My Husband and My Wives: A Gay's Man's Odyssey is the memoir of a man looking back over eight tumultuous decades at the complications of discovering at puberty that he is attracted to other men.
The ordeal of remaining true to what his libido tells him is right, in the midst of a disapproving and sometimes hostile society, is one side of his story. Another is the impulsive decision he made as a young adult to marry a woman who fascinated him. This led him into entirely unanticipated territory. He found himself suddenly a husband, a widower, a groom for a second time, and, finally, the father of four children and grandfather of six, though throughout it all, he never abandoned his erotic involvement with men. Perhaps most extraordinary is the story's happy conclusion: Charles Rowan Beye's wedding four years ago to the man who has been his companion for the last twenty years.
The remarkable journey from pariah to patriarch is told with an eloquence, an honesty, and a sense of humor that are uniquely Beye's own. A personal history that is also a history of evolving social mores, this wonderfully original, challenging, life- and love-affirming account could only have been written by the unconventional man who lived through it all.
In this heartfelt, often humorous memoir, retired classics professor Beye tells how a onetime gay teenager ended up marrying two women, fathering four children, and eventually marrying his longtime male partner. Born in Iowa in 1930 to a wealthy doctor who died when Beye was very young and his buttoned-up wife, Beye had money but lacked emotional support. His sexuality awakened during a year spent at prep school Andover academy.. When he returned to Iowa, Beye was eager to connect with other boys, even if they were straight (and most were). Clear about his sexual orientation, Beye nevertheless married his first wife, Mary, in 1951, because it seemed the thing to do and he genuinely liked her (and heterosexual sex was so novel!). Devastated by Mary's unexpected death a few years later, Beye soon wed his second wife, Penny, with whom he had four children while pursuing his PhD in classics. They divorced after 16 years, but it wasn't until years later that he met and fell in love with his husband-to-be. It's a deftly written personal story that will speak to a range of readers.