Virtually Married

by Reed Hearne

People sometimes notice the band on my left ring finger. "How long?" they ask.

My partner and I don't define our relationship within the boundaries of straight marriage. Our rings represent commitment.

"Tyce and I have been together nine years."

Various and amusing reactions depend upon who asks. Straight women are grateful that men, regardless of orientation, are genetically capable of pursuing romantic longevity. Lesbians smile smugly, not buying for a moment that males come with that equipment. Occasionally - OK, hardly ever - someone clueless will remark that Tyce is an unusual name for a girl. I mention this only because queer boys relish being taken for a married straight guy. Actual straight guys never ask because they don't notice jewelry on other men. Gay men, who don't form a consensus on the desirability of long term relationships, respond anywhere from envy (see straight women with a clue) to skepticism (see lesbians). A puzzled puppy tilt and, "You still have sex?" is a common rejoinder either way.

We bought our rings on a whim. It didn't occur to us to christen them with ceremony or imbue them with special significance. Months later, that meaning marched in unannounced just ahead of a surprise visit from Tyce' parent's whom I'd met only once and on their turf. As Tyce cleaned and I straightened (our congenital predilections), I found Tyce' ring stashed in one of the precious ornamental boxes queers tend to give each other on special occasions. At first he convinced me he didn't want it to be sucked down the drain while scouring the sinks. After we elevated the apartment into sparkling order, signaled by a howl of protest from our child/kitty, Zed, I handed it back and he pulled away.

"I can't wear it in front of them," he blurted in desperation.

"Whoa! They don't know we live together?"

"Of course. But we don't talk about sex in our family."

"So we won't show them our home videos."

"They wouldn't understand. They'd be hurt and it would all be for nothing."

"I'm hurt. I don't understand...."

In my family, dinner was a forum as open as the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. To be Out to the world but not my family was unthinkable. I accused Tyce of betrayal. "Coward!" I screamed, "Hypocrite!"

The revelation landed when he didn't fight back. I'll never forget his look. 'I'm sorry,' it said, 'I thought you were the one who knew me.'

My expectations were about me, my history. I didn't have to co-opt his family to love the person born of theirs.

I apologized. He could wear his ring as he pleased. I would remove mine for no one, having finally deciphered the symbol - not as a contract, but as a willingness to make it up as we go along. The visit went well, we all got along, and even though I caught Tyce' mother glancing at my ring, she never said a word.


This column is dead serious but meant for entertainment purposes only. Like your favorite Psychic Hot Line. To respond to this column, write to Reed Hearne at Enterzone.

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