Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Hand One Heart

(photo from Beck's blog)

Make of our hands one hand,
Make of our hearts one heart,
Make of our vows one last vow:
Only death will part us now.

Make of our lives one life,
Day after day, one life.
Now it begins, now we start
One hand, one heart;
Even death won't part us now.

Interesting, isn't it how Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein captured the essence of both mortal and eternal marriages in this classic from West Side Story. It's a beautiful, emotional song and yet I wonder, based on my own experience, how many MOMs (Mixed Orientation Marriages) achieve this ideal.

My dear wife and I are of one heart on many issues, particularly concerning our children and our pride in the way they treat others and their varied accomplishments. However our lives are not one, but multiple lives. We have different views so many things, different approaches, varying tastes, divergent opinions. Most of the hours of our days are not spent together but apart. Even much of our leisure time is spent in proximity to one another, but not in close physical or emotional contact.

Much of this is healthy. I agree with Kahlil Gibran: "...let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls." Nonetheless I am bound. I have chosen to be. I am bound by commitments and covenants, days which have stretched into years, months which have morphed into decades.

The spaces in our togetherness allow for friendships. Married women usually have their intimate girl friends. They may greet with hugs and kisses. Their supportive touching may include handholding. Some married men have their trusted business associates, their fishing buddies*, their racketball partners, those whose company they enjoy as they train together for a marathon or serve together in the neighborhood, church and community. While these relationships vary in the level of their intimacy, they tend to be platonic--even so the men may testify of the love for each other and kid each other about their bromance.

The dynamics are more complicated when one of the two buddies is gay or bisexual, but there remains a safety net. In a MOM male friendship, the straight man's orientation provides a natural barrier to convenant-breaking. The friends may be physically and emotionally close in many ways. They may share doubts, concerns and joys. They make greet and depart with the embrace of whiskered bear hugs. They may inhale each other's unique scent of sweat not entirely overpowered by deodorant. Hundreds even thousands of times over a long term freindship they may dress and undress together. They may stand naked, talking, laughing, shaving in the all-male bastion of the locker room and its showers. Sexual contact does not occur. It is not desired by one or even both of the men.

But when the males in a friendship are married men who are both SGA or SSA or bi-sexual or gay, and when the friendship includes playful, brotherly touch and mutual desire for more, what barriers protect that friendship from escalating into convenant-breaking? Is the covenant the safety net? What can they do to create appropriate spaces in their togetherness? How can their relationship help rather than hinder the vows they have made to their wives, the commitments they have made to their children, the chaste friendship they wish to sustain?

*usually, not, I presume of the Brokeback Mountain genre. ;)