by Leah Waldron
On the second episode of “The New Normal,” Ryan Murphy’s new NBC sitcom about two gay men who hire a surrogate, David (Justin Bartha) is confronted by his basketball-playing straight friends (all doctors with kids), who tell him that a baby will ruin his perfect life. Nothing surprising there…just your usual “married guys playing basketball and complaining about chores and lack of sex life” sitcom fodder. But when David defends his decision, the guys take a different approach. They tell David that as straight men, they live vicariously through him—and his childless, wonderful, gay life.
I’m willing to bet that this entire basketball court scene, like most of “The New Normal,” would never happen in real life. First of all, the “let’s talk about our feelings” while we shoot hoops was super weird, not to mention that all doctors play golf on their day off, not basketball in the inner city (okay, maybe that’s a stereotype). But I couldn’t help wondering if straight men and women ever envy the gay life.
I decided to do some investigative reporting and ask 8 of my straight-est friends. And the answer, surprisingly, was a resounding yes—but for any factual or reasonable reasons. Here’s a breakdown, in no particular order, of the most common responses, followed by my reaction:
Gays never have to worry about using birth control (this isn’t entirely true, but the point is well taken. Lesbians do use birth control for health reasons, but this friend was right on the money about birth control freedom for gay guys.)
Gay couples make more money (this is also not entirely true, but statistics do point to this as a possibility, since many gay couples are TINKs, or “two incomes, no kids.” Since gays don’t get hundreds of federal tax breaks, I guess we can use all the cash we can get.)
Gay people are not “expected” to get married, have children and move to the suburbs like everyone in the straight world (this depends on how much your parents want grandkids and a place to stay when they visit…I know mine want both)
Gays get the best parades (okay, this is true)
Gays have better sex because we have more familiarity with our same-sex partner’s body (um…this one was awkward to hear from a friend…but kinda true, I suppose)
Finally (and I quote) “gays always seem to get attention for being gay. Any straight person can walk into a room and be ignored, but a gay person is always noticed, and usually is the most interesting person in the room.” (well said! But not true, of course. We don’t stand out like peacocks among chickens, despite what it looks like on TV. That said, it’s nice to think people really believe this.)
When I interviewed my straight friends about their perception of gay people (and shockingly, 7 out of 8 admitted at least minimal jealousy), I found it interesting that many of them want “the gay lifestyle,” but not for the whole gay sex thing. (Gasp! Is Ryan Murphy actually on to something here? That ought to blow a few minds…)
When you take the gay sex out of the equation, my straight friends want some kind of Peter Pan dream that is void of adult responsibilities like birth control, children and marriage. And who wouldn’t want more money in the bank, a life free from children who constantly need your attention (anyone thinking about having kids should travel with some on a plane, first) and that pesky “til death do us part” thing?
Answer: gays. Just like in the straight world, some of us want those things (marriage, children, carpools, etc.), while others would rather opt for the single (or not married but together) life. The fight for gay adoption rights and marriage is not, necessarily, based on one’s personal necessity to get married and have 2.5 kids. If it were, not all of us would be on board.
But we’d like to be given the option, and many of us want that more than anything in the world.
I think that gay people, in some ways, do have more fun as adults. But if that’s true, it’s only because most of us had a pretty bad experience in the post-pubescent teen years. Imagine that while everyone around you is discovering love, your own stirrings of attraction are equated with something wrong/evil at the worst, and something you don’t want, at best. When you finally do come out of the closet, you act like a love-struck 13-year-old, which wouldn’t be so bad if you were not five or six (or 20 or 30) years older. By the time most of us get to adulthood, whether we have kids and married life or not, a lot of us find the need to “make up for lost time.”
As for being the life of the party and our kick-ass parades, that’s just a perk. That, and really, really, really amazing sex. But we’re not better off than anyone else. We’re still fighting for many of the rights people take for granted.
And none of us play basketball with straight friends who, mid-dribble, admit they’re jealous of our gay life. That’s just TV-style gay.
The New Normal