Tag Archives: lifestyle

SECRETS & TIES

New Jane & Me

Marion Deyo didn’t start out as my friend, or exactly finish up that way. And yet, twenty years after our final exchange, the ending to our story still astounds me.

It will you, too.

We met in 1966, when I was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, desperately searching for a different dream. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy acting. I did. In fact, my audition instructor, the late great Jessica Tandy, said I had the natural talent to guarantee a bright future in the theater.

But I knew I didn’t have the personality for it — especially the New York City six-floor walkup, noisy neighbors, nasty bugs part. And, the menial labor between parts part. Or, the suck up and shut up part. The waiting for hours to audition with those who actually wanted to wait for hours to audition part. The desire for fame and fortune part. The tediousness of twiddling thumbs while slow learners remembered their lines part. The talk among actors about nothing but acting part. The throw momma under the bus to get the part part.

It’s why I applaud, but never become a fan of celebrities. I know how hard they worked to get to where they got. I know the bad choices they made. I know of their struggle to get by in the public eye. I know how self-destructive they become when disdaining fellow actors.

But I digress.

One Stouffer’s morning with hot buttered pecan roll and golden coffee in hand, an advertisment in The New York Times classifieds for a media clerk at a Fifth Avenue agency caught my eye. I didn’t know what the job entailed, but figured clerks keep records. Enough said.

Upon entering the office of the department head assigned to interview me, I zeroed in on her desktop nameplate: Marion Deyo.

The older woman (by 21 years) didn’t look up. She didn’t ask me to be seated. She didn’t make any attempt to put me at ease. She even forced me to introduce myself to the top of her bent down head, busily engaged in reading my job application.

“I’ve never heard of anyone with your last name,” she muttered.

“Oh yeah?” I snapped back. “Well I’ve never heard of anyone with your last name, either!” It was a pompous, knee-jerk reaction that I don’t know why I had since — then as now — I’ve yet to encounter a single person outside my immediate family who has my last name.

Suffice to say, the interview ended abruptly and I went on my Mary-quite-contrary way until a week later when I got an early bird phone call saying I was hired.

“How?” I asked. “And, why?”

“No one else applied for job,” replied the person who’d spend five minutes training me later that day.

Technically, Marion was my boss, but she never spoke to me, and made a point of ignoring me whenever we were in the same room, or passed each other in the hall.

Cue Ruth Ruffino (a fictitious name in this, otherwise, true story).

Ruth was a four-foot-eight gentile yenta with coal black hair to match her widow’s wear daily outfits. She had half-dollar size eyes, skin the color of Pattypan squash, and a passive-aggressive control freak personality that she conveyed through a chronically clogged nose. Ruth was just so transparent, so disingenuous, so cloying, so suffocating, so much the type of women I truly didn’t like a lot.

Nevertheless, Ruth was a popular little Miss nicey-nicey, chirpy-chirpy, brown-nosey to everyone, earning her favor by supplying our communal office of eight women with free donuts most mornings and coffee every afternoon.

The thing with women working shoulder-to-shoulder in one room is that their eyes are always peeled and ears cocked, providing the perfect stage and an instant audience for anyone enjoying fanfare, which Ruth invariably made whenever leaving me a box of candy, or personal note, or annoying tchotchke — then yelling from her desk, “Did you get the gift I left?”

Oh-h, I got it all right.

I just didn’t give it. I didn’t eat the donuts, or drink the coffee, or accept the gifts, or read the notes, or engage in conversation — even when she was hovering over me, talking at the top of her elastic sacs.

One day upon returning home from work I found flowers had been delivered, not by a florist, but by Ruth, personally, giving the bouquet and card to my landlord with her delivery instructions.

The next day, she crowed, “I was late to work yesterday morning because I rode all the way up town in order to deliver you flowers. Did you get them?”

“Yes,” I cawed back, “and assured the landlord the flowers were for him and I gave him your telephone number as you requested.”

Soon after, Marion summoned me into her office to tell me she was letting me go for causing too much trouble in her department.

To my chagrin and our surprise, I burst into tears, blubbering my side of the story from the minute Ruth laid eyes on me until my moment of breakdown before her.

Marion listened, stone-faced until I finished. Then she offered me a tissue and said she’d handle it — which she did. But she never said how, we never spoke of it again, and I wasn’t fired.

Hours later Ruth announced her engagement to a dweeby, much taller, older account executive who wore his suspendered pants up around his atrophied pecs; a bloke who’d been transferred to our Chicago office that very same day, taking Ruth to the windy city with him. The other communal room women shunned me afterwards.

Over the next six weeks I was assigned to a task no other employee (past or present) had been able to complete. I tackled it by initiating an unorthodox protocol, earning me a promotion and my own office.

Upon becoming Marion’s executive colleague, the walls came down. We sat together at department head meetings and lunched together regularly. She learned I was single and living in Manhattan. I learned she was single and living with her cousin on Long Island. The weekend she invited me out for a visit began a quintessential friendship lasting for years — right up until the day I discovered the two women weren’t cousins, but a couple.

I had an inkling, but I never completely understood why everything suddenly changed after that. Our daily routine ended abruptly. I ceased being invited to their home. Marion took another job at a different agency. Eventually, so would I.

Over time we continued to touch base, but seldom, until not at all.

I fell in love and my life took many dramatic turns. We ended up living in the same Long Island town as Marion and her partner. The company we launched and grew was in stark contrast to the enterprise they undertook. For fifteen years we rarely crossed paths. In 1990, we semiretired to Florida. They remained on Long Island.

Then in October of 1994 I had a premonition. It prompted me to write Marion a long letter saying how much I loved the two of them and always would. Essentially, I thanked Marion for being my friend and confidante during a still-single period of my life when I needed guidance and protection the most.

I mailed the letter. I don’t know for certain if she ever received it.

But a week or so afterwards, I began getting phone calls at odd hours of the day, at least once a week, from someone who just listened to my voice and stayed on the line for as long as a minute before hanging up.

I sensed it was Marion. It might have been her partner, but it felt like Marion.

Nearly five months later, in late February of 1995, the weekly phone calls mysteriously ceased. It wasn’t until May that her partner called to say Marion had passed away on February 28th.

I immediately got online and searched for her obituary. There wasn’t one — so I dug deeper.

This is all I ever found:

During the late 1600s, the first woman fleeing France to America with Marion’s last name married the first man fleeing France to America with my last name.

We shared their DNA.

Marion Deyo was my cousin.

# # #

Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2014

If you’re at all enchanted by this story, I promise you’ll be charmed by
Imogene’s Eloise: Inspired by a true-love story.

I welcome your feedback, so go ahead and let me have it by commenting here, or Liking and Sharing this on Facebook.

My heartfelt thanks to you and yours, now and always.

http://www.amazon.com/Imogenes-Eloise-Inspired-true-love-story/dp/0940548011/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418760488&sr=1-1&keywords=marguerite+quantaine

Advertisements

THE LOOK OF LOVE

Image

I’m a 9th generation American homosexual.

Either that, or there’s an amazing coincidence in the inordinate number of bachelors and spinsters in my ancestry. I count two or three in every generation on both sides of the family for the past 340 years.

Perhaps that’s why the stigma attached to being single wasn’t an issue in my upbringing. My father’s sister never married. And even though the topic of why wasn’t openly broached, my maternal grandmother divorced after her second daughter was born. She spent the balance of her life as single, in the close company of women.

I suppose you could misconstrue this as proof that it’s possible to be raised gay, or that I was. But you’d be wrong.

I wasn’t raised to be sexual at all. Like so many of my generation, the subject of sex was taboo in our home. And even though I grew up with two sisters and three brothers, we never shared conversations of an intimate nature until we were all well into our 40s. Even then, the talks were strictly casual between just sisters.

My father was as distant as mother was demonstrative by nature. It was she who showed us how happiness flows from doing good.

We learned to be courteous, courageous, curious and kind. We were exposed to music, literature, art and theater. We were trained to respect language through oratory and debate. And while exploring the works of William Shakespeare, my mother implored us to hold dear the line, “To thine own self be true.”

So don’t think it took some long struggle with my sexual identity before I spoke the words, “I’m gay” to my mom. Nor was it her fear of hurting my feelings that kept an exchange from happening between us before she reached 89.

It’s simply — believe it or not — most lesbians don’t consciously categorize themselves as being gay, per se. I don’t. I never have.

True, I avoided dating while in high school and remained chaste until halfway through my 23rd year. By then the family phone fests had my younger sister convinced I’d become some sort of recluse, while my older sister swore I must be on something (or should be).

So, when I called home from New York City that glorious March day in 1970 to tell mom I’d be bringing a friend back for a visit, she was delighted. She didn’t question what the friendship entailed or which gender it involved. All that mattered was I’d finally connected with someone.

No one has questioned it since. Elizabeth remains the only love of my life. For the past 47 years we’ve lived under the same roof sharing the same bank account, abiding by the same moral compass, collaborating in the same businesses, and demonstrating the same affections for an array of pets.

We’ve never been apart in all those years. Never taken separate vacations or even wanted to. Never appeared at gatherings alone. Never accepted an invitation unless the other’s name was included on the envelope. Never sent a birthday card, letter, or holiday greeting without our joint salutation.

We aren’t provocative or particularly political. There’s no role-playing, recognition-dressing, or exhibitionism. And even though our choice to remain reserved is based on a nothing-to-hide-nothing-to-share ideology, you can’t exactly classify us as closeted.

The fact is, a rare few have ever asked us, “Are you gay?” Instead, we’ve been treated like any other two people who graciously appear as an extension of the other.

But then, at age 89, my mom finally brought it up.

“Why now?” I asked her during our daily long-distance chat.

“I watched a biography on television last night about two men who had this great devotion for each other,” she recounted. “And I marveled, how wonderful it must be to know that kind of love. It made me think of you and Liz.”

My eyes welled.

“But they led such tragic lives in many ways,” she continued. “I hope no one’s ever been mean to you like that.”

I recognized a question masked in those words.

My mom and I were always close. She was a role model for the independent spirit I became, a mentor of uncommon good sense. But there are things I’d never confided — mostly because they all occurred to me in retrospect, long after I’d missed the meaning of the stone thrown.

I had just turned 15, fresh from being voted the wittiest girl in my class and slated to become editor of the school paper, a forensics champion, thespian, and most photographed person in my senior yearbook. Plus, some considered me cute to boot.

And yet, I was never a team player. I rarely attended sports events. I avoided pep rallies. I didn’t spend  spare time with classmates. I resisted temptation and defied intimidation. I refused to follow the crowd. And I simply did not date.

Not that I lacked opportunity. Indeed, my primary pals were male. But I was careful to keep boys at bay, preferring platonic relationships restricted to school hours, or clustered occasions.

Because my mind wasn’t functioning in the immediate present back then. It was clouded with illusions of running off to Greenwich Village to live as a Bohemian poetess and consumer underachiever.

Then one afternoon while stopping to pick up books for history class, I noticed a word scrawled sideways down my hallway locker with letters the length and width of the door: Q-U-E-E-R.

It was 1961, a time when queer hadn’t yet become generically derogatory in small-town, Midwest America and graffiti was an anomaly. I pondered the purpose of the scribbling only a moment before shrugging, grabbing my books and jamming the combination lock closed.

Then I glanced toward the far end of the hall. There stood my best friend in the company of girls belonging to the most popular class clique. They’d been watching me. Watching as I approached my locker. Watching as I read the message on the door. Watching while I prepared to leave. They seemed insidious standing there.

So I did the unexpected. I waved, and smiled, and walked away; oblivious. Because right then, I hadn’t a clue the day would dawn when I’d look across a crowded room and fall in love with a woman looking back at me.

But apparently, they knew — those cowards with pencils mightier than swords.

“No,” I said to calm my disquieted mother. “No one ever hurt me.” It was such a long time ago, and such a well-intended little lie.

But I think about it more often now that she’s passed on and I’m getting older. How the heartsore hasn’t healed much in 340 years since the first of my ancestors sought freedom here from religious persecution. How men are still mauled and murdered and women are ridiculed and raped in righteous retribution for being gay.

What has changed is an emergence of people demonstrating compassion, acceptance, and moral courage — most of them parents, friends and relatives enlightened by genetic codes.

I know there will always be conflict between those who flash a swagger as their badge of honor, and those who flash a swish.

But I’m thinking, someday, there might be three key categories from which to choose: Heterosexuals. Homosexuals. And people who love each other.

The last one?

That would be me.

#   #   #

This freshly updated essay by Marguerite Quantaine first appeared in The St. Petersburg Times, fifteen years ago.  (Copyright by M. Quantaine © 2002/2013/2017)

Please share your thoughts on love, here, by selecting REPLY.

I’m all eyes and heart.