LAist Interview: 'Regretrosexual' Explores What Happens When Your Boyfriend Tells You He WAS Gay
So yesterday LAist heard from actor-comic Dan Rothenberg, who created the autobiographical play Regretrosexual -- A Love Story -- about telling his girlfriend Colleen Crabtree that he went through a two-year gay period in San Francisco. Today we hear her side of the story.
So, your boyfriend of six months tells you that he went gay for two years. How did you take it, really?
Not well. It’s actually very accurate in the play...At first I thought he was joking. When I realized he was serious…well, I had been involved with plenty to men who were just a bad idea. Also, I was nearly engaged to a man who is gay and that left me thinking that I was somehow not feminine enough to attract a straight man. This was the last thing I wanted to hear. I felt very betrayed.
So, I jumped to conclusions out of a need to make sense of it. I incorrectly assumed that he was seeing men at the same time he was seeing me. So, in my mind, not only was Dan lying to me about our relationship, but he has put me in danger of being exposed to HIV.
At this point, I left the restaurant and ran across the street to my car. And I was getting out of there…It was over. Dan followed me as I angrily threw my purse inside and slammed my door, locking myself out of the car. And I truly believe that this was a moment of divine intervention. I thank God that I was stuck there with Dan and had nothing to do but try to understand him. I love Dan even more for hanging in there at this moment, even when I was saying almost cruel things to him and it was becoming clear that if I couldn’t be a big enough person to understand and accept him that maybe I just wasn’t worth convincing. But, I felt this need for Dan to define his sexuality for me. You know… “How gay are you, Dan?” I was clinging onto anything familiar to make sense of all of it.
After Dan made it clear he'd been honest and that HIV wasn't a relevant worry, it dawned on me that I was just afraid of what this meant about me. All those worries that this meant I wasn't feminine or that it meant I was somehow bisexual too...I'm thankful that I had the presence of mind to see that this was really my own problem. Suddenly, I could see that Dan was still the same good man that he was before. I loved him and we were just hopelessly attracted and -- I feel -- made for each other. Then after AAA came, I was shaken up, but actually over it and we went back to the restaurant, ate our meatballs and about three weeks later, any worry I had at all had disappeared.
Did you "suspect" his secret at all? Like did he spend more time coiffing than you in the morning? Did he prefer watching Bravo's "Blowout" to baseball?
It's actually the last thing you would suspect about this guy. Aside from being vain about his abs and using eye gel, Dan is a slob. He is a competitive jock, he's disgusted by shopping malls, he only likes gangster movies and Journey, he is completely disorganized and actually kind of gross - sorry Honey, you are. I really did think he was kidding when he told me.
What did your friends/family advise you to do with the relationship once you told them?
Well, I actually kept it from my Mom and my sister for about two years. It was sort of nobody's business, so it wasn't hard to do. My father is a conservative evangelical minister. So, even though I think my Dad is a great person, I was really afraid of what he would say. And in particular I dreaded my father's assumption that Dan was somehow proof that sexuality is a choice. Because I knew correctly that he would just choose to see it that way. I told my Dad after Dan and I had been married about a year. Dan was all over the Internet with a hit one-man version of this play, I think I had to fess up before they found out and were confused. When I finally told them, I have to say, all of them, even my Dad, handled it better than I assumed they would. By the time I told them, there was no advice to give. Everyone loves Dan and they had no worries that they expressed. Although, I'm sure that, like always, they were worried about what was unfamiliar territory.
So now there's been Dan's one-man "Regretrosexual," the two of you in "Regretrosexual - The Love Story" - what's the next chapter?
Well, after taking this show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and beyond... More writing together, I hope. We have several plans. One project will be based on a character I do in our show - that of the blonde "Impressed Girl." I think we are a great team that fights through ideas together well and we bring out the best in each other creatively. I look forward to writing projects that have nothing to do with Dan's sexuality only because it's exhausting dealing with people's fearful reactions to the subject of our play without even seeing it. But, it has been so worth it. We've had people thank us for writing it and for its positive message about sexuality. I am so proud of that.
We also hope that we will have a baby or dogs or a baby dog or possibly just a house.
And finally, what's the moral of your [love] story.
I feel there is an important message in our story: It is impossible to define someone's sexuality. We are too concerned about labeling people as gay or straight. Some gay people who hear this story without seeing the play have defensively stated that they believe I am in for some kind of horrible wake-up call one day that Dan is really gay. But, Dan hasn't been through some Christian conversion to heterosexuality; he's just been through life. Dan's been there, he had himself and everyone around him encouraging him to be gay and he just couldn't make it happen. And as he's said, if he actually was gay, wouldn't he have been gay back when he was gay? Even people who identify as bisexual are quietly ridiculed for not committing to one or the other. Isn't this also homophobia? We all feel more comfortable when things are defined and the fact is you just can't. I can't define Dan's sexuality any more than I can define love at all. I also see this show as proof that you can't choose sexuality, no matter how hard you try.