These pairs - and this pair - have walked together for fifteen years.
Meeting two friends over dinner this past weekend (I had green hued risotto, a real treat), it was impossible for the three of us not to delve into each other's personal matters, which is usually code for "how's your love/family life doing?"
Which highlighted the fact that 15 years ago to the day, I officially dropped the word "single" as a response for that oft-asked question in "slumbooks" of years past, Status. (Come to think of it, Facebook is a giant "slumbook" for this generation.)
Both of my friends were amazed at how long it has been since Arthur and I have been together, and I was prodded to relate how we met, and to post it in my blog, if only for the sheer novelty of having any couple last as long as we have - or I should say, have and counting - and in an age where fast food has been deemed too slow to catch up with everything else, I certainly am grateful for the outside perspective that highlights what an accomplishment it is to have been together with my partner for a decade and a half.
Whenever we are asked where we met, we humorously say "at an island"; already, the person who asks almost immediately gushes at how romantic it must have been, and never fails to ask us to name it: "Is it Boracay?" is a usual followup question we field, an obvious nod to the party island of this archipelago, where people frolic, ingest booze and hopefully fall in love. (Not in that order.)
The "island" we refer to is of the mundane kind, the concrete slab that separates vehicles going in opposite directions. To be technical about it, we saw each other across one of the busiest streets in Quezon City, and - cheesily, now that I have the benefit of hindsight - met at the middle of the street, the "island". One of my friends immediately commented "it sounds like a movie production", and truth be told, I am amused at the memory of it, but it was no laughing matter at the time.
I believe it was one of the philosophers who commented that finding the one you are "destined" to be with is not so much a matter of fate, but of two souls who are part of a whole, who will spend their entire lives looking for the other half, long before one of Hollywood's most famous lines was ever uttered, "You complete me". It certainly rings true in our case, as it seems that everything just "clicked" and fell into place from the very first day we saw each other.
Much like magnets with polarities attuned, we have been inseperable ever since, to the point that so many people have mistaken us as siblings, as we seem to lay claim to the notion that couples who stay together as long as we have will begin to share even physical similarities.
Now that I am writing about this, I can say that our relationship is mostly an enjoyable mundaneness, punctuated on one end by inexplicable joys and unbearable melancholy on the other. As someone once said, it is inevitable that the person who takes you to the highest of highs will also be capable of bringing you to the lowest of lows.
It is a testament to how deeply intertwined two lives are, and while I do not relish the fights - oh, yes, we've had many of those - they are not unexpected, and I might say even necessary, as a couple does not achieve compatibility without knowing practically everything about their partner, some of which will be cause for great conflicts, and as years pass and people do sometimes change, you have to decide if these changes are not so insurmountable to accept, relying on the love, attraction and affection that brought the two of you together in the first place.
Whenever there are people who believe that we "would never last", I can't help but think how blameless they are for even thinking that way.
For starters, our parents were against one of the most salient parts of our very persons, a defining characteristic for both of us that they "disapproved". Which must account for songs like "I Will Survive" supposedly with our community in mind, because we learned early on to sink or swim, long before it was formally discussed in science class as a defense mechanism.
Happily, Arthur's brothers have been instrumental in making me still believe that families can go beyond their comfort zone and truly see past their preconceved notions. They have welcomed me openly into their family and I know this has been a large part of why we both feel grounded and solid as one family unit.
The same cannot be said for the other areas of our lives.
We would find no solace in our religions, which, for many people, is their source of strength and peace amidst the turbulent waters of life. Arthur was raised a Catholic, and I, a conservative Baptist. (The very definition of a double whammy.) Our respective religions constantly try to outdo each other to see how many young children and teenagers like we once were they could drive to suicide, seeing as we were fed from these "loving, peaceful" institutions a steady diet of the following words to describe us: evil, sinner, abominations, aberrations, freaks, kasuklam-suklam (worthy of the highest disdain), nakakasuka (vomit-inducing), and the only way we could ever be "accepted" would be to deny an integral part of who we are as humans, our sexuality.
(Side note: I still think conservative Baptists run circles around Catholics in the "neuroses" department.)
We would find no role models in popular media. There are no songs that celebrate our couplings, no wedding announcements that mirrored what we envisioned in our minds to be "perfect", no greeting cards to commemorate our unions. The only images I grew up with were of men covered up in hideous make-up, almost grotesque really, often clothed in garments that epitomized the term "flounce", who only served as fodder for cheap laughs, most often killed off in some gruesome end, implying "poetic" justice.
We would have no protection under the law. Whenever a member of our community would be beaten up, it would be justified as "trying to shine the light of God" into the life of a victim of violence, that their religion gives them the right to "teach" us some perverted "lesson" on what is "acceptable behavior", and anyone who would dare complain would be met with statements from perpetrators who, outrageously, use "religious freedom" as their defense for inflicting physical harm onto those they consider "unclean" and "unworthy".
Most couples like us, who would find no social support from institutions tradiitonally tasked with this important, vital function, have learned to see our friends as family. Given what we been through and still go through, this is not a statement we say lightly. We cherish the friends who honor us with their friendship, their affection and their laughter - a sweet sound, indeed, to hear them validate our relationship when they invite both of us to family dinners, when I am introduced to Arthur's former classmates as his "better half", when I bring Arthur over to social functions where I am constantly asked "When can we meet him?"
We also realize how difficult it must be for some of them to continue being friends with us, given their particular religious persuasions, with none of their faiths giving us the stamp of approval by any shot. We are grateful that, in those instances, they are able to connect with us on a basic level of what our shared humanity calls us to do, to treat each other for the persons we truly are, and not for the labels we attach, or what certain institutions insist on attaching.
When I look at the enormity of obstacles we have had to face to keep our union not only surviving, but thriving, and thriving most beautifully, I am covered with an enormous sense of gratitude that my partner continues to stand by my side and behind me, the same way I do with him. And my friends were right, it really is "amazing" that we are now on our fifteenth year, seeing as there is a resurgence of hatred and vitriol aimed at our particular community, and so many factors and forces bent on breaking us up, all for the absurd reason that our being together "offends" their "sensibilites".
We are together because we love and adore each other, and just like most everyone, we want to be with someone who will love us for who we are for as long as humanly possible. We did not get together with some nefarious agenda to "offend" others who think differently, nor did we ask for your "blessing", and we certainly are not asking for your "permission".
We will take your friendship and your love, if that is something you choose to share with us, and share freely. We cherish those who take the time to know us. As that is what we do with family and friends, we share, we laugh, we love.
And even though this has been said in countless ways, it bears repeating: wealth, power, positions, all of these will fade, but what matters, at the end of our lives, and what truly counts, is who and how we loved.
I am just overjoyed that I have love in my life. Thank you, my beloved. Here's to 15 years, and to even more years and more love in our lives.