Still Single in the Age of Gay Marriage

Singleness, at least legally, was one of the hallmarks of being gay. Now everyone, even sitcom characters, are pressuring us to get hitched.



Illustration by Martha Rich
Illustration by Martha Rich

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.