Bad Gay: Episode 7
I’m writing this column on my seventh wedding anniversary. A few months ago, during one of our fights about both nothing and everything, my spouse yelled, “you don’t even know what marriage is.”
As much as I would have loved to argue that point with her, I had no ammunition to fire back. Because she’s right. I don’t know what marriage is. But, then, who does?
I got married when I was 50 and I did so for the right reason: I was in love. I had been in several longish term relationships before I got married. But I never was in love. I loved my former partners deeply—well two of them anyway—but never with that dizzying, all-consuming infatuation that causes you to create mixed-tapes (remember those?).
I’m certain that I was never able to fall in love with anyone other than my spouse because she was my first love. She ruined me for everyone else. (So, past lovers who I treated poorly: her fault, not mine.) We met in our 20s in a coming out group. One night, she kissed me. And that was it. I was completely besotted to the point that I could barely speak when I looked at her.
On one date, we were walking down the street and she was talking, not looking where she was going. She was headed directly into a parking meter. She’s rather short and if she ran into the parking meter, it would have struck her head full force. But, because I was too in love to speak, I couldn’t warn her about the impending disaster. In a panic, I grabbed her and yanked her out of danger.
And what did she do after that—after saving her life (or at least saving her from a bad bruise)? After making her an excellent mixed tape, which included Marlene Dietrich singing “Surry with the Fringe on Top”—in German!
What did she do? She ghosted me. Got married to a man, moved to the suburbs and had a couple of kids.
I was bereft but heroically soldiered on! Dating everyone in the city—hoping I’d shake the love sickness I felt for her and recreate it with someone else. Never happened. (But the dating was fun!) I didn’t want to stay in love with a woman who I dated very briefly in my early 20s. But she refused to stop haunting me. We’d never even had sex. Just hours of making out. We were both completely new to this lesbian racket and didn’t quite know what to do about it.
Then, 25 years to the day that we had our first kiss (I exaggerate a lot but I swear this happened because I never forgot the day of our first kiss), she friended me on Facebook. I literally hyperventilated when an alert with her name popped up on the screen. And I knew immediately what I long suspected—that there is some type of chess master in the universe moving us across a big board.
We moved in together a few months later and got married months after it became legal.
Now seven years later, what do I know about being married? During all those years I was hunting for someone to fall in love with, I had a fantasy about marriage based largely on Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies. Marriage was engaging in endless clever patter, merrily downing martinis and effortlessly solving murders together.
How wrong I was! Marriage is hard. It’s frustrating balancing my need for independence with the demands of a spouse and step kids. You’re required to show up daily and you get no appreciation for making dinner or vacuuming. And when you have kids, there is no time for martinis let alone solving murders.
And, yet, I love being married because it’s like the traditional seventh wedding anniversary presents of copper and wool. Copper is strong and malleable and able to shift shape to meet the vagaries of time and wool is warm and comforting.
So, what will I say the next time my spouse accuses me of not knowing what marriage is? I’ll respond: “I don’t have a damn clue. But whatever it is, I’m glad I’m married to you.” (And that should shut her up and end the fight.)