Only once in my life have I had the freedom and the finances to decorate my entire home exactly the way I wanted. It was San Francisco, just before Christmas, 1974. We had purchased a three story building with three ‘flats’, one on each floor, each flat covered 2,000 square feet and had four bedrooms, only one bath, built in 1906. High ceilings, tin wallpaper, wainscoting, cup rails, crown molding, some board and batten created a classic gingerbread Victorian. We moved into the middle floor and I decorated to my heart’s content. By the Christmas I mentioned I had finished my job.
The living room was a long affair so the builder separated the interior end by putting little low walls jutting slightly into the room which supported two round pillars up to the ceiling. They made the suggestion of a sort of entrance into the other part of the living room. I put our baby grand piano in there and we called it our Music Room. All the wood, which was considerable, I painted gloss white, including the pillars and the low walls. On what little wall space was left I put a flocked and reflective wallpaper of giant peacock feathers all in teal, reminiscent of Klimpt, with the full array of colors on their tails and touches of gold.
On the night in question my new living room, gloriously decorated for Christmas glowed with dozens of tea candles. My children slept in their rooms, my husband sat on the couch looking into the fire and I, dressed in my teal velvet robe, rounded the room with my long candle lighter and now their flickering flames reflected off the white, gloss wood. I could not have been more content.
My husband had given me the robe for Christmas the previous year. I couldn’t wear it when the gift was given. He always bought me things that would have looked good on him had he been a woman. Tall, 6 feet, broad shoulders, trim hips, dark handsome looks, a modern day Louis Jourdan, the tuxedo style of the robe would have hung nicely on his slender form. But I’m pear shaped. However, having worked so hard on the remodeling and the decorating, I could now fit.
With Christmas carols softly playing in the background I stood in the middle of the room luxuriating in my accomplishments. Then, for no apparent reason that I could think of, I turned, faced my husband and asked a question. “What’s wrong with our marriage?”
Now this was not the first time I had asked this question. But it was the first time he gave me a straight answer. He still wonders today what possessed him to tell me the truth. He said, “I like boys.”
This answer simply did not compute. I asked, “What?”
He seemed disturbed by my incomprehension. He looked at me as if I were dense. “I prefer men.”
A long pause ensued while my brain worked furiously trying to make sense of these few words. “What does that mean?” I asked.
Truly intent on getting me to understand, he blurted out, “I prefer making love with men.”
I remember sitting down very hard on the edge of the couch but I don’t remember how I landed on my back on the floor, or how he happened to be pinning my wrists to the floor by my head. As my head cleared I heard him desperately pleading with me, “Don’t hate me! Don’t hate me!”
In the months and now years that have followed I have only had two moments of thinking I hated him, but those moments passed before becoming minutes. Hate wasn’t my issue, deceit was. The wound that his deception made in my heart could be likened to the hole an exploding landmine leaves. The level of intimacy on which I furiously worked, so that we would end up being endearing old fogies together forever, simply evaporated. My life was nothing more than the proverbial smoke and mirrors.
When people tell me that their accomplishments are what satisfy their lives, I know it isn’t true. Success in life is no substitute for intimacy, in fact, it is a mask. What we all want, and in fact need, is intimacy. Nothing can take the place of intimacy, not sex, not money, not fun, not travel, not anything. How do we find it? The very longing of the heart eludes us in this world of growing up, loving, marrying, having children, going off to work, accomplishing our projects.
Strangely enough, in all the trials this confession brought into my life, the prize I received was intimacy personified. I could never have calculated how the events of this pre-Christmas evening would put me on a path I could not have designed for myself. No University student, looking ahead, would plot these events into their lives. What happened to me could be considered beyond reason, outside the limits of social acceptance, and certainly entering an “out of the body” state of being. I hope you join me week by week as I unwrap my life to share with you the stairs I climbed to this elusive prize of intimacy.