For Gay Couples, Now the Pressure’s On!

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

I was at a gay wedding in Connecticut last weekend between two of my good friends. As at every wedding I attend, I looked for inspiration from their ceremony and reception that I might be able to co-opt if I get married one day. This time, for example, the beautiful seaside ceremony was very short, which I appreciated. Also, I liked that the couple didn't have an awkwardly choreographed first dance. (It's bad enough that you have to get up that day in front of everyone you know and cry. And worse, eat. Now you have to be a ballroom dancer? What's next, the circling of the fat?) As usual, I set these ideas aside in my mental file once I sat down with my boyfriend at our assigned table. It was a warm evening, and I was busy worrying about whether my forehead was getting too shiny when the person next to me turned my way.

"So," he asked pointedly. "When are you two getting married?"

It is not an outrageous question. My boyfriend and I have been together for over four years. We live together, and whenever one of us is out and about, people inevitably ask if the other is nearby. But the marriage query is not one I get asked a lot — I'm generally exempt from that thirtysomething game because I'm gay. Until just now, I wasn't allowed to get married in New York. Plus, it was a bit of a taboo question because gay relationships just aren't seen as a means to reach marriage as much as straight ones are. But the more the prospect of marriage equality seemed real over this past month in New York State, the more people started asking. Ladies, I now feel your pain. I asked around and found I wasn't alone.

"At a party last week, one of my closest friends got quite tipsy and approached [my boyfriend] alone at the bar, asking which one of us would be the one to propose," recalls Zach Udko, a lecturer at NYU. "Awkward! When he stumbled over his response, she marched over to me and asked the same question."

"I think I didn't know I was in a long-term relationship until gay marriage got so close to passing and so many people started asking," says Andrew Sessa, a freelance writer who has been with his lawyer boyfriend for over two years. It's a good point — New York is a "blink-and-you-miss-it" type of town. If you don't have a five-year plan, why not just coast along as things are? Those carefree days for gays may be over. It's not just friends that are eyeing our long-term relationships now, it's also the media.

Leone Kraus, an activist and spokeswoman for the advocacy networking website Friendfactor.org, says she's been getting calls from publications that want her to pull the trigger. "Are you going to ask [your girlfriend] to marry you after the bill passes?" one outlet asked her. She responded, "If I told you then it wouldn't be a surprise!" Her quote wasn't used. "I found that this wasn't the buzzy item the media was looking for. They want to meet couples who are going to tie the knot as soon as it becomes legal to, which I think is a lot of pressure," she said. "I mean, we've been together for almost four years, but it's still a big decision that I'm not going to make public in an interview," Kraus adds. "Can you imagine going up to a straight person and asking 'Are you going to ask him/her to marry you after the rent regulation bill passes?'"

And forget the media pressure. What about mom pressure?

"Gay marriage will be great news not just for the gays, but for our straight siblings, who have carried the burden of having to answer the 'So, when are you going to get married?' question for so long now," observes Ben Harvey, a party promoter and host of "The Six Pack" gay-themed podcast. "My sister, who isn't married yet, will be really happy she's not the only one getting asked the question!"

Harvey, who has been with his boyfriend for nearly two years, also points out that when gay couples start getting asked about marriage, you know what comes next: kid questions. "Then we'll start to be faced with the same anxieties that straight people have in New York, about whether to get a nanny or a manny or will the kid get into Dalton, on top of the issue of how we obtain the baby in the first place," he said. "It's an amazing moment in history for gays right now, but there becomes a lot to think about."