What we have here, basically, is premeditated falling in love and courtship. This is at best creepy and at worst misogynistic. I think the truth lies somewhere between those two poles, personally, but since I'm the one confessing my sins and you're the one absolving them, I'll let you be the judge of that. I have acknowledged this creepiness before. In the paragraph immediately following the above, in fact:
So I came home from my mission less sure that marriage and family were in my future. I’m not sure what kind of life I envisioned for myself—a lonely celibacy, I suppose—but for a month or two I’d resigned myself to it.
Here’s where Epiphany #1 comes in. This must’ve been in January, because I’m pretty sure it was before Jessie came home from her mission. I’d attended one of those BYU firesides where they tell you to get married. I pretty much tuned out the entire thing because it didn’t apply to me, but then I got home, sat on my bed, and had a distinct impression that yes, it did apply to me. Yes, I was gay, but that didn’t mean I was excluded from Heavenly Father’s desire for his children to marry and have families.
I thought of a sister missionary that had been in my district for nearly eight months and was coming home soon. I really admired her intelligence and her love of reading, and her complete disregard of whether people thought she was cool or not. She seemed like the type of person I’d like to marry. So I planned it all out. I’d email her when she got home, and we’d build our friendship while she was in Maryland. Then she’d come out to BYU and we’d start dating and then we’d get engaged and then we’d get married.
I think more than anything I liked this plan because it seemed like a Normal Mormon Guy type of thing to do (or at least a Normal BYU Student type of thing—it’s hard to distinguish after being in Utah Valley for so long).
To my surprise, the following months happened exactly as I’d planned. This is quite disturbing, now that I think about it. It must have disturbed me then, too, because on the morning of the day that we were to mail out the wedding invitations, I was still worried that I was marrying Jessie for the wrong reasons. I didn’t want to marry her just to prove to myself and others that I was normal, or to avoid hurting her feelings, or because it was the right thing to do. I wanted to marry her because I loved her and I wanted to be with her. Which I was pretty sure I did.Now, I come from a literary school of thought that values subtlety, so when I'm acknowledging a bad quality in myself I generally don't come out and say "and this is a very bad quality, of which I am deeply ashamed and hope to rid myself completely" because I assume my readers are intelligent enough to figure it out. I assume that if I say, for example, "I am a narcissist," that everyone knows I don't mean it as a compliment. It's come to my attention, though, that the subtlety in the above paragraphs has been lost on at least one person, so I'd like to be clear about what I'm confessing to here. Among the possible motivations I had for marrying FoxyJ were:
- God told me to.
- In abstract, "she seemed like the type of person I'd like to marry."
- That was the way I'd planned it.
- It "seemed like a Normal Mormon Guy type of thing to do."
- To "prove to myself and others that I was normal."
- To "avoid hurting her feelings."
- Because "it was the right thing to do."
I said before that to say that all my reasons for marrying FoxyJ were bad ones is an overstatement, and I feel the need to clarify what I mean, even if doing so detracts from the purpose of confessing my sins. So here are the good reasons I had for marrying FoxyJ, some of which are present in "Getting Out" and some of which are not:
- "I really admired her intelligence and her love of reading, and her complete disregard of whether people thought she was cool or not."
- I was "pretty sure" that "I loved her and I wanted to be with her."
- She had said that she loved me and wanted to marry me.
- I felt happy when I was with her and could see that being with me made her feel happy.
- She and I shared many values such as our faith, education, family, liberal politics, and social justice.
- She wanted to marry a traditional Mormon patriarch no more than I wanted to be one. (That is to say, not at all.)
- Despite the strong feelings I had and knew I would always have for men, I had been surprised over the course of our relationship by how excited I was to be with her--the tingly sensation at first holding her hand, the butterflies before our first awkward kiss, the unignorable arousal we both felt once we finally figured that kissing thing out.
- She was not afraid to talk frankly about sex, to acknowledge that she was nervous and excited about having sex, and to discuss (or joke about, as the case may be) the logistics of our future sexual relationship. (One of the funnier discussions we had was about whether it's okay to have sex on the Sabbath. Or when you're fasting.)
- One of my happiest memories is driving home from a date with her and putting a mixtape she had made into my sister's car stereo. The first song was Lauryn Hill's cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." I felt giddy all over and almost cried at the realization that this very mature college student, this incredible person with whom I'd had so many intellectually stimulating conversations, would do something so teenage-romantic as making me a mixtape to say she was in love with me. And she'd used a Lauryn Hill song!
- Marrying her meant I wouldn't have to buy my own copy of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
I decided earlier this year that the bad reasons outweighed the good--it's easy when one wants to focus on the bad to ignore the good, or vice versa--and that the best way to make this right for me, for FoxyJ, and for our children was to divorce and start over. I would have a man who loved me, Foxy would have a man who loved her (the way that only a straight man could), and our children would have not only two parents who loved them but the added bonus of two stepfathers who would love them just as much. The problem with this plan was not that divorce is inherently bad or even that divorce is an inherently bad option for us. I believe that for the three months we were separated we did an exceptionally good job of co-parenting and relating to each other respectfully as formerly married friends--this is much more to Foxy's credit than to mine, as it is easy to be nice to the person you have wronged but not so easy to be nice to the person who has wronged you. The problem with this attempt at penance, see, is that just like in the case of my original sins I was doing something Very Very Bad: I was deciding for myself what was best for us. Divorce was never Foxy's idea; it was all me.
After realizing this grave error, acknowledging the complexity of my reasons for marrying her and the fact that I did indeed still enjoy spending my life with her, I regrouped with Foxy in order to come up with a plan together. We talked more honestly than we had ever before about the problems in our relationship. We discussed frankly what each of us would need to sacrifice in order to make this marriage work, and whether the benefits of the marriage would make it worth it for each of us. We considered together all the less-than-noble motivations that might underlie our mutual desire to reunite--chief among these questionable motivations was the financial stability our continued marriage would provide for the duration of my master's program and her doctorate. Ultimately we decided together that we had enough genuinely good reasons to stay together and enough faith in our ability to work through the difficulties that it was worth another shot. I am happy with that decision, and happy most of all that we made it together.
As penance for my past sins, then, I propose the following:
- I will continue to take intuition (what I once would have called God speaking to me) into account when making choices, but I will not do so at the expense of other factors and certainly not at the expense of other people.
- I will do my best to love FoxyJ not as an abstract idea of the type of person I'd like to marry, but as a real human being.
- I will not adhere strictly to plans I have made when those plans involve the lives of other people; rather, I will include those people in the making and evaluating of such plans.
- I will not do anything because it's the Normal Mormon Guy thing to do. At this point in my life, I think that goes without saying. In addition, I will not do anything simply because it's not the Normal Mormon Guy thing to do, or because it's the Normal Agnostic thing to do, or any such stupid reason.
- I'm going to stop trying to prove to myself and others that I'm normal, or that I'm anything. This one's a bit harder, because I tend to put a lot of energy into proving all sorts of things about myself, and really I just need to get over it. I'll do my best.
- I will avoid hurting Foxy's feelings, but not by thinking only of what I think she needs, but by listening to what her feelings really are and working with her to honestly address those feelings.
- I will not do things because they are the right thing to do. Rather, I will do things because I and others affected agree that those are the best things for everyone's best interest. This is a subtle difference, I know, but the important thing here is thinking through the consequences of choices I make and not objectifying others in that process.