In college I met a girl. She has long, brown hair with matching brown eyes. She has a personality that brightens my world, and her laughter is contagious. During our freshman year of college, I would routinely come down to her dorm room, which sat below mine, and crawl into bed with her in order to wake her up. We would have long talks into the night, we would be each other's dates to parties, and when family came to town, she was the first to meet them, even coming to dinner sometimes. But she is my best friend, not my girlfriend.
A few months into our friendship, she started telling me that if I ever wanted to have children, she would be my surrogate, which always made me laugh. And one night, after a few too many drinks, she blurted out that if we never find anyone of our own, we should get married to each other, because we would be perfect for each other. That made me laugh harder.
My friend is wonderful. And if I had any real attraction to ladies -- in ways that led to healthy romantic relationships -- she would be número uno on my list. It could be easy if things were different, but what's easier than trying to fake it and live out that hypothetical reality is just owning up to the fact that I am gay -- like, really gay.
This brings me to a sweet, newly engaged couple: Dave and mystery bride-to-be. In a recent Cosmopolitan article, "I Am Marrying My Gay Best Friend," we read the sweet, confusing and, for me, occasionally nauseating story of a girl falling in love with her gay best friend, whom she is now engaged to. Their romance starts like so many gay-boy-and-female-best-friend relationships do: in a college theater classroom:
From the moment we met, I knew Dave and I were going to have a fabulous relationship. So fabulous that when the tall, handsome guy from theater class asked for my number, I immediately called my mom. "Oh, my god," I gushed into the phone. "I just met the cutest gay guy!"
Yep, she called her mom after meeting "the cutest gay guy." I usually call my mom to tell her I saw the cutest dog or the cutest movie or... you get the picture.
The article goes on to tell the story of how Dave and this mystery girl (you never learn her name) developed an emotionally intimate relationship with one another that eventually led to Dave asking her to try out being romantic with one another. They both had reservations about this but decided to go on with it. At first they only held hands, which led to kissing, which led to sex, which Mystery Girl says "was perfect." They hid this relationship for over a year and half, and when they "came out" to their parents, they were met with support, with Mystery Girl's mom offering to get Dave a therapist, just in case. Mystery Girl points out that Dave identifies as "fundamentally gay" to this day, and he still talks about his attraction to men with his wife-to-be, while making sure to inform her that she is the only girl he is attracted to. Aww, right? At the end of this article, Mystery Girl finds it absolutely necessary to focus on how Dave still picks out her shoes, brings her flowers every week, organizes her life and even does her hair.
This all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Really bad.
I don't have a problem with gay men marrying their female best friends. People can define and construct their relationships however they see fit, and honestly, people should marry whomever they would like to marry as long as the law doesn't interrupt that process. But one of my problems is that Mystery Girl really wants you to know that Dave is gay. I understand that the premise of the piece is to show this "magical" moment in which a girl finally gets a gay man to marry her, so talking about Dave's sexuality is important to the author, but in the end I find this all so unnecessary and a little overkill. Yes, Dave likes boys, has been with boys (maybe even more boys than the bride-to-be) and fulfills all the gay stereotypes you can dream up. However, Dave is now in a heterosexual relationship with a heterosexual woman. Dave will go on to have kids -- according to this piece -- and will reap the benefits and privileges of being straight. Dave won't have to worry about living in the right state to get married. He won't worry about adoption rights. And he won't be living as a gay man.
So why the obsession with calling him gay? I mean this isn't the first time a man was with other men for years and then married a woman. From my reading, the answer I came away with is that Dave isn't really her boyfriend or her fiancé or really even her friend; he is just the person she keeps around to answer every want and need. At least as it's portrayed, their relationship isn't equal; it's a relationship between "server" and "served." This mystery bride-to-be seems to support stereotypical -- and in many ways homophobic -- ideas about how gay men should occupy women's lives.
It's interesting that the bride-to-be never names herself or even gives herself a pseudonym. Thus the author could be any one of so many women with a gay "bestie," and as a result the story perpetuates a false hope that the one man who gives these women everything they need, from attention to love to material goods, will finally throw in his gay towel and profess his love.
Cosmopolitan is no stranger to perpetuating misleading and false ideas about gender and sexuality. On a monthly basis the magazine publishes lists and articles about how to please men, or how to get a man, or how to understand a man. For a female magazine that is supposed to be about women, it sure talks a lot about men.
I worry about this article, because it pushes onto women a false hope that if they just hold out for a while, their gay best friend will wake up one day and realize that they are meant to be together. And within this false hope we see gay men reduced to their parts instead of being seen as whole, or even as real people outside some fantasy. To me, this just comes as oddly sexist and homophobic.
In the end, if this is their life, then I am happy for them. I am happy that Dave found that one woman who made his heart skip a beat (and do something for his downstairs parts, too). I am glad that two more people in the world found love, even in what many would have called a hopeless place.
But hear me out, women of the world: This was a rare, rare moment. The next time your gay "bestie" crawls into your bed, holds your hand or does your hair, ignore the wedding bells that may be going off inside your head. Marriage shouldn't be about finding that one man who doesn't moan at the idea of shopping for shoes or who can do hair. Marriage, as we have learned through this marriage equality movement, is about much more than that. It's about two people sharing and building a life together.
And being gay is about more than being the sidekick to a straight women, I might add. I don't think I have ever done my best friend's hair, but somehow, she still finds a way to love me.
Follow Zach Stafford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zachstafford