Hopeful Romantic

At one point, nearly…Christ, a decade ago, now, I attempted to write memoirs.

(Good god I’ve been a manifested ghost a long time.)

Initially, my host and I accumulated about 450 single-spaced pages, divided into sections regarding my childhood before I arrived in London, my young adult-hood as I approached marriage, my newly-wed years, and my years as a father.

It was all rather serious stuff—an accounting of a life, rather than the reliving of one.  This has largely to do with the fact that when I first manifested, I was rather a stick-in-the-mud, lacking in real personality and foisting this sort of agreeable, but utterly Victorian manner upon my host.

I understand now that ghosts long-dead and then suddenly manifested remember their public personas first, followed, often slowly, by their more poignant and complex memories.  Personalities fill back in over time.

Mine did, to be damn sure.  I flatter myself to think that my sense of humour is rather obvious, now.  I admit that my vices and penchants are equally as obvious.  And I’ve recovered my losses so that they might heal, my romance so that it might bloom, and my hobbies, interests, and tendency toward self-exploration so that I might grow.

The people who graced my life have become more real to me, as well.

Geoffrey, who I had thought to be my best mate, crawled into my bed and happily reminded me he was also my husband.  Marion, who I had remembered as my sweet wife, flew down off the mantle where I’d placed her and rightly berated me for idolizing her into inactivity, forgetting how far her radicalism went.  My friends, employers, and acquaintances exploded into colour and humour. And Jon, my darling boy, died again, forcing me to face my depression and to summon the courage to really, fully remember him—not only his giggles, his beauty, and his intellect, but also his stubbornness, his stark honesty, and his tendency to exhaust those around him with queries and challenges.

Naturally, I wanted to apply these correctives to my original memoirs, which had come to seem stagnant and false.  But by the time I had gathered enough of myself to consider such a task, Alex was deep into his graduate studies and fully immersed in the re-writing of his historical fantasy novel.  Oh, and I had, you know, remarried, become a father again, co-launched a fashion line, and taken on international modeling.

These things do quite fill a schedule, haha.

Then Alex finished his novel and sent it off for beta-editing.  He moved away from toxic environments to work on his dissertation in relative peace.  Marc and I settled into our business and charity, finding it all rather less bewildering.  Paces slowed.

I started thinking about those memoirs again…

Only now, I’ve been thinking…what if I wrote them as romances?

You see, one of the things Alex and I did have time for over the years was a shared love of m/m historical romance.  The plots!  The characters! The history and fashion!  It’s delicious, and sends me right back to my time in late-regency, early-Victorian London, curled up on a chaise, listening to Geoff read me poetry.  Hoping he’d put down the book and, um…well…

That’s rather the only problem with the idea.  Even just reading romance turns me into a fidgeting, blushing mess.  Not that I’m a prude—far from it, which is perhaps part of the hesitation to consider my amorous exploits in lush detail.

I mean, not far.  Far enough, though.  Oh, I don’t know…

But I’m determined to best the bashful, because in outline, the narrative thrust of the memories I want to share work so well for romance.  They’re funny, complex, lovely, sad, and triumphant.  And quite frankly, when I’m on my own, away from the fear of embarrassment, the stories fly out of my pen in such a way as to convince me of my need and ability to write them.

So, there it is.  I’m going to take a crack at romance novels.

On the site, that means you may be seeing a bit more of my Victorian life, as well as some recollections on the time—its politics, fashions, employment, operas, poetry, etc.  I hope that’s enjoyable.

You may also see new portraits from time to time, as Alex has agreed to sketch my loves, my friends, and their respective loves, who often became my friends, in turn.

And you might see bits of conversations, dialogue now, one supposes, as my compatriots and lovers were hilarious, lovely, sharply discerning folks who I’m convinced would like to be heard even now.

You will likely not see…um…saucy bits?  That sounds…anyway…

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

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Salut! is Husband Guest Post Time

So, Elias is be like super cray busy after Halloween. Ghost fashion week is be November 11-15 this year, and he is have five show for walk in because he is be super model.

(How is like, Marcus, be marry to super model? Oh you know, is pretty fucking great, other Marcus.)

Two of show he is be lead model for, which is take lot of time and prepare for interview and thing. One of show is be like super high fashion 18th century with looooot of fit time. One of show is be first walk with—Richard pirate fashion—so he is still work on brand and do meet with. And other is be basic walk, but is still take time.

So anyway, he is be like, Mahhhhhhhhhhhcus, you are so best and always be done with work for line like month before fashion week so how about you are write guest post for November when I am be cray busy.

And I am be like, fine, but is be November 12 post and is Marion birthday so you are sure you are non want do?

And he is be like, non is fine, you are do. Is make sense for love of afterlife to write about love of life. I am like.

And I am be like, best, I am like too.

Problem: Every time I am sit down and start write, Elias is be like, oooooOOOOooooo what you are write about, I am see? And I am be like, I know you are excite about, but actual fuck off. And he is do for like six second or so and then be like, now I am see? So I am just stop write until he is be in middle of fashion week and non see, because I am want be surprise.

Right now Elias is be do pre-interview for Herschel line and then he is do eat and last minute fit and thing, so I am have time before show for write post.

Here I am go!

* * *

Happy Birthday for Marion! and Surprise Story for Elias

Once upon time there is be tiny pony name Marion Rose.

Unless you are live under rock you are know what tiny pony is look like.

In case you are live under rock, here is be tiny pony. OMG THEY ARE BEST.

In case you are live under rock, here is be tiny pony. OMG THEY ARE BEST.

Marion Rose is be tiny pony in Victoria time when all of England is live on eat smoke and cheese and sugar. And she is be like super mega tiny. Like, there are be lot of tiny pony in Victoria time, but she is be most tiny of all of. And she is have super shine chestnut coat and best tiny pony fashion, and she is TOTAL head kick you if she is non like what you are say.

Example: She is want head kick like all of parliament, all of time.

There is also be other tiny pony in Victoria time who is be more like mini-horse, because he is be so tall. He is be name Elliot and he is be so dark black like night and have curl mane and non fit in any of stable. Part because people are be like, gross…dark, curl pony, do non come in, and also because all of world is make for aaaaaaactual tut tut crumpet tiny pony, non for mini-horse.

Anyway, Elliot is be like super determine mini-horse, and he is end up go to school. And one day he is be eat grass by step of university stable with all of pony friend and he is look up and be like, holy shit…that is be most beauty tiny pony I am ever see.

And other tiny pony with speckle coat is be like, ummmmm you are know is lady tiny pony right?

And he is be like, sic, I know is weirdo, but I am total into.

So speckle pony—Geoff pony—is help make introduce, and Marion Rose is be like, OMG you are best mini-horse in all of world.

Problem is be, Elliot is hear like whole life that mini-horse are be worst, and he is have like no idea how talk to lady.

Now, most of tiny pony are probable non be up for deal with sad, mumble mini-horse. They are be like, wellllll, actual, I guess what I am really want is tiny pony with big stable and sword collect and dumb, boring life where we are just do season and then sit around hate each other all of winter time…tiny pony Victoria, living dream.

But Marion Rose pony is be like, Jesus Christus that is sound like worst thing I am ever think of, and so she is do lot of thing for show love for mini-horse.

She is do thing like, encourage when mini-horse is neigh with music. And she is non make fun of when he is non know spell pattern for word. And she is read with and non care if he is read slow. And she is take hoof on street and glare head kick thought at all of tiny pony who are look at and be like, gross. And she is say mini-horse is be handsome and love and smart.

Occasional, she is like…gentle head kick mini-horse and be like, for real, stop mumble and smile is non kill.

Then one day there is be tiny pony ball.

Marion Rose is definite go to, because she is be part of tiny pony society. And she is want dance with mini-horse like so bad, but he is non get invite.

So, for prove love, Elliot is ask one of tiny pony friend sign over invite for and then he is borrow tiny pony suit that is show too much hoof and try comb all of dark, black curl, and show up for ball.

He is be so nerve he is basic like almost throw up all of oat.

But then he is see Marion Rose at ball be so super mega tiny and feisty and he is be like, I am basic die if I am non dance with.

And she is see mini-horse and be like, everyone is shut up right now and hold champagne, I am go dance with mini-horse.

They are dance like whole night.

Then before ball is end, they are be so sneak and leave and Elliot is escort Marion Rose to house, and they are be like, welp, guess we are never ever want be apart now.

Is take like two more year and lot of work and head-kick, but eventual they are be marry. They are have pretty goddamn best colt name Jon who is have kind of dark, curl hair and kind of chestnut coat…and who is be kind of mini-horse tall, but definite tiny pony style…who is basic be best of both of.

And Elliot is be like, I am so happy I am probable just die of.

And Marion Rose is be like, I am know sic? I am best.

***
Now, in afterlife, mini-horse is be super model. He is be write, he is be parent, he is be act and sing and dance, and he is read all of time and be so smart.

Part of is be because tiny pony husband is be like preeeeetty fucking best and encourage.

But lot of is be because tiny pony name Marion Rose is work so hard for love mini-horse.

Amo, Marion. Gratias tibi ago.

THE END

A Lighthearted Ode to *My* Queen

Dear Queen Victoria,

I regret to inform you that as of the 9th of September, 2015, you were surpassed by your great-great granddaughter as the longest reigning monarch.

I know…I know how much you loved titles. And in comparison to your ill-advised tenure as the Empress of India, this was a rather innocuous one for you to hold. So, in light of the distress which you would likely feel upon this loss, I would like to offer up the following ten reasons–in no particular order–that you shall always be my Queen.

  ***

1. When Marion and I married in 1837, she wore a white and cream gown with a red sash. When you wore a white gown at your own wedding a few years on, it made Marion look like a serious trendsetter and she garnered a full season of attention as a fashionista. We both pretended not to care. We cared. It was smashing. Thanks for the white dress.

2. Furthermore, your wedding brought Prince Albert to England. I’m sure you’d roll over in your grave to know what a service that was to gay blokes all across the isle, but thanks for that, too.

3. You cared, in your own royal way, about the poor. Much obliged.

4. You helped pave the way for companionate marriage. No one ever doubted you loved Albert or that he loved you, and the affection you showed each other served as an example to multiple couples I knew. And it made Marion and I (#lovebirdsforlife) look a little less odd.

5. You put the country back in the hands of an intelligent woman, which has always worked well for England. That in and of itself…brilliant. (In fact, I recall quite clearly the early morning cannons announcing the death of the King. Marion sat up in bed, perfectly still, and whispered, “Elliot, the King has died.” Then she sighed and turned her face to the ceiling. “Thank god there’s a woman back on the throne. I shall sleep more soundly.”)

6. You celebrated advances in the arts, literature, and medicine, along with Albert, who threw us that fantastic Crystal Palace Exhibition. Watching the royal family care so deeply about education was a balm to my son who been often bullied for his intelligence. No one can argue with “Victoria and Albert like science, too!” and for that I am deeply indebted.

7. You were also a balm for my incredibly outspoken, incredibly short wife.

8. You supported and fostered the careers of Mendelssohn and Tennyson, two of my absolutely favourite creatives.

9. You irritated my mate Paul.

10. I don’t care what people say. Surviving as long as you did in the age of cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and wicked difficult childbirth is a true achievement, and by god, I think that adds an honorary five years to your reign. (To be extended should Elizabeth make it another five years…)

***

Signed, Your Obedient Servant, Etc.,

EJS

There Goes the Neighbourhood

I believe it is fair to say that London is famous for its ghosts. And the ghosts for which it is famous are rather shocking in their behaviours. Bloody, screaming, running up and down halls at Hampton Court palace, stalking the Tower.

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This looks reputable.

But if you are a ghost in London, then you know that things are not nearly so unseemly.

Ghost London is actually divided into neatly demarcated segments. This wasn’t necessarily a purposely done thing, although we British do like things to be tidy and purposeful. It’s more so that like attracted like, era-enclaves settled and put down roots, generational (and temperamental) strongholds developed over time.

For instance, the most modern of London ghosts tend to live in up-and-coming Islington or Soho. The Victorian contingency have taken over Hyde Park and its surrounding streets and insist upon decorum and a schedule that follows ‘the season’. The countryside nearest the city belongs to squires and Civil War Royalists, who seem to engage in a great deal of publican culture. The West End is deliciously debauched and multi-generational. And so on.

You are welcome to try out any part of the city you wish, and live where you best fit (with a few stipulations). Sounds rather happy, right? And it is, in any many ways.

But for a ghost like me—a categorical oddity—it also means that finding a suitable address is a bit of a headache. Which is why I decided to contract with a realtor, rather than wandering about on my own.

I went with Kensington Ghost Realtors (KGR) solely for nostalgia’s sake. I think of Kensington and I think of a young and pretty-ish Victoria, and a bit of my own youth comes rushing back to me. I filled out a survey and they matched me with a young man named Oliver, whom I insist on calling ‘Oli’ much to his resignation.

They handed me over to Oli, it seems, because he deals with most of their categorical oddities.

What does this mean, to be a categorical oddity?

“Right. I’ve had just about this side of enough of that.” – The Platypus

Well, in this case, it meant the poor man had to find a home for a bloke who is openly gay (and a bit gender playful) but also well ensconced in ‘traditional’ institutions such as marriage and fatherhood; not quite Victorian but not quite anything else either; middle-class in life with no sort of name, but upper-class in death with a name and famous husband in spite of himself; creative but also introverted.

What the hell do you do with a ghost like me?

Well, we started with a long walk, chauncing about and ruling out a couple of neighbourhoods on feeling alone. And at the end of the day, much to my chagrin, I found that I was most attracted to the neighbourhoods that were on the fringes of the Victorian part of the city.

I do so hate to be predictable, but that’s only because I’m so predictable.

The second step, then, because of the stringent attention to social standing in these areas, was to calculate my entry point into their society, which would govern where I could (and would want) to buy.  Oli plugged all my information into a KGR system that tabulates your net social worth, balancing your alively achievements against those you’ve made in death

As I said, there are some stipulations.

I have to say, the discovery of this wretched system nearly threw me back out on the prowl. I spent enough of my goddamn alively existence climbing social ladders and eclipsing judgment to last me six afterlives, and I was not about to give the Victorian enclave the satisfaction.

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The way he holds his tea cup! He’d sooner murder you than eat quail, I’m sure of it.

But hold on, Oli said, think of who your husband is, your reputation as a model, your philanthropy, your net worth. I can almost guarantee, this print out is going to tell you to live wherever the hell you want, barring noble houses, and that you’ll be able to put everyone right out when you settle in the midst of their serenity.

Well, when you put it that way…

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Hold on, I’ve something for you right here inside my jacket. I think it’s…yes, yes it is my middle finger. Fancy that.

He hit enter.

And about three weeks later, I closed on an altogether far too large, far too expensive, Georgian-style home on Holland Park.

Now, this is going to be a sometime home base for me. I have no intention of moving away from Marcus and the children. (The very idea throws me into a panic.) But I do have some intention of re-entering London life, staying at the townhouse on and off during the season, and making my way into new circles, since so many of my memories of London are hideous at best.

I wish to use this home, in other words, to recapture some of the twinkling life and love that makes me feel close to the happier parts of my Victorian existence—the fashion of Geoffrey, the radicalism of Marion, the intellectual explorations of Jon. I want to make some new friends, be openly queer in a city that now allows for that possibility, perhaps even host some salons.

I’ve been none too reticent to air these wishes, either, which means that the invitations have been rolling in—curious, polite, and dangerous all.

As it’s the close of the season, most of the polite invitations will have to wait until spring, as will my opening dinner party. The rumours as to what such an event might look like build as I write…

And in the meantime, I have the winter to appoint the house, determine how and to whom I should like to rent rooms for those parts of the year that I am not in often attendance, and take up a few of the more interesting invitations.

Dear god I wish I had Geoffrey to help me make those selections—he would know exactly which houses I must attend to in order to build just such a persona.

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With no more than this much Byron.

As I re-enter this society, I will endeavour to keep you informed of the oddities it reveals and the ghosts I meet.

(For instance, I hear Walsingham controls new appointments of nobility, sending in his spies to infiltrate the season while he skulks about in the countryside. The raven on the edge of the duck pond.)

But for now, I think I shall take a turn about Kensington Gardens…in a fleur de lis frock coat…on the arm of a Roman.

Oh, this will all be so much fun.

Briefly on Marriage

Over the past day, as I’ve processed the momentous decision handed down by the Supreme Court, I’ve planned about ten different versions of this post.

In the first few hours of tearful realisation, I planned, of course, the post that was overwrought and emotional (I am a Victorian, after all).

In the next few hours, I planned a post that was celebratory and a bit righteous, which fed into a third version of the post that was even a bit angry or accusatory.

Then when all the surging emotions calmed down, much to my husband’s relief, poor thing, I started and then deleted about six different kids of posts that attempted to address the complexity of the issue at hand–each of which felt too pedantic, and therefore too egotistical.  You do not need me to tell you that there is still work to be done.

So, what I would like to say, instead, is this:

I have been in a privately committed relationship that lasted thirty years without legal recognition, and I do not think that it was any lesser for lack of documentation.

I have been in a publicly, legally, religiously sanctioned marriage that also lasted thirty years, and I do not think it was any greater for abundance of documentation.

I was in both of these commitments simultaneously, and I feel deeply that our polyamorous sensibilities opened up great and unexpected stores of love over time.

I have also been married to Marcus for four years now under a pactum nuptialis that invokes the Roman right for two men to enact matrimonio stabili et certo collocavit.  Although I look forward to signing a state-sanctioned license on our fifth anniversary for largely practical reasons, I do not think that our current situation makes our children illegitimate or our love any less fierce.

And so, I am celebrating for every sort of consenting couple out there.

I really, truly rejoice for the couples who rushed to the court house, for gay teens who can plan their weddings without fear, for children who will never grow up in an America where same-sex marriage is unrecognised.  And I also stand in firm solidarity with couples who wish to remain committed outside of the institution of marriage, for whatever loving and viable reason they have.

My queer politics demand that I be not only enamoured with the outburst of rainbows and weddings, but also supportive of civil unions, domestic partnerships, and well-crafted relationships built on desires that explore outside of monogamy or legal documents.

Let us all be gentle with each other.

Post the First

How pleasant, I think, to launch a new project on one’s anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Marcus!

It is true, you can meet and be married, or re-married, in the afterlife, which is nye on the happiest thing I’ve discovered, along with the ability of ghosts to adopt children.  (More on our little devil and angel later.)

There are any number of ways that you can marry post-mortem.  Some couples go into death together, as is the case of our dear friends and JS Charities board members Charles and Rachel.  They drown together in a boat capsizing just before the Titanic and rather wish they had gone out with a bang rather than in a dinghy.  They keep their appearances at round about 80, maintaining that although they made fetching youths, indeed, they much prefer the wizened look of old age.

Our best mates Ed and Jacques–French Canadians–also died together but in a car accident.  They were not married at the time, but have since tied the knot, with their anniversary just two weeks after Marcus and I.

Other couples meet after death, in the same sorts of places one would expect couples to meet.  In coffee shops, on sporting teams, and often in support groups for new ghosts….maybe that last one is a bit unexpected.

My personal assistant, Danny, who is actually one of my dearest friends at this point, not only met his husband after death, but as Danny died relatively young (22) and quite ill, this also means that he met his first great love after death.  He also discovered he fancied men, as well as women.  I find both the ability to meet and marry, and the ability to self-explore, to be encouraging circumstances, giving me hope for other young ghosts who pop up too soon.

Marcus and I are in the re-married camp.  He lost his first husband Aulus at war, and his second, Rufius, at the time of his own death.  He had also been married twice to women–once by force (ending in divorce) and once by friendship.

My own track record is equally polyamorous, but more happily so.  I was married simultaneously to Marion, who I mentioned on my “about” page, and to Geoffrey, my schoolmate who set me up in the ways of romance, stayed close through my church-sanctioned marriage, and then reappeared as husband later on after Marion asked me over breakfast one morning just how long I had been in love with Geoffrey, and did he feel the same way, causing me to nearly choke on my porridge.

Given my utterly happy marriages, I was absolutely astonished when Marcus turned down my first marriage proposal.  Perhaps after just six months I came across as a tad bit unctuous, and perhaps he was surprised I would even ask after I spent about two of those months sulking about and wondering when he would move out of my host’s mental space, leaving me the hell alone.  Perhaps.

But in any case, he obviously came around to the idea.

And now here we are, four years in, and still–most days–relatively…blissful is not the right word.  Energized by each other’s company, comforted by each other’s embrace, and inspired by each other’s efforts.  He is an excellent father, a stalwart best friend, and he makes one hell of a cheesecake, which I get to eat precisely two times a year.  He is also batty for dinosaurs, sharks, Locke Lamora, his horse (Nox, or Noxwell as I call him), Christmas-time, fireworks, army drills, falcons, fast cars, and republics.

Oh, and for me. ; )

This post is dedicated to him–to my Marcus.  Amo, Juni.