“The marriage referendum is bringing up my terrible fear of commitment, and there’s only one person to turn to – the Mammy,” says Jonathan O’Sullivan.
Yet another date with yet another ginger. The pale Adonis across from me was so attractive the table was practically tilting with arousal, and it was all going so well until he started to prattle on about property. “So if I can stick with my current savings plan I should be on track to have a two-bed semi by 2018,” he informed me, and as he droned on about his semi, I lost mine.
A fug of dread washes over me when guys mention mortgages on dates. Whether they’re saving to apply for one or trying to wriggle out of one, it reminds me of what an immature man-child I still am. When the conversation leans towards financial prudence or stamp duty, it might as well be about fungal nail infections or the Champions League – I just don’t want to know about it. I genuinely believe that if, like me, you graduated at the start of the recession, you have a naturally low self-worth when it comes to reaching life’s major milestones. I’m part of the first generation that may never own a home and will probably never retire. Marriage is another terrifying milestone I’d like to avoid talking about. Much like 99.9 per cent of gay men in Ireland, I’m all for the right to let people marry whichever unfortunate soul they choose, regardless of gender, but I just can’t place myself in the institution. Maybe it was the years of overcrowded and poorly catered Irish weddings in my childhood that tipped me over the edge, but I’d be perfectly happy to never have the Big Day Out.
My brother and sister got married last year (not to each other I hasten to add, although the wedding dates were so close they might as well have shared some of the overheads), making me the only non-married sibling. Both weddings required me to speak publicly. Family pressure, guilt and threat of disownment lead me to be best man for my brother. For someone who made a hilariously well-timed joke seconds after Whitney Houston’s death, I pride myself on being a king of poor taste. So it came as quite a shock when I realised how hard it is to write a speech meant to entertain 100 or so people that isn’t incredibly dull. I saw the five minutes I had for my best man’s speech as a time to air my childhood grievances against my brother. When he was about nine, he became obsessed with collecting magnets and decided to take apart every electronic toy I owned in order to harvest their magnetised insides. (My heart still longs for a working version of my brown Fisher-Price tape recorder.) Unfortunately, the rest of that anecdote tells the tale of a six-year-old Jonathan exacting revenge on his brother by urinating into a bottle of strawberry Yop (it was the ’90s, okay?) and tricking him into drinking it. This pissy plot twist elicited a muted response at best from my audience on the day in question.
I received a warmer reception a month later at my sister’s wedding. The honour of giving the ‘father of the bride’ speech was bestowed upon me. “Oh don’t worry, he’s not dead. He’s over there, the lazy sod,” was a great opener, as was accidentally introducing myself as the bride’s sister. I used my allotted five minutes to apologise for being a terrible younger brother and steered clear of any reference to piss drinking. Back to my own gamophobia (that’s a fear of marriage – I Googled it), and keeping the finger of blame firmly pointed at family, I realise it’s my mother that has set me so firmly against the prospect of tying the knot. “Marriage was not invented by a moron or a genius, but a cute hoor expecting sex on tap and socks on the line.” I don’t know if this quote is her own or something borrowed, and she stresses it’s a general observation and not a personal reflection on her 36 year marriage to my father, but she’s impressed it upon me. I’m very impressed with the two of them – they’ve weathered three children, multiple recessions and a divorce referendum, and still they remain together. Notwithstanding her ‘sex and socks’ statement, recently I asked my mother to her to impart some wisdom on maintaining a happy marriage. I have a few friends who will (hopefully) be getting gay married very soon, so I thought I might share some second-hand pearls of wisdom with them. “Treat your husband like a boyfriend,” she said. I really like this idea. While the level of commitment may have ramped up it doesn’t mean you have to change the dynamic of your relationship entirely.
“Never forget, you’re responsible for your own happiness.” I presume this is about not depending on your new husband too much and maintaining your own life outside of the marriage. “When tensions are running high, only tell him what you know he wants to hear.” This is just good advice for any relationship, regardless of what stage of commitment involved. If you can’t settle an argument through calm and rational communication than it would appear that you’re on very thin ice. Finally, she looked at me dead in the eye and said, “If you can’t laugh… leave.” What’s not to love about my mother? Contrary to my gamophobia (I really //love// that word), I’m looking forward to attending the two gay weddings I have coming up this year. Not only to celebrate the happy couples’ decisions to commit and settle down, but to hopefully use the experience to open my anxious heart to the possibility that I might meet someone and feel the urge to do the same one day. If the vote goes the right way on May 22, it won’t just be a win for hotels, travel agents and the menswear section of Arnotts, it will be a win for thousands of people like me who might not necessarily want to get married, but sure as hell want the choice. Do I think the majority of Irish people will vote in favour to equal rights for committed couples, regardless of sexuality? There’s only one answer to that. I do.
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