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Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth celebrated 60 years together on June 13, 2013. When they met in Chicago in 1953 when Marcoux was 23 and Woodworth was 25, they always answered “Yes” when people asked them if they were brothers. Now when people ask, Marcoux says, ”No, but thank you for asking, because I am able to tell you that I love this man.” Woodworth was a ballet dancer, and Marcoux was just leaving a Trappist monastery. Marcoux (born 1931) and Woodworth (born 1929) participate in Friendly House’s Gay and Grey program, and Marcoux has been a Buddhist teacher for 23 years.

On June 13, 2003, Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth celebrated their 50th year anniversary with a public recommitment ceremony. Over 100 people gathered at the Zendo for the ceremony presided over by both Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlson. Before reciting their vows (the same vows they recite together each month), Eric and Eugene shared the personal story of their meeting and what their experience together has meant to them as well as to others. Eric pointed out how far we as a community have come (both locally and nationally) that an event like this could happen at all, let alone be so lovingly celebrated and honored; he suggested further that no matter who we are, all of us are in some way healed and uplifted. In such recognition and acceptance, we are encouraged to see that we are connected in many ways.

From Northwest love stories: For 60 years, 'there wasn't anything else' (January 03, 2013): The Oregonian caught up with the couple in their Northwest Portland home, which they share with their macaw, Big Bird, to learn their secrets to a healthy and happy partnership.

Q: How did you meet?

Marcoux: I'd just come from the 12th century. I was in a Trappist monastery when I was very very young. (I) went into a restaurant and ran into a friend, and he was sitting with someone. I was invited by my friend Nathan to come to a party that evening. And I said, "No, no, no, I'm going to a movie with friends." I went and sat down. I had what I swear was a paranormal experience. I subjectively felt like something put its hands under my armpits and lifted me and marched me back. I'm looking at Nathan and saying, "I've decided to come to your party. And won't you introduce me to your friend?" I'd never been so forward in my whole life.




Eric Marcoux, right, and Eugene Woodworth have been a couple for almost 60 years. Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian


Eric Marcoux, left, and Eugene Woodworth, photographed in Chicago in 1955 by photographer Jo Banks, have been a couple for almost 60 years


On June 13, 2003, Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth celebrated their 50th year anniversary with a public recommitment ceremony. Left to Right: Kyogen, Eugene and Eric laughing together at the beginning of the ceremony


Eugene and Eric recite their vows


Kyogen gives the blessing

Woodworth: I came from a ballet background, professional. I was working for three small companies and had my own as well, and I started to get good reviews. I was actually having lunch with a friend, and we were sitting chatting. All of a sudden a figure appeared at my shoulder. My body went cold. I was feeling electric shock. I couldn't move. ... I barely got started talking again, and the same thing happened. I heard (Eric) say, "Well, why don't you introduce me to your friend?" And so I turned and shook hands with him and at that point I said, "I've got to quit ballet. Overnight stays and three weeks at a time is not going to work. I've got to get a regular job. I'm going to have a family." We made arrangements to meet that night, at the party. Later we went out for a snack at a little restaurant. And as we walked in, both the cashier and the waitress said, "Oh! You're twins, aren't you? Twins!" So from there on, for the rest of our lives, we've been twins and/or brothers.

Marcoux: It was a good cover that those waitresses gave us, right from the start.

Woodworth: It wasn't OK for two men to live together. Actually, it was against the law in Chicago.

Q: How did you decide to spend your lives together?

Woodworth: There wasn't anything else. Really. There was nothing else for me to do other than spend my life with him. From that very instant that we met. That was it.

Marcoux: We renew our wedding vows once a month as part of our spiritual practice. And so going through the pictures (of ourselves through the years) gives us a chance to own our youth, our middle age, and that we're getting very old now.

Woodworth: We came this far, why not more?

Q: What is the legal status of your relationship?

Marcoux: (Marriage is) a personal designation. We had a dear friend who was a rogue Franciscan. And he married us. Many years later, when Eugene and I were getting close to our 40th anniversary, sitting with the two abbots at Dharma Rain Zen Center, and we said, "We wish we could have a Buddhist wedding." And the one abbot said to her husband, "Well, we really haven't done anything for the gay community. So why don't we give you a space and a ceremony?" So, ironically, we've had two religious weddings, and not any civil union. We can't afford the civil union. Our attorney said, "Often when people come to me at your age I advise them to get divorced." When you have such minimal resources, if one of you has a devastating disease, then you have to spend all the way down in order to qualify for Medicaid. Whereas if you're divorced or single, the burden is seriously reduced. I would love to say, "Let's run over to Washington and do it!" But pragmatically, not. It wouldn't change the internal chemistry, alchemy, that we live with. But boy, I want to live long enough to see this happen in Oregon. Because I've become so aware of the humanizing and civilizing dimensions of being in a publicly recognized relationship.

Q: What do you enjoy doing together?

Woodworth: We make a point of going to Starbucks every morning. That's our free time together. That's when we talk. When we get home we've got other things to do. When we're outside the house we've got things to do, other people to see. And so we make a formal morning out of it every morning.

Marcoux: I really like him. A great deal. And he apparently likes me. But it's (also) about friends and the support system. With the big important issues, I talk to him about. And we can talk about some things, and others we can't talk. Not because it's taboo, it's just because it puts him to sleep. Literally to sleep.

Q: Was there ever a time you thought that your relationship wouldn't last?

Woodworth: No. Never thought that.

Marcoux: No.

Woodworth: There were times it was kind of iffy. "Oh, what'd I do? What did we do?" But we worked through it.

Marcoux: One of the things that is a disadvantage to being able to share how long we've been together is, I feel like we're being put in a stained-glass window. "Isn't that wonderful?" And it is wonderful, but we've worked very hard for it and still work very hard at it. And being in a relationship isn't the only way to be a fulfilled human being.

Woodworth: And a long-term relationship isn't something that you just flip through when it feels good. When it stops feeling good you phfft. And that doesn't work.

Marcoux: It was just in my nature to expect that, well, things aren't always working wonderfully. But not a matter of toxicity. Get out of it if it's toxic. But just so I'm bored, so what?

Q: What advice would you give to new couples today?

Marcoux: God, that's just a terror of a question. To know it's not easy, and leave if it's toxic. Wait long enough to know whether or not it's toxic or just a pain. And be in love with love.

Woodworth: The main thing that I come back to is commitment. You have to decide from the very beginning whether it's going to be a committed relationship for a long period or if it's just going to be as long as it lasts. Which is what most people do. They fall in love with lust instead of love. And they think that when the sex starts getting bad, that's the end of the relationship. That's the beginning of the relationship! That's when you start working on it.

Q: What's the biggest lesson about love and partnership you've learned along the way?

Woodworth: It never lets up.

Marcoux: To be more gentle toward my own vulnerabilities and to his inadequacies, because they disappoint him as well as me. Oh, that didn't make any sense at all.

Woodworth: You never were worried about disappointing me.

Marcoux: Oh, God, I'm going to leave him right now. May I get a ride?

Woodworth: Yeah, teasing is part of it.

Marcoux: It's worth the effort. In the form of Buddhism we practice there's a real emphasis on what we call Buddha nature. It refers to our innate goodness. There's wisdom and compassion there, and we can be utterly cruel because we haven't learned to recognize it. When you really get that you have Buddha nature in yourself and so do others, when we begin to get a kind of radical respect for the other person's strengths and weaknesses, and our own, we can afford to be loving and friendly toward them.

Woodworth: Tied to that is a continual coming out to each other. Whatever it is that we suddenly discover in ourselves, we share. And just coming out basically as a gay person. It is something that builds respect and friendship with other people outside our circle. Even people who aren't allies at the moment become allies because of our honesty. You know, we all have closets to come out of. They're all different, but you have to find out what your closet is and come out. Before that, you're not a whole person. You really aren't.

Marcoux: Sharing our vulnerabilities and being willing to be vulnerable, when it's not going to get you shot or beat up right on the spot. Once you get to doing that, it can become a demanding habit but a really good habit. It's incredible and liberating.
Woodworth: When we come out of our own closest, other people do too. -- Jennifer Willis

Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/01/northwest_love_stories_for_60.html

More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance

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