Losing a ‘Boyfriend,’ the Best Way Possible
By AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS Published:May 23, 2013 New York Times
I was married for one week and already felt like an authority on the subject. On April 1, 2013, Christopher and I took the ferry to Staten Island and stood before a dignified and genuinely funny City Hall clerk, while down in Washington the Supreme Court was considering two watershed cases. “Gay marriage” was seriously trending.
As we walked out the front door, my new husband turned to me and said, “You’re my husband!”
I smiled, because this was true. I was his husband and he was my ...
Christopher’s smile faded, too. “Wait,” he said. “That makes me the wife.”
Since I had been thinking the same thought at that moment, this confirmed that I had married the right person. But what he said was true. I tried reversing the roles by calling Christopher “my husband.” And sure enough, in my mind’s eye, I immediately became Tippi Hedren in “The Birds”: pale peach skirt, blond chignon, black heels.
I couldn’t call Christopher my husband because saying it made me feel like a cross-dresser. And believe me, I do not judge cross-dressers. But I lack the motivation to dress properly as a man, let alone an archetypal woman with layers of accessories. I have needed new sneakers for four months. How hard is it to go buy a pair of sneakers? Apparently, very.
Likewise, I don’t have anything against wives, but surely I don’t need to elaborate on the bullying of gay boys for being effeminate, forcing us into the caveman stance of “I ain’t no damn wife.”
So on this gay day, when I experienced firsthand what I believe is a civil right, instead of feeling triumphant and proud, I felt tricked.
“Getting married took away one of our words,” I said.
We had previously referred to each other as “boyfriend.” Age-inappropriate to some, but it did just fine.
“Partner” sounds cloyingly, politically correct, or as if we work at a law firm.
In “spouse” I mostly hear “S’mouse,” the name of Chris Lilly’s blackface teenage rapper in “Angry Boys.” And it’s stiff and formal and a little heavy in the sibilant S department.
The best suggestion came from Liz, one of our witnesses at the ceremony, a brilliant contraction of boyfriend and husband: boyband.
We’re all word people, so this made us laugh, yet there was an unavoidable whiff of “I married an old man who thinks he’s in One Direction,” which is when I stopped laughing.
“Boyfriend” has become the perfectly acceptable term for an unmarried adult man in a relationship. It’s cute, even as it grossly exits the wrinkly mouth of a middle-aged bald guy. And Christopher is a man unafraid to post on Twitter, “I’m only one Demi Lovato tweet away from an Amber Alert!” So though he’s even older than I am, “boyfriend” comes naturally to him. Now, with our shiny wedding rings glinting in the sun, we’d lost a word forever.
Language Police 1, Gay Marriage 0.
We eloped on April Fools’ Day because we are both, in fact, fools. We didn’t tell anyone all week, then midway through Christopher’s 50th birthday party on that Friday, we surprised the guests by announcing that they were actually at a wedding celebration.
The applause and cheers in the room were spontaneous and deafening. That, people, is what love sounds like. For the rest of the party, we were asked three questions repeatedly: “Where are you registered?” “Are you going to have kids?” and “Where are you going on your honeymoon?”
When we gave the answers “Nowhere,” “No” and “Nowhere,” I was able to count cavities in