On June 24th, 2011 at 11:15 p.m. New York State historically passed Same-Sex Marriage. At 11:16 p.m., roughly two minutes after the gavel struck, I quietly got down on one knee and asked my partner of nine years to be my husband. Isn't that romantic? It might be romantic. But it's actually a big fat lie. However, it is my way of attempting to rewrite history. The truth of the matter actually lies in the headlines of the Associated Press that ran the following day:
NEW YORK (AP) -- As the news flashed around the globe that New York state had legalized gay marriage, New York fashion designer Malcolm Harris didn't waste any time. He dashed off a Twitter message to his boyfriend of nine years: "Will you marry me?"
So there it is in a nutshell. On the historical evening that New York State proudly moved into the 21st Century, I sent my boyfriend, who was out celebrating a friend's birthday, what I thought was a private message over Twitter. As I am firmly Team Facebook, the world of Twitter at the time was pretty new to me. I had absolutely no idea the huge difference between sending a "tweet" and a "message". So there I was attempting to send a sweet, playful and most importantly, private message that had now been inadvertently broadcast throughout the twittersphere. For a brief moment, I could somehow sympathize with former NY Senator Anthony Weiner - minus the whole sordid/inappropriate messages and weiner shot thingy. But this misguided tweet had definitely opened a rainbow colored Pandora's Box of its own and it was too late for @mistergolightly and @mistereditor to turn back now.
Before we had a moment to process any of it, the proposal had already tripped us directly into the spotlight fantastic of the gay movement. Overnight we were being heralded as the de-facto poster boys for same-sex marriage. Our emails, telephones, text messages, etc. were all immediately flooded with interview requests from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, People magazine, Entertainment Tonight, NBC, ABC, LOGO - you name or abbreviate it and they were calling. We even received calls from Hollywood agents wanting to represent us. LOL... My partner, K. Tyson Perez, and I were both scratching our heads and thinking, "All of this because of a marriage proposal?"
But we quickly learned that, in the scheme of things, this was much more than just a simple proposal of marriage. For the gay community it was finally being able to put faces, flesh and bones to a long hard fought battle. And for the media it had all the elements of a perfect storm - romance, controversy, taboo and even technology. One reporter said to me, "Do you realize you guys are the first gay couple to go viral?" Even though I knew exactly what he meant, it still sounded as if he thought we were doing something terribly naughty.
(photographed for PEOPLE by Christian Witkiin)
With all the well-wishers and media attention that literally began swarming around us, it wasn't until I looked down at my vibrating mobile and checked the caller identification did I realize I hadn't made one very important call - Mother Darling.
I must admit, at first I didnt know whether I should answer the phone or send the call straight to voicemail. But then I remembered my voicemail was full and Mother Darling wouldn't be able to leave a message. So I decided to answer it. I was sure she had no idea about "the proposal" and was perhaps only calling to give me her bi-weekly run down on deaths, scandals, convalescing friends and church gossip (in that order). I will share with you, that somewhere between my mother's piety and her vanity, therein lies the secret of my very existence. But that's a story for another column, Dr. Phil and/or session with my therapist.
From the second I heard Mother Darling's query filled - Hello? - I knew the jig was up. Before I could plead my case, she had already begun relaying to me, in dramatic detail, how she just happened to be driving home from the market where she purchased a dozen organic eggs at $5.89, a gallon of soy milk at the unbelievable price of $6.75 as well as some sort of honey and lemon infused green-tea, when there it was - my voice blaring through her car via 1010 WINS. I must admit I took a teeny-tiny bit of pleasure imagining her clutching her pearls and pulling off to the shoulder of the road as she listened intently to the news of her son's impending same-sex nuptials being reported in the automated/droning tone of 1010 WINS (over and over and over again). But to my disappointment as well as delight, her delivery wasn't as hyper-fatalistic as I had envisioned. Instead it was a bit dry, but not cold - shaken, but not stirred. And then it hit me - Mother Darling was still in the processing phase of her current "dilemma". But you must also understand that everything for my mother, from choosing what hat to wear to church or what route to take to the market - is a dilemma. However, the gay dilemma is one she still hasn't quite been able to fully accept or resolve.
You see my darling mother has had to put up with the gay "dilemma" since I was 16 years old. Just in case you were wondering, there was no big coming out at Thanksgiving or Christmas or any of that cliché nonsense for me. As a Southern-raised homosexual, Mister GoLightly has always prided himself on the subtleties of polite society. So early one random evening as I was heading out with friends, my mother asked me in a very inquisitive, yet slightly sarcastic tone, "So what time should I expect you home, young man?" To which I casually responded, "Don't worry, I'll be back before curfew. By the way, I'm totally gay ... And mustard is definitely not your color Mother Darling." In hindsight, I'm positive that wasn't the best way to spring the news, but at the time I figured we might as well get that bit out of the way before my teacher called to tell her I had been caught kissing a boy behind the stadium bleachers.
Luckily the call from the school never came but it was too late. You see Mother Darling had already raided the "psychology" and "how-to" sections of our local bookstore before I made it back late that night well past curfew. Not a word was said that evening, but the next morning it was apparent she was safely armed with all the proper reading material and technical terms to successfully deal with the gay dilemma as well as to remodel our kitchen. I never did figure out the correlation between homosexuality and cabinetry, but here we were once again, some 20-odd years later, at the same proverbial fork in the road.
I tried my very best to give her a quick report on all that had happened over the past 24 hours since the proposal, but she cut me off at every turn. She went on to fill me in on a married woman from her church that was allegedly having an affair with a deacon until his untimely demise. Apparently the old deacon had suffered a heart attack or stroke during their last tryst in a cheap motel room on the other side of town. Fortunately for me, just before she reached the climax of the story, as if it could get any more salacious, I received another call. When I looked down at the caller ID I realized it was the producer from a "major cable network." I quickly put my mother on hold, as I realized that our conversation had somehow helped me to make my decision, and clicked over to have a chat with the producer. When I returned to Mother Darling I informed her that I would have to call her later as the television producer on the other line needed some additional information about our upcoming wedding ceremony. The pause in our conversation was pregnant with panic, fear and dilemma. But before Mother Darling could get another word in, I said, "Oh yeah, Tyson said YES! I'm thinking about wearing white. And by the way, we're getting married on national television."
The moral of this story is that proposals, in my opinion, should be done in private. They shouldn't be blasted across jumbotrons, written in the sky, or tweeted across Twitter. If we are very lucky we only get to propose once and this should be a sacred moment shared between two people that want to spend their lives together in the union of marriage. Take it from Mister GoLightly - lesson learned.
To be continued...
"My Big Fat Fabulous Gay Wedding"
Follow Malcolm Harris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mistergolightly