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Passed By In Slow Lane Despite Recent Portrayals In The Media, Most Gay Couples Lead Mundane Lives Much Like The Rest Of Us

We’ve just solved our problem with white socks.

I now wear a brand with a W on the side; Fran wears Brand C. Now we know whose socks are whose. Such are the tiny dilemmas of a lesbian couple that has spent 13 years together.

Thirteen years. Actually, the 13th anniversary of when we first met won’t be until Dec. 28, but four years ago we got married. So we celebrate our anniversary in August.

Gay marriages make a lot of folks squeamish. Some try to salve their unease and maintain alliances with the gay community by saying they support “domestic partnerships” or legal contracts or commitment ceremonies or some other euphemism that they are certain is just like a marriage without having to soil the sacred term.

Others have more cruel things to say and try to punish those of us who want a loving, committed relationship - a marriage.

Our relationship is one I’ve seldom touched upon in this space. Not because of an overwhelming desire for privacy, but mainly because it is not much different from any couple’s relationship, gay or straight.

It’s not a juicy story.

We’ve had our fill of juicy stories in recent months - more correct, a juicy STORY, thanks to Andrew Cunanan and the media that found his sordid life so riveting, but somehow never figured out that all gay people are not connected to each other and do not all relate to the way Cunanan lived.

Fran and I are as far removed from the sex-and-drug parties frequented by the likes of Andrew Cunanan as we are from the Hollywood parties frequented by Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche.

Ours is a comfortable life together - one that surely does not seem like 13 years. Yet it seems more than a lifetime ago that I was single and had realized I was a lesbian. And even longer that I was married to a guy I met at a friend’s wedding while in college.

We have no magic formula; if we did, we’d probably be big infomercial stars spending our free time at Hollywood parties with Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche.

Sometimes we joke that we’ve stayed together so long because our schedules often provide only a few hours together each day. And we laugh at a joke by lesbian comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer that some time gets lost while you’re busy trying to mold the other person into the person you think she should be. Neither is accurate, but neither is entirely false.

I think not having much time together makes us value what we do have, even if it’s doing something as mundane as eating dinner in front of the TV.

Or sorting socks.

I’ve tried to get Fran to close cabinets tightly, and she’s tried to get me to put things away, but our failure to break each other’s “bad habits” has made us recognize our individuality. We complement each other, fill in the gaps. And we’ve learned how much alike we are in many ways.

Besides lovers, we’ve become best friends. Each has cared for the other when she was sick, provided companionship when the other was lonely, offered encouragement when the other was disappointed, and given a kick in the butt when the other was lazy.

We’ve worried and argued about money - what couple hasn’t? - and enjoy giving each other nice things that we can afford.

And even more than best friends, we’re family. I was there when her father died; she comforts me during the painful times I’m reminded my parents have turned their backs on this relationship.

And as much as I would like this country to grant us the same special rights that legally married couples already enjoy, I know that what we have is stronger than what a mere piece of government-sanctioned paper could provide. We’re not legally bound for the sake of any children, or because a divorce would be too costly or too messy.

We’re together because we want to be together, 13 years and counting.

Too bad the media don’t pay much attention to these kinds of stories. M Debbie Woodell is a columnist and sports copy editor for the Philadelphia Daily News.