Roger and Chaz Ebert: How “grown folks” love each other
As some of you who know me or have been reading my posts lately can glean, I’ve been grieving the loss of a romantic relationship. Most times when a relationship has ended, I’ve felt grief, but mostly I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of relief. The relationship was or had become so fundamentally flawed and dysfunctional that it was clear we were better off without each other.
This one has been different. I’ve said many times that I want a partner, and this relationship was the closest I’ve ever come to having that. The respect, regard, and rapport are still there, and it’s made moving on so much more difficult for me.
Then, yesterday, I read a story about the late Roger Ebert’s relationship with the love of his life, Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert. And I felt immediate recognition of my ideal. These people were truly partners.
In reviewing what he wrote about their attraction for each other, their connection, their bond, and their love, I can see more clearly not only why the relationship I left couldn’t realize that potential, but also why I’ve never been able to find or attract that kind of relationship in the first place.
Here are some salient excerpts from his description of both Chaz and their connection:
- “I didn’t know her, but I’d seen her before and was attracted. I liked her looks, her voluptuous figure, and the way she presented herself. She took a lot of care with her appearance and her clothes never looked quickly thrown together.
- “She seemed to be holding the attention of her table. You never get anywhere with a woman you can’t talk intelligently with.”
- “She had a particular quality. She didn’t seem to be a ‘date’ but an equal. She knew where she stood, and I found that attractive.”
- “Her love letters were poetic, idealistic and often passionate,” he recalled. “I responded as a man and a lover. As a newspaperman, I observed she never, ever, made a copy-reading error.”
These are the words of a man who knew what he wanted, saw it, and went after it. There was no hedging, no ambivalence, no pussy-footing around. He was confident and secure about who he was and what he valued and he communicated that posthaste.
And what did he want? He wanted an intelligent woman, a strong woman, one who had a commanding presence and voluptuous beauty. He appreciated her passion, idealism and romantic nature. He wanted an equal.
He clearly saw Chaz and her value immediately, and he responded to it. She recognized her partner immediately as well:
- “I was going out to Los Angeles a few days later, and I asked her to come along. We formed a serious bond rather quickly. It was an understood thing. I was in love, I was serious, I was ready for my life to change.”
I wrote in a Facebook post that in reading about their beautiful love story, I couldn’t help but think: “This is how grown folks love each other.” And when I say “grown folks,” I mean it in the African-American use of the phrase. Grown folks is not synonymous with the word “adult.” Instead, it implies a maturity and an enlightenment that most adults never attain. And this is why such partnerships are so rare.
And I’ll admit, though I’m 41 years old, I’m not “grown” yet. I don’t have the confidence and strong sense of self to be as comfortable in my own skin as either Chaz or Roger had at the time that they met. Still wanting to please and still wanting to conform to the American societal (narrowly defined) standard of femininity and beauty, I have struggled to value and see myself as an attractive woman. Without that self-confidence, I find myself falling in love with a relationship’s or a man’s potential rather than seeing the reality before me and recognizing what is and isn’t right for me.
But this story gives me hope. Not necessarily that I’ll find my “soulmate,” but that I will one day become a “grown” woman–able to see myself and recognize my own value–and able to radiate that confidence in the extraordinary way that Chaz does.