Tuesday, January 04, 2005
I’ve been visiting the site for most of its five years. Keith turned forty and found a great love, seemingly THE great love, in the person of Ben during the last quarter of 2004. A Brit who made his career in the US, Keith has shared his highs, lows, the joys of living in San Francisco, desire to supplement life in the corporate world with filmmaking, and many, many pictures of his tall, lean, sculpted and beautifully maintained body with his readers. Literate, often witty, always a keen observer, unfailingly honest about himself and his life, and a good documentary photographer, Keith leaves a seriously empty space behind him. I’ll probably keep the link for a while just in case he changes his mind--but I doubt he will. He jets back and forth between New York and the west coast for work, has just moved from San Francisco to LA to be with the adorable Ben and has clearly finished one phase of his life to begin a wonderful new one.
I spoke with Fritz last night about those moments in my childhood when I looked at the family around me and wondered seriously, “do I belong to these people? Could I have been adopted?” In many ways I have assimilated and revel in some of the rich heritage and culture of my Italo-French father’s family and my English-Welsh mother’s family but my parents demanded absolute conformity to the style they had established and I didn’t fit in.
I was frequently unhappy as a child, feeling isolated and not in tune with what all the other kids wanted and felt and how they lived. The fact that things at home weren’t terribly good didn’t help, but it was in a highly repressive, anti-intellectual Catholic school that the big trouble occurred. I remember one day at home being deeply depressed, in tears or at the verge of tears, and being asked roughly what was the matter with me, why I couldn’t just be like all the other children. I said because I was different from all the other children. I knew that I was different from an early age even if the combined forces of family and church had managed to keep me very much in the dark as to the real nature of that difference It was totally the wrong answer. My English grandmother very sternly told me “Don’t be ridiculous, child. Get on with your business and don’t get above yourself putting on airs!” To an old guard, class-conscious Englishwoman of a certain era, getting “above oneself” and, in particular, being a child who dared to express opinions or show some individuality was about the worst thing one could do. As you might expect, political ultra-conservatism and homophobia were cornerstones of my parents’ belief system.
I remembered all this after reading Keith’s farewell. He had taken Ben, who is southeast Asian, home to the English midlands to meet his widowed Father (who had never actually recognized or spoken of Keith’s being gay), sisters and gay younger brother. There were issues of sexuality and being a mixed-race couple to be faced. The family took a stroll together in a park and Keith excused himself to use a public men’s room. He said that when he returned, his father was in animated, friendly conversation with Ben and that the barriers of something like 20 years had fallen in perhaps as many minutes. I felt very close to him in that moment, as he experienced a revelation and connection I was never to have with anyone of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation. Good bye, Keith, and thanks!