July 22, 2009
"She doesn't want to live off-camera, much less talk. There's nothing to say off-camera. Why would you say something if it's off-camera? What point is there existing?" -Warren Beatty to Madonna, 1991.
For the record I did not pitch the New York Times a story on my break-up. Ryan Brown did not believe me today as I sat in Mark Silver's office. I would admit it. Seriously. I know that many people, better friends included, made that assumption. Not that I see anything wrong in media coverage of one's failed relationship. I just did not in this instance. I am a master of self promotion. But this was not me.
Julie Scelfo, the Times' writer, had first emailed with me earlier this year. Hilary Unger, an interior designer I've worked with, recommended that I design a room for a Times' piece on $300 room makeovers. I did not end up participating in the Times' piece, but Julie was intrigued by my website and its colors and its prose. She filed it away.
Then she emailed me months later out of the blue and was interested in doing a story on our lakehouse. But things had changed and the story had changed and Julie saw something compelling and positive in the emotional rollercoaster Ben and I were racing up and down on. She wanted to write a story.
Of course I jumped at the opportunity. She wanted pictures of my studio on Christopher street and of the lakehouse. I obliged. And then, while I rode a convertible with Brian Babst to Palm Springs, she and I had a discussion of what the story looked like. I was very into it. Obviously.
Ben, not so much. He and I are going to therapy. Some of my friends roll their eyes at the thought of these therapy sessions. My boyfriend does not particularly see the benefit to these meetings either, but he is supportive none the less. We go to therapy to sort out what went wrong and to work on transitioning our partnership from one of lovers to one of business partners. And friends. You see, as the Times' piece shows, we own two homes together. Neither of which we can afford on our own and neither of which we can sell. So we're forced to make this work. We have no choice.
Ben's friends tend to be a bit more conservative than mine. He works in finance too. And he got some feedback from them that participating in the Times' story would do nothing for him. What would he get out of it they asked? And he was apprehensive.
I knew that the home we'd created was special. Very special. Anyone who has ever stayed the night knows this. And I thought the Times' piece would be a perfect send-off. It would document our love. It would preserve this special place. It would, in some way, provide needed closure.
So Ben agreed. And I respect him for it. I thought he had no issue being Googled and having his life exposed. How could he? He was with me for five years. I knew he would not want to work for someone who would judge him based on his personal life. He's not as exposed to the world as I am. But he does not hide. But I guess, after reading the article, he's not so comfortable being out there as I am. I did not realize he had issues with this blog. I sit here asking myself why I have the need to write here. It's complex and needed and evolving. I will not or cannot abandon the possibilities and connections this space brings to my life. I'm a writer. I'm home here.
Back to the Times. We met with Julie together, then separately, and then again at Ben's birthday party held the day that was to be our wedding. In talking about our life together-the ride across country, the renovating of the house, the eventual demise-I was struck with great pride and appreciation for what Ben had done to me. He truly helped transform me. He inspired me more than I could ever type here. He helped me become a man. Finally.
Walking through the house, both physically and via photographs, I am reminded of a happy time in my life. I am inspired by the joy of creating. And I am proud of what we created. Something beautiful. An escape for ourselves and our friends. A place where we watched The Birds and dined wearing wigs and ate like pigs and fought during charades and toasted to life and collected: plates, memories, art, furniture and friendships.
And while some will see this story as sad, and yes, it can be very sad, still, it is indeed the opposite. It is a story about a shared love, of each other and of design. It is a story of how things change and how friendship remains. And it is a story of how life is rarely perfect. Not perfect, but beautiful and evolving,
Two hours north of New York City, right off the Taconic at mile marker 67, sits a little piece of my heart. It lives in a colorfully kitsch playhouse and it will always be where I've felt the most home. My mother always said I had an explorer's heart and I pick up and live wherever the wind, and my desire, take me. I've never really had a home. Not growing up. Not in my twenties. But there among those trees and on that lake remains my home. Hopefully, sometime sooner than later, Ben and his friends and me an my friends and his boyfriend and my boyfriend can all come together for a weekend there. Laugh all you want. I know we'll get there.
We'll farmstand hop and make elaborate meals and drink good wine and play Wii Fit and watch Hitchcock and Auntie Mame. I have hope of getting there. And so does he. In good time.
While the article was more about us and less about the houses, which is not how I originally thought it would be, I'm still happy to read it. I know other people going through similar situations and emotions right now and I'm glad the story was told. Even in adversity happiness can break though.