Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Instant Coffee and the Word "Husband"

I'm sure you all know that I hate the first day of school, mostly because professors feel the need to put us on the spot and share "fun facts" about our lives with random strangers in the hopes that we will all be immediate friends.  Immediate, like instant coffee.  Unfortunately nobody likes instant coffee any more than they like silly get-to-know-you activities.

It was during such an activity that something interesting happened.  Interesting to me at least.  You see, we were paired off and given five minutes to "interview" one another and find out all the cool and fascinating things about our partner so that we might introduce them to the group.  Each pair also had to repeat the names of the people before them and on and on until everybody knew everybody's name.

My assigned partner was named Jaclyn (Jack and Jaclyn, that is interesting, right?  Yes, but that's not it) and she loved Mario video games.  She owned every Mario game on every gaming console.  Her laptop cover had Mario's face on it.  I mean, the girl really loved Mario.  She also loved movies and was minoring in film with a major in writing.  She had spent all summer doing free-lance writing on the internet... in between fierce rounds of Mario Kart that is.  We had a great little conversation and when it was time to introduce her, I felt like I had plenty to go off of.

As far as my half of the conversation went, I talked about the Chihuahua Comics I drew all summer, how I used to work at a movie theater and saw free movies (this was while she was gushing over her love of film) and how my husband and I were married last fall in New York City!  When I mentioned the last part, she was very quick to say, "Oh, that's okay with me" as if I somehow needed her validation.  Straight people do that a lot around here when I mention I'm gay.  "Oh, that's cool."  "Hey, it's a free country."  "I won't judge."  I sometimes have the urge to say those same sorts of phrases when they talk about their heterosexuality.  Can you just picture it?

Sweet Mormon girl:  My boyfriend and I are getting married in the Provo Temple.

Me:  Oh... you're with a boy?  Hey, love is love, I guess.  Your lifestyle choice is fine by me.

Sweet Mormon girl:  Huh?

Anyway.  I'm getting off topic here.  The interesting part came when it was her turn to introduce me.  "So... this is Jack.  He used to work at a movie theater.  We both love movies.  And now he's bummed because he doesn't get free movies anymore."  Yep, that's it.  I was introduced as a guy who used to work at a movie theater.  The professor asked her if there was anything else she could remember about me.  She turned bright red and quietly said, "Oh, and he's married."

The class moved on to the next pair and I was left with this mysterious feeling of déjà vu.  When Brian first told me about the situation, I didn't think much of it.  But now that it's happened to both of us, I can't help but ponder over what this sort of omission might mean.  Both of these students seemed perfectly fine with the idea of us getting married and being in a homosexual relationship, but for some reason they each decided that it wasn't something they should share with the class.  Is it to protect us?  Do they fear that perhaps others might not be as cool with gay marriage as they are?  Are they sparing us from the torch-wielding mob that will inevitably rise up against us if our marital status should be revealed?  Maybe that's it.  In their minds they are guardians of the gays.

Or is it that perhaps they are less comfortable with our relationship than they say they are?  I mean, they do rush into the "It's okay with me" line perhaps a little too emphatically.  Maybe there's still doubt in their mind.  Maybe for some reason they're embarrassed about it, and when it comes time to "out" us, they can't seem to do it.  They can't bear to acknowledge this fact to the group at large.

Maybe.  Or maybe I'm over-analyzing this and it doesn't mean anything at all.  I mean, Jaclyn also left out the part about my comics.  Maybe she just forgot most of what I said.  Maybe her look of embarrassment when she said, "Oh, and he's married," was at her own bad memory.  Or maybe my gayness isn't noteworthy.  Maybe we're at a point in society where saying I'm married is good enough.  It isn't necessary to specify that I'm married to a man.  Maybe I'm putting too much stock into my gay identity.  I don't walk around saying, "Hi, I'm gay," so why should I want Jaclyn to say, "Hi, he's gay" for me?

But that's not what I wanted her to say, is it?  I just wanted her to say, "Jack and his husband were married in New York City."  It's a fun fact.  Not everybody at UVU gets married in New York City.  And my homosexuality is implied--not directly stated--by the word "husband."

Maybe that's what's really bugging me.  The fact that she couldn't say the word "husband."  Like she didn't feel Brian was deserving of the term only straight couples should have.  Which brings me to another case in point.  The other night I had a big birthday party at our apartment and it got too loud.  Some neighbor made a complaint and a police officer arrived at our door.  Brian went to speak with him in the hallway.  He just told us to be quiet.  No harm, no foul.  "Is it somebody's birthday?" he asked.  "Actually, yes," said Brian.  "It's my husband's."  "Well," said the officer, being as nice as possible, "wish your boyfriend... er, fiance... um, partner a 'happy birthday' for me!"

It was very sweet of the officer to wish me a happy birthday instead of slamming us with some sort of citation, but why was it so difficult for him to say the word "husband"?  I mean, I understand he's probably not very familiar with gay couples, but Brian gave him the correct word to use.  He just didn't feel comfortable using it.  And that's what I think happened with my classmate Jaclyn.  Even though I told her all the things to say, she just couldn't bring herself to say them.

As much as Brian and I strive to be as "normal" as possible, we are still perceived as something totally weird and foreign.  What's totally clear in our minds, completely baffles others.  I'm not writing any of this to condemn anybody or anything like that.  Jaclyn and the police officer are both good people.  I just find it interesting.  Interesting and, like instant coffee, a little bit disappointing.

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