Dear Nigel Hawthorne

So you're going to take Trevor, your longtime lover, with you to the Oscar ceremonies next week. Good for you, says a writer who knows the problems such public appearances can create

Carl Miller
Thursday 23 March 1995 00:02 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

I am pleased to hear that you are taking your lover to the Oscar ceremonies. I hope there weren't too many rows about it over breakfast. Many a happy home has been broken up by disputes over such public appearances. It's no easy choice between the modest deception of smiling at the first night paparazzi with a bubbly blonde on one's arm or spending such glamorous nights holding the hand of the man with whom one spends all the other evenings. Was Trevor insistent that it be him and not, say, Su Pollard, this time?

Of course, such threats can backfire. I piously lectured Jonathan that to attend any functions without me would be a betrayal of me, our relationship and the fundamental principles of sexual equality. This now leaves me powerless to cry off any wedding, bar mitzvah or Christmas party for the rest of our lives.

Thankfully, his family throws a good party; even if I did keep having to explain at the last one that I was the bride's sister's husband's brother's boyfriend. Terminology is a problem, isn't it?

Trevor is called your "long-standing, live-in boyfriend" in one of the papers, which makes him sound more like an old retainer than a lover. Still, that's less ambiguous than his description elsewhere as a "partner of 17 years", which might have got the Director of Public Prosecutions briefly over-excited.

A lady in Horsham once ticked me off for calling Jonathan my lover. "You'll never fit in if you go on about the physical aspect," she scolded. It's true that in the twilight world of the heterosexual, "lover" implies hotel rooms and oral sex, but I've always thought "partner" too like a pair of solicitors, and I can't really carry off "boyfriend", now I've hit 30. There's always "affair", but that only works when said, with a nasal whine and a lisp, about someone who leaves you after three weeks for an airline steward.

Of course, gay couples are quite chic now: we're even in IKEA adverts. Mind you, celebrity may forgive everything in the US, but it's probably not the same panacea where you live in Radwell, Herts. Funny how people who are happy to have you round for dinner foam at the mouth if anyone tries to teach their children that love like you have for each other is normal and desirable.

Yes, it is a lot of fuss, particularly for those whose lovers can't be at their side thanks to Aids, immigration controls or the unpredictabilities of the human heart. As a much-admired actor, however, you're a role model, not just for other large farmhouse owners but for some of your colleagues. Acting is often thought to be an easy business to be gay in, but lesbian stars still keep the closet door tight shut.

And what of those young men still giving interviews about their girlfriends, anxious that their potential careers as romantic leads might be jeopardised if the press revealed their personal design for living? Have a good night out together.

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