Love is Love . . .and it is Hard and Easy
Updated: Jun 5
For all those looking for love, in love, out of love, giving up on love, open to love, whether it's loving yourself, a romantic other, a friend, an animal, a family member, a neighbor, love IS there for you. Just keep turning towards it.
I wrote this letter of our love story for my wife, Jennifer Ellen Koltun, five years ago as we were getting ready to be married in Bali June 4th, 2016 (1938 in the Balinese moon calendar). As we celebrate our five years of marriage during Pride Month, I'm sharing this again with a postscript.
I never dreamed of being a bride as a little girl. I dreamed of being a magician in sold-out auditoriums wowing audiences across the world. Doves flying out of my hands and mouth. I would perform acts that would make Houdini blush, astound Henning and rival the wind machine blowing Copperfield's hair. I had no example of a famous, female magician to look up to. So I would be the first. (A Google search shows that there were plenty - but there was no Google when I was seven). As a little girl I met one of Harry Blackstone's assistants at my Grandma's Claypool's senior center. I think her name was something like Ruby. This would have been 1982 or '83. She had wavy, red hair, was lively and wore lots of makeup. But she didn't look garish. She looked glamorous. G-L-A-M-O-R. Always so appealing to me even as a child. My parents had given me a very unglamorous name of my generation: Jennifer. I hated it. Some people tried to call me Jenny, which made it even worse. At seven years old I had what I now would call a deep knowing of what my true name was. When I started to perform magic shows around my hometown of Columbus, Ohio at the age of 11, I started to use my "true" name as my stage name: Victoria. At 13, my parents allowed me to change my name. How a working-class, house painter and a secretary who were born-and-raised-and-never-left-Ohio kind of folks got on board with a 13 year old changing her name legally, I'll never know. But I am thankful. It is said that our destinies can be in our names. I don't know that the Jennifer that I was would have ever left Ohio at 21 to eventually meet the love of her life in New York City.
You sauntered into
my life with the confidence
of a billy goat.
My fiancée is like a leprechaun and her nature is true to the description: often jovial, sometimes ornery, swift, full of surprises and with a twinkle in her eye. It was that twinkle that caused me to pick her out of pages of women. The year was 2008. It was spring and I was 32. There was this newfangled Facebook thing everyone was starting to use. My dear friend, Duck, sat me down in front of a computer and manifested pages of women: women looking for dates, women looking for relationships, women looking to do things with women. I don't know how he funneled the hundreds of profiles onto the screen in front of me. I am pretty sure you can't do a search like this anymore thanks to privacy regulations. After 20 minutes of perusing women of all varieties, I was about to give up when her picture caught my attention: butch, genuine smile and that twinkle. I looked at her page and she had a job, some friends and liked animals. I had done the exercise that all the New Age, self-help books recommend: make a list of the qualities you're looking for in a partner and "put it out" to the universe. Another kind of magic trick. The main two requirements on my list were available and sane.
It is finally
time for you to see yourself
with a loving heart.
Prior to meeting my fiancée, I had lived through many heartbreaks and torment (some of the people I dated were absolutely lovely - but I was internally tormented). Many of these were 'relationships' that the other person didn't even know they were in with me. I imagined I was living in a Merchant Ivory film dominated by unrequited love and fabulous costumes. I preferred to obsess over people from afar and stay in my "safe" bubble with booze, grandiosity and a dollop of self-pity. Mostly I was hiding out in the back room of Jane Street Tavern, drinking whiskey (beer when I had less money), wearing stiletto heels that had holes in their soles, which would make my feet wet when it rained. I ran around town from bar to bar in a fabulous, vintage, faux-leopard-fur coat with a missing lining which left me freezing on most days fall through winter. I was certain I was taking New York City by storm. In my head I was just a centimeter away from being a famous actress. I had traded the magician dream for this new dream when the magic shop I worked at back in Ohio burned down and the owner went to jail for unsavory acts. Thankfully, I hit my bottom during my first Saturn Returns at 28 and stopped drinking.
Palms in silhouette.
An offering placed at dusk.
Smoke wafts through her hand.
My fiancée proposed to me June 12th, 2013. Living up to the stereotype, we were in Provincetown. We were sitting at the top of the dunes looking out at the ocean. I was eating a whoopie pie the size of my face and not thinking of much else. It was gluten-free and vegan, and a rare treat for me. All of the sudden I noticed her shifting around in the sand, and then suddenly she was kneeling in front of me with a little, blue box. There was a huge bite of whoopie pie in my mouth that I pushed over to the inside of my cheek. She said, "Victoria Ruth Libertore, will you marry me?" I mumbled yes with pieces of gluten-free, vegan, chocolate cookie falling out of my mouth as I swallowed what was left of the bite. An intense wave of nausea came over me. Intuitively I knew this was a deep fear of being truly loved. Once the sensation passed, I asked her to ask me to marry her again. She did and I swear to you I felt a little door in my heart open that I did not know had even been closed. I was able to say yes without any nausea. Suddenly the spirit of an 18-year-old girl whose only dream was to be married possessed me. We went into town and I found myself skipping into the local salon where we had our nails done earlier that day, shouting, "I'm engaged," as I held my left hand up with the sparkly diamond on it. There was a big group of drag queens getting done up for some event. Let me tell you drag queens are the people you want around when you announce your engagement. High-pitched screams were had by all.
Once you dreamed of fame.
Then life settled in on you.
This is much better.
My fiancée's name is Jennifer. Yes. I do see the irony. I fell in love with Jennifer. Jen and I have farted, thrown up, belched, peed and even pooped in front of each other. I've had a little, mini breakdown/panic attack in front of her where I made guttural sounds as I crawled around the bathroom floor naked (not the sexy kind of naked). I've witnessed her screaming in agony as she was passing a gallstone and she almost drove us off the road. She helped me through my grief as I sobbed for months after my mother died. I've talked her through her anger over her mother abandoning her. I thought I would be a lot of things by 40. Certainly famous and rich with awards lining my shelves. I never planned on being a 40-year-old bride. Now as I get ready to walk down the pink-and-white-flower-petal-lined aisle in an opulent, exotic (in Bali), and glamorous ceremony where we're making a deeper commitment to each other in this good, fun, ugly, beautiful, mundane, exasperating, glorious, miraculous container of our love, this thing we call a relationship, I feel grateful to be marrying Jennifer Ellen Koltun. Because she is the love of my life. It is a requited love. It is messy. It is deeply intimate. It is real. It is sexy. It is a greater than a magic act because it's not an act. It's just magic.
June 4th, 2021 is our five-year anniversary. Our wedding in Bali, surrounded by the love of our old and new friends remains one of the best days of my life (and Jen's, if you ask her). Since then, we have moved across the country from NYC to Los Angeles, almost lost our dog to a rare disease, have lost Jen's dad and mom, went through a full-replacement knee surgery and recovery for Jen, loss of practically all my business, rebuilding it, a lot of amazing and hard conversations about money, traveled back to Bali twice, renewed old passions (golf for Jen and acting for me), moved into menopause (for Jen) and perimenopause (for me), have renewed a relationship with my father after a decade-long estrangement, have been exploring a deeper understanding of our white privilege and (like all of you) have been going through a pandemic.
There is the day-to-day chores: trash to be taken out and cat litter to be scooped, the meals to be made along with the bed and the new discoveries of this city and Saturday mornings watching You Tube videos of people in Bali while we currently can't go there. There are the little spats that become moments of rage, but we don't land in them for long and forgive quickly. There is laughter every day. Every damn day. I think that we do a pretty good job of not taking each other for granted. We're saving to buy a home in the next few years, envisioning an eventual move to Palm Desert, and our long-term plan is to live in Bali part of the year or maybe full-time. . . as they say, more will be revealed. For now, we have today and all we can do is our best to be present for today, in gratitude for life and to keep turning towards each other and ourselves.
In addition to falling in love with Jennifer, I am falling in love with myself.
I just said to Jen, "Oh, Honey, don't throw out that paper. I want to use it to clean the windows." (That's a little life hack BTW - newspaper and cleaning solution for sparkly windows). She said, "Sure, Honey." It's the tenderness in these little moments that makes up a relationship, which makes up a commitment, which make up a life full of love.
How lucky are we
in this life? Our returning
to each other's arms.