“Does your gate swing the other way?” My co-worker wanted to know.
It was her way of trying to figure out if I might be gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But my reply probably didn’t help her much:
“Honey, my gate hasn’t swung in so long, it’s probably rusted shut!”
She wasn’t the first person to question my sexual orientation. She probably won’t be the last. The questions – more like accusations, really – never come from people who are gay or bisexual. They come from straight people who never got the memo on what it means to be a metrosexual.
We’re the renaissance men of the 21st century, didn’t you know? We’re college-educated, well-manicured, sushi-eating city dwellers with elaborate skin care routines. And yes, we are occasionally mistaken for being gay by people with rigid ideas about how “real men” are supposed to act. Some metrosexuals are married. Many of us remain single.
Being happily single evidently looks strange to a lot of straight and horny couples. In their way of thinking, everyone of a certain age should be in a relationship or actively seeking to be in one. If you appear unfazed about being dateless and unattached, then you must be a closeted gay man.
Or a lesbian. Like a friend of mine who got married for the first time at age 42. The people in her life who wanted to see her partnered couldn’t fathom any other reason why a smart, attractive woman would live alone for as long as she did.
Just so we’re clear, she did marry a man. But up until then, even members of her own family had suspicions that she had been living a secret life “playing for the other team.” Only after getting engaged did she learn what people had long been whispering behind her back.
For the rest of us, the whispering continues. The gay rights movement has done an effective job of getting people to rethink their assumptions surrounding sexual identity and the traditional nuclear family. Now perhaps it’s time for some consciousness raising about another lifestyle option: living happily as an unmarried, independent, straight single person.
Writer Laura Slattery took up the cause in an article for The Irish Times. As Slattery rightly notes, there are many different ways to approach The Single Thing:
There’s happy to be single, and happy despite being single.
Single and looking.
Single and incomplete.
Single and heartbroken.
Single and free.
Single, but it’s complicated.
Single, and the sight of couples holding hands makes you want to puke up a heart-shaped vomit tribute to their clammy-palmed love.
Single, but you have had more sex this decade than half of your married friends.
Single, but your lover might not call you that.
Single, but ask me again later.
Single and getting a full night’s sleep, thanks.
Single, but not available for unpaid overtime.
Single, but when did I get so old that ‘single’ became the primary way in which other people define me?
In other words, being single doesn’t have to be a temporary condition that we stumble into while we’re in between relationships. For some of us, it’s our permanent status, and that’s okay. I’ll take “single and free” over “single and heartbroken” anytime.
Yet too often there’s a rush to judgment that those of us living as confirmed bachelors and bachelorettes are actually lesbians and gay men in denial about our own sexuality, that we just need a little encouragement to come out of the closet and embrace who we really are.
When a married woman friend offered to help me in that regard, I hit the roof.
“Help me do what?!” I yelled. “Where is this coming from?”
“My husband thinks you’re gay; other people do too,” she said. “That’s why I want to help you, so you won’t be confused anymore.”
By the end of the conversation, our friendship was effectively over. It turned out she didn’t want to accept the real me after all.
Because what I really am is a straight guy who dates occasionally but has otherwise embraced the single life. I also have metrosexual tendencies.
And I plan to stay that way.
Elliott Lewis is a licensed attorney, author, and media professional. This essay was originally posted at Open Salon in September 2013. Visit Elliott’s website at www.lewisfreelance.com.
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