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Monday, December 31, 2018

Ask Arthur 2018, Part 8- About me and my parents

Here we are, at the final post in This year’s “Ask Arthur” series. Such good questions this year—so much so it took me a bit longer to get through them all than I’d originally thought. Better than no questions at all, though, right? I always worry that’ll happen, but so far it hasn’t. Whew!

Today’s first questions are from my friend Andy. His first question:
You recently celebrated two milestones. The first was an anniversary of your move to New Zealand. The second was an anniversary of your marriage to Nigel. I have a couple of questions around these milestones because they represent important events in your life.

My first question comes in multiple flavors, like Neapolitan Ice Cream: "what on earth possessed an American from Chicago to emigrate to New Zealand? What was your decision process, your rationale? Why New Zealand?"


This is the easiest of the two to answer, because, technically, I didn’t choose New Zealand. Instead, as I used to joke, I chose Nigel and New Zealand came along for the ride. Thing is, that’s actually true.

I shared the entire story in 1995, my 20th Anniversary in New Zealand, but the gist of it is that I was originally going to Australia and New Zealand as a tourist, nothing more, but I wanted to make contact with locals who could tell me what to see and—more importantly—what not to see. Nigel was the one I “met” online.

Months later, I came to New Zealand, we met in person, and confirmed that we wanted to be together. However, at the time, the only real way for that to happen was for me to move to New Zealand. Back then, a US citizen could only sponsor a foreign national who was a close family member or their spouse. But marriage for gay couples wasn’t legal anywhere in the world at that time. So, the only way he could come to the US is if he found a job that would sponsor his visa, and that wasn’t very easy to do.

At that same time, New Zealand allowed its citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-gender partner for immigration, but there was a very long waiting period, and I needed to find a job that would sponsor my visa, and I did. But we knew that there was a clear path to permanent residence in New Zealand, but maybe not even a possibility of it in the United States.

So, technically, I didn’t choose New Zealand. Instead, it allowed Nigel and I to choose each other, to be together, and to stay together, all things that the USA didn’t do at that time. Fortunately, it all worked out!

Andy then asked:

The second question has maybe "mind-your-own-business" for an answer, but I'll ask it anyway: "Looking back on your lives together, was there a particular catalyzing event or reason that made you decide to get married, and if so, what was that? Was it a gradual decision, or was it impulsive and spur-of-the-moment?"

I have very few limits in these “Ask Arthur” series, and this one was nowhere near one! Marriage was mostly an evolutionary thing. Neither of us were particularly eager to get a civil union when they became available, and for me that was mostly because I saw it as “Marriage Lite”. I didn’t see any particular reason to get a civil union, though it would cement our legal status as each other’s next of kin. When we actually decided to have a civil union, some four years after they were introduced, it was a spur of the moment thing, decided at Christmas at Nigel’s brother’s house—about a month before the ceremony. In the end, we also combined it with my 50th birthday party.

When marriage became possible in New Zealand, we got married (technically, we changed our civil union to a marriage) only a couple months later. We were both keenly aware of how marriage is a big deal, something that most of us grow up expecting to have some day. But it was also something that had always been denied to us. Everyone knows what marriage means, but most people have no real idea what a civil union is.

I don’t think there was any particular thing that made us want to be married, apart from growing up expecting it and knowing it had been denied to us for all our lives (up until when it wasn’t denied to us anymore). I think both of us felt the struggle to win marriage equality, and the energy behind that, and maybe that’s what drove us forward.

The reality, though, is that we waited for several years to get a civil union because we saw little reason to get one, which made the decision to do it a spur of the moment thing. By the time marriage was available, it was something we very much wanted, something whose time had come.

Thanks, Andy!

Today—and this year’s—final question is from Roger Green:

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you walk near? No, wait, that's a Carpenters song.
Tell stories about your parents you've never told before.


I put this one off for a very simple reason: I couldn’t think of an answer. I’ve already told most of the stories I’d share, either because others are personal or not terribly interesting, which is true of most of our own stories, of course.

So, the best I could come up with for my dad is this. After he retired from the ministry, he worked for a time as a counsellor at our county sheriff’s work release program for male prisoners convicted of minor crimes, with an eye toward rehabilitation. Because of that, he came into contact with a lot of young people. He told me about one young man with “LOSER” tattooed on his fingers, and it clearly affected him. At this point my dad suddenly realised the importance of parental love, and that’s the point at which he worked pretty hard at becoming my friend, something I’ve referred to in the past. He even had one of those banal, but still true, bumper stickers that said “Have You Hugged You Kid Today?” he was a one-man crusade in an age when no one was listening.

The end to that particular story is that a new sheriff was elected, and he changed the program to make it tougher, more like jail, so he could cut costs. My dad became little more than a jailer, and he left soon after.

I couldn’t think of any new stories about my mother, since I’ve told so many, except for this (which I hope I haven’t already told): She wasn’t a very good cook. She used to experiment with all sorts of trendy things that were, um, well, terrible. Awful, even. Like the casserole made with saltines and Velveeta cheese. Then there was the time she made two packets of something called a “TVP Dinner” (TVP was “textured vegetable protein”), but she used half the water. When I was a baby she made my cereal and put in salt instead of sugar (she told me that story—I clearly don’t remember it). When we went camping, she made tinned salmon, peas, and white sauce on chow mein noodles. She also made a whole chicken that came in a can. Her standard dishes were awesome, though, and some of them I still make.

Her baking was uneven. She was often too slow to take cookies out of the oven, and occasionally she left out an ingredient. But when she got it right, it was awesome.

All of that was terrible, and still gives me nightmares (well, they don’t, but it would be understandable if they did).

Thanks for the challenge, Roger!

Well, that’s it for another year! Thanks for all the questions, and enduring my answers. See you next year!

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-18”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, "Ask Arthur”.

Previously:

Let the 2018 asking begin – The first post in this year’s series.
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 1: Perfect place
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 2: Living where?
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 3: About religious stuff
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 4: About what I like
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 5: About conversion therapy
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 6: About blogging stuff
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 7: About current gay issues

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