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Getting to the Heart of the Matter

By Lavender January 27, 2011

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Interviews with Cheryl Gordon and Michele Harris & Richard Adams and Ross Kyllo

Let’s face it: Finding someone, winning someone, and keeping someone who is agreeable to finding, winning, and keeping you takes diplomacy, along with courage, nerve, balance, and stamina.

Lavender recently approached two long-term couples—21 and 29 years, respectively—asking the partners, Cheryl Gordon and Michele Harris, and Richard Adams and Ross Kyllo, to share.

Cheryl Gordon and Michele Harris

How long have you been together? Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Harris: Cheryl and I met in 1990, and have lived together for 21 years. We started a marketing and design firm together called Carbon Creative in the basement of our first house in 2000, which we now run from the first floor of our duplex in Uptown. We have twins, a boy and girl, who are 6 years old.

When and where did you meet? Was it an epiphany? Was it mutual, or did one pursue?

Gordon: We met at a bar in Champaign, Illinois, way back in the last century. We saw each other from across the room. Michele asked me to dance. I said no. She ran away before I could explain why—I was sick—and then avoided me each time we saw each other for the next several weeks. I was crazy about her from the minute I saw her. We talked on the phone for hours, and I quickly knew she was as interesting and funny as she was attractive. We can still talk for hours.

Harris: It was pretty “aha!” from the start for me—kind of the lust-at-first-sight thing. Of course, you really have to get to know someone before you can call it love, but there was definitely something magical between us. That had also been the first night in my life that I had asked anyone to dance, and she turned me down. I even wrote about it in one of my novels. [Harris is C.M. Harris, local author of The Children of Mother Glory and Enter Oblivion]. Once we got to know each other, we clicked on a more cerebral level. We wanted a lot of the same things out of life, and coupled with our attraction, it all went pretty U-Haul from there.

Is Valentine’s Day an important or fun one for you? Do you still try to do something “special” together? Cards? Mushy, Romantic, Funny?

Harris: We still try to do a little something for each other for Valentine’s Day. But I think we both enjoy watching the kids get their Valentines even more.

Gordon: Usually funny.

What’s your most memorable or embarrassing Valentine’s Day?

Gordon: A couple years ago, we were in Florida at my Mom’s winter home. Michele had my Valentine’s gift sent to us. Let’s just say it was a very personal plaything. Naturally, my family wanted to know what was in the box. We left it to their imagination. I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed.

Is one of you the Romantic and the other the Pragmatist?

Harris: I’m generally more pragmatic and single-minded, while Cheryl is more idealistic and empathetic.

Obviously, every day can’t be a perfect Valentine. Have you any tips for keeping Valentine’s Day alive over the years?

Gordon: It’s easy to get lazy. There’s no shame in scheduling time to be romantic. Someone once told us if the dirty dishes in the sink are bothering you, wash them—don’t whine about it. We were at a stage in our relationship where we were power-struggling over things like that. Somehow, that advice was all we needed to move on.

How does Valentine’s Day today compare to when you were kids? Did you yearn to give or get a Valentine to/from a sweetheart of the “wrong” gender?

Harris: Ooh, another thing I’ve written about. I sent Secret Admirer notes to a girl I was crazy about. She actually reciprocated for a while. Then, it all came crashing down on us once the parents got involved. But in a way, that gave me hope. I always wanted to find my “soul mate” and be “married,” without really understanding the scope of such a commitment. Caring about someone has to happen every single day, not just once a year.

What else would you like to share about the spirit of Valentine’s Day?

Gordon: At some point early in our relationship, we decided that we were OK with being in a codependent relationship. We love to play, and developed many of the same likes and dislikes. If I’m going on a bike ride or a movie or out for a drink, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with than Michele.

Michele: Read Dan Savage!
Richard Adams and Ross Kyllo

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Adams: I’ve been in private practice [psychology] for the past 30 years. Seven years ago, Ross was certified as a Life Coach, and we reorganized my company into ours, Garuda Coaching & Consulting.

Kyllo: I also work for Minneapolis Public Schools as a Special Education Assistant in the area of autism.

How long have you been together? When and where did you meet? Was it an epiphany? Was it mutual, or did one pursue?

Adams: We will have been together 29 years this Valentine’s Day. We met in the fall of 1981—neither of us recorded the specific date. [Adams had been invited to a dinner as a possible match for the host. That didn’t happen, but he spotted Kyllo.] I was immediately attracted. I also thought he was out of my league. We left that evening without any plans to get together, and, honestly, I didn’t even see it as a possibility. In retrospect, the attraction was mutual, but neither of us had the courage to pursue it.

Kyllo: I walked in the door, and seconds later, noticed Richard sitting on the sofa—I can still see him in that moment. I can’t say I said to myself, “That’s the man I am going to be with for the rest of my life.” However, it was as if something came into my heart, and I couldn’t wait to meet him.

[Early in 1982, the two met again by chance, each of them on the eve of a trip.]

Adams: Still cautious not to betray much, we thought it might be a good idea to get together. I got back on Valentine’s Day, and nervously called Ross. I suggested the Zoogie’s First Annual Valentine’s Day Ball at the Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel. The extravaganza featured Divine. I was intrigued, but Ross had no idea who Divine was.

Kyllo: We sat at a table very close to the front, and when Divine came out. I was horrified. Even though I’d been operating as a “gay” man for six years, I was still fairly prudish, and was very judgmental of “camp.” When Divine came out, and I witnessed Richard’s extreme enjoyment, I thought to myself, “Oh, dear, what have I done?” It was great evening, however, and our second date at Winfield Potters in St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis made our union a done deal.

Is Valentine’s Day an important or fun one for you? Do you still try to do something “special” together? Cards? Mushy, Romantic, Funny?

Adams: We decided Valentine’s Day was our anniversary, and returned the Hyatt for 10 years. We do something special every year, usually going out, but we both love to cook, and increasingly often, we celebrate at home.

What’s your most memorable or embarrassing Valentine’s Day?

Adams: The most memorable Valentine’s Day was in 1986, when we traveled to Bali. We arrived exhausted after Pan Am’s final Pacific flight, a train trip across Java, and a precarious bus-on-a-ferry ride to Bali. We kept the Hyatt tradition alive by spending three days we really couldn’t afford at the Bali Hyatt, with drinks delivered to our beach chairs by liveried waiters.

Kyllo: I even managed to go down to a hotel shop, and find a stuffed animal to give to Richard—another tradition we started when we first met! We still have the two originals, “Stiggy and Finney.”

Obviously, every day can’t be a perfect Valentine. Have you any tips for keeping Valentine’s Day alive over the years?

Adams: After a year, we moved into a house I’d been renting in Seward, and we lived there a year, and worked out our first conflicts. We then bought [our present] house, over the past 27 years renovating every part of it. I look forward every day to coming home to Ross in this house. We’ve worked hard, and fought about just about everything. It all just brought us closer, knowing one another better, and loving one another more.

Kyllo: We love to travel. We enjoy cooking, listening to music, and hiking in nature. There are times when I play the piano, and Richard will sing. We both enjoy the mindless box [TV], and spend many evenings together in front of it. We enjoy entertaining, and while we do go out, the older we get, staying home is the preferred option. Our home is probably my second greatest love—Richard being the first, of course!
What else would you like to share about the spirit of Valentine’s Day?

Kyllo: I think that “love” can only be defined individually, and as to what “love” feels like, all I can say with certainty is that for 29 years, I have never not wanted to be in a relationship with Richard. I have certainly—at times—been “fed-up”; “pissed-off”; “sick-and-tired” of; or “disappointed” by aspects of our relationship, and yet, I have always wanted to find ways to make it work. I do feel that our honesty with one another, as painful as it may be at times, has played a key role. We say the words “I love you” often in any given day—and that works for us! Valentine’s in many ways rejuvenates my commitment. I/we have saved every card given and received, and the sentiments [printed] in the cards, and what we personally wrote inside, still hold true in my heart. I’m still very much “in love” with and “love” my partner, Richard.

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