The first time I met Molly, she asked if I would pretend to be her boyfriend.
"My ex-boyfriend's going to be at a wedding in Seaside," she explained. "I want to bring a hot date to make him jealous."
I'd known her for about two minutes at that point. She happened to be visiting my boyfriend's housemate, and had seen me on the cover of the Mercury once. (See? That's where fame will get you.) She clearly understood that I'm gay, and that any kind of sexual reprogramming was out of the question—so I figured... why not? I accepted her offer. The way I looked at it, this was a golden opportunity to both catapult my performance-art career and eat some saltwater taffy on the coast.
And so began my weekend of sexual identity fraud.
THE HETERO HIGHWAY
I wish I could tell you that I spent the week before my departure boning up on manly heterosexual culture; watching ESPN, reading Maxim, eating bologna sandwiches. Truth is, I was reading a romance novel when Molly picked me up. I threw all my favorite facial creams in a make-up tote and jumped in the car, ready to take straighthood by storm!
Molly lit a cigarette as we drove onto the westbound highway.
"How long have we been seeing each other?" I asked her.
"About three weeks."
"Where did you grow up?"
We went on like that, swapping personality sketches as we hurdled down the tree-lined highway. We exchanged college majors, current professions, number of pets, anecdotes about our siblings, and dates of birth. We kept most of my biographical information consistent with my current self, adding only a career in sports modeling and a fetish for Catholic school-girl uniforms. God is in the details.
We arrived, and I put my straight face on.
At the rehearsal dinner that night, I met an incredibly rambunctious 10-year-old girl who told me I was ugly and that I needed to pluck my eyebrows. To make matters better, she did a lot of the conversational dirty work for us.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" she asked Molly as she rolled around wildly on the couch.
"Well... I have a date," Molly replied, pointing to me. I nodded coolly.
"Gross," the girl concluded.
Gross or not, our little ADD agent managed to spread the word quicker than herpes. Before long, I caught Molly's ex glancing at me suspiciously now and then. I put my arm around Molly's shoulder, enjoying my status as the "unwelcome stranger."
Unfortunately for Molly's ex, his troubles were just beginning. That night, he accidentally locked his keys in his car.
The following morning, little Miss ADD approached the ex while Molly was helping him prepare for a photo shoot, and pinning a brooch to his jacket.
"Is this your boyfriend?" she asked, pointing to the ex.
"Don't you remember what I told you last night?" Molly said, making sure her ex could hear every word. "Evan is my boyfriend. Evan."
Shortly thereafter, a seagull shat on Molly's ex.
The gods were with us.
Only once did I have to fake any banter that one might construe as "sexual." You see, the shoes Molly decided to wear with her bridesmaid outfit were a pair of feathery black heels from Frederick's of Hollywood. Imagine a pair of pumps constructed from the feather boa of a particularly raunchy stripper, and you'll start to get the picture.
I wasn't surprised, then, when a tipsy woman in her late forties approached us, a plastic wine glass cradled dangerously between her fingers. She looked us up and down appraisingly, then pointed at Molly's shoes.
"Those are some shoes you've got on!" she clucked.
"Thanks. They're from Frederick's of Hollywood."
"Those are hooker shoes!" Then she turned to me conspiratorially, adding "I'll bet you like 'em!"
We all laughed. I called on my most masculine voice possible, and said, "Yeah, this is the first time those shoes have made an appearance outside the bedroom."
The woman gave me a drunken, leering wink. An ominous smile twisted across her face; a smile that seemed to say, "You've got it great now, hotshot, but give it 20 years and get back to me."
At the wedding reception, Molly and I took advantage of a needed lull to use the bathroom, which was occupied. Moments later, a young thug with huge shades, pierced ears, and a cell phone tucked into his breast pocket emerged, looked at Molly, and said, "It's all yours, sweetheart."
After Molly disappeared, he turned to me, startled.
"Dude," he asked, "is that your girlfriend?"
"Uh... yeah," I grunted.
"Sorry I called her sweetheart, man," he stammered. "It's just that I think she's a sweet girl, that's all."
I assured him it was no problem, and then a big grin flashed across his face. "You comin' to the after party tonight?"
"Hell yeah," I said.
Then came a pivotal moment in my charade: the manshake. Like a handshake, the manshake demands a rough clasping of hands, followed by three distinct fist pumps.
I almost blew my cover on that one. Up to that point, my heterosexuality had been flawless. But... old habits die hard. Much to my consternation, my wrist just went kind of limp halfway through the manshake. My hand utterly failed me, just sort of flailing against his. I yanked it back, silently cursing its fagginess.
Fortunately, my failure went by unnoticed. Maybe he thought I was drunk. Or maybe somebody told him I was a model.
Models don't manshake.
After the 20-year-old pregnant bride had thrown her bouquet to all the single ladies, I heard one of the groom's men barking:
"Single guys! Single guys!"
I shouldered up to a crowd of testosterone-fueled teenagers. The groom turned his back on us and stretched the garter out like a rubber band. I saw it spinning toward me in the air, suspended in slow motion. Seconds later, I held the frilly garter high above the crowd.
After a moment of uncomfortable, astonished silence, the guests hesitantly agreed to cheer my accomplishment. All eyes focused on me. I, who had been an innocuous presence up to that point, had suddenly become a threat to their entire ceremony; who the hell was this asshole?
A grin swept across my face. I pounded my fist against my chest and released a triumphant roar. Then I sauntered over the Molly and slipped the garter around her leg. I grabbed her in my manly arms, and together we feigned excitement at the prospect of one day sharing the holy vows of matrimony.
Upon reflection, I found it incredibly simple to fake the social appearance of heterosexuality. I made sure never to cross my legs, and stood near Molly like a bodyguard protecting a celebrity—or more appropriately, a dog guarding his territory. I tried not to get too excited or involved in conversations about Bring It On or Veruca Salt, and kept my voice as mannishly monotone as possible.
But here's my confession: Gay as I am, there were moments when I felt "not so gay." There were moments, in fact, when "heterosexuality" felt like a long-lost first language—a code of conduct buried deep inside my genes, a code I couldn't forget if I tried.
And believe me... I've tried.
While being Molly's man—if only for a weekend— was enjoyable enough (especially the part where the ex got covered in seagull poop), playing straight eventually only helped to reinforce my identity. To paraphrase a famous cartoon character, "I am what I am." With or without a manshake.