I have a word I use with Tino when something about same-sex relationship makes me uncomfortable: icky. When we first started dating, pretty much everything was icky. Holding hands, kissing, sitting on opposite ends of the same couch. I’ve got issues, people.
I attribute my moments of revulsion, for lack of a better word, to cultural norms that have perverted the concept of homosexuality, and to years of reparative therapy (many, many blog posts to come on that some day). Gay activists have called the feelings of ickiness my “internalized homophobia.” Gay-rights opponents have called it a natural repulsion to an unnatural desire. This is one of the great debates in same-sex relationship that I struggle with even today. We won’t definitively answer that question today, or likely ever. That's not the point of this blog, but there are many thoughtful books on the topic if you are interested.
Ultimately, I have come to peace with God and have sufficient confidence in His blessing over our union. But my faith in the sanctity of our relationship doesn’t dispel the recurring "ick" factor. I still experience it. A lot. How’s a guy to cope with this feeling without consistently isolating and rejecting his partner? For one thing, I have to communicate it. If I don't tell Tino how I feel, he'll still pick up on my feelings and interpret it as rejection. When I am able to verbalize my ickiness, Tino can then give me space when I need it or lean in to help me push through it.
You can imagine the five-alarm ick emergency that occurred when we got engaged. The first image that came to mind was a wedding cake topper—that plastic thing you put on top of a cake—with two grooms. I've seen some with grooms that look like twins, with matching tuxedos and matching smiles painted on their faces. They're silly and trivial, and yet somehow the thought of them triggered in me all of my unresolved unease with my own gay relationship.
When I got home from the wonderful weekend in which we got engaged, I literally went straight to the computer and Googled images of gay wedding cakes. I'm a masochist that way. I imagined myself as that cake topper, a plastic smile on my face, standing next to my twin, and it disturbed me. Also, I hate cake.
I told Tino I was honored and excited to get married to him, but I couldn’t stand the idea of a wedding. I would do anything to avoid a ceremony—to escape aisles and altars and pastel-colored flower bouquets. I wanted to be married. I did not want a wedding.
What Tino pointed out to me has been perhaps the most obvious and revolutionary idea during this engagement process. When I described to him my nightmare vision of matching outfits and scented candles and Shania Twain’s “From This Moment” blasting on repeat throughout the reception, he simply said, “But that’s not you. That’s not us.” And it was true. Even if I were marrying a woman, I wouldn’t want white rose centerpieces and lace-wrapped Jordan almonds. I wouldn't want pink or pastel colors—not when I'm clearly an autumn. I would feel uncomfortable with those ceremonial aesthetics regardless of the person standing next to me at the altar.
So when I feel icky looking at photos of other gay weddings—whether it's grooms with matching rainbow suspenders or napkins monogrammed Mr. & Mr.—I remind myself, that’s not me. It’s someone else’s style, and someone else’s vision of romance, and it’s all perfectly wonderful. But it’s not me. And that’s OK.
Our wedding can be something totally different. It can have centerpieces made of tetanus-laden barbed wire, and we can play death metal at the reception. (That’s also not me.) I'm learning, ever so slowly, that a big pitfall in relationship is to compare yours to other people's. Every couple finds its own unique way to function, and while we can pick up tips from others, no two will be perfectly alike. I need to stop overlaying a vision of myself onto other people and their preferences.
Early in our relationship, when I was feeling especially icky one night about dating a man, Tino said to me, “I wish you could stop focusing on the fact that I’m a man. Just think of me as Tino.” It made all the difference. I discovered that when I remove the abstract concepts and the expectations, the cultural norms and the disembodied view of myself, the ickiness goes away. At least a little bit.
I’m just David. He’s just Tino. And we’re just two people getting married.