Daniel Kravitz expected a big fall-out within his family if they found out that he was gay. At best, his father would write him off as complete loss as an heir and pass the reigns of their company to his one of his brothers-in-law. What he didn't expect was to learn that his parents already knew he was gay and had already arranged his marriage.
"It's a done deal," Jason Kravitz told him the day the final high school results were announced in all the major newspapers and it was confirmed that he would be allowed to attend university.
"You're joking, right Dad?" Daniel asked. He didn't see how his father could joke about something so ridiculous, but they were all so happy that he had fulfilled his expectation and would be able to easily register for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Wits University. This is a very bad joke, he thought. Maybe there's a punch line somewhere there, and I'm too dumb, too young, too something, to get it.
The two of them were sitting in his father's plush home office. Daniel had followed his father to the office, expecting to be congratulated for getting Distinctions in all his subjects. He even thought that his father would lecture him a bit about his duty to his family as he usually did. What he did not expect to was learn that his parents had arranged his marriage for him, and expected him to tie the knot before leaving Cape Town in a couple of weeks to attend university in Johannesburg.
"We arranged your marriage when you were fifteen. The family are very good friends of ours, and we firmly believe that the arrangement will work."
"B-but...but..why? Why an arranged marriage? Our family has no tradition of arranging marriages for their children. And what's your hurry? I'm almost eighteen years old; way too young to even think about getting married. I still have time to finish university, start my career, and maybe even sow a few wild oats before I settle down. So why-"
"You? Sow wild oats?" Daniel's father interrupted him. He stared at him until Daniel dropped his eyes, fidgeted with his hands.
"I love you Daniel." It was as if he was discussing the scattered thundershowers that are prone to hit Johannesburg on summer afternoons. "You're my son and I was very happy when your mother gave birth to you after we'd had three girls. But I also know you very well. Did you think your mother and I didn't notice that you have no interest in girls? Your sisters and cousins have continuously brought their friends and their friends' here for years, and not once have we seen interest in your face. But the boys.. oh yes.. you hide it very well, but we noticed that you do look at them."
Daniel panicked, tried to speak but only a gurgling sound emerged from his throat. He started breathing quickly and loudly. Oh God! Oh God! Now what do I say to that? He swallowed hard.
"Let's not start this conversation by lying to each other."
"You know? You and Mom know that I'm gay?"
"Yes we know."
"And you arranged a marriage for me knowing that?"
"Yes. Your mother and I talked it over, and we decided to take control of the situation. Knowing you, we thought it would take years before you would even admit that there was a problem. And we don't have that luxury. We need to make sure that you are properly settled, so that you can focus on your studies, and later, learn the business and not have to worry about this gay business."
"Dad," Daniel said, choking, tears filling his eyes. "Dad. Being gay is not going to go away because it's inconvenient for you and the plans you have for my life."
Jason stood up from his chair, walked around his desk and pulled his son upright, then into his arms. At 5'5'', Daniel was as short and thin as his mother, and he his tall, broad-shouldered form of his father enveloped him.
"I know Daniel. Your mother and I know. That's why we looked for a boy who is gay and comes from a family that has values that are similar to ours."
"A boy?" Oh my God! And I thought an arranged marriage was a shocker. The person my parents want me to marry is a boy? Still, Daniel found the hug comforting. It also made it easier for him to speak to his father without having to look at him in the eyes.
"Yes, the person we want you to marry is a boy Daniel. He's gay like you, and his parents agree with us that you would be a good match. His family also has a business he's going to inherit, and they agree that he also needs to focus on that, not waste time hiding what he is and having sex with unsuitable young men and eventually causing a scandal."
"Hopefully, he'll pull you out of your shell a bit. Get you to communicate more, especially your family. Maybe you'll even have some fun. It's good for young couples to do things together." Jason said.
Daniel decided to ignore the "young couples" bit for a while.
"Who is it?" Daniel wanted to ask: "Will I like him? Be attracted to him? Will he be attracted to me? Or is he just going to feel trapped, like I do?"
Why am I thinking about that instead of how strange this whole conversation is? Daniel pulled away from his father, sat back down on his chair. Jason took it as a signal to also move back to his own chair.
"It's Michael Newberry."
"Huh? Michael? My friend Michael?" Mucho macho Michael, who has never met a skirt he didn't want to chase?
"Yes. Your friend Michael."
Thank God there's a loophole to this madness! Michael is not gay. So there was no way he would agree to the arrangement. He'll tell them know, and I'll be off the hook in no time at all. And without having to fight with my parents about it either.
"Apparently he's bi-sexual and-"
"What? Michael is bi? Why didn't I know about it?" Daniel asked.
"I don't know why he didn't tell you about it. Ask him. "
"I didn't even suspect that he could be gay or bi. How could I? I didn't think openly gay people were allowed to major sports. Even if the law says we can't discriminate and no one comes out and says it, I thought it was sorta not allowed.
"He's out to family, though it won't remain a secret once it becomes known that you two are in a relationship," Daniel's father said.
Relationship? We're not going into a relationship. We're pawns in our parents' business arrangement. And me? I just do what I'm told because I don't know what else to do, and I'm used to it and I'm not strong enough to fight you."And Michael agreed to this arrangement?"
"Yes. His parents told him about our plan after he finished high school, three years ago. And he agreed to it."
"I see. So that's why he started being friendly to me a couple of years ago"
"That's not true. From what I gather, he liked you well enough already, but didn't think that a relationship with you would be feasible. He expected to eventually marry a suitable girl, have children, and if he met a man he was interested in, it would be something on the side. Or at least, that's what his father tells me. Our arrangement simplified things for him."
"But why did he agree to this arrangement? If his family don't mind a male partner, why doesn't he wait until he meets someone he loves?"
I want to choose, Daniel thought. I want to be free to meet other boys like me, to hook up with them like they say it happens in stories. I want to look at man at a party fall in lust. I want to have sex, lots of sex, with someone who cares about me. Not be stuck to some guy who's used to being fawned over, and will probably tolerate me in front of our families and ignore me in private.
"In an ideal situation, you would both wait until you fell in love before making a commitment. But once I realised that you were gay, I researched the subject. And I learnt that life for gay men can be unusually rough. You'd have to have to deal with homophobic assholes who wouldn't mind the sex but would blame you afterwards, maybe even hit you. There'd be many more people who think that they can blackmail you about being gay because of who you are. And even if you're known to be gay, you'd have a problem with ambitious fortune hunters who think career success can come through sleeping with you. They would try to control our companies through you. His parents knew and accepted that he was gay. So it was easier for Grant, Michael's father and I, to come to an agreement. Michael agreed to it."
"Ah. I see. Risk management," Daniel mumbled.
"For my company? Most definitely," Jason said. "I don't like the fact that you turned out to be gay. Life will not be easy for you and there's always going to be some asshole who thinks they can short-change you in business because they think gay people are weak. And it makes your succeeding me in business complicated. I wanted to make sure that by the time it comes out that you are gay – and make no mistake, it would eventually come out – you'd be in a stable relationship that our business associates cannot find fault with. And yes, I also want to protect you, take out the most of the pitfalls of finding a life partner."
"And you think Michael is that person."
"Yes. Making your relationship work will not be easy. But then, marriage was never easy. But according to research I did, people in arranged tend to feel more in love as time grows. They even claim that those marriages work much better than those in regular marriages where the partners choose, because you didn't go into it blinded by passion."
"What about children? Heirs? Obviously he and I cannot have babies together."
"You can both use surrogates. There shouldn't be any legal difficulties and you'll both have to be very careful about who you choose to be a mother for your kids."
"How long have you been planning this?"
"Years. I realised that you were gay soon after you did. I think you were thirteen or something. You tried to talk to me about it, asked me what I thought about gay people, but I didn't listen and you got scared. So you shut us all down, stopped communicating with us about anything personal. I lost my happy little boy and he was replaced by this very polite stranger who did what he was told but didn't talk much. Or smile much either. So I watched you and once I was sure what the problem was, I had to rethink my position, and find another way to deal with the issue."
'And you think that being forced into an arranged marriage – even if it is with another young man – will make me happier?" Daniel said.
"I didn't expect you to like the idea at first. But, you're friends already, so that will help you both take the relationship to the next level.
"I gather the first date, if it can even be called that, has already been arranged too."
"You're angry," Jason noted flatly.
"Wouldn't you be, Dad? Wouldn't you be angry if someone took away your right to choose your life partner?"
"Yes, I would be. But then, I'm not facing the same problems you are. I'm heterosexual, and society gave me more leeway to choose to choose my life partner. Though my parents certainly did have something to say about my choices. So I understand a little bit of what you're going through."
"But not enough to let me go to university and explore and find someone to fall in love with like all other modern young men are doing."
"You already like Michael, and I thought you had a crush on him. So what's your problem? As for me, I can't afford to risk you like that. I don't want to make you think it's bad to be who you are, but you're so small, so thin compared to most males. And university students can be rowdy, and follow a gang mentality sometimes. It would be so easy for you to get into a dangerous situation with a stranger! I'd rather you were with someone I can trust to care of you and protect you."
Daniel felt a wave of exhaustion wash over him. It was not even ten o'clock in the morning and he was feeling overwhelmed by all the new information and developments. And the conversation with his father was going nowhere. It's not fair, he thought. This should have been a carefree day and I should have been out celebrating passing high school with my friends, not being outed by my Dad or being told that I will never get the chance to choose my life partner.
Daniel stood up. He wanted to cry, but knew it was just going to make him look like a baby. Or worse, confirm to his father than gay men are weak cry-babies.
"Can I go now?"
"Phone Michael and set up a meeting with him"
Yeah!. Drink and be merry, because tomorrow you may not be able to do it, Daniel mentally paraphrased the saying. "I wonder what Eric will think of this whole deal."