Real Love

I’ve loved Ted for 52 years.

Aside from my birth parents, this is the longest relationship of my life. The fact that it’s a relationship with an inanimate teddy bear does not change the fact that I truly and deeply love this hunk of fabric, fiber, and buttons.

Love is mysterious.

My teddy bear and I met 52 years ago when I was only two years old, shopping with my mom at a garage sale in North Platte, Nebraska. At least that’s what I’m told. I don’t remember. It was 1967 and I was two years old.

Grandma Derra found two buttons in her ample sowing kit that became perfect eyes for my new best friend.

Knowing he had already had his eyes and most of his fur loved off of him (at least that’s the story of his haggard appearance that I choose to believe) I felt that he brought important wisdom to our relationship. He had been there for another young boy or girl and was now ready to handle the needs a new little boy, a boy whose parents were about to divorce. 

I named him “Ted”, an act of irony I felt was unappreciated by the adults and other children around me.

This ode to Ted was written 12 years ago as a writing exercise. I had recently broken up with a man I was not ready to let go. Using the writing prompt, “who or what was an early love?”

This is what poured out.

My boyfriend Dennis took this when I introduced him to Ted.

Ted, you have been with me for 42 years now.

Your fur is mostly rubbed off and the holes I did surgery on when I was six years old, meant to keep your stuffing inside, have reappeared.

You’re back on my bed again.

Back because Keith left me and went back to San Francisco, back on my bed again because someone has chosen to leave me, just like mom did when I was two.

Were you in my bed back then too Ted?

Smelling like garage dust because we had bought you second hand at a yard sale? It must have been you there keeping me company when my young parents argued and ended their marriage.

Mom is the only one who has told me the story of their breakup. How her drinking and crazy nature were the cause of it. It’s interesting that she is the only one who told me how it all played out since I ended up living with Dad.

Ted, you must have been there in that tiny bedroom I can now barley remember, first door on the right, off the living room in our single wide trailer home.

Ted, you must have been there because you are still here with me today, waiting patiently, if not a little decrepitly, on top of the boxes I store thousands of dollars worth of cycling clothes in. You usually sit facing my new fancy mattress that sits in my new fancy West Hollywood condo.

You sit patiently and wait with unconditional love even though you have been shut away in closets while I lived with Steve Chaison, and Tony Peruzzi, and John Nieto, men who shared my bed for five-year stints or died in a hospital room leaving me no one to come home to except you, Ted.

Ted, you have soaked up tears of a child left behind, have been pushed aside to make way for fucking, you have endured my private shame as a bed wetter, and you have placidly worn satin outfits I made for you out of scraps found in my step-mom’s sewing basket.

You came with me to Tucson to visit Mom in the psych ward. Your presence told her instantly that consoling love had arrived. She pulled you close to her heart and soaked in twenty-five years of reassurance.

She was unhappy when the attendants would not allow you to stay with her overnight, but I was secretly glad to be able to hold you while waiting for her to find enough healing to be released.

You see Ted, between my parents and you, it’s been you that’s been there the most for me.

You were there to calm my 8-year-old nerves when I was alone in bed and monsters in the trees threatened to crawl through the window of our first house on 6th Street in North Platte, Nebraska.

You were there to commiserate with when my stepmom gave her daughter the bigger room and the canopy bed in Cheyenne Wyoming.

You were there when I unpacked the box marked “Mike’s Room” in Pocatello, Idaho after my parents moved (unannounced) from Wyoming to Idaho, couching the information in a birthday card they sent to their son who was five thousand miles away on an adventure picking pineapples on Maui.

Nearly hairless and formless, you have never given up on me Ted.

Your fancy button eyes sewn on by Grandma Derra have steadfastly kept their gaze on me for over four decades. Watching and waiting for my need of comfort to return. Your threadbare head is ready to be nuzzled by your boy. I know you can’t help it that that wire pokes out from your ear and jabs my tender lips.

Nose-less and mouth-less you exist only for my solace, seeking nothing for yourself.

How could I possibly not love you as fiercely as I do?


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Drama Club: My “real-mom”

Inside my new memoir: Drama Club    

My “real-mom”: a term used in my childhood that now makes me bristle. Yet, I still have not found a way to respectfully differentiate, with proper dignity, the two women in my life who both married my father (at separate times) and both parented me with highly individualized mentoring styles.    

In the chapter “What Happened” of my new book, Drama Club, the mother who gave birth to me decides to let me know how the divorce between her and my father played out.    

Here is an excerpt:  

“She was unpredictable and intense, just like the monsoon rains that flooded the Tucson desert floor: sudden and powerful; unable to ignore; exotic to my Northwestern sensibilities; and absolutely necessary to the ecosystem. I had learned that the panic caused by her sudden lightning strikes and claps of thunder quickly dissipated. After that, I usually enjoyed her unbridled insights into the life of our family. I just needed to let the information pour over me like a warm deluge of Arizona rain.”   

This photo shows us sitting on the sofa where the conversation happened. She had given me a perm and I was enjoying the summer heat, oblivious to fact that I was nearly naked.    

Buy the book here.  

Drama Club: HE WORE A DRESS!

Inside my new memoirDrama Club  
 
In 1982, a 50s theme school dance was embraced whole heartedly by our crew of high school drama kids. Always looking for ways to push the envelope, we did a couple of things off script.  
 
First, Michael Marriott wore a dress. HE WORE A DRESS! I was shocked and confused that his offering was received with sustained enthusiasm. It was triumph over Idaho masculine ideals that taught me a lesson about confronting societal norms 
 
Second, our group didn’t pair off into couples for the standard school dance photo. We were a unit. We expressed our crew camaraderie by crowding every one of us into the little photo op vignette. It was a bit of performance art to celebrate our common otherness 
 
Michael is bottom left, my high school prom date Angela is perched in the top right hand corner, Kelly Sanders is top center in the red sweater and I’m bottom center in the white t-shirt. Geeta, our class valedictorian and only person of color that I can remember at either Pocatello High or Highland High (a sum total of all schools in our town) is on Kelly’s left. 
 
Somehow Bart is missing from this photo, but I’m certain he was on my mind.  
 
 

Head of the table

Half unpacked. 

Woke up at my parent’s with only my mom occupying the large property, she on one side of the respectable house she and my father literally built with their own hands, while I was on the other. We came together in the kitchen. She cooked us eggs and bacon as I made small talk about music. 
Then she asked me to sit down and eat. 

“Why don’t you sit in dad’s seat,” she said. I moved into the seat I’d never sat in before, fell silent and swallowed the emotions that came up. “Do you mind if we say grace,” my Mormon mother asked me. We’d never eaten a meal at home without praying first. 

I reached over and gave her forearm a squeeze. “Please do. Really, mom, I’d really love that.” 



No Cross Talk

How much is too much to share? Four hours there and four hours back. Just mom and me in the car, Omaha, Gothenburg, return.

The basics covered and so much more – details of her life her gay son will never share with his nonexistent children, only his offspring of thought, written and launched into the social stream, attended to by nothing more than faith, not knowing where or really even why I’m sharing them. Her stories end, she quiets, and it becomes my turn. How much do I tell mom about my life?

Was the talk of marrying my boyfriend too much? Our ideas on fidelity? Why gay men need a discussion group in West Hollywood? I know my politics rail against the notions shared by the right wing women who occupy her chair as she regularly rebuilds what is left of their hair in her private beauty shop.

I think she is biting her tongue, uncomfortable with my upload. Then she reminds me that she would like to see more of me. That my gaps in communication make her worry. I know the absences pain her.

Do I spend so much time out of this culture that I don’t know how to speak to her? Is this what all adult children go through or is it a gay thing? Oh if only I had the lives of my children to drone on about so we wouldn’t have to look at our relationship with each other!

MikelGerle.com

The Talk of Shame

Hello Shame. We need to talk.

Why don’t you sit your veil ass down over there in your favorite chair by the fire – the fire of my mind – that fire you had convinced me the world was not ready to see.

Yeah, it’s bright and beautiful isn’t it?

Shush! You’ve had your say. And there are plenty of others out there still convinced that living without you will leave them rudderless – drifting in a life with no meaning. Just shut up, listen, and then you’re free to go.

No, I don’t need the protection you’re offering. I’m not falling for that again. That’s not power or stability. You lie. That tool you offer is just a sea anchor you use to dredge up flotsam only you can feed off while the rest of us starve and spiral deeper into our own individual voids. I see what your protection has done, and worse, what it has NOT DONE for my mom and her sisters, and their mother as well.

Your coaching to find fault and ability to twist a knife in others only leads to a sharper blade that feeds your ability to bleed the soles of those who wield it. You foster nothing but their ability to scar the lives of those they love the most.

The feast with this family is over Shame. I will not feed you! It is over. And hear me on this, I am watching you with a vigilance tempered by the forces of love and dignity. Your prowling in this arena will only leave you wanting.

Yes. I agree. You should definitely be going now.

The "heartland"

The Supreme Court of the United States heard Prop 8 arguments yesterday, DOMA is being heard today, and this gay man just confirmed his reservations for a three day trip to Gothenburg, Nebraska. I will consider this trip to the hearland a success if I make it back without my heart being ripped from my chest. A pleasure trip this is not. But it could be interesting. I’m going to play like I’m Jane Goodall. It will be a safari into the natural habitat of the right wing. I’m an out gay leatherman. My mom is cool, so we’ll see how the rest of the family and I get along over Easter and my grandmother’s funeral. The trip will possibly be the last one I make to my birth state. All my other bio family has moved to other states and Nebraska’s other attractions are… well, there aren’t any.

I can’t help but feel like I am about to step into a time machine or possibly an alternate reality. Beam me up Scotty!