Marching Orders For...
One reason I’m a tepid responder to the battle call on gay marriage is that I think weddings are a terrible thing to do to the people you know and love, and I’m illogically afraid that my brethren gays will become the most fearsome Bridezillas of them all. Even the “small, tasteful, no-pressure” weddings that gay men insist they would have (ha!) would, at a minimum, force whomever gets invited to cough up an entire Saturday (or more); spend money to travel (sometimes quite far); pony up for a gift (the gay movement has been especially—if sarcastically, and old-joke lamely—vocal about the comeuppance due us via Williams-Sonoma registries); and finally, endure the tedium of the actual wedding and reception, from the Hallmarky declaration of love to the bad DJ at the reception to the painful discovery of a cash-bar situation. I do not discriminate: I deplore all weddings.
And baby showers. Damn, but these suck, and it’s always the gay guy who has to make little brioches or cakes. These went coed about a decade ago, especially as out-and-proud gay men got officially over-involved in the lives of their best college gal pals, and the baby shower took as its model the average hetero weekend barbeque (ice chest with beer on the back porch, Dave Matthews Band on the stereo, guacamole in the food processor), only a bit dressier (sundresses, golf shirts). It’s a bunch of women (and about four gay men) in the living room squealing over gifts and a bunch of guys (and the incredibly bored boyfriend of one of the gay men) hanging out in the backyard.
Envy is the unfortunate paradigm of both events. In my 20s and early 30s, all of my many straight friends and relatives got married, some of them twice. And whenever possible I went—alone, because single people almost never get an invitation marked “and guest” because we’re supposed to have fun with the other singles and participate in the pernicious hetero movie fantasy of Meeting Someone Special at the Reception. Which would be fine if Rupert Everett had shown up to the any of the weddings I got stuck at. I spent my vacation time and money in far-flung Raddisons and Catholic parishes of Dullsville (Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas) going to rehearsal dinners and receptions and day-after brunches.
I was a Wedding Fag—the only male allowed into the bride’s jittery, pre-ceremony inner sanctum. Always a bridesfag, never a bridesmaid, rarely even offered a role in the ceremony, though billed to onlookers as “my best friend!!!”; certainly not invited to any of the groom’s bachelor shenanigans; the “such a nice, handsome young man” who’d sit and talk with great aunts and find a place at tables with a median age of 68. I worked it. I did the chicken dance. I’m in some of the photos—the party pics, often in the background. Wedding fags sometimes spot one another at weddings, and give each other a silent nod. Usually, I’d spot the token older gay couple—some distant cousin or uncle who brought his longtime boyfriend along. They always had the look of refugees from some intra-family war. Before I’d have a chance to meet them, they’d have left, after having sat at a faraway table. They’d made their statement: You’re married. Whooper-fuckin’-do. Here’s your present. We’re outta here.
For a brief militant period (concurrent with the whole Doc Martens and shorts thing), I defied the wedding machine. We’ve all felt it: Oh sure, you want me to go celebrate your heterosexuality (which you flaunt everywhere) and not be allowed to have my own marriage? (That I then had no boyfriend who wanted to sleep over much less hitch up was immaterial.)
This wan attempt at outrage passed, however, and Wedding Fag returned, with new efficiency: He jets in on the morning of the wedding (skips the rehearsal dinner), leaves after the reception if possible, and/or just sends cash. Now that my 40s are in sight, the risk of being invited to weddings all summer has happily tapered off; they’ve become actually smaller (as opposed to optimistically being billed as smaller), and you can send your regrets without regrets. But babies have marched in to take up the slack—and how could someone as sentimental as Wedding Fag possibly resist all those babies? And all those showers and first birthdays? (“You would make a great dad,” more than one of my straighties cooed as I held her infant, leaving the implied if only you’d procreate, or, like those homosexuals I saw on “Frontline,” you could adopt—you know, there dangling like a rattle.) Wedding Fag spent years gamely attempting to be Pseudo-Uncle Fag, but one day he realized there were just too many babies. Wedding Fag would, he concluded, have to resist the babies.
In the last year, as the snit of gay marriage has preoccupied the nation’s politics, I’ve felt a twinkling of the old outrage. One of my married, supposedly liberal, certainly smart friends said she could see the point of those who opposed it: “Marriage is, I don’t know, it’s special,” she said. “There’s just something… odd about going to a wedding of two guys. Something’s missing.” It made me wish I had been the “something missing” at her boring wedding, and that I’d spent the money on a trip elsewhere.
But boycott is not the marching order. I am ordering all you Wedding Fags back into duty, not only for the inevitable second and third marriages that are coming, but also to torment the young ’uns. Especially when it involves your family—the 22-year-old cousin who is in her dreamland fantasy needs to know this debate applies to her. I am ordering you to violate Emily Post Criminal Code Section 2.8.1 and call Bridezilla and tell her there’s a mistake on your invitation, that you’re bringing a guest, that guy you’ve been dating for THREE FUCKING YEARS NOW, and you’re dancing with him, and probably even kissing him too. Go, go. Tell all the old ladies at the punch bowl that you’re the happiest fag in the world. When it’s time for toasts, clink that fork on the glass and tell everyone, in the sissiest voice you’ve got: “Attention everyone, attention! I have something to say. I have something to say about America, and about marriage, and about my company’s so-called ‘domestic partner’ benefits, and about love, and about Bill Frist.” Make them sweat it out. Make them worry.
And then don’t say it.
“I’m just kidding! I love you two crazy heteros with the intensity of a big Labrador. Now let’s dance!”
Hank Stuever’s book, Off Ramp, is now out in paperback. He lives in Washington, D.C.