When I was a small child, around four years old, I was a big fan of the television show Soap, which was a sitcom-satire of soap operas. Soap featured the talents of Robert Guillame, the late great Richard Mulligan, the actors who would later play the dad on Blossom and Mona on Who's the Boss?, and, most importantly for the purposes of this story, Billy Crystal as Jodie Dallas.
Jodie was one of the first openly gay characters to regularly appear on an American sitcom, and his gayness was a source of many a cheap laugh. For example, on the pilot episode, when Jodie comes down for breakfast, his stepfather Burt (played ably by Richard Mulligan) says, "Why don't you get him some Froot Loops?" Laughter and applause.
As a four-year-old I didn't understand why certain otherwise unfunny things were funny just because they were said in relation to Jodie, but I figured that they had something to do with him being "gay." So I asked my mom what "gay" meant. Not wanting to embark on the task of explaining homosexuality to her four-year-old son, my mom punted and said, "Well, if you're gay it means you don't get married." An accurate, but by no means precise, explanation.
And so, I developed the understanding that not getting married somehow made you funny, and realizing the value of a good sense of humor even then, my path was chosen. Little did I know.
About a week later I was visiting my grandparents with my dad (who hadn't been privy to the Jodie conversation). At the time one of my aunts was planning her wedding, and there was much talk of weddings and marriage amongst the relatives gathered at my grandparents'. At one point one of my relatives said to me, "How about you, Matthew? When are you getting married?"
"Aw, I'm not getting married," I replied. "I'm gay."