and stuff

Not to get too personal, but have you noticed when you watch HGTV’s House Hunters that every single couple bridles when a realtor shows them a prospective apartment or home that has a master bathroom with no door? Think about it.  Then think about it some more.

And while we’re getting intimate, it is also important to remember that – as Sandra Bullock and George Clooney have recently proven – gravity is a fact of life whether you want to admit it or not.  Given the proper conditions, EVERYTHING drops.  So when you or someone you’ve loved for a long time (Note: they can be one in the same) passes an unexpected mirror and you gasp (and perhaps sometimes in horror), don’t be surprised and don’t be ashamed.  Though feel free to turn out the lights.  Or laugh.  But only at yourself and not at them.  At least to their face.


Wedding vs. Sin

Listen up, Kurt and  Blaine.

Listen up, Kurt and Blaine.

I’m going to get raked over the coals for this but I always thought one of the advantages of being gay was that you didn’t have the choice of whether to get married.  You actually had to work really hard on a relationship because you didn’t have the option of society’s tacit approval.  Yes, adversaries can bring you two together.

Oh, of course I love the idea that gay couples can now get married if that is their desire.  And my partner and I just might be persuaded if for nothing else than for tax benefits and to surprise people.  But before getting the government involved – try living in sin first.  Please.  It’s good practice and much more…well….sinful.  And sinning wouldn’t be called what it is if it didn’t feel good.

Finally, if you don’t have the money (and even if you do) PLEASE DO NOT spend a fortune on your wedding.  BUY REAL ESTATE, GO TO EUROPE, SAVE, OR DONATE TO CHARITY.   Just trust me on this.


See last paragraph above.  It’s the #1 reason couples argue and break up and it is the #2 worst argument you can have. (Note: For #1, see lust in your heart, above).

Yes, money is important but it’s not essential.  So don’t lie about it.  Have the money talks — honestly.  Listen, I’ve known three billionaires. All three have been in relationships but none have lasted.  Among the millionaires I’ve known I’d say it’s 50-50. Among everyone else it’s also 50-50 or better.  Meaning – money is irrelevant long term as long as you think about it the same way and don’t hate each other for having too little or too much.  Yes, you heard me – too much.  Nothing can come between two people more than too much, it can be even more treacherous than too little.

Children aren’t an answer – they’re a question.


One of my dearest female friends who has been happily married for thirty years has regaled me with countless stories about other people questioning her and husband about why they don’t have kids.  Oh, could you not have any?  Why don’t you adopt?  Oh, well are you planning to have them? (Note:  The latter stopped several years ago, she admitted, when her age made the question a bit unseemly.  It then became – Gee, that’s too bad because you two would have made great parents).

I’m not a parent nor do I have any plans to be.  I have never had this desire and I was very clear with my partner on this upfront.  You should be too.  Yes, you can change your mind.  I mean, I love brussels sprouts these days yet I gagged at the thought of them the first time I went to a Christian friend’s house for dinner and they were served with a plate of lumpy mashed potatoes. (Note:  NY Jewish households in the 60s and 70s opted for canned veggies swimming in mystery syrup).

Bottom Line:  You are allowed to change your mind about having kids before you have them but you cannot be surprised or outraged if your partner feels as they always have.  However, neither one of you can change your mind once they are born and running around the house.

Final bottom Line:  The best parents I know understand and respect childless couples.  They also get the similar love that couples or single friends might have for a pet or other animals in general.  Often, they themselves have tried this first before jumping into the deep end.  So don’t let anyone tell you that parental instincts can’t come in all shapes and sizes. (Note:  No, our dog Rosie did NOT make me write the latter).


Moving In

Note: Moving is never this happy.

Note: Moving is never this happy.

The next morning after our first date, the Significant Other turned to me – yes, I was THAT kind of guy – and said, So, when are you moving in?

Well, I just about freaked out.  No one – not ONE person I had ever been involved with up to that point, had ever mentioned this subject even though I had long fantasized about it.   So why now and why this soon?  And why did it make me so nervous? Was what I thought I wanted just a big fat scary fantasy, or even lie?  Perhaps.  Time would only tell.  And – it did.

Point being – it’s tricky to know anything for sure but in your heart you’ll realize when it feels right to at least attempt the leap.  Don’t back off of it.  But don’t dive in and close your eyes to all reason just because there’s an offer on the table.

Big Clue:  Your partner is just as nervous and just as excited as you are about cohabitating.  Joy, not only misery, loves company.

Buy or Rent?

You can’t keep up with the Joneses because there are literally millions of Joneses in the U.S. – 1,3362,755 of them to be exact.  It’s the fifth most common name in the country and even if you tried you could never match what the best of them have.

Therefore, in terms of love it doesn’t matter if you rent, buy or do anything in between. The S.I. and I were often put on the spot by acquaintances and perfect strangers about how dumb we were, especially in the 80s and 90s, to not buy real estate.  But we’re still together as happy renters in 2013 while many of our naysayers have either lost their homes, broken up with their spouses, or done both.

What is preferable is for every couple to have some tiny space that is their own.  And we all know implicitly how to give people space – either literally or figuratively.

And Finally:


Pick and Choose your Battles

Choose wisely.

Choose wisely.

I hate to quote Will Ferrell quoting George W. Bush on anything but — ya gotta use strategery when arguing .  In non-Dubya language that means that you weigh what’s really important.

Every couple must argue, or worse yet, fight.   If you consistently say nothing, you’re a Stepford spouse and everyone knows what happened to that hideous remake (Oh, Bette). Yet if you scream and yell all the time you’ll be Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, entwined in a codependent hell of your own making without any acclaim or awards to show for it.

Some things that bug the crap out of you may not be worth bringing up.  Other small things might be. But, as the years go by, you figure it out.  You learn how to say it without becoming a George or a Martha.  As Joe Mankiewicz famously wrote in All About Eve – one has to learn that what is attractive onstage need not necessarily be attractive off. 

The good thing about arguing is that you get to make up.

And the good thing about a long-term relationship that works is that you reach a point where you become too wise to sweat the small stuff.   You learn what is important.  If only for you and your S. I. of choice.

The Anti-Moron Law

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 1.28.35 PM

This is one of many famous quips from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt and lifelong Washington, DC insider.  Widely known for her scathing wit and an innate ability to bring the rich and famous to their knees with the mere flick of an impromptu remark or deed (she once put a tack on the chair of a too dignified pretentious gentleman in DC’s Capitol Gallery only to look away with indifference when he leapt up in pain), one could imagine Mrs. Longworth would either be rendered speechless or simply throw her hands up in horror if she were alive today.  Or perhaps she would simply throw up.

It is not only the political arena she was born into right before the turn of the 20th century and remained prominent in through the post Nixon Watergate era that would cause this.  Though we could easily start there.  It’s that today, a mere 30 plus years since her death at age 96, there seems to be no line of offensiveness, disrespectfulness or, well, truthiness (forget truth – that’s long been buried, along with Mrs. Longworth) that can’t be crossed.

You might be expecting a rant against the recent Tea Party-led government shutdown of 16 days that is estimated to have cost the U.S. a tidy $22 billion in revenue.  Well, we might get to that.  But first, in the spirit of Mrs. Longworth, let’s start with something a little bit more basic, and a lot more fun.

I’m at the gym late on a Friday afternoon – an hour of the day where presumably there isn’t a lot of pressing business being done, especially by folks with enough leisure time to be at a public gym.  In any event, I’ve got the headphones on, the treadmill roaring and I’m trying to keep up to the music as I’m sweating, and huffing and puffing – and doing a pretty good job of it, thank you very much – when I begin to hear the sounds of someone chattering next to me.


I ask myself – how can this be?  The Broadway soundtrack to Thoroughly Modern Millie is pretty loud and pretty (okay VERY) gay in my ears.  No one could get a word in edgewise under normal circumstances and ruin my concentration.  Certainly no one I’d ever come across.  Hmmm, maybe it’s my imagination, I thought, as I prepared for the big eleven o’clock number in my mind.

Then suddenly – there’s more chatter, which I begin to halfway understand.  And unlike the usual chatter mine seems to have a bit of a — Spanish accent.

Nagarav-na….But he said he’d blgrda-nanita blrg…….And she said she would malagagana bragnavan-nya…..

I look to my right…and there it is.  An I-phone, ear buds and a headpiece attached to something that seems to be human but clearly couldn’t be.  Humans were once awake, aware and considerate – not droids trapped in a superficial and, mind you, not very interesting world of their own invention, engaged in a conversation with no real beginning and certainly no obvious end.

Not being one to immediately pounce, I turn away.  More blabbering.  And now it’s getting extremely elaborate and more multi lingual.  Imagine an endless loop of a monologue delivered by Sofia Vergara from Modern Family but take away her writers and her comic timing.  Now imagine a guy half her size in gym shorts and shorter, with smaller shoulders (and a tenth as good-looking), and you just might begin to get the picture.  Needless to say that unlike my reaction to Ms. Vergara,  I am not smiling.


I imagine this guy, let’s call him Mr. Not Sofia, will eventually end his call and admit to myself this is very much a first world problem.  So I decide to remain silent and once again pretend (?) I’m a Broadway Diva singing a ballad.  And, true to form, Mr. Not Sofia does end his call.   Only to immediately dial and start a new one that seems to repeat what was just said in the previous one, using a little less Spanish and a little more English – one that now seems to be echoing into more expressive tones I can’t quite make out but can clearly hear. And I’m into my finale.

C’mon Chair – do you really want to waste the fat you’re burning off here on this guy’s fat head?  No.  I’m silent.  I drink water. Five more minutes go by. Chatter.  Another five.  Chatter, chatter.  Now we’re up to fifteen, chatter, chatter, chatter –

Good-bye, si, no, hello, hola, yes! No!  Tell me about this!  I know. She said what?  I want to know!  He said more?  More???  MORE??????  Chatter, chatter chatter,  when —


I yank off my headphones, turn to Sophia’s distant cousin and spit out the words –

Can you NOT talk on your cell phone! It’s very distracting and very annoying.  I can hear everything you’re saying and I’m listening to music with my headphones ON.

The man now next to me rolls his eyes and laughs and, encouraged, I can’t help but add –

There’s a whole empty gym and he’s choosing to do this here?

Somewhat surprised, in fact rather shocked, Mr. Not Sofia, now quite, in fact VERY surprised, now looks at me, incredulously, and says:


Then, realizing for the first time that his very loud ongoing 20-minute conversation to seven different people in a public place is, in fact, still being heard and might not be as fascinating as he imagined that it was when he was speaking, says in a somewhat confused tone:

I’m sorry.

I do begin to wonder if I’m not a relic from another time – or whether I am indeed reverting to what my life partner calls my secret crotchety persona of Old Man Ginsberg (motto: I hate children!).  But then I think – this is just typical of everything we’re up against right now.  People speaking their minds and saying not much of import publicly for no reason at all other than they choose to.



Well, it’s not the same thing.        Or…… is it?

No, it isn’t.  I can write and say what I want here but I am not shouting it in a public space – and a space you do not have to look at it if you don’t want to.  In other words, I do not have a captive audience unless I captivate you with what I’m saying.  Sophia Vergara and even I can sometimes do that.  Mr. Not Sofia and those like him who choose to shout their conversations and opinions on the actual treadmill next to you, or the elevator you are forced to share with him – clearly cannot.

Nevertheless, the feigned look of surprise on Mr. Not Sofia’s face after I called him on his 20 minutes of rudeness – or the fact that he could even be surprised that his incessant yammering could be annoying – still did not translate into any desire on my part to squelch immigration reform; deport him or take it out on others who speak his language; or vote against any more non-English speaking people from entering the country.  Nor does it change the lifelong crush I’ve had on Antonio Banderas, or even blunt my enjoyment of Ricky Martin music (Note: Hate me if you must, but La Vida Loca is a GREAT treadmill song).  See, unlike many of our crazed and insane ultra right wing Tea Party brothers and sisters (and that is said with only love) I can get angry at someone’s behavior without deciding every other member of their ethnic group or nationality should either be thrown out of the country or have their right to vote questioned without 52 forms of identification.  This is called reason.  And though it’s largely absent from the most vocally engaged in the public discourse – it is by no means dead among the majority of the population.

And now for something to haunt your dreams...

And now for something to haunt your dreams…

Which brings us to the dreaded subject of the Tea Party, their de facto leader Sen. Ted Cruz (R- Texas… where else?) and one of their supporters who stood in front of the White House last week at one of their rallies waving a military flag in one hand and the CONFEDERATE FLAG in the other.  Just to clarify – the Confederate flag is the symbol of the SLAVE-OWNING South during the Civil War and it was being waved in front of a House that has been occupied for the last five years (and will be for three more) by our first BLACK PRESIDENT, his wife and two young daughters.   To clarify just a bit further – this is a president who is the leader of a family and leads/lives in a country that abolished slavery more than 150 years ago.

The brandishing of the Confederate flag, which Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, an African-American, last week noted sends shivers down the spine of most Black people when they see it, was not an accident.  Nor is the usage of terms like Allah-loving Muslim, as Larry Klayman, of the Tea Party’s Freedom Watch organization, called the president that same day.  These are purposeful demonstrations of ways to make the most powerful person in the country (and once the world, though their antics might have put that fact, and all the rest of us, into jeopardy on the worldwide stage) – someone who also happens to be a Black Man – into the category of:

 THE OTHER – someone unlike the rest of us. 

Never mind that several days later Mr. Klayman laughed off any possible intention of prejudice against the president on MSNBC and maintained his words were merely meant to be metaphorical.  Well, if that’s the case, then does it mean that if I call this guy a pathetic racist and say he should have at least been honest and wrapped himself in a hooded white sheet and burnt a Cross on the White House Lawn if he truly wanted to get his real point across – that I am NOT calling him a member of the KKK but merely using symbolism to get my point across? 

I guess so…NOT.

I know what I said and he knows what he said.  Or does he?  See that’s why despite a deeply felt desire of free speech for everyone, these days you can’t help but silently advocate for an anti-moron law that would allow a sane person to stuff a sock into the mouths of an ill-informed insane person at least 3 times a year – or any time the sane person deemed fit.  Of course, I and my appointed office staff and friends would decide just what normal was.  That only seems fair.



This all begs the question of why in the last hours of the government shutdown, before being roundly defeated in their plan to dismantle Obamacare, The Tea Party Republicans walked the halls of Congress singing Amazing Grace.  Say what you will about the song (Note: Personally, I recommend the Joan Baez version on her Live Album), it was written by John Newton, a self-proclaimed sinner who was both a minister and a slavery abolitionist.  Originally a church song, Amazing Grace was used to great dramatic effect in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and became so identified with and popular within the African American community that its members wrote, sang and passed down several new verses of their own to the tune over numerous generations – as did others in several other disenfranchised communities.

One’s mind boggles at the irony of this bag of mixed messaging on the part of the Tea Party– the META of it all.  Or what Alice Roosevelt Longworth would have generally said or done about that current wing of the Republican Party given that her father was a member of the aforementioned when it stood for principles that some today might consider to be liberal.  I can picture only one reaction to all of this, one that I already imagine her doing – rolling over in her grave.