Queer Issue 2012

How They Do It

Open Marriage

Where to Party for Pride 2012

Transgender Marriage

Arranged Marriage

Femdom Marriage

Polygamous Marriage

Interracial Marriage

Sexless Marriage

Marriage for the Purpose of Getting a Green Card

Boring, Traditional, Religious Marriage

Vi and Me

Gay-Married and Wary

Love Is the Ultimate Radical Act

I knew a couple once. I would label them "straight," but "twisted" seems more accurate. For vagueness' sake, let's call them Donna and Steve. I was introduced through an ex-boyfriend at a party, chatted them both up and enjoyed their company, and had four or five dinners or drinks with them. It wasn't initially all that out of the ordinary—relatively good-looking and seemingly well-adjusted straight couple invites me over to a remodeled Craftsman with a fridge full of Kirkland Signature Merlot and a labradoodle puppy that pees in a yard lined with tiki torches. Another liberal married duo tacking a gay friend on for their social portfolio. But somewhere after the second dinner, when I was actually left alone with them, things took a turn for the uncomfortable.

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We were about three gin and tonics and one interminable live Dave Matthews album in one night after a dinner party, when I noticed that I was the only person left. Through the fog of wine—we'd also been drinking wine—I realized that both Steve and Donna were on either side of me, eyeing my face like starved orphans peering into a candy store. Steve grasped my neck with one calloused hand and asked me what moisturizer I used, because you could hardly see my pores. This new level of physicality would have had titillating "husband goes gay" potential had Donna not leaned in to confirm the smallness of my pores and touched my leg just south of my groin. This immediately removed the homoerotic hubby vibe and replaced it with a sense of grossed-out dread.

After a childhood spent in the closet, I am rarely mistaken when it comes to sexual vibes. I spent 12 years tweaking the radar into something you might find in a nuclear submarine. But the weird thing about this married couple was that they each seemed to be attempting to come on to me individually, hoping their spouse wouldn't notice them eye-fucking me under the guise of skin-regimen scrutiny. In the confusion, I knocked my drink over, told them I was late for a party, and spent an hour in my car sobering up and trying to get James Blunt out of my eardrums.

Because I thought I might have misjudged two huggers for two swingers—and because it was difficult to turn down free food as a hungry twentysomething—I returned several times to the scene of discomfort for more wine, Rachael Ray casseroles, and discreet groping from both Ozzie and Harriet. The come-ons only got worse, and were performed when one or the other spouse would stumble off to the bathroom or to find another Malcolm Gladwell book to lend me. Steve would nuzzle my neck, bleary-eyed, and tell me how great I smelled, while his fingers made brief trips from my knee to my fly, hovering and then retreating like a cock-teasing hummingbird. Donna would start crying as if on cue when Steve left the room, and confess that they hadn't had sex in months, then proceed like booze-stained clockwork to tell me how "in need" she was for a man's touch—even a gay man's, apparently, according to how often her boobs found my sweaty palms. Sexless beggars can't be choosers, but I wondered at the irony of a woman married to a potentially gay man coming on to yet another gay man. Donna was the saddest type of masochist—the one whose masochism doesn't even get her laid in the end.

Their relationship was sort of funny but mostly grotesque in the light of these overt signals—it made me want to throw up each time I endured one or the other's palpable sadness and their explosions of whispery, desperate grabbiness. As a minor narcissist and a writer, however, I admit to staying around too long just to see how far they would go and how sad it would get. And like most things, it got too sad and went too far, and I stopped seeing them after discreetly rebuckling my belt 10 times in one evening.

But it was more than just curiosity about Steve's sexuality or whatever Donna's deal was. I kept coming back because I was filled with an angry sort of fascination with the two of them. Here were people who were living a lie and putting the burden of their unhappy marriage on a man who wouldn't be able to marry a person he loved if he wanted to—not that I'd thought much about it at 21, but I could feel inside my burgeoning adulthood an inkling that someday I might indeed want to step out of the slut parade and into a tuxedo. But I couldn't. Not legally. And these two could and did, and for what, exactly? To reenact an Edward Albee play with Tony Kushner undertones?

The sheer insensitivity of it alone was worth fuming over. Donna and Steve enjoyed the grand old tradition of marriage based on a coupledom that was doomed even before Steve buried his last copy of Butt magazine and got on one knee—this time to propose, not to blow someone. Their marriage's very right to exist was by all moral logic utter bullshit, and they were so physically desperate for outside affection that they didn't see how insensitive it was to put a gay man in the middle of their household dramatics, plying me with disappointingly suburban weed and throwing their sexual frustrations on my shoulders as if I didn't have enough of my own up there. Like two teens having an "accident" in the back of a Honda and becoming "parents," the convenience of marriage even for people who don't want it that badly is maddening for someone who actually wants it but is prohibited. This union, dead on arrival, granted Donna and Steve tax exemptions, a clear-cut recipient of a will, and all the other protections that would have been denied me if I wanted to spend my life with someone and be 10 million times happier than two wallowing bohemians with one mortgage and two mutually exclusive sex drives.

On the final night that I endured Donna and Steve, after pulling Steve's hand from my back pocket and disentangling Donna's tongue from my earlobe, I begged off and escaped out onto their front lawn. I heard a bark and turned to see their labradoodle on the front steps with a look that said, "For the love of God, take me with you." Out of all the players in that domestic farce, the dog was like the audience member who never got an intermission.

I spied Donna, sullenly wiping her lipstick off in their bedroom, and Steve, visible in the kitchen, staring out the back window and into the evening. To the strains of Frampton Comes Alive wafting out an open window, I walked in the direction of the nearest gay bar and left two very unhappy people to their legally sanctioned misery. recommended

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