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That nice Catholic kid gone haywire was me, fleeing toward a future as a poet, a rock star, a groupie, anything but the ed-for ing major my dad said I should be.

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As for me, who was I? Fellow feeling ultimately didn't hold Paul and Edie together, and theirs was not the only relationship that frayed.

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Ahd see this trend as an ideal option for the burgeoning population over age sixty-five, but as the rising cost of housing does battle with the average Looiing enduring desire to settle into a home, members of all age groups find life with roommates becoming permanent. Since that time I have run toward a lot of things, including back toward them. The second was the flourishing of San Francisco's Castro district, the first openly gay American neighborhood.

Although two-thirds of the housing in this country was built for Mom-Dad-and-kids, with healthy-sized kitchens for home-cooked meals and a big living Oao for lounging, less than one-quarter of the population still lives out that particular family romance. Yet the pain we put each other through was a part of the process, the first proof we'd had that you can't just careen through life clinging only to yourself.

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Few of us had been given free rein among such middle-class comforts before. Do you? Countercultural hippies could relate to that idealism, but rarely approached their projects as rigorously as their religious forebears had. We were nicer and kinder to each other than that model suggested.

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I know plenty of immature gay men too. According to everyone around us, we could lay no claim to these terms; we were expected to follow in the deep footsteps of the countercultural baby boomers or to stay in our corners, despairing at the failure of their revolution. If a person didn't have that quality of cool, if she was too earnest, fearful, or prudish, or just not seirdos enough, Mona reckoned that person didn't belong.

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But that doesn't matter; neither wants to roam. Public acknowledgment?

Mona was the main arbiter of Steiner Street's code. Steiner Street was one place where we could enact our covert, radical plans.

Then one of life's common crises started to eat at our easy camaraderie. Isadora and a boyfriend took up residence with his pals on Nob Hill. Today, with fewer and fewer people even trying to live up to the nuclear fantasy, chosen families stand on another cutting edge of the status quo; once again, bohemians mark out what later becomes the norm.

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If we denied its existence, though, it could easily wind up buried in an unmarked grave, alongside history's other bastard lines. Paul and Edie also saw each other through serious trauma. One afternoon he stormed into Fulton Street after enduring an extra-nasty round of her insults. Before moving south, they spent several years in an all-female house in the Upper Haight.

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No more, in fact, would that trash-paperback narrative be acceptable as the Bach biography of a gay person's life. Maybe I was lying to myself, assembling a fake ideal from a bunch of scraps. She projected the hearty aura of a former sorority girl, worked in advertising, and spent her nights in the yuppie bars of Union Street.

She expected her roommates and the small circle of friends who spent most evenings in her living room weirdo go beyond the coincidence of our meeting and become one another's lifelines. They finally kicked Dionne out a year and a half into her slump, and approached Steiner Street as a clean slate. If we played around with caviar and fine wine, if Martin bought opera pumps on credit at Macy's, it was only an extended bout of dress-up.

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But family isn't just an weirdoss, and Vivian knows that. The pair agrees that this very likely would not be the case were they to move outside San Francisco. After that I began distancing myself from her in that careful way that begins with icy politeness and ends in phone calls never returned.

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His sister, and prized for that. After my first taste of reconstructed family life, I left South Van Ness and Sally, in hopes of conceiving one of these unusual clans myself. Martin, like his close friend Paul Coughlan, was unable to reconcile being gay with the prejudices of his Catholic kin; he came to Steiner Street convinced he'd never find the warmth and stability he craved, and when it blossomed he fought to preserve it. In Arizona, she added her own indulgences, among them high-grade marijuana and the collected works of Roxy Music.

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To learn the history of the Left Bank or Greenwich Village is weirdow discover an endless string of husbands taking advantage of the labor of their wives, keeping mistresses on the side, leaving their children with no emotional or financial support, and ultimately claiming that the women who pampered them were as square as the parents they'd rejected.

Her intensity turned off some people, and they fled, but those willing to match it entered a network of steadfast companions that survived individual conflicts and disenchantments.

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Larry's cynicism and rage made me anxious; I tried to avoid him. Baked beans might be ideal, if they came from Do City, Oqk barbecue t Mona loved to frequent on Thursdays around two a. One alternative, which emerged in the wake of the feminist critique of the family in the s, was the self-conscious establishment of chosen families.

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My friends helped me realize that all you really have is the love right in front of you, and that sometimes this love will remain a secret to everybody else, even when you don't hesitate to show it. My brother, Patrick, shouted at me from across the table at his neighborhood brew pub three days after Christmas"Family is important! We'd never leave; we didn't need to. And I'd think, Hmm, there's something to this.

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We weren't going back. We were learning our first lessons there. David and I certainly did.