Rohit, a business consultant from New York, met his husband when he was 24 years old. Hours into a special LGBT Holi Night at the local bar on a crisp March night, they locked eyes over a jazzy Bollywood number.
‘It felt simple, the spontaneity.’ Rohit tells me on chat. ‘Ravi asked me for dinner the very next day, and I said yes.’
How did he know it was one for the long run?
‘Immediately. I had hardly expected that I would meet someone who would understand my journey as a brown man, a gay man, and an immigrant — and here he was, someone who understood all three. We didn’t have to explain ourselves to each other, we found home.’
The proposal happened years later — over a quick Euro trip (Rohit’s first) during the summer. The question was popped over a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, in the their hotel room in the middle of Champ-Elysees. They shared half a dozen macarons after, and celebrated at a gay bar with go-go dancers all night long. It was all very fabulous.
‘What has marriage been like?’ I ask.
‘When we were getting into it, it was for very practical reasons, even though we knew that we were in it for the long haul. Marriage gave us legal guarantees of (hospital) visitations, inheritance, and partnership we wanted. People treat our relationship with greater weight and respect, now that the government sanctions it. Also, there’s certainly a greater degree of closeness that comes with making vows — inviting 70 of your closest friends to come dance the night away — that is hard to describe. ‘
They both seem content with their lives — Ravi runs a bar in Philadelphia today, and they plan to raise puppies in a world that is both, peaceful and inclusive. It’s a wonderful plan for their future. I feel a dull ache in my chest as I type out my goodbyes, but I know it’s only the beginning.
Marriage, children and a house with a white picket fence might necessarily not be the dream for a lot of gay men anymore (I’d prefer a sea-facing studio apartment and a long distance relationship any day), but my friends, Bikram and Wren share a similar story across the Atlantic.
27-year-old Bikram is an environmental scientist based in Switzerland. Wren is a Human Rights consultant. They both the save the world, when they are not saving each other.
Their first date was a disastrous dinner at home. Bikram turns beetroot red even when he thinks about it today: ‘I word-vomited through three courses of dinner. Somewhere over the entrée, I thought I would never see him again.’
Bikram found it embarrassing. Wren found it endearing.
Two years later, they moved in together.
They decided to get married while on a walk, one wintry evening. There was no grand declaration of love. No rings in champagne glasses. No elevator ride on the Eiffel tower. No planetarium full of stars. No macarons, and definitely no go-go dancers.
It just made sense — it was one of those things that had to be done, the end of one journey, the beginning of another. They didn’t exchange conventional rings; instead they opted for toe rings at a Tam Brahm ceremony months later. Their parents cried, hugs were exchanged and a new family was made.
‘Have things changed?’ I ask. Domesticity has never been a strong suit for gay men. ‘I’ll tell you a secret,’ he says to me — his voice crackles — it’s the bane of long distance phone calls. I press the phone closer to my ear. Bad reception can be worse than a bad relationship.
‘Do you know what being in a relationship is like? (I actually don’t) Being married is no different; we just have a piece of paper now that lets us address the other as a husband.’ That sounds fair enough, but does that mean they do the crossword on Sundays?
‘We don’t need to do things together. We still lead our lives the way we used to.’ Bikram prefers trance; Wren likes his classical music. They both like chocolate ice cream.
‘Finding your happily-ever-after is not about finding someone who completes you, it’s about finding someone who lets you be. Being accepted for who you are is a powerful aphrodisiac. Do you know what I mean?’
I actually don’t. I’ve been a train wreck of bad decisions, failed relationships and boys who never text me back. But wait, there’s no jigsaw puzzle to be completed?
Only on Sundays, by the fireplace. Sometimes they even bake a cake.
I am only slightly disappointed, but both couples are still surprisingly happy. Their families accept their husbands, and speak to each other on the phone every other weekend. They shop for groceries, cook dinner, do their laundry and watch repeats of The Bachelorette on television. There’s no drama, just domestic bliss.
It’s here. Men are getting married, and society isn’t crumbling.
The cake does though, the one that they bake on Sundays. But still, they genuinely seem to enjoy their delightfully boring routines.
The thing about fairy tales is that we never know what happens after ‘Happily-Ever-After’. Stories end with grand weddings, but there’s no epilogue to tell us what happens next. Sometimes they come up with a sequel, but they skip past the settling in, and head straight to the next big bad — heroes and heroines fighting it out, rather than fighting each other. Fairy tales never have time for the every day and the ordinary. But neither do we.
It’s important not to forget that my friends also live in countries where gay men enjoy the same basic rights that other people do — the chance to make your vows, or even break them. Marriage equality abroad hasn’t just changed reality for gay men, it has also tamed romance. It isn’t as nuanced as Disney makes it out to be, they all tell me. I’d have to agree.
While gay marriage in India might be a far away ‘fairytale’ concept (side note: But then again, being gay in India is 2017 is like being gay in Europe in the ’50s), we still have a long way to go before we reach our own versions of matrimonial mediocrity. It might take time to reach that point where we bake a cake over the weekend, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
It might take a year. It might take a decade. It might take two. Until that day, I raise a glass to all the brides and groom in the world, and know that if the day comes when I decide to get married, I’d want red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting…
…and preferably a groom who doesn’t run away before I do.