|From left to right: Gary, their friend Suzanne, Wade|
The writings of bestselling humorist Wade Rouse – called “wise, witty and wicked” by USA Today and the lovechild of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris – have been featured multiple times on NBC’s Today Show as well as on Chelsea Lately on E! and People.com. His latest memoir, "It’s All Relative: 2 Families, 3 Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine," just launched in paperback February 1st from Broadway, and he is creator and editor of the humorous dog anthology, "I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best from America’s Favorite Humorists" (NAL). The book features a Foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk, essays by such beloved chick lit authors as Jane Green, and 50 percent of the book’s net royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States. For more, visit his website, or friend him on Facebook or Twitter.
My partner, Gary, and I keep two separate calendars, one work and one social.
Our social calendar is filled with dates with our many “gurlfriends,” our besties who want to spend QT with us to try a new coffee spot, hip restaurant, or simply dish.
“We wish our husbands were more like you!” our gurls often lament sometime in the course of our date.
That got me thinking as we approach Valentine’s Day: Do gay boys (“GBs” in future references) make better dates? Would you rather spend a night with your husband or your gusband (gay husband)? Is our great date history myth or reality?
Let me lend some perspective:
The first Valentine’s Day I celebrated with my partner, Gary, with whom I’ve now been with 16 years, I made the tragic error of turning to my married, straight fraternity brothers from college for romantic advice. I was recently out and very inexperienced with dating.
“OK, dude, here’s the inside scoop,” one my best friends, who was recently married, explained to me over beers. “I never buy my wife perfume, because it will conflict with her phermones, or something stupid like that. I never buy her clothes, because I’ll get her an 8, and she’ll be all, ‘What makes you think I wear an 8? Do you think I’m that big? Are you even attracted to me?’So what I always do is take her to her favorite restaurant, like Applebee’s, and I always give her a sexy gift, like lingerie. In a small. She loves it. I love it. It’s a win-win. Just play it cool. Be quiet and mysterious.”
I left our brotherly beer bash totally confused, kind of like when I see a Coen Brothers movie. Still, being new to the whole relationship game, I listened and made reservations to Gary’s favorite restaurant in the city. I wrapped Gary’s gift in shiny paper and dropped it off before our dinner so it could be “specially delivered.”
Despite all the planning, the evening unfolded awkwardly, like a cheap card table. Although the restaurant was romantic, I acted like Clint Eastwood all night. There were awkward pauses in the conversation, and none of the spark that accompanied our time together. Still, when the waiter brought over the dessert cart, with my gift, as instructed, already positioned in the middle of the tarts and brulees, Gary gasped.
I looked around the restaurant. People had stopped eating, and were staring, transfixed, women nudging their husbands in that irritated manner which seemed to imply, “Thanks for the wrist corsage, you jackass. Leave it to the gays to always do it right!”
What amazing gift had this amazing man purchased for his sweetheart?A ring?An island getaway?
Suddenly, I felt this overwhelming pressure – like the emergency door on a plane had suddenly been thrown open mid-flight over the Atlantic.
Gary furiously untied my bow and unwrapped the tissue paper – dotted with hearts. And then he pulled out a three-pack of Hane’s underwear.
“Hane’s?” Gary finally gasped, fuming, very loudly. “Hane’s Her Ways?! Are you kidding me? You got me … underwear?”
He yanked a sticker off the plastic bag. I had forgotten to remove the price tag.
“They’re boxer briefs,” I purred, trying to sound turned on. “In black. Your favorites. And they’re very sexy.”
“Hanes ARE NOT SEXY!” he began yelling, standing up, knocking his chair over, “What this says to me is that you are the type of man who will buy me a vaccuum for Christmas, and a robe on my birthday.
“You are not romantic!” Gary screamed, throwing his pack of underwear into my lap. “No, I take that back! You are not even … human! What happened to Wade?!”
And then he left. To a smattering of applause.
What had gone so wrong, despite, of course, the Hane’s horror, I fumed in my head as we drove silently home.
The next morning, I met one of my best girl friends for coffee and talked about our Valentine’s dinners, which had unfolded, eerily, the same.
“You know it’s not really about the gift, Wade,” she said to me.
“OK, it kinda is,” she laughed, “but it’s more than that, too. It’s about the date: The dinner, the conversation, the romance, the little things. My husband loves me, and I love him more than anything, but I don’t always get the emotional depth, honesty and resonance that you and Gary share. I don’t get the fun that you and I have when we go out. Just be yourself from now on.”
That’s when it hit me: I wasn’t being myself. I wasn’t being romantic. I was being a practical romantic. I was acting like my dad, who often got my mother a trash compactor or dishwasher for her birthday or Christmas. I don’t mean to stereotype men – gay or straight – but there are some commonalities that unite most straight males: They often don’t enjoy intimate conversations. They can be bad sharers. Some don’t love to dance, laugh, and compliment as much as the GBs.
Most gay men, on the other hand, listen. Intently. We offer advice. We are romantic. We are fun. We compliment. And when we do, we mean it. Wear a great pair of heels, and we’ll notice. Trying a new lipstick color? We’ll gush.
Why? We pay attention. The reason is that we don’t take anything for granted. We celebrate life. Oftentimes, it’s because many of us went through difficult times in our lives: We were worried we might not make friends, or we were fearful our families might turn their backs on us. Most of us fought like heck to find partners with whom to share our lives. Thus, we give back to those who love us unconditionally – friends, family, partners – a torrent of spirit, a heaping dose of our unfiltered, unedited selves.
I believe we do make better dates, if for any other reason than that we realize life is short and can often be very difficult, so we need to celebrate – in a big way – with those we love. For lack of a better phrase: Life is too rich to go cheap, to be all Hane’s.
Go ahead, of course, and enjoy your Valentine’s gifts. I mean, I went ahead and bought Gary a trip to the Caribbean to make up for my Hane’s hell.
And then, the next day call your gusband for lunch and tell him how it went. And if you don’t have a gusband, email me or Gary, and we’ll share an e-date to remember.
Thanks to Wade and Gary for being our "gusbands!" We look forward to having Wade back in March to talk about friendship and share his latest memoir, "It's All Relative," with some lucky readers.