A GAY FIRST LADY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

A comment made by presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, caught my attention. He said that statistically speaking, the odds are that we have already had a gay president in America. Several presidents were unmarried, but in past times gay men often married and had children because they did not have the option of living an openly gay lifestyle.

While this was on my mind, I came across an article about a first lady who turned out to be a lesbian. Grover Cleveland took office in 1885 – a 50-year-old bachelor who apparently had fathered a child out of wedlock (this fact nearly derailed his campaign). The protocol called for him to appoint his sister, Rose, as First Lady. She was considered a ‘respectable’ single woman who was well educated, a former teacher at a woman’s seminary and the author of ‘serious’ books. She served as First Lady for a little over a year and then was relieved of her duties when her brother married his 21-year-old ward, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

Rose returned to the family estate in upstate New York and a few years later, when Rose was 43, she met Evangeline Simpson on the wealthy ‘social circuit’ in Florida. Evangeline was 33 and had inherited a fortune from her late husband who was almost 50 years older than she was!

The love letters that document their 30-year relationship, begin in April of 1890. Ironically, at that time there was no word in the English language to describe a romantic/sexual relationship between two women. The word ‘lesbian’ was only applied to the Greek poet, Sappho. The field of sexology only came into being in the 1890’s so the terminology would not exist for many more years.

Rose Cleveland

The concept of ‘romantic friendship’ was popular among women of the day but the relationships were often emotional and intellectual but not sexual. However, that gave cover for wealthy white women of the day and allowed them to have open relationships, often even living and traveling together.

The letters between Rose and Evangeline were discovered in 1969 when a cache of Evangeline’s family papers was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. When the love letters, some quite explicit, were discovered, a memo was sent out suggesting that they are kept from the public. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1978, following numerous complaints. The full collection of Rose’s letters were finally published in a book called ‘Precious and Adored: The love letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918.

Rose on right, Evangeline on left

Rose and Evangeline’s relationship spanned 30 years but had its ups and down. Initially, they enjoyed extended visits to each other’s estates and they traveled together in Europe and the Middle East. They didn’t try to hide their relationship and Rose even wrote to Evangeline’s mother about her love for Evangeline. It seemed to have been accepted – but I wonder how many people of the day understood that there was a sexual component to the relationship.

In 1896, after six years with Rose, Evangeline shocked everyone when she announced that she was marrying a popular Episcopal preacher from Minnesota who was 34 years her senior. She didn’t need to marry him for financial reasons and her diary indicates that she was sincerely fond of him. But why she chose marriage over her relationship with Rose is a mystery.

Evangeline with her new husband

After the marriage, Rose and Evangeline continued to correspond but the tone of their letters changed dramatically. No more intimacies and pet names or professions of love. Evangeline’s husband died five years later, in 1901 and the letters between the two women changed character again. The two resumed staying at each other’s homes for extended periods until 1910 when Evangeline’s brother became seriously ill in Italy. Evangeline and Rose rushed to his side and finally lived together in a small Tuscan town.

In Tuscany in 1918, at the age of 72, Rose died after contracting the Spanish flu. Evangeline lived for twelve more years but wrote of Rose’s death that “The light has gone out for me. The loss of this noble and great soul is a blow that I shall not recover from.”

Photo of Rose with Evangeline on right and book cover on left

In today’s climate, Rose and Evangeline would probably have moved in together when they first fell in love and would have shared a peaceful, happy and uninterrupted 30-years together. At least they never felt shame or ostracism or persecution for their love – which probably would have been the case if they had been men. It’s nice to know that women had an acceptable social ‘cover’ for lesbian relationships, even in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thankfully people don’t need to disguise or hide their love anymore, no matter what the sex or race of their chosen partner.

THE WIND AND THE LION (1975) STARRING CANDICE BERGEN AND SEAN CONNERY – Marilyn Armstrong

wind and lionThe Wind and the Lion is an old-fashioned, romantic adventure tale set in turn of the century Morocco and Washington DC. Parallel stories, an ocean apart, the interlocking of which in many ways foretells the world we live in today.

President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is facing an upcoming election. The nation is not thrilled about his handling of the Panama Canal project and although he is among the most popular presidents in many long years, re-election is anything but certain. Meanwhile, in Morocco, an American woman, Eden Pedecaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children are kidnapped by Berber brigand Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery), triggering a variety of international incidents.

All of this is taking place not long before the opening of the first world war, after which nothing will ever be the same again. All the European powers, as well as the U.S., Japan, Russia, and Turkey,  have their eyes on strategically placed Morocco, headed by a weak sultan who is beset by civil unrest. The Pedecaris incident has given the various nations an opportunity to send in the troops.

And they do. All of them. Including, of course, America.

Meanwhile, out in the desert, there is Mrs. Pedecaris riding with the Berbers.

“You are a great deal of trouble, Mrs. Pedecaris,” says the Raisuli, sounding deliciously like James Bond. Indeed she is.  Ah, but what a woman! My kind of woman, one who will take up a sword and fight — for herself, her children and what is right, by golly.

Out in the desert are the Raisuli and Mrs. Pedicaris. He’s brave, handsome and sits a horse like nobody’s business. And she’s beautiful, fearless and proud. What a pair. I have always thought Candice Bergen among the most beautiful women ever. In this movie, she is magnificent as is Connery. They play off each other wonderfully. I don’t know if you could call Sean Connery, as a Berber Chieftain, exactly believable, but he is stunning. Flashing eyes, sharp tongue. A master of wit and charm.

It was probably the best role Brian Keith ever got too. He is entirely believable as Teddy Roosevelt. I’m ready to vote for him. Why not? At least he was straightforward about wanting the United States to militarily dominate the world and he created the national parks system.

They don’t make’em like that anymore.

The score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith who used an ensemble including a large percussion section and many Moroccan instruments. The music is haunting and although Jaws composer John Williams won that year’s Oscar, the score for The Wind and the Lion is stunning, possibly Goldsmith’s best; it was one of the American Film Institute’s 250 nominees for top 25 American film scores.

Filmed in Spain where the director, John Milius, had previously filmed his spaghetti westerns (even the scenes set in D.C. were actually shot in Madrid), the cinematography is breathtaking. Broad vistas, magnificent sunsets, deserts and battles on horseback with scimitars at the ready.

The film is accurate and sympathetic to Islam, making it one of the few American movies to become popular in Arab countries. It’s refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t automatically assume the only possible valid religion is Christianity.

When I say romantic, I mean it in the epic sense of the word. It’s a world filled with heroes and heroines who are larger than life. There’s not a superpower among them, but nonetheless, superheroes abound.

It’s a great movie. Without a bit of gore, grit, or gristle. No zombies, chain saws or special effects. No CGI. Just great photography, a delicious script, and terrific acting.

Because that’s what it takes to make a wonderful movie. Everything else is wrapping paper and ribbons.

ROMANTIC ME – Marilyn Armstrong

LOVE AND MARRIAGE ARE NOTHING LIKE A HORSE AND CARRIAGE


I was 18 when I married for the first time. I was in my senior year of college, working at the radio station and beginning to get the hang of writing for people other than myself.  Jeff ran the college radio station. He was the Station Manager.

Garry, my once and future husband, was Jeff’s second-in-command — the Program Director. The two were coincidentally also best friends. Along with most of the people I count as friends all these long years later, we were having a great time doing weird and creative stuff … a permanent party, or so it seemed.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 2000

It wasn’t just the usual college hi-jinx. Aside from the stuff we did at the station, we were creative party givers. Our Fall of Sauron Day parties became the stuff of legend –scripted, costumed, with special effects. We were young and healthy and could party all night, yet still rise up and go the work the following morning — looking barely the worse for wear. Ah, youth.

I married Jeff in August 1965. I spent the next year finishing my B.A. and having my spine remodeled, so it was a few years before I got on with life. My son was born in May 1969. We named him Owen Garry, Garry being his godfather. Fast forward through a non-acrimonious divorce. I later realized if you just give up everything and walk away, it’s easy to be amicable. It’s also something you will probably regret — eventually.

Off to Israel, I went with The Kid. Not too long thereafter, I married in Israel. The less said about this mistake, the better. In 1983, a state visit from the ex and (now) current husband (they rode together), showing up right in time for war in Lebanon. It ruined our plans to visit Mt. Hermon and the Galilee but created great anecdotes which Garry and I tell after dinner around the fire.

I have one (fuzzy) picture of me, sandwiched between Jeff and Garry, all arm-in-arm, the Dead Sea behind us. The picture was taken by husband number 2 (the one I don’t want to talk about).

Photo: Debbie Stone
Photo: Debbie Stone

August 1987.

I’m back! Garry and I are an item. Having been apart for so long brought us closer together than we’d imagined possible. The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw one another with new eyes. I think we’d always been a little in love, but there was an endless number of reasons why it wasn’t the right time to do something about it.  Now, shortly after my Israeli divorce from husband number 2 was finished, Garry and I got married.

And here’s how it really happened.

I’d been away for two weeks in California on business. I had come back early because I got sick and came down with the flu. Just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series — occurred the following day and if I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under the collapsed highway.

Garry was glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad. If you want to know the definition of “mixed emotions,” it’s a man overwhelmed with joy to see the woman he loves — but knowing the first kiss will include influenza. The definition of true love? He kissed me anyway.

And got the flu.

So after we both stopped coughing, Garry took me out to dinner. He was nervous. He was driving and we went around Leverett Circle at least half a dozen times. He kept missing the turn-off. Meanwhile, he was explaining how he’d had a conversation with his pal about real estate, and how prices were down, and how maybe we should buy something. And live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

So having listened for a pretty long time, I said: “So let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said and drove around the loop one more time.

“I don’t know about you,” I said, “But I definitely need a drink.”

Garry, now

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said, “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. Wouldn’t you think that was a proposal? I had to remind him about buying a ring, too but eventually, he got into the groove, realized all he had to do was tell me what he wanted and show up in a tux and he’d be a married guy. Piece of cake.

We got married 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.

I declined to have my first ex-husband as best man at my third wedding. We did, however, have the “real” reception at his house. There was the official one at the church, but the fun event, with all the friends, music, wine and sharing … that one was over at the old house where I used to live with Jeff.

Garry and I will celebrate our 29th anniversary in September. When you find the right one, time flies.

BOOK REVIEW: CHRISTMAS EVE DAUGHTER – A TIME TRAVEL NOVEL by Elyse Douglas

The Christmas Eve Daughter: A Time Travel Novel
by Elyse Douglas

As a time-travel story, this is not quite it. The story absolutely includes time travel, but it’s what we in the science fiction world refer to as “tourist time travel” where there is no technology involved and no “other world” surprises, either. Time travel is not what the story is about, but rather simply a means of “getting there and back.” It’s just transportation, not the storyline.

In this kind of tale, the ‘traveler’ steps through a (suddenly appearing out of nowhere) wormhole or discovers a magic medallion, a lantern, a piece of clothing, a special page in a book … and miraculously finds her or himself in the past. After which, it’s time for romance.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

This being book two in the series, happily ever after is interrupted by the discovery that the man who came from the past has a previously unknown daughter. Will the magic time-travel lantern work one more time? Can the beautiful couple from modern New York go back in time and rescue the young woman?

This is not science fiction. It’s a romance novel with that includes time-travel. In fact, the formula for the book is identical to every romance I have ever read, except instead of traveling to a different physical location on Earth, the characters — all of whom are beautiful — travel through time.

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I know a formula when I see one. As this kind of writing goes, the book is silkily written and well-edited. Very clean. If you are a fancier of romantic fiction, you will like it. It adds just a hint of “magic” to a traditional story.

Elyse Douglas is a good writer with a smooth touch. If I were still editing the library, she would get my vote.


About Elyse DouglasChristmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age and graduated with a degree in English Literature. Douglas began writing novels in college while studying music at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.  He traveled the world as a professional pianist for many years.  He has also worked as a copywriter and corporate manager.

Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include The Christmas Eve Letter (A Time Travel Novel), Christmas for Juliet, The Summer Letters, The Christmas Diary, The Summer Diary, and The Lost Mata Hari Ring. They live in New York City.

Website: www.elysedouglas.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/douglaselyse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/elyse.authorsdouglas

Buy Christmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

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REMEMBERING THE FAR AWAY #WRITEPHOTO … Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Faraway #writephoto

Long ago in a land far away …

I remember.

You could stand in the cove and feel the sands move out from underneath your feet. You could walk a little and feel the brush of underwater grasses against your ankles and see the tiny baby fish, schools of them looking for a tiny something to nibble.

It was warm there. Especially in the morning, when all you could see were the fishermen going out in little boats. Sometimes, they would come back with a lobster, smile at you. Then they would toss you the lobster. Just because they were happy and you were smiling.

The thing about that world was people were nice for no reason at all. They would give you things because you were there, the sun was shining, and the sea was warm. We didn’t need to talk, though we did urgently needed to dance.

Oh, how we danced. Steel drums beating so loudly in a cement basement, steamy in the heat of September on a Caribbean night. I’d like to go back now, even without the dancing. Just for the peace of that place — far away and long ago.

TOUGH QUESTIONS, EASY ANSWERS

I asked. He answered. He asked, I answered. We’ve been together ever since.

Here’s how it happened. It began on the ferry ride back from Martha’s Vineyard. We’d spent a magical week. It was obvious that Something Was Happening.

72-question-answer-bouquet_-8

From there, we moved on to living together. Sort of. We each had our own place, but were almost always together in one or the other. With a lot of driving in between. As both of us were working full-time, we didn’t get a lot of time to relax together. Things were bound to change, but there was in no rush. I had no plans for moving on.

I’d gone to California on business for a couple of weeks. I came back early because I got sick. Which was just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series on October 17, 1989 — occurred the following day. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.

A few weeks later, Garry had a few questions for me. He suggested we go out to dinner. Nice place on the dock in Boston. Garry was uncharacteristically nervous. I could tell because he drove around Leverett Circle half a dozen times on the way to the wharf . He kept missing the turn. As he drove, he explained he’d had a conversation with a pal about real estate. Prices were down. Maybe we should buy something. Live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

72-vintage-25th-cooperstown-anniversary_4

Having listened awhile, I said: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said, and drove around the loop one more time.

This time, I said “Yes.”

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. I had to remind him about buying a ring, but eventually he realized all he had to do was give me a ring, set a date, tell me what he wanted in the way of a wedding (everything, really everything). After which he could show up in a tux and be married.

We got married 6 months later having known each other only 26 years.

I asked, he said “yes.” He asked, I said “yes.” Not so tough after all.

DISCOVER CHALLENGE | TOUGH QUESTIONS

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEYS

SENTIMENTAL AND ROMANTIC

My husband considers himself quite the romantic. He weeps at old movies and love stories. He always roots for a happy ending.

Golden Sunrise March 7, 2016

To me, that’s sentimental, not romantic. It’s sweet and that’s certainly an attractive quality in a man. Candy, flowers, candles, and music. All nice things to make a courtship memorable.

But, on the whole, sentimentalists don’t have a long game. No need to be a constant lover. The occasional grand gesture is fine and fun. Dinner and a good movie … with flowers on the side.

It’s fine. More than good enough. I doubt a relationship could get through the weary years wrapped in romance — not without a lot of financing to smooth over the lumps and bumps of the modern life.

72-sunrise-030716_05

Constant romance would make it difficult to take care of the daily dilly-dally, unsympathetic bosses, bills without money to pay. Growing children into good citizens. Making hard choices. Coping with loss. Illness and recovery. None of which are even slightly romantic.

Life is messy. Yet, if you do it for love, perhaps that is enough to make it a romance.

I think my romance synapses have grown mossy from lack of use. Hugs, kisses and a bouquet of flowers — and a nice sushi dinner — will do it for me. Throw in a movie with a happy ending? I’m stoked for at least six months.

sen·ti·men·tal (sen(t)əˈmen(t)l

Adjective
Of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.
“She felt a sentimental attachment to the place creep over her.”
Synonyms: nostalgic, tender, emotional, affectionate More
(of a work of literature, music, or art) dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way, such as “a sentimental ballad”
synonyms: mawkish, over-emotional, cloying, sickly, saccharine, sugary, overly sweet;
(of a person) excessively prone to feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, as in: “I’m a sentimental old fool.”


In the opposing hand, we hold “romantic” stuff:

ro·man·tic rōˈman(t)ik

Adjective
1. Conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
“A romantic candlelit dinner.”
Synonyms: loving, amorous, passionate, tender, affectionate; Informal: lovey-dovey: “He’s so romantic”
2. Of, characterized by, or suggestive of, an idealized view of reality, such as: “A romantic attitude toward the past.”
Synonyms: idyllic, picturesque, fairy-tale;
Noun
1.A person with romantic beliefs or attitudes: “I am an incurable romantic”
Synonyms: idealist, sentimentalist, romanticist.


yellow roses anniversary bouquet

Reality ain’t so bad. Add a few flowers and a night out? I’ll call it romance and be content.