Enjoying heterosexual privilege
My last two weeks have been unusually social, with two dinner dates with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Both are female friends, but obviously not girlfriends. (Unless you mean it in the sense of that TV show, and not really even then.)
First was Kate, the brilliant author of Food Mapping and an old college friend and aikido partner. She actually came down to Hightstown from big ol’ Brooklyn just to see me, which was a nice change from my usual routine of cramming her and however many other friends I can visit into a weekend-long stay. (Brooklyn is still cooler than Hightstown, though.) At Masti, an Indian restaurant in East Windsor, we got some of the most satisfying food I’ve had since going vegetarian a few weeks ago.
And this past Wednesday I met up with my friend Eri, another smarty college friend. She’s living in North Jersey for the month, so we met up halfway in New Brunswick, which was surprisingly nice. (From the stories my parents have told me, the city has definitely improved since their days living there before I was born.) She and I got Eastern Mediterranean food at Kairo Kafe, which was also quite nice. Both Eri and Kate ate vegetarian for their meals with me, which was nice for sharing and led to a shockingly cheap bill.
After dinner, Eri and I went to get drinks at Harvest Moon, which had a pleasant atmosphere and reasonable prices. (I only got a soda because I had to drive home.) Everywhere I went with my two friends, I enjoyed something I hadn’t for a while now – heterosexual privilege. Most people don’t think about it, and indeed I don’t imagine I would were I straight, but not only do people tend to assume that two people of opposite sexes and similar ages are dating, but they’re much nicer to them and treat them in very particular, and expected, ways that they don’t treat two men, who they’re rarely willing to imagine are a couple, even when they very obviously are.
My boyfriend and I joke that whoever gets the bill is “the man,” and to see why you only need to look at a a man and a woman out to dinner. Personally, I think it’s a bit old-fashioned and anti-feminist to give women special treatment, but apparently I’m in the minority, since I got the bill. Eri and I asked two men a few years older than us for directions. They joked with her, though she wasn’t kidding, and were extremely surprised when I joked too, treating me more seriously—as if I was the one who would navigate the both of us. I have an atrocious sense of direction.
It was actually nice to enjoy the perks for a few nights, but I wish I could do so more often, and more honestly, with my real significant other. Back in middle and high school, when I still dated girls, people would say how cute we were. But the moment I started dating boys, the number of people doing so dropped precipitously. Now it happens considerably less frequently, but the intensity seems to have increased.
Seeing a gay couple in public seems to galvanize people’s emotions, for better or for worse. People won’t tell us we’re a “cute couple,” but rather “how important it is to see two men expressing affection in public.” And of course, I’ve seen straight couples making out ’til the cows come home, but we get heckled for holding hands.
There are straight couples who feel guilty about this kind of thing. Some even say they won’t get married until everyone can. Personally, I think that’s stupid. If you have the right to do it, exercise it! Enjoy it! We want more people to get married, not fewer!
If you’re a straight couple, I encourage you to be cute and let people treat you nicely, and I’d be happy to come to your wedding. As long as there’s cake. But when it’s time to vote, or someone says something anti-gay (and especially when the two overlap, as in the case of a Democratic Hightstownian town council candidate), keep us in mind. Vote with your wallets, your ballots, and your words. And your cake.