In September, the Cramuel’s visited California. It was a roller coaster ride. We explored different landscapes in various levels of undress. We visited San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs (soon we will put up our guide to CA!). This may sound like a expensive holiday on paper… but it was actually quite cheap for us because we stayed with friends. This leads me nicely onto the main reason for this blog post! An interview with our friends about LOVE.
So first, some context… Our friends live in Los Angeles. For the sake of animosity lets call one Fred and one Ben. Just before me and Samuel began to date, I visited them. I first met Fred on a dating app and after a few years it was apparent that we were more than just pen pals. You could say that Fred was an old flame of mine, but that is a story for another time… What’s is more important for this blog post is the relationship Fred and Ben had.
The couple met in 1977 somewhere in California. Fred was originally from New York and had recently finished his studies in Music. Actually, I hear he was quite the composer! Fred was 19 and Ben was 24 at the time. They have been together ever since and soon it will be their 40th anniversary.
1974 was a very different time. Stonewall had recently happened and gay communities were fighting oppression. They were fighting for freedom. In fact, just a short walk from my friend’s house was a bar called the Black Cat. This was the place where the first real gay rights stand took place against the Los Angels Police Dept after repeated gay bar raids in the 70’s. This stand soon swept across the country and prompted other such riots.
The story of these young lovers begins here, at this time. At a party Fred sat on Ben’s lap and asked for a kiss. It seems this really was a fairytale case of love at first sight. Two weeks later they were living together.
The Cramuel’s are really interested in gay rights and what it was like to be gay, and in a relationship, in the 70’s. So we kindly asked if we could interview our friends whilst we stayed in their house. This is how it went…
view from our friends’ house
Question 1: What is love?
(Both start singing various love songs)
FRED: Love is caring about someone else more than you do yourself.
BEN: I don’t know what it is, but I know what you get… you get enough germs to burst your bubble.
FRED: I don’t know… you only know when you’re in it!
BEN: …Like quick sand
Question 2: How old were you when you first fell in love? What was it like to be in love at that time?
(Ben gets up and leaves the conversation, it was not obvious at the time, but it was because Fred was going to recall a story of his first love… and it wasn’t Ben)
FRED: I was 16 and it was 1974, and it was overwhelming. At first, I was more in love with the idea than I was the person. I was openly gay to friends. I didn’t fear being openly gay. I was fearless. I had a ‘bring it on’ attitude. At that time, it was a few years after Stonewall and it felt easier to be openly gay to people my age.
Question 3: What is the key to a long lasting relationship?
FRED: If you don’t break up or die – you stay in a long lasting relationship. Love is not enough though, love doesn’t fix anything!
Question 4: If you could rewind the clock and be 16 now – what would you do?
FRED: I would take advantage of my advantages. I thought little of myself at 16. I look back now and realise how smart I was, how good looking I was, how confident I could have been… and I would have applied to some IVY league schools.
Question 5: What do you think the hardest thing of being in a relationship is?
FRED: I don’t know. Family I suppose. You cannot choose your family and you also take on your partners family too. Priorities too – a relationship becomes a third party, two sides of globe stuck together and people can gravitate around it but can never penetrate it.
FRED: People confuse marriage and weddings. Marriage is between two, but the wedding is for everyone else!
[After the interview Fred leaves to get something from the house and Ben returns. It seemed he had things he wanted to tell me]
BEN: People who want relationships, deep down… will find each other and make it work! People who cannot find relationships or can’t make relationships work, secretly do not want to.
[Ben asked why I wanted to interview them both. I said I wanted to understand the differences between being gay and in love in the 70’s and now. I think we have it so much better now, so why do young gay people find it so hard?]
BEN: What surprises me is why any gay man would get AIDS now? Acceptance is still real. Gay people still want acceptance. Men like to f*ck around,that has never changed. I find it ironic that the first gay riots in Los Angeles were about a sexual revolution. Guys wanted to have sex with whoever they wanted, without prosecution. But now it’s all about marriage and kids and same sex rights.
BEN: The reason our relationship is healthy is that we never labeled it. It was organic. We were just together.
So, what is the key to a successful long lasting relationship? I actually did not find a concrete conclusion from these answers. Perhaps I asked the wrong questions?! It seems that any conclusion I have is still based on opinion. This is not science!…. So perhaps that is my conclusion. There is no science.
Fred and Ben have an open relationship, they did not for the first 20 years, but still now, they have other men in each other’s lives. For them it works. It seems when they were together, gay rights was just about sexual liberation. Many relationships didn’t last back then because guys just wanted to screw around. In fact, Fred told me that if you didn’t go out and leave with another guy each night, people considered something was wrong with you! Is this still true? I find it hard to believe. We can have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want, and have been able to do so (pretty openly) for decades. So why do gay guys hurt each other?
Personally I think its all to do with us… not everyone else. You are the master of your own happiness. It seems young gay guys still feel oppressed. I know in some countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, being gay comes with pretty dramatic consequences. And yes, revolutions are needed here. But in western cultures, why can’t gay guys just enjoy the opportunities they have? Will we ever be content as a community? Will we always feel that we have to protest about something? I hope not. If you live in a place like Spain, Italy, UK, US (thankfully this is such a long list now), you can be gay openly and safely. Enjoy it! Don’t waste time hurting each other. Don’t look to fulfil only sexual desires if what you really want is something emotional. Just be honest. Be open. If you can be openly gay, be open emotionally too. Yes, a lot of people are messed up. The Cramuel’s are messed up! Everyone is messed up! There is a time to fight. Fight for world peace. Fight for global warming. Fight for gay rights in foreign lands where being gay can be met with death. But also enjoy what you do have. After all we are VERY LUCKY!
If you want to know the secret of a long lasting relationship… you will never find it, so stop looking. It is not an exact science. Do not label things. Do what feels natural and organic. What feels good. If you really want it you will find it and you should be able to see it in someone you meet. Do not change people to make them what you want them to be. Look for someone who wants what you want.
Love is like quick sand… you’ll know your in it, when you fall into it!
Written by Craig