How marrying a woman made an honest gay man of me (draft), Part 3

22 Dec

Note: This is the third in an occasional series of excerpts from a draft of an as-yet-unpublished essay that I originally intended for the Houston Chronicle, my former employer. It turned out to be too long to fit anywhere in the print edition, but my editors were willing to consider posting it on, the Chronicle’s entertainment website, with changes I was unwilling to make. The fact that I was unwilling to make those changes, however, does not mean I don’t think the essay could use some improvement, so I welcome feedback from readers. References to dates such as “last week” will make more sense if you consider the draft was filed shortly before Thanksgiving. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Except as noted, all photos in this post were taken by Timothy Gonzalez for the Darbys. It’s funny how sometimes just doing a simple copy-and-paste can make you cry. — Devon Britt-Darby

Then, suddenly, the place went from empty to packed with exactly the right mix of art-scene fixtures and people who had no idea what was about to happen. Reese gave me a fright by arriving later than planned — she had gone to 817 Dallas instead of 817 W. Dallas, which is Tony’s address — but once she arrived, time went from moving at a glacial pace to racing at warp speed. (Her experience was the opposite, at least until the ceremony started. Then it went by like a flash for both of us.)

As for the ceremony, the critic in me could rattle off a million and one blunders in my execution. Suffice to say the lack of rehearsal showed, but the audience didn’t seem to mind.

My best man, whom I met 20 minutes before the wedding, helps me unwrap my bride's Ring Pop. Photo taken with my phone by a nice man whose name I can't remember for the Darbys.

Everyone else was amazing: Reese, Christian (Chiari, who officiated), the stripper I met for the first time who served as my best man, emcee and drag queen extraordinaire An’ Marie Gill, and the crowd, each and every member of which I count as an indispensable collaborator.

As hastily planned, Christian gave Reese her first kiss as a married woman. My best man gave me my first kiss as a married man. But when someone in the crowd shouted, “kiss her,” you’d better believe I complied.

When Christian said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Darbys,” we tossed our variation on the traditional wedding bouquet: Some Longings Survive Death (for the Darbys), an artwork conceived by Dario Robleto for the occasion. It consisted of a sheet of paper — one side featuring an image of cut-paper Victorian bridal flowers, the other information about the piece — folded into a paper airplane. (Reese unexpectedly carried a traditional bouquet of actual flowers anyway, which made things a bit confusing onstage, but I wouldn’t have married a woman who didn’t have a mind of her own.)

We threw dozens of bouquet-planes into the crowd to express our wish that everyone who wants to marry — or to stay single — be equally free to do so. (If you want one, a PDF of Robleto’s image is here; my text on the reverse side is here. Print two-sided on a single sheet of paper and fold into your own bouquet plane. The PDF is huge and will take awhile to appear in your browser. This giveaway owes a debt to one of Robleto’s heroes, the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who died of AIDS in 1996. While I was at the Chronicle, I wrote about the Robleto artwork that would later inspire this piece here.)

Then Reese led me offstage by my leather dog collar, which I wore with my tux in lieu of a bowtie, and the reception, which included An’ Marie’s lip-sync of Chapel of Love and an amateur strip contest, began.

It was beyond magical. Museum directors, strippers, gallerists, bartenders, artists, patrons, Houston Chronicle colleagues, people I see at society events, people from my gym, people from all parts of my multifaceted present and my various colorful pasts — some physically present, others symbolically so — gave us the warmest, sincerest congratulations imaginable. I couldn’t detect a trace of sarcasm.

I’ll admit the ones from “non-art” people meant the most. Dancer after bartender after dancer after customer after dancer said, “I understand the statement,” or “Thank y’all for doing this for us” — to which I could only say “thank you” in return, over and over and over again. We did mean to do it for them — hence the subtitle An Offering From the Darbys —and it meant the world that they let us.

Part 4 is here.

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