For years, assorted family members would periodically wonder why I wasn’t married. “Because I’m gay” was the obvious response, an easy way to rationalize my glaring lack of ring-wearing and vow-keeping. Well, nowadays that answer just doesn’t cut it any more than I’m cutting a three-tiered cake with tiny wax men in tuxedos on top. Ever since same-sex marriage became legal in New York State in 2011, it hasn’t been quite so simple to explain my impenetrable bachelorhood. “Why aren’t you married?”—a question that comes not only from cousins but from virtually everyone these days—can suddenly only result in one answer: Because I’m a loser, I guess.
Of course there’s the reality that I honestly don’t want to get married; I feel too rooted in my schedule, complete with blocks of alone time. As a result, the few times I’ve been in a relationship that could have verged on life partnering, I’ve made sure to mess things up so that my fear of intimacy takes over and I end up comfortably solo again. But that shtick was only OK back when everyone was legally single, even if they had a partner. It was only acceptable before so many people I know started officially hitching up as I applauded, hit the cannoli wagon, and went home alone with a souvenir keepsake and a frozen smile. Being an unmarried gay today is like finding yourself on a sale rack of beautiful, discarded toys where everyone pairs off and gets sold except you. And as much as I thought I wouldn’t care, the extra oppression that results from being a queen without a prince is starting to cause an ache in my one-man soul.
Even pop culture has reflected the new opportunities, same-sex weddings trotted out for big ratings and good feelings. With shows like Modern Family and The Fosters dabbling in the subject, I now find that sitcoms—part of the mass entertainment I’m paid to sit back and criticize—have leaped ahead of me in terms of personal advancement. Fictional characters are getting gay-married like crazy, but I don’t even have a tentative list of potential second dates yet. And I’m over 30—by 28 years.
I remember when the 2010 sequel to the Sex and the City movie featured that splashy gay wedding in Connecticut (with Liza Minnelli as the guest performer, which would have made it a gay wedding even if the partners were of the opposite sex). Everyone who was buzzing about that film seemed to forgive my nonmarital status, since New York was still a place for diehard singles and I don’t happen to travel much. But a year later, when the floodgates opened and friends noticed that real-life gay-lebrities were marrying in droves, they started getting down on me like matchmaker yentas in search of a paycheck. “So a huge name like Neil Patrick Harris is ready to sign a run-of-the-play contract and you’re still playing strip solitaire?” cohorts would moan. “Jane Lynch and Cheyenne Jackson are both tied down and you’re still unblended?” Of course, those last two ended up divorcing—no, not each other—but that doesn’t erase the fact that they were married and I never even had someone to fantasize about splitting up with. Clearly, I was becoming more and more alone in my aloneness.
Above: The Fosters get hitched; getting down on two knees on Modern Family.
At least gay marriage has been great for team spirit. It’s helped remove a lot of the outsider edge surrounding gayness, joyously fostering the equality we’ve long fought for. Alas, it hasn’t quite worked that way for me—in fact, it’s driven me even further out of the gay mainstream. So many LGBT people have gotten married—or want to—that I’m now even less of a typical gay than I was. “Typical” is not something I ever longed to be—I only go to the gym for parties—but it’s a bit painful to feel so glaringly out of step with your own community’s most pressing drives. While I always fought for the right to get married, I never wanted it for myself, amazed at the panting way my peers seemed as aislebent as our straight counterparts. And once the gay marathon race to City Hall began, I felt more and more like the minority’s odd man out, a relic of the days when Mr. Right was a fun-for-an-hour West Village stud whose name you never even got, not a shiny knight who planned to stick around in good times and in bad.
So now I’m everybody’s third wheel—at least when they’ll let me. Married friends usually don’t want you to tag along on their conjoined activities at all—it disrupts their togetherness routine. But even when I do get to be their plus one, it only serves to remind me of my singlehood with a clarity that screams, “You didn’t fit in with straights and now you don’t belong with your own kind either. You’re as unmarriageable as a Disney star fresh out of rehab.”
Fortunately, I’m not alone in my multiple oppressions. At a recent gay NYC soiree, singer Joey Arias was crowing about how he was set to marry his boyfriend in a matter of days, telling me, “I’ve done everything except dying and getting married, so I’m looking forward to it.” But promoter-actor Brandon Olson had a different attack. “I’d be so embarrassed to have the announcement, not to mention the wedding ceremony!” he cringed. “I don’t want it—though I guess marriage is good for tax breaks.”
It is? In that case, I’m going to have to “haul me home a hus’ if it’s the last thing I do” as Liza (her again) memorably sang in “Ring Them Bells.” Then I’ll be in step with both the LGBT community and sitcoms. Best of all, my loved ones will finally stop pestering me about why I don’t have a hyphenated surname. Oh, except for one little thing: “Why don’t you have children? Elton John has children...”