Been to a college reunion lately? Have you noticed how the formerly self-effacing gay—that bloke who sat in the corner looking turgid and inhibited in a mauve Members Only jacket—is now, as every reunion swings around, getting ever more confident and soignée?
And those heroic straights? That homecoming queen and that square-jawed football Adonis? Since packing on those pounds, Janet and Brad are barely recognizable. Every 10 years these former idols get more beleaguered, exhausted, and beaten down. I am not gloating. It brings me no pleasure to see the mighty fall. If I were not so busy enjoying being gay, I might start an empathetic nonprofit to support those aging heteros. Naturally I would dub my organization “It Gets Worse.”
We are coming up on the third anniversary of the founding of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. Three years ago, the syndicated columnist and his partner Terry Miller created a YouTube video to inspire young people facing bullying and harassment and to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better. Three years and 50,000 user-created videos later, Dan and Terry’s venture has spawned a global phenomenon. Contributors run the gamut from President Barack Obama to Adam Lambert, Kesha, and Sarah Silverman, all of whom espouse the notion that, for the gays, life gets better once you become a self-determining adult. But what about the poor old straights? Who’s making reassuring videos for them?
Straights have a total blast in their late teens and early 20s. The world belongs to them. While the gays cringe with uncertainty in the wings, the heterosexuals take center stage. I vividly remember the shock of watching my adolescent schoolmates morph into rutting, strutting, sybaritic hetero-sexaholics. Instead of playing marbles in the playground, they would broadcast their sexual escapades using naughty words which made me blush. Two of my bouffant-haired classmates became pregnant at the age of 15 and were last seen pushing prams down the local high street. And moi? As a gay, I was forced to contain my libido in a fantasy world: Nobody knew it, but I was dating The Fugitive aka David Janssen, and Norman on Peyton Place. (For some reason I always found Norm—played by Christopher Connelly, RIP—so much more attractive than his objectively more handsome brother Rodney who, as those of you who followed the legendary TV drama series will recall, was played by Ryan O’Neal.) It would five more years before I was able to ditch the fantasy and locate a nonfictional like-minded rutter or two.
“Maybe it’s that straight people peak early,” Dan Savage theorized in an email exchange this week, adding, “They get to date in middle school and in high school, whereas most of us gays do not. So our first heady sexual and romantic experiences typically come in adulthood and we see no reason why they—those amazing, heady experiences, sexual or not—can’t keep coming throughout adulthood. We continue to seek them out.”
By the time the gays are hitting their stride, the straights are already wearing baggy khakis and belt pagers and trying to act like sensible grown-ups.
“I think many straights associate those (heady) feelings with adolescence and feel they must leave all of that behind once they’re ‘grownups,’ ” observes Savage, “Gay men never ‘grow up’ in the ‘growing up = get boring/become boring’ sense of the term. We are Peter Pansies.”
Specifically how does life get better for Peter Pansies and worse for the breeders? Much of my information about this topic comes from my straight bloke pals—I call each one Doug, since it’s easier than trying to remember their real names, and most of them are actually called Doug—who have come to view the gay milieu with unapologetic envy. First on their list of gripes is SEX and the frequency thereof. “Gay men have so much sex. Why can’t we have Grindr?” wail my Dougs.
According to Dr. Debby Herbenick, research scientist at Indiana University School of Public Health, with whom I also emailed this week, gay men are def doing it more often than straights: “Across the lifespan gay men tend to have more frequent sex than male/female couples who, in turn, tend to have sex more often than lesbians,” wrote the author of Sex Made Easy, adding, “ Lesbians report higher rates of sexual touching, kidding, and cuddling than others—even with age—so that seems to get better, if you will, for them.”
It gets fitter if you’re gay, and it gets fatter if you are a Doug. No expert citations needed on this one. Just walk through a gay neighborhood.
It gets peacockier for the gays, and for the straights it gets greiger and blander. Even if a heterosexual dude develops an interest in style, he is never going to catch up with the local gay who has been into it since he was a zygote.
It gets pleasanter for gays and gnarlier for straights who, according to Dr. Debby, report lower relationship satisfaction. As one of my Dougs put it, “I feel henpecked and honey-dewed, as in ‘Honey do this and honey do that.’ ”
It gets glammer. As the gays age they adorn their abodes with increasing panache. While they are festooning their groovy pads with flamboyance and color, Mr. and Mrs. Doug are collecting Hummel figurines … or descending into a hoarder situation.
It gets richer. Straight men end up becoming an ATM for an extended network of broads and brats. Cut to: Unencumbered gays lolling and lounging in shekeltastic splendor.
It gets cuter. A Doug would never compromise his perceived masculinity with facials and body-waxing. Not so the gays.
It gets more beloved. Gay social networks—those life-saving chosen families of like-minded folk—rage throughout adult life. It’s a total reversal of the relative isolation experienced by teen gays. Who has all the buddies now!
Let me end by offering a little consolation to the straights. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As the gays adopt a more Doug-ish lifestyle—getting married, having children, etc.—this unfair landscape will undoubtedly change. School fees, alimony payments and divorce wrangles can knock the wind out of your mom/geezer jeans regardless of your sexual orientation. But for the moment the gays are crushing it.