Originally Aired: February 14, 2017
Paolo: Say it like it is! She said, ‘Is he rich?’ And I’m, like, my face is pretty. Shall I bring the bank statement now or come back next week?
Charles: She just wanted to make sure you could take care of yourself. Does he have his own money? Does he have his own life? Does he have his own friends? Can he contribute to the future?
Paolo: It came across in a little bit of a different way. [Laugh]
Host: CHARLES AND PAOLO HAVE HAD TO CONQUER A LOT OF DIFFERENCES. AMONG THEM BEING INTERRACIAL AND FROM TWO VERY DIFFERENT CULTURES. THEIR MARRIAGE BRINGS TOGETHER BROOKLYN, BARBADOS, THE AMERICAN SOUTH AND ITALY.
ALSO IN TODAY’S EPISODE, I’LL BE TALKING WITH KYLE WAGNER ABOUT THE ULTIMATE TEST OF A RELATIONSHIP, TRAVELING TOGETHER.
Kyle Wagner: I think that when people go on a trip together, they need to talk about what they are expecting from the trip and what their needs are. Some people are night owls. You know, they want to be up all night and party and go to clubs. And some people, and I would be one of them, I want to get up at five in the morning before the sun rises and get out there. When you have two people who have very different expectations of what the trip is going to be like, there’s going to be conflict and how are you going to manage that.
Host: MY NAME IS ANDY HORNING, AND THIS IS ELEPHANT TALK. IT’S A SHOW ABOUT ALL THINGS RELATIONSHIP – THE SOULFUL, THE SILLY, AND THE SEXY.
THEY MET AT A PARTY IN EARLY FALL, AND WERE MARRIED ONE YEAR LATER. YOU’LL HEAR IN THIS CONVERSATION, IT’S REALLY A STORY ABOUT TAKING A CHANCE, MAKING THE MOST OF IT, AND LIVING IN THE MOMENT.
Paolo: So, my name is Paolo, we met just over one year ago. I was in New York for four years before I met Charles and when I met him I’d already decided I was moving to London for work. I was not looking for a husband or like a boyfriend, you know, nothing serious.
Charles: It was around Labor Day and everyone in the party was just out having a good time. You know, when I saw you, I was just –
Paolo: Blow away.
Charles: Well, I don’t know if I would say that.
Paolo: [Laughter]. Yes!
Charles: I was in awe, I thought you were and still are very handsome and adorable.
Paolo: And then after two weeks of being in London I really missed you, you know, and I really started thinking about you and I was like ‘Oh, maybe I should give him a call, maybe I should, you know, like reconnect.’ So I always remember the night I Face Time you and I was saying ‘oh, my! I miss you so much!’ And I just said ‘oh! Why you don’t come to London for a weekend? Why don’t you come to see me?’ And you remember what you said?
Charles: I said ‘Are you sure?’ and you said ‘Yes!’ and I said ‘Ok, I will call you right back.’ And I hung up the…
Paolo: And you did [Laughter].
Charles: I did call you right back. I hung up the phone and I made arrangements to come that weekend.
Paolo: And I was like, ‘That’s fast!’ [Laughter].
Charles: Of course! Why waste time? We’re grown people!
Paolo: You scared me a little bit but it’s okay.
Charles: I flew the six hours. You opened a door, you gave me a kiss and I had been playing a conversation in my head for six hours. I walked into your apartment and I said ‘I have to talk to you about something’.
Paolo: I was like ‘Did someone die? What’s going on here?’
Charles: ‘If you don’t feel anything about the possibility of anything with us, then let’s just have an amazing weekend.’ And I think that, you know, for me it was the most adult thing to do, was to say to you directly, upfront ‘There’s no pressure. Let’s just have amazing time and if you do feel something then let’s see where it goes.’
Paolo: And then the week after I took the leap of faith because I was in London and you were going on vacation with your friends to Barbados. And I was like, okay, I’m going to book a flight. I’m going to fly to Barbados’
Charles: I remember what you had on when you came out of the airport, black jeans, black t-shirt.
Paolo: Big head, big sunglasses.
Charles: [Laughter] And you ran over to me, and you kissed me and the look on my face was like ‘Did anyone else see that?’ [Laughter].
Paolo: The time stopped at the airport, everyone frozen! Call security now!
Charles: Paolo, do you remember meeting my parents?
Paolo: Yes! Yes, of course I remember, it was like Christmas. And I was so nervous because of course, you know, I never met them before and I knew –
Charles: And it’s a black family and you’re Italian.
Paolo: Black family and I knew it was a very big family, and I knew that you had a gay brother and a lesbian sister, I knew as well that your parents were not totally aware of what’s your situation.
We walked in the apartment and your mother and your gay brother was there. You told me to get the plate, get the food and go to the other room.
Paolo: I walk in this room, there is like fifty people sitting around the table, watching TV. No one know me, I was the only white boy.
Charles: You now know that all of our family dinners and all of our family gatherings always have a lot of people. You don’t know everyone when you come into the room anyway, and you kind of just fit in where you can and –
Paolo: Yes, but you’re forgetting a very important part of the story, as well.
Charles: What part is that?
Paolo: You never introduced anyone to your parents. I was the first boyfriend. So they realized that you were gay that day when you introduced me to them.
Charles: No, no, no, no!
Paolo: Yes! Yes!
Charles: It was the first time that I brought someone serious home.
Paolo: But what can you say about your grandmother? I don’t think she liked me so much when she met me.
Charles: [Laughter] No, no, no, no, no, no.
Charles: Grandma Primes, she called me over and she kissed me, she said ‘Baby, you know I love you. I want you to be happy’.
Paolo: And I was next to you by the way.
Charles: [Laughter] And then she said, you know ‘Is he-? You know, can he take care of himself?’ [Laughter].
Paolo: Say it like it is! She said ‘Is he rich?’ and I’m like- I’m standing next to you…
Charles: It wasn’t –
Paolo: My face is pretty. “Shall I bring the bank statement now or I come back next Sunday?”
Charles: She just wanted to make sure you could take care of yourself.
Charles: Does he have his own money? Does he have his own life? Does he have his own friends? Can he contribute to the future?
Paolo: It came across a little bit in a different way [Laughter].
Paolo: Now she calls me Sugar.
Charles: Trust me, if she didn’t like you, you wouldn’t be called Sugar [Laughter].
Paolo: That’s good.
Charles: I grew up with very southern roots as well as very Caribbean roots and my Caribbean roots are stronger in who I am and how I operate. Having five younger brothers and two younger.
Paolo: I’m coming from a traditional Italian family and very small, you know, from the north of Italy where, I have two brothers, one twin brother so I’m a twin and my twin brother is gay, as well.
Paolo: Me and you went to Italy in April to meet my family. And my family doesn’t speak English so I knew that for you would be an extra challenge.
Charles: I got out the airplane and your nephew being there with a sign that said ‘Uncle Charlie’ was very sweet and meeting your twin brother and his husband, you know, just being around them, they never made me feel that even with their limited English, that there was a problem. It was a culture shock in a sense that I don’t know if there was ever a black person at your family’s dinner table.
Paolo: We always say you’re the first black Montorio and I’m the first white Archer.
Charles: And that is very true.
Paolo: We made history! We made history! You see?
Charles: Being a black Christian with an Italian Catholic, there’s obviously going to be cultural differences that you and I always share. But I think the other thing that does play a part in why I love you is you allow me to express my frustration that occurs with us being an interracial couple.
Paolo: In Italy, you know, it’s very different the racial –
Charles: The racial make-up.
Paolo: For me it was very difficult to start with because on one side I- it’s not like I didn’t want to see it but I didn’t live it.
Charles: When we go to a restaurant and the waiter turns to you and asks about wine, it’s like those little subtle things. You know, there are moments where we go into our own building and there are other people who live in the building and there’s a different impression that, it’s always as if I’m with you, you are not with me or we’re not together. There’s always this kind of inferior posture that some people put in.
Paolo: I think now I can see more and I agree. You know, the first time we went out, I would just sometimes feel like ‘I don’t see it.’ I almost felt like maybe you were pushing it too much but then you were very good on educate me on this.
Charles: The one thing that helps us I think is that we are brutally honest with each other about everything. So, if I don’t like something or I see something, you don’t tell me it doesn’t exist or I’m making it up, you listen to me, you hear me.
Paolo: You know, I want to be careful, I want to make sure to don’t do anything to make you feel like there is any racial motivation or issue behind it because to me I really don’t see it.
Charles: I don’t think that I could have married you or we could be together if there were that kind of tension. I think that as long as you always or will always create this space to me to say to you, ‘Paolo, people might perceive this a certain way,’ then I think we’ll be okay.
Paolo: The major difference between me and you- because I’m Italian I’m very passionate and I love to show affection. I love to show what I feel! For me there is no- like you saying, there is no… you know…
Charles: There is no boundary.
Paolo: There is no boundary.
Charles: None whatsoever.
Paolo: What you see is what you get. The difference that I see between me and you, you are so much more controlled and so much more thinking ‘oh!…’
Charles: So- Somebody has to know what not to say.
Paolo: I’m a big pranker and I can never do pranks to you, Charles, because you get upset like crazy all the time!
Charles: I don’t enjoy pranks, as you know. I always have the same reaction, and it’s an uncomfortable reaction, every time you –
Paolo: I grab.
Charles: Aggressively grab my butt in public. Every time you do it I drop my iPhone. So every time [Laugh], every times it happens I know I have to spend a thousand dollars on my phone.
Paolo: Because I’m into this kind of prank and joke, the more you do it, the more I want to do it, you know? And there is nothing, nothing wrong with touching – touching your booty [Laughter] it’s a good one, by the way [Laughter].
Paolo: We’re both executive in our own fields. We both built a career and, you know. For me was tough to drop my job, sell my apartment in London, sell furniture and just move and move in with a guy, you know, came to see me as…
Charles: Handsome and amazing, and in shape, and good work, everything.
Paolo: In shape [Laughter] yes, oh yeah.
Paolo: The love for the person is very important but for both of us. You know, Charles, you can tell me if I’m wrong, the career is very important as well. I think you were very good on really understanding me and supporting me in this moment where I was like ‘Oh, my God, maybe I made a mistake.’ And it’s not because I don’t love you and because I know want to be with you for the rest of my life, but the career it’s been always such a big part of my life.
Charles: To come here, to be with me, is not something that I take for granted. So, my needs coming later and what I want to happen is fine. We will take you first and then we’ll worry about me later.
Paolo: Let’s record this [Laughter].
Charles: I work in not for profits, serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other kinds of disadvantages that people would assume are unimportant. So, bringing someone in fashion, someone who… I won’t say that fashion people don’t care about the world or society, but, there’s a different interest that you bring to the world.
Paolo: We make the world beautiful.
Charles: I know there are moments where I have to go to a lot of work events or a lot of dinners, etcetera, and I know you don’t always enjoy them but I really do always am glad that you’re there with me.
Paolo: For me it was a shock to realize that you are this CEO of this company that you founded twenty years ago, that you are so passionate. And I think that was what was part of what attracted me as well, you know, this kind of passion for what you do, and you’re very driven. And I like the fact that you think nothing is impossible. Whatever is your dream, whatever is your career goal, you think you can make it. I joke…
Charles: And I can! [Laughter].
Paolo: – you’ll be the next president one day [Laughter] and I would be very happy to be the new Michelle Obama. [Laughter]
Paolo: The religious component is very different between us. Charless, you are very, very religious. You go to church, every week. And, I grew up as a Catholic but I’m not religious. Because I’m gay, sometimes the religion feels like they don’t go together, the fact that I’m gay and you’re religious.
Charles: But you’ve seen in my church it’s about love. And if God is love or whoever you worship is about love then there is a place for me and there’s a place for you.
Charles: You know, when we decided to get married, we started writing down the kind of life that we want, the things that were important to us, the things that we want to have for the next fifty years together. And I think sharing that with you lets me know that we’re both going in the right place, like we want the same things.
Charles: Paolo, I wish we would do this more. It always takes me back to why I love you. It always takes me back to why I enjoy the good times with you and even the frustrating times. It just reminds me I’m in the right place, with the right person, doing the right thing. It really does feel good to talk with you like this, to go back over the journey.
Paolo: And it’s a good journey.
Charles: Yeah, I think so, I really do.
Paolo: It’s nice to have this kind of moment where you just share. If I’m honest a hundred percent, I almost feel old to do this kind of thing where you sit down in front of each other, you say ‘Oh! This story’ I’m like a grandmother, I’m, like, ninety-five. [Laughter] Next we’re going to take knitting classes. [Laughter]
Host: Charles and Paolo sitting down together, I guess first and foremost, I was struck by their honesty with one another. And their honesty about their lives.
CHARLES AND PAOLO DID WHAT TRAVEL WRITER KYLE WAGNER ASSERTS AS THE ULTIMATE LITMUS TEST FOR A RELATIONSHIP – TRAVELING TOGETHER. AND HER SUGGESTION IS THE EARLIER IN THE RELATIONSHIP, THE BETTER.
Kyle: Because I’ve been divorced since 1999, I’ve had many opportunities to test relationships with travel. I believe that travel is the ultimate litmus test in terms of focusing how everyone reacts to things. It puts a lot of stress on your relationship and that can be a good time to figure out how compatible you are, what your differences are, how well you compromise, those kinds of things. So I absolutely believe it is the ultimate test of a relationship, but in a good way because at some point in everyone’s relationship, they realized, “Hey! We’re getting along pretty well. Let’s take a trip. Let’s go away for the weekend.” And so then you start to notice things that you might not notice in the day to day when you’re just dating.
Andy: Why do you think that is with the stress of travel or the intensity of the time together that reveals more of who we are?
Kyle: I think that travel, because it is so stressful, and things happen. It’s a lot of impromptu experiences. I mean, you’re at the airport and then your flight is canceled and you have to spend the night in the airport and then you find out, “Can we sleep in the airport?” How do we deal with that? And so I think that because travel is unexpected, you just don’t know what’s going to happen a lot of times and there’s that. And also, when people are dating, they don’t know the more intense time periods together. You know some people like to have their alone time or like to just decompress a little bit away, but travel often forces you to be together twenty-four hours a day for a longer period of time. And that sort of puts you in a jar and shakes you up a bit.
Andy: Do you have some stories around that?
Kyle: Oh, yes, one of my favorites that I just will never forget. I was younger, I was hiking Appalachian Trail. I’m from back east, so I’d done it before. And, I’d been dating this guy for a little bit and he said, “Oh, I love to do that. I’ve never hiked that kind of a long trip.” So I said, “Here’s the thing. I’m going to send you a list of what you need to bring with you.” And so when he showed up, he had two wool blankets. He had a little bit of water. He had not brought really anything and this was a six-day trip. So he was going to camp overnight in the cold with two wool blankets.
Kyle: He brought a little bit of trail mix. So I had all of this stuff and of course a big heavy pack and he had like a little daypack for six days and he was just going to carry the blankets in his arms [Laughter]. And so I said, “Okay. So I think we shouldn’t do this because you’re not ready.” And so we argued and argued and argued and finally, we just both got out of the car and started hiking. I always laugh and think he reminded me of Gollum because he just kept saying, “Look at you with your precious. Cheese and crackers!” And I’m sure he was starving. I mean, I kept trying to give him little bits of food but then I was becoming resentful because then I was hungry all the time. And so it was a disaster.
Andy: In a way, it revealed something that was a truth earlier in the process so you didn’t waste much time.
Andy: – dating him. The breakup was easier, quicker, and cleaner.
Kyle: It was way easier. Yes. So I was actually grateful for that because it could have gone on for a while before I realized that we just had different travel styles.
Andy: I imagine the opposite also can be true where it reveals a beauty or a healing opportunity or really allows you to fall in love.
Kyle: Absolutely. The US Travel Association, they did a study in 2012 that said a majority, like 78% of people, feel that travel is good for their relationship. And that makes sense. That’s why you decide usually to go on a trip to begin with. You want a romantic getaway, to get away from the day-to-day. You know you usually pick destinations you’re going to enhance your love and enhance your growth together.
Kyle: I think that when people go on a trip together, they need to talk about what they are expecting from the trip and what their needs are from that trip. For instance, you know, some people are night owls. You know, they want to be up all night and party and go to clubs and have a good time. And some people, and I would be one of them, are, I want to get up at five in the morning before the sun rises and get out there. And so when you have two people who have very different expectations of what the trip is going to be like, there’s going to be conflict and how are you going to manage that.
Andy: My work with couples is about how to be more resilient, more responsive, how to be a better team player in reaction to what happens in life. And so I’m imagining that to be even more intensely true in the world of travel.
Kyle: And that’s what happens most often particularly when you don’t know each other that well. You’re on a trip together. The shit hits the fan, the bus doesn’t come, the flight is late, you’re stuck in the airport for twenty hours together. And so then it becomes, “How are we going to deal with it?” And couples tend to turn on each other. You find that the person you’re on a trip is an angry person or you know reacts very strongly to things and then trying to figure out because that’s going to be a life issue. If this is a person who gets angry and throws things – I went on a trip in the Canyon with a guy who got angry because we were lost and tore up the map which was absolutely not helpful [Laughter] for anybody. Things like that that you then think, “Okay. Now what are we going to do?”
Andy: Part of what you’re saying is that if it shows up in travel….
Andy: … It’s going to show up in life.
Andy: It’s not like it’s isolated.
Kyle: Right. And you’re going to have kids together or buy a house together and the mortgage falls through or you, somebody loses their job, that’s why we feel like travel is something that you should put your relationship through before you make that commitment to maybe get married or move in together is to take a trip because those things are going to come up and then you’re going to see what this person’s reactions are and how they deal with things in a life sense.
READ ABOUT TRAVEL, FOOD AND EXPLORATION BY KYLE WAGNER ON TWITTER AT KYLEWAGNERWORLD.
THANK YOU TO CHARLES AND PAOLO FOR SHARING THEIR STORY. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHARLES’ NONPROFIT THRIVE NETWORK, VISIT THETHRIVENETWORK.ORG.
OUR PRODUCERS ARE LISA GRAY AND KIM POLETTI. OUR THEME MUSIC IS BY ROB BURGER. ADDITIONAL MUSIC BY MANELI JAMAL, SASHA MERKULOV, SATORI, AND RUBEN VAN ROMPAEY. AUDIO PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE PROVIDED BY LESLIE GASTON-BIRD AND JOSH KERN.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE YOUR STORY OR COMMENTS, VISIT US AT ELEPHANTTALK.ORG. SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST ON ITUNES, STITCHER, SOUNDCLOUD, OR WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCAST. AND THANK YOU FOR LISTENING. I’M YOUR HOST ANDY HORNING.
THIS IS REAL LOVE. THIS IS ELEPHANT TALK.