Love's Gay Fool. Autobiography of John Alan Lee.


Chapter 25. Roller coaster romance



Still reeling from summer’s madness, my new ad sought “someone to watch over me.” A gentle Danish accent spoke from my voice-mail: “Hi there, I’m Janus. I like your ad. Call me.” We arranged dinner. That violated a cardinal rule of blind dating: meet for coffee, which can be politely concluded in twenty minutes. You can’t escape dinner in less than an hour. I was lucky; Janus merited a second date.

I ignored other rules – and was not so lucky.

Rule 2: No matter how attractive, don’t date a man still living with his ex.

Rule 3: If he’s renovating, and near the finishing coat of paint, join in. It’s a way to get acquainted. But if you’re greeted by naked studs and unconnected plumbing, make your apologies. This guy isn’t ready for romantic involvement.

Rule 4: No rescue operations . When a trainload of emotional baggage tumbles out during your first conversation, and some of the baggage is thirty years old, don’t play therapist. Refer the guy, wish him luck, and go back to your voice-mail.

Rule 5: When your first serious argument occurs (and it will, for the path of true love never did run smooth), and your new lover hits you, get out of there. Wait! Everyone should be allowed one mistake! OK, but a second assault should warn even the most forgiving.

Rule 6. If your new beau gets mad at you while he’s at the wheel, and he drives dangerously to intimidate you, get out of the car, and stay out.

Rule 7: “Love me, love my dog.” Janus valued his own dog so little that he let his ex keep it, and he never took a liking to my dogs.

Too bad for wise rules. I was desperate, and all the worse for me, he knew it. Half a century ago, sociologist Willard Waller laid down Waller’s law of romance: “The person with the least interest in continuing the relationship has the most control over its direction.” Janus soon realized that I was despondently lonely. He could throw tantrums, break off, return again, lie, play games, pendulate from one mood extreme to another in minutes, and I would tolerate all of it.

My journal glows after our first date: “Terrific dinner with Janus, a darkly handsome forty-year-old. To my immense delight he phoned just after I arrived home, to say how much he enjoyed our evening.”

We both confessed that if we’d met at a party, neither would have cruised the other, because neither is the other’s usual “type.” (He prefers stout men with hairy bodies). Yet within days we were dancing, slow and close, followed by cuddling at my fireplace.

On our second date, Janus tried to take control of the sex: “I want to kiss but not touch below the belt. I want to test our will power.” He fondled me all night. I got no sleep. In the morning he had his way with me, as novels say. He left after breakfast: “I like you.”

On our third date I gave him a card, with a quote from Goethe:

 Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

        Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

I introduced him to my favourite relationship expert, Harville Hendrix on “conscious marriage.” Hendrix opposes the California psycho-babble that each of us must “be our own best friend.” He insists:

“Mature human character is developed not in solitude nor in selfish pursuit of one’s own goals, but in intimate relationship with another person who is valued deeply.... These two know when they have a valid relationship (whether love or friendship) because of certain signs: a good “fit” of personal qualities, a sense of necessity (“this was intended for us”), ... and a feeling of determination: “I am going to make this work. I am not going to give myself any easy outs.”

November 10. Warning signs: Janus is a Libra with moon in Gemini, fated to be a tormented and ambivalent lover. Janus has horrifying memories of childhood abuse by his own mother, who apparently believed she was past childbearing age, and made it cruelly clear that he was an unwanted child. He’s had no therapy, and hungrily needs pampering.

November 12. Janus has met Nicola, Adam and Johanna, who all approve. They like his clever mind.

November 16. Here’s his love history: At 23 he met his first partner, 40 years his senior. When this partner died, Janus inherited substantial property. His second partner was also 40 years older. At 38, Janus broke off this relationship, but, out of guilt, allowed the old man to go on living in Janus’ house. [There goes rule 2!]

November 17. More warnings: Janus boasts of “never taking vacations.” He belongs to no groups, plays no role in the gay community, supports no social cause.

And very bad news for an eros lovestyle like me, focussed on men’s faces: Janus, even when smiling, does not have a pretty face. Johanna calls him a “dark Celt.” His beard is heavy, requiring a shave twice a day. His eyebrows meet above his nose, giving him a minatory countenance.

November 20. In spite of broken rules and warning signs, I asked Janus to live with me for a trial period. He assured me of his love, but warned: I do not want to live in your house.” I agreed we could both sell, and move to a shared house, “if all goes well.”

Christmas Eve: New York City. Janus chose a superlative restaurant and we gorged ourselves on exotic dishes such as ostrich and quail. Over a merry table we held hands and pronounced our love for each other. Janus presented me with a folder of love poems composed for me.

We cabbed to Town House, the city’s poshest gay bar. Several men were extremely attractive, and Janus noticed my eyes wandering. He dropped my hand and excused himself to the washroom. Fifteen minutes later he was still gone.

Finally he reappeared, stared through me with a grim face, and passed by. I caught up: “What on earth is wrong?” He burst into tears, and for half an hour I did my best to console him. Convinced that I wanted to go home with one of the cute guys at the piano, he’d wandered the streets, and almost got lost. It took all my therapeutic skill to get us into a cab for the hotel.

Xmas Day. We dined in the gay village, and saw Gross Indecency, a play about Oscar Wilde. Lord Douglas was played by a stunning youth. Janus grew jealous. This time I was more amused than anxious. I quoted Mark Twain: I have survived many difficulties in my life, some of which actually happened.” What’s your problem?” I demanded. “I have not been unfaithful to you.” I christened Janus’ tantrums: “Mark Twain moments.”


We brought in the New Year at dinner with Janus’ two closest friends, and announced our “engagement.”

January 8. Tonight we enjoyed a mad sex scenario that reprised the best of Dane. Janus is becoming my last great sexual hurrah.

January 12. Janus’ emotional schedule includes at least two “Mark Twain moments” per week. His jealousy reminds me of Franz, but at least he doesn’t hit me. We got HIV tests together and we’re both negative.

January 14. Over dinner at his house, Janus recited a mirthless litany of complaints about me, my house, even the dogs. His body drew taut, his speech rapid and clipped. When I reached to caress him, he went berserk: “Don’t touch me, you prick!” he screamed, and shoved me to the floor.

I struggled up, hastily vacated, and at home wrote him a warning letter: “I could never love anyone willing to strike me.”

January 16. Janus apologized, and we spent the day skiing. Tonight we enjoyed a complex scenario with lots of toys. He came wildly, twice, and even made some ecstatic noises for the first time.

February 5. Janus’s ex is hostile when he runs into me at Janus’ house. I believe he’s still in love with Janus, and hopes to “get him back.”

Reading Week: I’ve using my masonry skills to reconstruct Janus’ fireplace. I’ve now worked 140 hours on his renovations.

February 24. Janus surprised me tonight: “My ex is trying to monopolize my time and push you out. I’ve decided to sell the house this spring. That will force him to move.” But he again insisted: “I don’t want to live in your house.” I assured Janus that I’ll sell too, and we’ll buy together, but I’m anguished about leaving Kairos.

February 26. We’re back from a weekend vacation in ski country. The snow was fast, the sun warm. We drove home in radiant bliss.

Fortunately his morose face helps me avoid falling totally in love. If he had the face of Kirk or Rory, a face that matched the beauty of his body (which is amazing) I would swoon. “Darkly handsome ” is only true when he’s in a sweet mood.

February 27. Janus has surprised me again He wants to discuss the possibility of moving into Kairos “long enough for us to really get to know each other” before we buy a house together.

March 11. I first thought Janus didn’t play games. Not so –his Mark Twain moments are an elaborate game, but nicer than his latest. Today he asked: ”Suppose I wait six months before moving in. What would you do?”

“Janus, you’ve already swore you won’t stay overnight at my place if I get a housemate, because you like privacy. My answer is: “I will not live another six months alone. I don’t have time for the waiting game.”

March 16. Janus has decided: “I don’t want to lose you. I’ll move in for a one-month trial.”

April 15. Over dinner Janus crabbed that he feels squirrelly when staying in my house.

“What does squirrelly mean?”

“Well, nervous. You don’t train your dogs enough and you don’t keep this house neat enough.” Out flowed his grievance baggage. His temper flared from pique to frenzy, until suddenly he grabbed me and shoved me hard. I scrambled to my feet and fled the room. He didn’t follow. Should I give him another chance, or would this happen again and again? Finally I told him: “If you ever hit me again, we’re finished.” (Broke the rule!)

April 30. Tonight Janus proposed to use his vacation days to ready his house for sale. “You can take this summer’s vacation by yourself.”

“I don’t find that very funny” was all I could say.

Janus with one of my new dogs.

May 15. Much to his credit, Janus has the house ready to show real estate agents today.

May 27. Sudden squall warning! Janus’s ex has hired a lawyer, to be sure he gets “his share” when the house is sold. What could he mean? Doesn’t Janus own the house? He refuses to elaborate.

June 19. I had not a scintilla of warning about the tsunami that hit us today. Janus’s ex has good legal grounds for claiming the house is shared as a “matrimonial home.” His lawyer has made a 25-page Statement of Claims.

Janus has grossly deceived me. He is not the “free agent” he led me to believe. His dealings are deeply tangled with his ex. All the same, I’ve arranged for him to meet my lawyer.

June 24. Janus’ ex and his lawyer cite many grounds for claiming a share of the house sale: helping Janus go back to school, cooking most of their meals for eight years, cleaning the house, looking after Janus’ dog. The lawyer even threw in a charge of adultery – that Janus had been sexually unfaithful during their relationship. I roared with laughter – imagine accusing a gay man of adultery.

Canada Day. Janus is in despair. “I worry that I don’t even know how to be happy.” I silently assented –he is anhedonic, as Dane was.

July 13. Janus handled his finances with his lover verbally, and has only one witness to their oral agreements, a mutual friend, Art. Tonight we invited Art for dinner, hoping to get him on side, and to enable me to hear him corroborate Janus’ claims. Art disclosed murky depths. Janus admits owing his ex at least $50,000, not including any claim on the house.

My son shows his Dad's flair and love of camping, as he announces engagement by e-mail

August 12. Janus and I drove down to the Shaw Festival with Johanna yesterday, in her car. Everything went well until the drive home. Janus took the wheel, and for unknown reasons his wounded child came out, and decided to intimidate his passengers. He began to speed, dodge from one lane to another, and jam on the brakes.

Johanna, who is a rather sedate driver, urged: “Slow down, we’re in no hurry.” Janus ignored her, and she turned to me for support.

At home, I confronted Janus: “That was not smart, nor kind. You really scared Johanna.”

“Don’t be stupid. I’ve driven a car for years. We were never in any danger. I don’t think Johanna was really upset.”

August 13. In our daily phone conversation Johanna emphasized her indignation that Janus deliberately intimidated us. I recorded her comments. When Janus arrived I played the tape. His chagrin was not about being accused of wild driving, but being proved wrong in denying that Johanna was upset. For the first time, I have a witness to his tantrums, and this time he cannot accuse me of “provocation.”

August 14. Nicola called from Europe, declaring that he’s going to take my advice to quit his job at fifty and begin enjoying life.

August 15. Without warning or any apparent “provocation” Janus tonight proclaimed: I’ve decided my needs are not being met. I’m moving back to my house.” He handed me his keys. I took them: “I accept your decision.” His jaw dropped: was I not going to plead with him?

Half-an-hour later he totally reversed, and started stroking my groin. “I’m feeling horny,” he murmured. Rather like Dane: anger arouses him.

“Well, I’m not. I don’t make emotional turnabouts every two hours.”

August 16. Janus drafted a letter begging his ex to fire his lawyer, and negotiate directly, with Art acting as mediator. His first draft was riddled with barely disguised anger; I helped him soften the language. He took it to his house and spent hours talking. The strategy worked. I’m sure the ex sees a chance to get Janus back.

65th birthday. Guests included my ex-wife Jean, Adam, Andrew and Alex, Allan, and Janus. I served a spectacular meal. Johanna supplied champagne and read a toast to the three Fates: “I now invoke Clotho, who spins out the raw thread, Lachesis, who weaves the pattern of our lives, and Atropos, who chooses Kairos, the exact moment to finish the cloth.”

I replied to her toast with prodigious thanks for the presence of my friends, especially for Jean: “In a few days it will be forty years since we married. I’m sorry for the inevitable hurt when I became gay, but I am not sorry we married. We brought two fine people into the world, and your presence is a special kind of friendship.” I also read wonderfully kind cards from Bob Miller, and Peter and Lucy.

 August 30. Janus spends all his spare time with his ex, coddling him toward a settlement: “I can’t leave him alone until I get his signature,” Janus claims. I contradicted: “He’s not fragile; he’s fiendishly cunning. I’m going away on a canoe trip.”

Allan and I spent three days doing the Gibson loop. It’s a dry summer, and the Gibson is so shallow there are no rapids; we were able to lift the canoe over the rocks. Below the rapids the river is reduced to two inches of water, just enough to float the canoe. A fathom of water has vanished.

August closed with a splendid party for Bob and Lois James’ 50th wedding anniversary. I was thrilled to play a part, because Bob hired me. I owe my long career at U of T to him and to Del Clark.

Labour Day. Janus and I camped at McCrae Lake. Has Janus finally caught the romance of the canoe ? He thrilled with pride while running his first rapids.

September 9. Janus came home tonight stupored and subdued, claiming that his ex is threatening to renege. I tucked him into bed, but over breakfast reminded: “Your ex has found the perfect way to get your time – far better than his earlier attempts at suicide. I want a deadline when you will sign, and get him out, or you will take him to court.”

“That’s an ultimatum, and I don’t respond to ultimatums.”

“Call it what you like, but you’ve had two men in your life for months. You’re the one worried about fidelity. Choose your man, and do it by October 1, or we’re finished.”

September 12. Janus arrived late and surly, and launched an attack: “I’ve been fighting you all along, because I must be in control of my own life and my own home.”

“So must I, Janus. We’re at an impasse.” He gathered his stuff and left.

When I told my best friends that I’d broken with Janus, all encouraged me to forget him: “You love to laugh, and Janus is totally saturnine.” “Find a man who is supportive, not combative.” “You’re not rich enough to hold on to Janus.”

I turned to a reliable source of joy, canoeing the Black River with Stuart. Hermes gave us warm, sunny days. It rained in the evening but we were ready, with fire chuckling and tarp slung. As dark settled round, we revelled in a gentle patter on the tarp. Solid friendship.

Janus Redux

September 28. Surprise: Janus called to propose watching a favourite TV program together. Minutes after I arrived at his house, he boasted of having sex with three guys, but added: “None of the sex was great. You spoiled me, you bugger. You can add me to the list of people since your ex-wife who say you’re great sex.”

He clearly hoped I’d initiate sex, but I ducked. I left feeling no angst, no yearning. One great line in the TV show: “Just because my teeth match your wounds does not make us a good match.”

October 1. I’m buttressing my recovery with a six-month course of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Alex, my therapist, is a vibrant and pretty woman. To further prevent relapse, I’ve begun searching again, with a new voice ad. One fire burns out another’s burning.

October 4. Janus heard my ad, and called to suggest a play we might see. He revealed that he furtively read my journal while living with me. My query: “Did you discover I wrote things different from what I spoke to you?”

“No. I was surprised.”

“Don’t be. I told you I have no secrets.

October 8. Janus reports that he’s reached a deal with his ex, who will live in Janus’ house rent-free for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile Janus showed me the upper floor they used to share as lovers. Janus decorated it years ago, and vaunted the excellence of false beams, faux marble, spattered multi-colour walls. The furniture is Victorian. Fussy drapes obscure what could be a spectacular view of the city. The effect is entirely interior.

I silently cringed. No wonder Janus hates Kairos . My decor is diametrically opposed: early Canadian pine in a country-cottage ambiance centred round a huge, much-used stone fireplace. Large, undraped windows draw one’s eyes constantly to the outdoors.

Thanksgiving Monday. Home from a weekend of canoe-camping with Janus. He warned: “I’m not making a commitment. I just want to see if there’s any point in starting over.”

“Janus, you never made a commitment. You were always fighting me.”


October 21. My old friend, psychiatrist Frank Sommers, has suggested an excellent therapist for Janus.

Janus in Hallowe'en costume

October 25. Janus and I went totally stoned to the Leather Fetish Dance tonight. It was all new to him. He dressed in a slave collar and chaps with a bare ass. We came home for superlative sex in the sling. He enjoyed being fucked hard even after he’d come. “That’s a true sign of a natural bottom,” I smiled. But this morning he admitted that his ex has still not signed their verbal settlement. The whole thing could blow up again.

November 20. Tonight I reminded Janus: “I’m only a few months from my very last salary cheque. I’ll have to take a room-mate to supplement the miserly federal pension. We would both be better off if you lived here and rented out your flat.”

December 5. To honour their loyal support over decades, I invited my collegial “allies” and their partners to a Farewell Party tonight – thirty in all. More anthropologists than sociologists, and a wide range of other disciplines, plus secretaries and librarians.

December 9. Sexual coda : we got uproariously stoned on hash brownies and played out a delectable scenario. After I bound Janus in the sling and put on his hood, I hallucinated a universal “Everyman” – every nubile body I’ve fucked over forty years. Janus’s flesh is perfect for such fantasies – slim, smooth, nicely muscled.

Janus could not get enough: “Don’t stop!” he shrieked. His whole body shivered, like a woman’s orgasm. He was more verbal in his ecstasy than a year ago: “This is amazing!” and “More, please sir!” It was a glorious evening, and this morning Janus grinned: “My ass is still glowing.”

December 11. My biggest worry is that Janus will never be “someone to watch over me.” He’s a frail reed to lean on.

Janus decorating our Yule Tree

Xmas Eve. Tonight, sitting by a magnificent Xmas tree decorated by Janus, I asked if I would be able to rely on him in old age. Janus’s rambling, evasive reply can be summed up: “Don’t count on me.”

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