Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
I am a woman who recently began dating a man with whom I share common interests in music, adventure, literature, and politics. While we do have hobbies that the other doesn't, we are so connected that it's almost spooky. So what's the problem? I don't have complete confidence in his sexual orientation: that is, he gets more excited about male actors, entertainers, athletes than I (or any of my girlfriends). All of his heroes and memorabilia subjects are men, and mostly men who are gay or rumored to be gay. I've twice brought up my fierce advocacy of same-sex rights, so he would comfortable revealing himself to me, but no revelation occurs. He intimates that he wants to make love to me on the beach at dawn and dusk, but so far we've only kissed while he tenderly fondled my clothed breasts. He once said "that's gay" to refer to machismo behavior of the WWE. Part of me desperately wants to ask him if he's gay, but I'm afraid of insulting* someone who is otherwise ideal. (However, I don't want to be Minelli'd, either.) Is that okay?
*Of course being homosexual is not an insult, but guessing wrong about sexuality or that someone wouldn't have the integrity to admit sexuality may be insulting.
Thatz not okay.
There’s a reason the phrase is “coming out” and not “being dragged out by a paranoid girlfriend.” If this guy is gay, he’s not ready to tell you about it. If he were, he would have told you about it instead of trying to date you.
Asking a guy who is trying to date you if he’s gay is like...asking a guy who’s trying to date you if he’s gay. I can’t even compare it to anything! You have just unlocked a bonus level of social impropriety.
None of the scant evidence you provide proves that fantasizing about sex with men is one of the many interests you share with this dreamboat. The fact that all of his heroes and “memorabilia subjects” (HOW MUCH MEMORABILIA DOES ONE MAN NEED) are men suggests that he is...a man. Would you really feel more comfortable if his heroes were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gabby Douglas, and Coco Chanel? I admit, I am intrigued that his memorabilia subjects are "mostly men who are gay or rumored to be gay," simply because I can’t imagine what that china cabinet would look like. An autographed picture of Anderson Cooper? A Hugh Jackman-as-Wolverine figurine? A plaster bust of Noël Coward? A small pastel drawing of Abraham Lincoln labeled “H E R O” in rainbow letters? (That might be a little gay.)
There’s nothing gay about a guy admiring male athletes or entertainers, just as it’s not gay if a woman enjoys women’s tennis or the music of Ciara. The fact that the two of you have only made it to second base and spend a lot of time fantasizing about making love when the sun is low in the sky (but not completely up or down) suggests that maybe your boyfriend is a little awkward on the subject of sex and possibly a bat or chinchilla. Maybe he’s taking it slow because he’s gay. Maybe he’s taking it slow because he’s inexperienced. Maybe he’s taking it slow because he just likes to take it slow! Could be anything.
All that, being said, you should stop dating this person. At this point, whether or not he’s actually gay is irrelevant; you have already planted a seed (of him planting his seed in other guys’ mouths) in your mind. What can he say at this point to convince you he’s not gay? He tried (implicitly) telling you he was not gay by dating you, a woman, and you determined that he was gay anyway. (If he's straight, it probably wouldn't be a huge turn-on for him to learn that you suspect he's a homosexual.)
For what it’s worth, I asked my coworker Rich Juzwiak (a gay man who loves to make love on the beach at dawn and dusk) for his input, and he suggested that talking with this guy about same-sex encounters in a broader discussion of sexuality could be a way for you to gain more insight. Then I asked how he would have reacted if someone had asked him if he were gay before he came out:
“I would have felt hurt and gotten really defensive. BUT, I would have been an asshole for doing so.”
Maybe this guy is intentionally leading you on. Maybe he’s convinced himself he wants you for a girlfriend, even though, in his heart of hearts, he only wants you for a gurlfren’. Maybe he’s not gay! In your mind, he will never be straight. He will only ever be maybe-straight.
You can still be friends, though I would stop constantly bringing up your fierce advocacy of gay rights. ("Man, I fiercely support gay rights. SASHA FIERCELY, EVEN. Do you get that reference? I know you're gay.”) It could come across as a little heavy-handed.
I recently received a wedding invitation with such strict dress code instructions that I just don't want to go. The instructions are worded very carefully and politely, but I really feel they're just saying "Don't bother showing up unless you look like an A-list movie star on the red carpet perfectly coiffed by a team of stylists". Nothing in my closet meets the requirements, and I think it would be rude for the bride and groom to expect me to buy an expensive new dress for the occasion if I don't want to. Of course they should be allowed to stress that it's a formal, black tie event, but to go so far as to say "stay away from cotton", and suggest luxe fabrics like silk, satin, sequins, and tulle just icks me out.(She also included a link to a Pinterest page she created with attire suggestions.) I just can't afford a new silk dress, though I have a few cotton ones that I think are perfectly fancy. Almost everything I own is cotton, I find other fabrics uncomfortable. Do I show up wearing what I want? Boycott? I’m contemplating calling the bride on her overly controlling instructions. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
It’s not okay to dictate the exact fabrics and decorative materials guests must use to hide their hideous flesh at your wedding. Not only is this overbearing; it’s condescending. You don’t need to send everyone a .jpg collage of celebrities wearing dresses (YOU BE FANCY, WEAR $$$ DRESS LIKE FANCY WOMEN OK???). You don’t need to provide your own warped definition of “black tie.” You just need to write “black tie” and leave it at that.
However, it is even ruder to use someone’s wedding as a platform to score a big moral victory.
You’re adamant that, come 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, 2014, you WILL be wearing a cotton dress? Fine. Don’t go to this wedding. While it is theoretically possible to create a cotton dress that is black tie appropriate, the odds you have one in your big Zooey Deschanel closet of cotton-only dresses are slim. A cotton evening gown doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because someone is trying to make an artistic statement about cotton.
In answer to your questions, it’s not okay to show up wearing whatever you want to a black tie event. It’s a black tie event. Literally the only reason that designation exists is to tell people what to wear. And what do you mean “boycott”? Are you going to send back your RSVP card, cross out “with my regrets” and scribble “with MY BOYCOTT”? Are you going to picket outside the ceremony? ("This'll teach a less you shan't forget for your next wedding!")
Now, to address the EXTREMELY ELEGANTLY DRESSED elephant in the room: you could definitely outfit yourself for this wedding on the cheap. It’s clear from the invite you passed along that this wedding is “black tie” in the same sense that a prom held at a Hampton Inn is “black tie.” Classy affairs are not advertised with neon signs blaring “WARNING: EXTREMELY CLASSY PARTY ALERT. UNUSUALLY HIGH LEVELS OF REFINED ELEGANCE OCCURRING.” Do you think Kate Middleton tucked a handwritten note into each of her wedding invitations instructing her guests "Don't forget to dress very fancy!"? She did not. (Which is why Pippa showed up looking like a $2 tramp.)
You could pick up a floor length polyester gown on clearance from the JC Penney juniors department and be on trend for this wedding.
On that note, doesn’t your heart break just a little for this bride-to-be, so desperate to have the Extremely Very Fancy Elegant Wedding Explosión Gigante of her dreams that she sabotaged it with her own eagerness? Let her have her “black tie” wedding.
The reason there is no “Martin Luther King of cotton dresses” isn’t that the world was waiting for you — it’s that the world doesn’t need one. It doesn’t even sound like you like these people. Don’t go to their wedding.
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here (max: 200 words). Image by Jim Cooke.