Couples Chronicles ó Interview 20
There is Something Good in Continuing
to Empower this Relationship,
Even Though It Causes Me Great Pain
First published in November 1988
© 1999, Demian
Jim Crotty, 29, and Michael Lane, 38, are almost always on the road. For the past two years of their three-year relationship [in 1988] they have been traveling and producing Monk magazine from the ďMonk Mobile,Ē a 26-foot RV that serves as their home. Their quarterly ďnew-ageĒ journal describes their travels and features interviews with a wide range of people ďfrom clowns to visionaries.Ē
Why did you choose to be constantly on the road?
Michael: We were tired of living in a house, the urban existence and demanding jobs.
Jim: Taking ourselves out of those comforts and securities was a way to test or discover the true depth and worth of this relationship. The movement causes so many issues to come up, and it causes us to grow.
What kinds of issues have come up?
Michael: In every new area or town, we have to let go, be open to meeting people and following our intuition. Itís been a great exercise learning to work together. The uncertainty in dealing with each new place not only has produced a strong bond between us, but it produces the magazine.
Does the magazine support you financially?
Michael: It has been our sole means of income for a year and a half.
Jim: We sold everything to leave on the journey. We didnít have a lot of capital. From a strictly traditional business viewpoint, weíve done the impossible: to create a national magazine with absolutely no backing.
Now, we are at the point where we are looking for silent investors to help us make it a very profitable endeavor. The next stage involves setting up a network of support that frees Michael and I from the day-to-day tasks that get in the way of staying true to our vision.
Michael: We want to continue to travel and bring more people into this, not just to work with us, but to create more of a family. Our vision has been to meet other nomadic couples who are interested in the same sort of thing: exploring community. Right now we spend maybe two-thirds of our time just handling our business and one-third meeting people and writing.
When did you first meet each other?
Michael: In 1985. April 1st.
Jim: April Fools Day. It set the tone for the relationship.
Michael: We met in San Francisco at the Third Wave dance studio.
Jim: At an event called ďThe Barefoot Boogie.Ē
What did you first think of each other?
Michael: Jim was very absorbed in his environment and himself. I was struck by him standing in front of a big mirror doing Tíai Chi. Everyone else was dancing very crazy and wild, and he was monk-like.
Jim: Michael was eccentric and very colorful. He was very large when he danced, with big, angular, swooping movements.
I was asleep to him and this whole thing around me. I was truly focused on Jim at that point in my life. It was my theme.
Afterwards, he asked me to join him and his friends downstairs at a coffee house. I agreed and we talked for two hours. Because I was very insulated at that period, it was great to be invited into a community of people. I was grateful to him for that.
Initially, I didnít think of him in any sexual sense, just friendship. He has an external beauty, but the attraction for me was his internal beauty, which is a strong heart, warmth and caring. He listened and there was compassion. I needed that a lot. He still provides that.
When did your friendship become a relationship?
Michael: After three days I intuitively knew there was something very deep there, more than just friendship. It took several months before it materialized into a relationship.
Have you been in relationships before?
Michael: I had been in different types of relationships before, but nothing quite like this, where I lived with the person.
Jim: I never had a relationship with a man before. Iíd always had relationships with women, sexually and intimately. Intimately? Well, maybe not.
Usually those relationships only got to the point where youíre over the honeymoon and youíre into the ďstuff.Ē Those were largely based on sexual or personality attraction. When I met Michael, I was ready to stick with a relationship for a while.
It came as a shock to me that it was a man who appeared, but Iím glad it was. It has probably accelerated my growth a great deal to work out my homophobia, go a little deeper than sexual attraction and explore the soul connection, the reason two people bond.
What are your religious backgrounds?
Jim: I was raised Roman Catholic.
Michael: I was raised Protestant.
Are you part of any religious group now?
Michael: Absolutely not.
Jim: I keep trying to belong to them. It never works. I feel a great affinity to almost every religion, especially to the deeper and more contemplative side of Christianity and Zen Buddhism.
Iíve tried to live in communities of both. Neither afforded me the opportunity to be totally myself. Probably didnít allow me to be my gay self, mainly.
Michael: One of the reasons we call the magazine Monk, and why we do what we do, is that Mike and I embrace all traditions but donít align with any one. We want to transcend the form and get to the pure essence.
Are you out to your families?
Michael: Yes, definitely. Itís been somewhat painful at times, but over these two years weíve come out to them. There was fear from both our families.
It was hard for mine to adjust, but after a few months they were able to accept Jim as my mate. My family has been aware of my sexuality for over 15 years, but they never had meet a lover. It had been comfortable for them to keep me off in a corner.
Now they have totally accepted Jim into their hearts. Itís helped me to open up more to my family. I feel more complete with them.
Jim: Iím out in a surface sort of way with my family. They believe that homosexuality is wrong, but theyíve accepted that Iím with this person. Itís the longest relationship Iíve ever had ó over three years ó so obviously there is something good going on.
Last Christmas we went home to meet them together for the first time. They were very cordial and friendly, but I sensed that their core beliefs had not changed.
Have you experienced discrimination against you as a couple?
Jim: Definitely. Because a part of me is in denial of my gayness, I didnít want to recognize it at first. Iím more likely to attribute it to something else, like ďthey didnít like the magazine.Ē Mainly I see it with advertisers. They tell us they donít want to advertise and they are really saying they donít like the gayness of the magazine.
When we use the word ďgayĒ, we donít necessarily mean ďhomosexualĒ. Gayness is a word thatís hard to define except by example.
Give an example.
Jim: Our audacity to wear a pink polka-dot dress in the publisherís profile in our magazine.
It isnít a strictly, obviously gay magazine; itís read by a lot of straight people. In the next issue, Mike and I are dressed up as women in several cases, but thatís just drag.
Some woman say they find drag degrading or belittling to women.
Jim: Iíve never heard that before. I shouldnít use the word drag, itís more like costume, putting on a mask for a little bit.
Michael: Itís camp, mostly costume, not making fun of women.
What do you mean by gayness?
Jim: I mean being light, gay, fun, slightly irreverent, friendly, truly innocent and loving; looking at life with integrity and consciousness but as a playground instead of an ordeal. The spirit of gayness breaks through the judgments and rescues us from so much.
We are not really attached to the idea that we are homosexuals or male lovers, but I see this a lot in others. Sometimes male lovers bring on stigma, bring on hate. They lack the gayness thatís necessary to break through that.
Mike and I are having fun, playing out the archetype that the culture really needs and expects from gay people, which is to help them laugh at their straight, overly serious games. Gay people serve a shamanistic role of showing the other side, twisting things about a bit, reversing the rules. Mike and I do that with abandon, and we are accepted and loved.
If we were to hold it back ó Iíve seen this in some so-called gay men ó I strongly feel that it would turn into self-hatred. A ghetto mentality would set in because they have not really become gay in a truly gay sense.
Have you had any major difficulties in your relationship?
Michael: The same things that have come up in any relationship Iíve ever had. Dancing around money, sex and what to eat at night. Sometimes one takes more of a heavy hand than the other. I never see any of them being totally resolved.
The one thing that Iíve learned over the past couple of years with Jim is to step back when something comes up that seems heavy, to let it be for a while.
Specifically, what problems?
Michael: Different sexual timings. Maybe I would feel more inclined to make love one night and Jimís not into it. Or seeking outside partners, and the jealousy that may come up. Even though we pretty much are very ďmonogamous,Ē still attractions come up in our travels.
Are you monogamous or not?
Michael: Yes, itís very strict.
Jim: Weíre monks!
Michael: Our agreement has helped us resolve our attractions. If it werenít for that, I feel there would not be much strength in the relationship. It helps resolve what to do, helps bring ourselves back to the relationship; to work out new levels of intimacy with other people, which doesnít necessarily mean going to bed with them.
Other problems surface around money and money hysteria. When thereís zero money in the bank, we think that maybe we should just stop working on the magazine, go get jobs and settle down. That comes and goes. It has actually brought us closer together, to learn how to work together more efficiently and effectively.
How have you set up your personal finances?
Michael: We merged everything ó bank accounts and assets ó after about a year.
What do you see as the future of your relationship?
Michael: I see more settledness, more harmony, acting more as a unit, a lessening of our impulsiveness, being more at peace with ourselves as a couple.
Jim: I donít know the answer to that question. I have some confusion and desires that boil beneath the surface. In time, the various chakras, aspects of my being, will become very integrated, and these desires that I have for other people, or whatever, will start to find their proper place and wonít loom so large. In those moments of doubt, thereís a deep part of me that knows there is something good in continuing to empower this relationship, even though it causes me great pain.
Astrologically, I have a difficult time with choice. I want Michael and I want something else too. Half of me wants to travel, the other half wants to settle down. Part of me desires a woman, or maybe just another person, lifestyle or job.
Even though being with a man is not the norm, it represents the spirit of how Iím living this life. I take a risk every chance I can. I push my limits, to understand who I am, instead of choosing the safer route of going with a woman.
Jim, what does that mean for the future of the relationship?
Jim: (after a long pause) I am a person who never thinks about the future.
That question is really, ďWhat do I feel about the relationship right now?Ē How I feel about the relationship right now shapes how I feel about its future. Right now, thereís a lot of tension around survival; getting this issue out and on schedule; the enormous amount of capitol needed for publishing; and of being on the road.
My own confusion around my sexuality has not resolved itself, so I canít say the future is. Iíd like to say the future is clear; that itís Michael and Jim, better and more solidified. But at this moment, I donít feel that. Iím in a state of confusion, which is O.K.
Part of the confusion is because Iím going home to Omaha, Nebraska, for my sisterís wedding, and I know thereís a hell of a lot of homophobia waiting there. A lot of judgment that this relationship isnít right. Iím very responsive to what other people think.
Another part of me feels not totally satisfied with a same-sex relationship.
Michael: Living with a confused person, it has saved me a lot to remember that itís him and not me. Whoever the partner you choose, the stuff they go through is their stuff. Itís best to not get too involved with it. I try to walk that fine line between total intimacy and letting the person have at it with their own stuff.
To know that all things pass is the most helpful thing to me.
Jim: I like what Michael said. Let it sit and some true wisdom will arise.