I'm 30, slightly embittered, gay, white and living in London. So there are theoretically a lot of people like me, all around me -- especially considering I live in South London, just down the road from Vauxhall and Clapham, but there is one thing that makes me a little different, and it seems to make many gay men around me uncomfortable.
I'm divorced. Well, no, dissolved, because it was a civil partnership -- but we lack a term for people who have had a "dissolution of civil partnership." Calling myself dissolved, really, is like calling myself a packet of Metamucil mixed with water, but anyway, I'm digressing...
Getting into the specifics of how, why and who is pretty much irrelevant, but the facts are true. I went to Marylebone town hall a few years ago and signed a bit of paper in front of my whole family and his whole family, and we danced and laughed and drank and I thought everything was pretty much a done deal. That was my love life, sorted.
No, not quite. It all went spectacularly wrong and it's done. The process of it ending was horrible, and thank the spaghetti monster, I'm a writer -- because it's certainly given me plenty of "life experience" to write from. If, as Nora Ephron once said, "everything is copy," I've now got enough copy to last at least a few series and maybe a best original screenplay nomination. (I'm coming for you, Dustin Lance Black.)
The first question I always get asked is how coming out of the closet has been for me, so late -- as if being divorced means that I've just realized that I'm gay. The question comes with veneer of "oh, you poor thing" meaning "ooh, fresh meat." And of course I then say, "No, it's from a guy."
And the confusion becomes deeper. The fact that I was in a monogamous almost "straight styled" relationship for four years confuses many, and I almost get treated like a gazelle that just accidentally stumbled onto Old Compton Street. The idea of one guy, forever, scares a lot of people. In retrospect, post-divorce, it scares me too.
I always thought I'd get married one day -- to a guy -- because I've never actually lived anywhere where some sort of legal paperwork wasn't available. I came out in 2003, and my home state of Massachusetts has had gay marriage since then. I moved to Canada in 2008, and they've had it for over a decade now as well. And when I moved to the UK in 2009, there were civil partnerships available. So when I did, it was entirely an expected part of my life.
However, I've also moved around a lot, see above, so I never really expected any serious relationships to develop. I'm so petrified of using the phrase "I love you" to someone who I haven't comfortably farted in front of since birth, that I've used it twice -- my first high school boyfriend, and then eventually my ex-husband. My M.O., so to speak, has been "have fun, and when the guy comes along that you think is worth sticking around for you do it. And you do it good."
So when they ask the next question "was it for the visa?" and I say "No, I loved him," it gets even more... awkward. It seems almost Disney Fairy Tale Princess of me in retrospect to have thought that way, and this poor guy chatting me up kinda knows it but also doesn't and therefore doesn't know how to react.
In some ways, it feels like coming out again, because even though Gay Divorce is a new thing, there's an odd shaming that happens whenever I talk about it with a new... person.
It's not that they necessarily mean to say "how dare you get divorced," and they don't, but there's a certain uncomfortable change of tone to the atmosphere when I drop the D word. Like I may have just accidentally caused a crack in their dream car's windshield, and they can't help but stare at it.
In a world where many gay men revel in meat market clubs, going to the gym and fantasizing about that next guy with the washboard abs, or even just throwing shade because someone is wearing the wrong color on the wrong day of the week, my marital status causes a lot of discomfort in ways I never expected. Honestly, I can't tell if it's shade being thrown at me, or at the institution of marriage itself, via me.
I guess I'm just "on fleek" for being among the early gay divorcés, (if the kids are using that word, but I know they aren't because I'm using it ironically even at 30.)
So what's my M.O. now, post-divorce? I don't have one. And that's fine. I'm probably just as picky as I've always been about that special long term someone, possibly more so, and I have returned to making possibly ill-informed short term decisions around dating and sex. And who knows, if someone lasts for quite some time, and they can deal with all of the baggage a divorcé with trust issues, maybe they'll last "for good." But that's not the point right now.
If there's one thing I've learned from being so ahead-of-the-trend, it's that I'm proud that I jumped in and it went so badly. I tried it, and I loved doing it. And I hate that it went wrong, but I'm more sure than ever that it was the right choice, and I'll most likely make it again someday, if not very soon.
And, in the end, there will be at least one happy person in this long love story of mine -- my divorce lawyer.