Tom Ford and Richard Buckley Forever
By Out.com Editors
This story was originally published in the Feb. 2011 LOVE ISSUE of Out
Tom Ford, Designer:
You can look at someone and feel like you've known him forever. The first night I ever had drinks with Richard I felt I knew everything about him. He has the wildest eyes -- like an Alaskan husky. They're not blue, they're not gray, they're a color you've never seen before -- they approach silver. They give away absolutely nothing, yet they are completely mesmerizing. We first encountered each other at a fashion show in New York in 1986. He was 38 at the time and the fashion editor of Women's Wear Daily. He was confident and handsome in a way that made him almost unapproachable. His stare was so intense that it completely unnerved me, and when the show was over I literally bolted out the door and down the street to avoid him. Ten days later, my employer, Cathy Hardwick, sent me to the office of Women's Wear Daily to retrieve some clothes. I was directed to the roof where they were being photographed, and as the elevator opened, there was the man with the eyes the color of water. He rushed over and introduced himself as Richard Buckley and told me that the clothes were actually downstairs and offered to take me down to what was then called 'the fashion closet.' He was adorable, and he was a complete fool. He was sort of dancing around, flashing his eyes at me, and trying so hard to be charming. I decided in that elevator ride that I was going to marry him. I'm very pragmatic, and I was, like, OK, there's some kind of connection here. He ticked every box, and -- boom -- by the time we got to the floor, I was like, OK, sold. He seemed so together. He was so handsome, he was so connected, he was so grown-up, so he was very intimidating. And he really chased me -- not that he had to chase that hard. It excited me but it also scared me, because I knew he was different and that whatever it was I felt with him was very different from what I'd felt before.
We did our Christmas shopping together one Saturday, and we spent almost every night together after our first few dates. It was probably a few days before we were saying things like, 'I think I'm in love with you.' Now, we say it to each other every night before we go to sleep, and we say it at the end of every telephone conversation, and we write it at the end of every e-mail. Every time you think, I love you, I really believe you have to say it. If you think about holding their hand or kissing them, you do it. I do it all the time.
We both went home for Christmas, and when we came back, he gave me the key to his apartment and asked if I'd move in, and I did. We'd known each other barely a month. He'd lived with someone for three or four years, but it wasn't really a serious relationship, and he was very consciously looking for that. He had come to that stage of his life at age 38, and I was at that stage at age 25, but we were both ready to settle down and fall in love and have a life with someone. I had slept with a lot of people and done my fair share of drinking and dancing and drugs. I'd had sex for the first time when I was 14. I had a girlfriend in high school who was pregnant twice while we were together. In those days, in the '70s, abortion was considered a form of birth control, and I think in most high schools at the time, it was quite casual. I certainly wouldn't do that if I were with someone today, even as a teenager, so I think it was a part of that era, and the casualness with which sex was treated on television. When you watch an old '70s television show, everyone is just hopping into bed with everyone in a completely casual way. I think AIDS definitely changed it.
One of the very first people to be diagnosed with what was then called gay cancer, in 1981, was a friend of mine. It completely flipped me out, and from then on, I was extremely safe. It probably saved my life, but it damaged the way I think about sex forever. You just associated sex with death'or at least I did. Richard and I had three dates before we had sex, because my best friend was in the hospital, dying from AIDS, and Richard's best friend was in the hospital, dying of AIDS. So we would have a date, and then he would go to the hospital, and I would go to the hospital; consequently, that was very much on our minds. There was still enormous fear, and that affected our early sexual relationship tremendously, as well as just watching very close friends die at the same time we were falling in love. If we made a list, I would say that half of our friends from the early '80s are no longer with us. It continued into the early '90s -- it just didn't stop.
Three years after we started living together, Richard was diagnosed with cancer and at the time was told that it was most likely going to be fatal. We've had a fair amount of personal family tragedy, and things happen that do, ultimately, bring you closer, because they're things you go through together and they make your history richer.
Getting older together has been interesting because we've both changed. I was very quiet at the beginning of our relationship -- I'm actually a very, extremely, almost pathologically shy person, which no one believes today, because I have also mastered a work/public facade that takes an enormous amount of energy to project. And Richard, when we first got together, was very, very social and very talkative. Richard is an extrovert, and I'm an introvert, but meeting us today you would think the opposite. Richard, now, often, can be quite quiet, especially if he knows you well. But if you get Richard at a party, he's extremely animated. I actually hate parties, and I try not to go. I prefer dinner one-on-one or with four or six people.
One of the things that always amuses me -- amuses isn't even the right word, because it doesn't amuse me -- but often, I'm at dinner parties with very close friends, straight, and they realize that Richard and I have been together 24 years, and the response is often, 'Wow, you guys have been together 24 years! That's so amazing. I don't think of gay men being together that long.' And I'm, like, 'Why? What are you talking about?' Some of the longest relationships I know of are same-sex couples. A lot of my straight friends have married and divorced and married and divorced in the time Richard and I have been together. I think that preconception, from even very educated liberal friends, that being gay is possibly more sex-based than emotionally based, is surprising and shocking in today's world. I'm someone who likes being part of a couple and always wanted that and always sought that, and it would probably be true for me whether I was gay or straight. Richard and I are bound together, and I think that's what that recognition is when you look someone in the eyes and you feel like you've known them forever. It is a kind of coming home.