Friday, January 18, 2008

Healthy Relationships Are Overrated

"We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about."

If you visited a gay website -- well, a non-pornographic gay website -- this week, you probably read about the recent University of San Diego study that suggests gay relationships are healthier than straight relationships. (In related news, John Travolta and Kelly Preston will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary this year. Congratulations, you crazy kids!) As Robert-Jay Green, the executive director of the Rockway Institute, summarized, "It all comes down to greater equality in the relationship. Research shows that lesbian and gay couples have a head start in escaping the traditional gender role divisions that make for power imbalances and dissatisfaction in many heterosexual relationships."

The findings were similar to those published by John Gottman and Robert Levenson in 2003. At the time, Gottman concluded, "The overall implication of this research is that we have to shake off all of the stereotypes of homosexual relationships and have more respect for them as committed relationships. Gays and lesbians may be more competent at having a mature relationship."

With the Gottman study -- and a mostly heterosexual readership -- in mind, Time magazine writer John Cloud wants to remind us that gay couples have problems, too. Problems like "crosscurrents of childhood pain, adult expectation and gay-community pathologies like meth addiction." This, I admit, confused me. Not a little, but a lot. As much as the Claymate phenomenon and the plot of The Big Sleep, if you require some indication of the profundity of my confusion. I mean, I'm as gay as a Liza Minnelli wedding and my last relationship ended not because of crosscurrents of childhood pain and gay-community pathologies like meth addiction, but because of my inability to communicate. (Good times!, btw.)

That sentence didn't just confuse me, it kind of pissed me off. Had I been able to scoop my jaw off the floor, the first words out of my mouth would have been, "Bitch, please. Like heterosexuals aren't addicted to meth!" Which, I admit, probably isn't the greatest or most serious reply to such a loaded statement, but what else is there to say in response to something that sounds so maudlin and pandering? It gets even better, as Cloud reflects on the breakup of his long-term relationship and notes:
And yet if ours had been a straight marriage, I have little doubt we would still be together. We had financial security and supportive families. We almost certainly would have had children. This isn't regret--fighting my homosexuality would be like shouting against the rain. But while the researchers are certainly right that straight couples have something to learn from gay couples, I think the inverse is true as well.
All of this sappiness and general ridiculousness piqued my interest in John Cloud, so I Googled his name. The first result was a Columbia Journalism Review article called "John Cloud Responds to His Critics." It was about his 2005 Time cover story on Ann Coulter, which was criticized for more things than I have the time or space to list. The second result was a TalkLeft post called "John Cloud: Today's Most Dissed Person in the Blogosphere." After reading those pages and others, including Cloud's request for "a moment of pity for moralizers who fall" (the moralizers are Ted Haggard and Larry Craig) and his essay "Put Dumbledore Back in the Closet" (which contains the line, "Some of the best Star Trek fan fiction—and there is so much you couldn't read it all in a lifetime—involves steamy Kirk-Spock love affairs"), I'm no longer so confused.

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