Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth: Sixty Years

Eric Marcoux, left, and Eugene Woodworth in 1955

When Carlos and I celebrate an anniversary, people always seem somewhat surprised at the number of years we have under our collective belts.

Twelve years!?!? Wow! Congratulations.

I don't know if the surprise was that we'd been together for twelve years as a couple, or that we'd been together for twelve years as a gay couple. Are people surprised that gay couples can exist for a decade of more, do exist for a decade or more?

For me, I'm always pleasantly surprised by any couple, gay or straight, who can stay together, although I am more in awe of gay couples, because, well, since we aren’t allowed the rights of marriage that apply to straight folks--in most places--it's a lot easier to break up. You know, no pesky divorce lawyers; no alimony. I mean, sure, there might be a Who gets the couch or Who gets to dog discussion, but, for quite a while, a gay couple could break up, even after a long while, simply by walking away. Which is why I smile at these two.....

Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth will celebrate 60 years together on June 13.
Sixty.Years.Unmarried. Here's an interview done by the couple, in honor of sixty years together, for The Oregonian:
How did you meet?
Eric Marcoux: I'd just come from the 12th century. I was in a Trappist monastery when I was very very young. (I) went into a restaurant and ran into a friend, and he was sitting with someone. I was invited by my friend Nathan to come to a party that evening. And I said, "No, no, no, I'm going to a movie with friends." I went and sat down. I had what I swear was a paranormal experience. I subjectively felt like something put its hands under my armpits and lifted me and marched me back. I'm looking at Nathan and saying, "I've decided to come to your party. And won't you introduce me to your friend?" I'd never been so forward in my whole life.
Eugene Woodworth: I came from a ballet background, professional. I was working for three small companies and had my own as well, and I started to get good reviews. I was actually having lunch with a friend, and we were sitting chatting. All of a sudden a figure appeared at my shoulder. My body went cold. I was feeling electric shock. I couldn't move. ... I barely got started talking again, and the same thing happened. I heard (Eric) say, "Well, why don't you introduce me to your friend?" And so I turned and shook hands with him and at that point I said, "I've got to quit ballet. Overnight stays and three weeks at a time is not going to work. I've got to get a regular job. I'm going to have a family." We made arrangements to meet that night, at the party. Later we went out for a snack at a little restaurant. And as we walked in, both the cashier and the waitress said, "Oh! You're twins, aren't you? Twins!" So from there on, for the rest of our lives, we've been twins and/or brothers.
Eric Marcoux: It was a good cover that those waitresses gave us, right from the start.
Eugene Woodworth: It wasn't OK for two men to live together. Actually, it was against the law in Chicago.
How did you decide to spend your lives together?
Eugene Woodworth: There wasn't anything else. Really. There was nothing else for me to do other than spend my life with him. From that very instant that we met. That was it.
Eric Marcoux: We renew our wedding vows once a month as part of our spiritual practice. And so going through the pictures (of ourselves through the years) gives us a chance to own our youth, our middle age, and that we're getting very old now.
Eugene Woodworth: We came this far, why not more?
What is the legal status of your relationship?
Eric Marcoux: (Marriage is) a personal designation. We had a dear friend who was a rogue Franciscan. And he married us. Many years later, when Eugene and I were getting close to our 40th anniversary, sitting with the two abbots at Dharma Rain Zen Center, and we said, "We wish we could have a Buddhist wedding." And the one abbot said to her husband, "Well, we really haven't done anything for the gay community. So why don't we give you a space and a ceremony?" So, ironically, we've had two religious weddings, and not any civil union. We can't afford the civil union. Our attorney said, "Often when people come to me at your age I advise them to get divorced." When you have such minimal resources, if one of you has a devastating disease, then you have to spend all the way down in order to qualify for Medicaid. Whereas if you're divorced or single, the burden is seriously reduced. I would love to say, "Let's run over to Washington and do it!" But pragmatically, not. It wouldn't change the internal chemistry, alchemy, that we live with. But boy, I want to live long enough to see this happen in Oregon. Because I've become so aware of the humanizing and civilizing dimensions of being in a publicly recognized relationship.
What do you enjoy doing together?
Eugene Woodworth: We make a point of going to Starbucks every morning. That's our free time together. That's when we talk. When we get home we've got other things to do. When we're outside the house we've got things to do, other people to see. And so we make a formal morning out of it every morning.
Eric Marcoux: I really like him. A great deal. And he apparently likes me. But it's (also) about friends and the support system. With the big important issues, I talk to him about. And we can talk about some things, and others we can't talk. Not because it's taboo, it's just because it puts him to sleep. Literally to sleep.
Was there ever a time you thought that your relationship wouldn't last?
Eugene Woodworth: No. Never thought that.
Eric Marcoux: No.
Eugene Woodworth: There were times it was kind of iffy. "Oh, what'd I do? What did we do?" But we worked through it.
Eric Marcoux: One of the things that is a disadvantage to being able to share how long we've been together is, I feel like we're being put in a stained-glass window. "Isn't that wonderful?" And it is wonderful, but we've worked very hard for it and still work very hard at it. And being in a relationship isn't the only way to be a fulfilled human being.
Eugene Woodworth: And a long-term relationship isn't something that you just flip through when it feels good. When it stops feeling good you phfft. And that doesn't work.
Eric Marcoux: It was just in my nature to expect that, well, things aren't always working wonderfully. But not a matter of toxicity. Get out of it if it's toxic. But just so I'm bored, so what?
What advice would you give to new couples today?
Eric Marcoux: God, that's just a terror of a question. To know it's not easy, and leave if it's toxic. Wait long enough to know whether or not it's toxic or just a pain. And be in love with love.
Eugene Woodworth: The main thing that I come back to is commitment. You have to decide from the very beginning whether it's going to be a committed relationship for a long period or if it's just going to be as long as it lasts. Which is what most people do. They fall in love with lust instead of love. And they think that when the sex starts getting bad, that's the end of the relationship. That's the beginning of the relationship! That's when you start working on it.
What's the biggest lesson about love and partnership you've learned along the way?
Eugene Woodworth: It never lets up.
Eric Marcoux: To be more gentle toward my own vulnerabilities and to his inadequacies, because they disappoint him as well as me. Oh, that didn't make any sense at all.
Eugene Woodworth: You never were worried about disappointing me.
Eric Marcoux: Oh, God, I'm going to leave him right now. May I get a ride?
Eugene Woodworth: Yeah, teasing is part of it.
Eric Marcoux: It's worth the effort. In the form of Buddhism we practice there's a real emphasis on what we call Buddha nature. It refers to our innate goodness. There's wisdom and compassion there, and we can be utterly cruel because we haven't learned to recognize it. When you really get that you have Buddha nature in yourself and so do others, when we begin to get a kind of radical respect for the other person's strengths and weaknesses, and our own, we can afford to be loving and friendly toward them.
Eugene Woodworth: Tied to that is a continual coming out to each other. Whatever it is that we suddenly discover in ourselves, we share. And just coming out basically as a gay person. It is something that builds respect and friendship with other people outside our circle. Even people who aren't allies at the moment become allies because of our honesty. You know, we all have closets to come out of. They're all different, but you have to find out what your closet is and come out. Before that, you're not a whole person. You really aren't.
Eric Marcoux: Sharing our vulnerabilities and being willing to be vulnerable, when it's not going to get you shot or beat up right on the spot. Once you get to doing that, it can become a demanding habit but a really good habit. It's incredible and liberating.
Eugene Woodworth: When we come out of our own closest, other people do too.
Eugene Woodworth: When we come out of our own closest, other people do too.
What an amazing couple. What a life they've had together, from being labeled "twins" or "brothers' because the idea of two men living together wasn't just considered a sin, but was also a crime. And they soldiered on, and on. Years, actually, because they love one another, and wanted a life together, in whatever form it took. 

From now on, when people act surprised about Carlos and I celebrating anniversary thirteen or fourteen or twenty-five, I'm going to tell people about Eric and Eugene, and a sixty-plus year love story.
Eric Marcoux, right, and Eugene Woodworth after nearly sixty years together


the dogs' mother said...

I did not know that about illegality. Good grief!

Frank said...

Their wonderful story and others like them should be on the evening news or other mainstream media outlets. The world needs to see us as something other than as they define us: perverts with an agenda. I think there are more longterm gay couples than we might think. Many did not identify as gay before Stonewall and may never have associated with what we call the gay community; we know many couples that are in the 25 year category like us. We'll be 25 this august and for a late bloomer, like me, that is quite a number.

anne marie in philly said...

I second frank's idea!

what a happy couple; this whole post made me smile.

now compare and contrast this couple against kim "kash kow" kardashian and kris humphries. night and day; mocks the very idea of being together!

Debbie said...

I'm feeling all mushy inside ... SIXTY YEARS?!?! That is AMAZING to have shared your ENTIRE LIFE with another human being and all that life throws at you.

I once saw an amazing documentary YEARS ago about couples together for 50 years or more. There was a gay couple, very much like the couple here, and it was unbelievably heartbreaking because one had been diagnosed with Alzheimers and we got to see how the other cared for him and shaved him in the morning and fed him and took care of him. I cried like a freaking baby.

Congrats to you and Carlos! Danny and I have been together 17 years now ... and honestly, it has gone SO FAST.



hansumbear said...

NOW THAT IS REAL LOVE! Tears was brought to my eyes reading this story! Nowadays i see relationships come and go! People breaking up for foolish reasons....This is really inspiring to me,this story lets you know that love dose exist!