by Hank Stuever

We'll be gentle about this, because it's easy to make them cry, but gay men of the world now must beseech heterosexuals to accept one of the hardest things we've yet to ask of you:

Please take back the fag hags.

Welcome them home, give them renewed purpose. We can no longer do what we once did for them, partly because there are now too many of them on the loose. Think of it as an immigration crisis--it sucked so much to be around you and survive in your world, so they started hanging around us.

This was fun while it lasted. There were movie matinees and heaps of high squealing in sushi bars. There was a hit sitcom and a half-dozen movies (crazy switcheroo comedies about unrequited crushes) and bad beach novels written about the special bond between a hag and her fag.

But in the end, fag hags rightfully belong to you. They are refugees, and we gratefully took them in, loved them, shoe-shopped with them, lent their lives a certain Sex and the City studio-apartment-and-kitschy-shower-curtain cachet that made them more wholly part of some ideal, parallel world, if only because we desperately needed someone to laugh at every goddamn thing we said. They became the wacky fat chick in our sitcoms, and we became the nutty, narcissistic gay neighbor in theirs.

We turned them into the cussin', boozin' loudmouths they are today, but you share a good part of the blame: It was you who made fun of them in junior high, heterosexual men, and never asked them to the prom. It was you who would not return their simple phone messages, so they spent hours on the phone talking to us. It was you who ignored them at your happy hours in your bars, which is how they wound up in ours. It was you who jump-started their eating disorders and left them with weekends alone spent watching I Love the 80s marathons. (While still fond of dancing like Belinda Carlisle, fag hags hated the '80s, deep down, and you can see it in their eyes in all those college snapshots, beneath all that hair and those cinched, belted Esprit shirts. This inner pain was mostly your fault. We accept full responsibility for our own forlorn looks in those pictures, our own bad hair, and the fact that we were wearing cinched Esprit shirts, too.)

You stand accused too, heterosexual women. It was you who seemed incapable of setting them up with your single guy friends, forgot to invite them to your dinner parties, dressed them in far too revealing strapless bridesmaid gowns (one after another, oh yes, we were hearing every last detail), and forced them to co-host your baby showers.

Why take them back now? Because the fag hag has turned distressingly pro, transforming herself into a target (and Target) demographic, rapidly multiplying. The haggiest of all hags, comedian Margaret Cho, has remade her career joking about hag lifestyle, and rather than being repelled by Cho's fate, young women are taking up her advice and hagging themselves unnecessarily, hungrily. Eighteen-year-old women are arriving on college campuses as fully formed fag hags, far too young to be written off in this bit part for life. The fag hag and her ranks threaten to seriously dilute and sidetrack the gay agenda, and needlessly overcrowd such crucial events as Monday Showtunz Night. Does the world really need another affiliated, incorporated, logo-waving sub-sub-subculture?

Cho's recent marriage engagement, to a straight man, is a stunning and happy development, spurring the idea that any fag hag can be successfully reunited with her true people. (If it can happen to her.... ) We're not asking you to find them boyfriends or diamond rings, we're just asking you to let them in, ask them about themselves, and listen. We recommend the immediate establishment of a special presidential advisory committee on fag-hag repatriation; celebrity members could include Steven Cojocaru and Jenny Craig. We have loved them as much as we can, valued them as the smart, sassy gals they are (or lied to them about being so), and then we loved them a little bit more, showed as much patience as we could. We don't have big enough hearts for the new ones. You've accepted fags; now find room in your heart for... Suzanne. She loves to dance, and she promises to bring her camera.

Hank Stuever is a staff writer for the Washington Post.