Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Best. Title. Ever.
Don't you think so?
Hey Mo-Lit fans!!! I just finished reading Jennifer Lee's brand-new memoir My Ex is Having Sex with Rex, ($12.99, Matching Jackets Publishing).
This is the poignant-yet-hopeful tale of a single mom on the dating scene again with three kids in tow after she and her gay husband of sixteen years finally accept that his orientation makes it impossible for them to truly be romantic partners and soul-mates.
Jennifer describes in entertaining detail her adventures in discovering anew what straight men are like. For example, she gets the fun of having two different guys in a row try to charm the pants off her with a clever line about how ordering french fries is "sooooo sexy!" lol
Jennifer gets the excitement of dating some guys who above all just want from her a night of hot passion by contrast with the familiar situation of the guy who above all wanted from her the domestic comforts of home and family. In some ways she finds this a welcome change, but -- combined with the frustration of also dating some guys with serious social problems and the frustration of failing to find a complete, fulfilling romantic relationship -- she practically ends up asking herself if her new situation is better or worse.
Even though Jennifer is incredibly positive about pro-actively getting her own life in order and about giving number one top priority to her kids' well-being above all else, this book obviously ends up being a strong cautionary tale about why -- if you are a straight person -- you should not marry a gay person, imagining that somehow against all odds you'll find a way to make it work. And even more than that, it's a cautionary tale for gay people of what you're really choosing to do to the life of another human when you decide to try to cure yourself by building a family with an unsuspecting straight person.
Jennifer's situation is somewhat unusual among gay-man-straight-woman marriages in that she didn't have any idea that her husband might be gay until four years into the marriage (after they'd had one kid).
It's easy to see how this can happen -- her ex-husband was one of those gay guys who didn't blatantly fit the stereotypes, plus he was sexual enough to be willing to have plenty of sex with her despite his orientation. And notably -- even though he'd had sex with men and knew he was struggling with same-sex attraction before the marriage -- he didn't tell her.
Given the situation, it's astonishing how little anger Jennifer expresses. However, it's understandable that she's willing to forgive her ex because it's clear from the story that he didn't set out wanting to deceive and use her. He wasn't just thinking of his own need for a "normal" life and family in callous disregard for her needs. He believed and had internalized the disgusting lie that his attraction to men was just a disorder -- one that could be completely cured and one that was too shameful to even mention. They convinced him that he would be capable of giving his wife a relationship that was as sexually and emotionally complete as the type of relationship that a straight man could offer her.
So really, the liar in this story is the LDS church.
Jennifer makes it clear, however, that she doesn't feel anger towards the church any more than she feels anger towards her ex-husband. Her detachment is amazing, yet not so mysterious. The thing is that she places an admirably high priority on honoring the family they built together and the good memories of the years they spent together. She doesn't regret the years and the life that she gave him and she doesn't want to regret them. What's more, she doesn't want him to regret their relationship. If she were to feel a visceral anger at the church for telling him he could change and for pressuring him to do so, it would in a sense be equivalent to being viscerally angry that they had ever been married at all.
Tellingly, she spends almost as much time discussing whether she should be angry at "homosexuality" as she spends discussing whether she should be angry at the church. It's clear that while a new relationship would be great, she would just as soon have back the father of her children, only not gay -- if that were somehow possible.
(Note that she does blame his secrecy for causing her pain, and strongly advocates allowing and encouraging gay people to marry each other instead of marrying straight people.)
Jennifer includes an interview with her ex-husband in order to allow him to give his side of the story. For his part, he seems a lot more willing to feel anger towards the LDS church -- not because he regrets their family together, but rather because the church not only pressured him to deny a fundamental part of himself but also convinced him to make promises to a person he cared deeply about, promises that were ultimately impossible for him to keep. And obviously in the face of his new-found joy and happiness at truly finding himself and finding his soul-mate (Rex), he doesn't want to feel like he's left Jennifer high and dry.
I'm not sure whether all of my armchair psychoanalysis here makes for a good book review or not, but it's hard for the reader to avoid trying to make some sense of this difficult situation.
The book is definitely worth reading for its own sake as a story as well as for the insight it gives into the perspective of a straight woman who has the misfortune of finding out that her husband is gay.
Holly wrote an excellent series of articles here, here, and here about straight women in romantic relationships with gay men, and in particular discussed here how the women's perspective in such a situation is often ignored. Hopefully Jennifer's book will be a voice to counteract the invisibility of women caught in such marriages.
So, congratulations Jennifer on your excellent work of writing and publishing your story, and here's hoping the publicity and sales phase will be a huge success!!! :D