- Alison Bechdel
The pandemic has been tough on single people who would rather not be. Looking for love is hard enough without wearing masks and worrying that you'll contract a deadly illness. And it goes without saying that living alone is far preferable to being trapped with someone who isn't good for you.
Frankly, there aren't too many people with whom I could spend a year cooped up. Luckily, one is my partner of 19 years, Tim Ashe. At the start of the lockdown, both of us were so busy, we didn't see each other for long stretches even while in the same house. He was on Zoom for 12 hours a day, running the Vermont Senate. The legislative session didn't end until summer, when he switched to campaigning for lieutenant governor.
At the same time, I was trying to lead Seven Days through what continues to be an economic minefield. Shutting down was not an option. The paper reported on every aspect of the public health crisis, information our readers desperately wanted, but the ads that pay for our news gathering had all but disappeared overnight.
Our friend Alison Bechdel captured the craziness in a cartoon she drew for my birthday last April. Three days after I turned 60, my mom was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.
Without being asked, Tim started doing all the grocery shopping. After he lost the primary, he started cooking, too. The sounds and smells of his dinner preparation — while I work in my office upstairs — have been a great comfort. We've had shakshuka, chicken Marbella, cauliflower adobo, boeuf Bourguignon. Then he discovered baking — mostly desserts. "What's a Bundt pan?" Tim asked me one day. A few weeks later, he bought ramekins and graduated to individual molten cakes.
Tim's culinary creations aren't always ready to eat at standard mealtimes. It's not unusual for him to come out with some cheesy concoction right before bed. And we have different standards for kitchen cleanup. He'd just as soon wait until morning to do the dishes. I won't go to bed until they're done.
But these are minor annoyances in the context of our compatibility. I'm grateful to share a space with someone I love and respect who takes responsibility for his own happiness. He never makes me feel guilty for working long or odd hours — or both. He was doing the same until January 6, when his Senate term ended; now he's spending that time figuring out what to do next.
Despite his electoral disappointment, Tim remains the best company: analyzing the news, devouring nonfiction, watching European soccer, running regularly, whistling Grateful Dead tunes while he chops vegetables for our next meal. Self-pity isn't on the table. For the past year, we've taken turns being miserable and, in the process, kept each other sane.
Happy pandemic Valentine's Day.