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Patrick

How do I even begin to write about Patrick, my amazing husband?

For twenty years he’s stayed by my side, fulfilling our vows to stay together for better or worse, long before we actually spoke those words at our wedding ceremony in 2010.

Hawaii, 1996

Hawaii, 1996

He’s seen me at my best during the ten years before I found crystal meth, and he’s seen me at my worst during the second decade of our relationship when my addiction took me to places darker than I’d previously imagined even existed.

As a former television producer, I’d once sworn I’d never date an actor. I’d had too many dealings with that particular combination of low self-esteem and extreme ego. Yet, here I am married to a man who has proven himself over the years to be an exception to that generalization. Patrick has shown himself to be one of the most spiritually evolved people I’ve ever known. He has remained steadfast in his loyalty to me despite circumstances that would have driven lesser, more selfish men away. He continues to make me laugh even when I only feel like crying. He is my biggest fan and most ardent cheerleader, and I am his.  He has saved my life countless times, both literally and figuratively.

When I am berating myself, beating myself up emotionally for all the havoc I’ve caused in our lives, I can look into his beautiful blue eyes and see myself as a person of value. The fact that this amazing man still loves me after all the drama i’ve instigated is often the only evidence I can find that i am worthy of love and a good and decent life.

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patrick and ellen, 1997

I am so proud of my husband, both for who he is and what he does. A comic actor with an incredibly sharp yet profoundly silly wit, he is rarely credited with his contributions to the gay community over the years. He has never been celebrated for “coming out of the closet” because he was never IN the closet in the first place. His character Peter on the now-historically significant sitcom “Ellen” was a litmus test for Ellen’s own emergence as the pre-eminent out gay celebrity of our time. He was fearless then, as a young man, and he is fearless now. He always spoke proudly of our relationship in interviews, and it was never a case of “do I mention this or not?” He has always spoken his truth, and that is something that he also does in our relationship. That same courage carries over into our lives together.

He has protected me, he has encouraged me, he has stayed by my side. Yet he has never been a doormat, and learned early on in my addiction to set boundaries. He has changed locks on our doors, has sent me away to live with my mother when things became too crazy. Yet, anytime I’ve been willing to work on my sobriety, he has made it clear that he is rooting for me. That he continues to have faith in me after my chronic relapsing is a testament to his courage, his faith, his strength, and the love we share.

Connecticut wedding, 2010. Walking my mother down the aisle.

Connecticut wedding, 2010. Walking my mother down the aisle.

It is also testament to the fact that I am still a man who remains lovable despite my forays into the darkness of drug addiction and insanity.

Friends, understandably worried about him, frequently urged him to leave me, to move on with his life without me and my hurricane of drama. Yet he refused. His commitment has remained steadfast, and because of that I am still alive and able to write these words:

I love you, Patrick Bristow. I only need look at you to know I am the luckiest man alive.

Red lights are flashing on the highway
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home tonight
Everywhere the water’s getting rough
Your best intentions may not be enough
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home tonight

But if you break down
I’ll drive out and find you
If you forget my love 
I’ll try to remind you
And stay by you 
When it don’t come easy

I don’t know nothing except change will come
Year after year what we do is undone
Time keeps moving from a crawl to a run
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home
You’re out there walking down a highway
And all of the signs got blown away
Sometimes you wonder if you’re walking in the wrong direction

But if you break down
I’ll drive out and find you
If you forget my love 
I’ll try to remind you
And stay by you 
When it don’t come easy

Two Anniversaries

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Patrick at the Groundlings, around the time I met him. From Left: Lisa Kudrow, Tim Bagley, Kathy Griffin, Patrick, Cathy Shambley.

Last week my husband and I celebrated the third anniversary of our wedding on April 12, 2010, in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Attended by friends and family and filled with laughter and tears, April 12 will always be our legal wedding anniversary.

Today, however, is a much more important anniversary. April 19, 1994  is exactly 19 years to the day since my husband and I went on our first date. It’s this date I prefer to celebrate. April 12, though filled with great memories and marked by papers filed and all the legal mumbo-jumbo, is essentially the day that we were finally able to get married, having stupidly waited too long and being blindsided by Prop 8. Like most gay couples who have been together for a long time, it feels like short shrift to say our wedding date is in 2010, because if we’d been “allowed” to get married like straight people, I suspect our wedding would have taken place sometime around 1998, and i’d be telling people that i’ve been married for fifteen years rather than three.

I first saw Patrick Bristow on my first visit to The Groundlings theatre sometime in 1993, and was BLOWN AWAY…like, draw-droppingly blown away…by his improvisational comedy skills. Like, genius x 100. Plus, he was adorable in sweet, quirky way. At the time, I was dating a gay porn star and – ludicrously – wondering why I never seemed to be able to hang on to a relationship. When I saw Patrick in his first improvised scene that night (some lake-side tryst with fellow Groundling Jennifer Coolidge that involved knitting) and when he’d made me laugh harder than I ever remembered having laughed before, I thought to myself, “THAT’S what I want in my life.”

Halcyon Days: Patrick's role on the sitcom "Ellen" launched his career into late-90's hyperdrive. For a while, we wanted for nothing. Wanting for nothing, it turns out, is not always a good thing.

Halcyon Days: Patrick’s role on the sitcom “Ellen” launched his career into late-90’s hyperdrive. For a while, we wanted for nothing. Wanting for nothing, it turns out, is not always a good thing.

Our mutual friend Kim Everett-Martin (Thanks, Kim!)  introduced us when we joined the cast for dinner after the show (where I also met the guy who’d become one of my dearest friends, box office manager Mike Sweeney) and the rest was, well…a long, frustrating, drawn out ordeal of me pretty much stalking Patrick for nigh on a year, up to and including taking a job I didn’t need as house manager at The Groundlings just to have more opportunities to make him fucking notice me.

Nothing seemed to work. He was pleasant, but barely paid me any attention at all. Which, of course, only made me more determined.

One of the earliest photos I have of Patrick and I together. Taken at our first home in Silver Lake.

One of the earliest photos I have of Patrick and I together. Taken at our first home in Silver Lake.

Finally, one Sunday night at the Groundlings Mike and I got a little drunk in the box office and I finally worked up the nerve to actually ask Patrick out. I think Mike was as surprised as I was that Patrick agreed to the date, and walking home together down Sierra Bonita on our way home from work that night, Mike…who had known Patrick for several years, told me: ‘Patrick’s a good one. Hang on to him.”

He is. And I have.

Since falling in actual love on that first date at Farfalla Restaurant in Los Feliz,  this man and I have shared some amazing times…we’ve traveled the world, we’ve both had career highs that neither of us could have anticipated, we’ve been blessed with wealth and with nice cars, AMAZING friends, and our lives are rich with the love of two families who have never made us feel like a “gay couple,” always just couple…not to mention four nieces and nephews who have never known a life without Uncle Patrick in it.

There have also been some truly terrible times: the deaths of his parents, the suicide of a nephew. Financial hardship, the forfeiting of said nice cars. Medical crises, and of course, my years-long addiction to crystal meth, during which he was never a doormat: if I was willing to work on myself, he was always there for me. Even when he was protecting himself by changing the locks on our home, I never doubted his love for me. And when I was screaming at him in a meth-fueled rage, telling him how much I hated him, I have no doubt he knew I loved him.

So even though we were only “allowed” to get married three years ago, and still aren’t recognized in our own state as a married couple, this wonderful, evolved, spiritual, and plain damned FUNNY man – the only person who can make me laugh when all I want to do is cry –  has been my husband for a long, long time, despite what it says on our Connecticut marriage license.

me and p

Advocate article, 2005

Sometimes, when I tell people my husband and I have been together for 19 years, the response is one of astonishment. Frequently, I’m asked how we’ve managed to stay together. First, I usually advise them, put aside your bullshit “requirements” for a spouse: Handsome. Blonde. Dark and swarthy. Successful. Swimmer’s body. Nice car. Whatever you think is your ideal is probably not ideal. For years I’d chased the archetypical, masculine, GQ magazine ideal of a mate. Sometimes I got them. Sometimes they were wonderful, like an early boyfriend of mine, Kevin. Most of the time, however, the person inside the archetype couldn’t live up to their own hype (and I’m sure a few felt that way about me as well.) If you’d told me in my early dating years that i’d find true happiness with a quirky looking, wiry red-headed guy, I would have scoffed.   What I saw in Patrick that first time at the Groundlings was something I didn’t even realize I wanted. No, needed: gentleness, humor, intelligence. Something instinctively told me that this was someone I wanted to be around. I went with my heart and not my preconceptions.   Patrick too had to push away his expectations of a partner: the reason he barely talked to me that first year before our date is because he assumed I was a shallow, West Hollywood pretty boy (don’t laugh, in 1993 it wasn’t as ludicrous an assumption as it sounds now). He was in search of an intellectual type, a more sophisticated and less obviously insecure type. We both listened to that quiet voice coming from our hearts.

Staying together is the hard part, of course. I’m not sure how we’ve done it, to be honest. I do know that we make allowances for each other’s humanity, that we worked hard early on to communicate honestly. We’re patient with each other regarding our differences (he loves classical music, I tolerate it. I freak out about getting older, he couldn’t care less, etc, etc, etc.), and we celebrate our similarities. We understand that we have a richer life together when we each have our own, and then come together to share our adventures. But most of all, we honor our commitment. Whatever happens. And I mean, whatever.  There have been a lot of  ‘whatevers,‘ believe me.  But we process them knowing that we have to solve the current problem with the end result being “staying together.” Breaking up is never an option.  As Patrick once said about our relationship in an interview with The Advocate, “Commitment only counts when you need it…and that’s when it’s the most difficult to maintain.”

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Oahu, 1995.

My husband just got home tonight from being on tour for three weeks with the adult improv puppet show he co-created with our friend Brian Henson of The Jim Henson company, and it was a long and lonely three weeks. Even though he’s jet-lagged crashed in our bed already and we haven’t had much time to catch up, it’s not really necessary. Knowing that he’s curled up in a near coma in the other room, snoring away loudly while being snuggled by our three dogs who have also missed him terribly (he’s the nice daddy, i’m the disciplinary daddy), once  again, our house feels like a home. OUR home.

There is so much love under this roof . And you know what, any of you who feel icky  just reading about gay couples? There’s far more love and friendship here than there is sex, not that you should be thinking about that anyway. I don’t immediately picture straight couples banging uglies, and you shouldn’t be thinking that about us. Unless you enjoy it, of course, in which case feel free, hypocrite. We’re just two people committed to taking care of each other, supporting each other, and being there through..well…richer or poorer, better or worse.

I love you, Patrick. Until death do us part.

Screw Prop 8: Happy actual anniversary, my husband, my best friend, the most amazing human being I’ve ever known.

It’s your turn to do the laundry, btw. So glad you’re home.

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