Fran Drescher, best known for her starring role in 90’s sitcom “The Nanny,” appeared on Good Morning America yesterday to talk about her latest television project, “Happily Divorced,” premiering tonight at 10:30 pm on TV Land. In it, Drescher plays an L.A. florist whose husband ends their decades-long marriage when he comes out of the closet.
“Happily Divorced” was created and written by Drescher and her real-life husband of 21 years, Peter Marc Jacobson, who also co-created “The Nanny.” It just so happens that two years after Drescher and Jacobson divorced, Jacobson announced that he’s gay. Drescher credits her uterine cancer survival with having “re-calibrated” her life with her ex, allowing them to become friends. She swears they didn’t divorce because her ex was gay, which is maybe why she’s not bitter about it. But Drescher does admit to missing some red flags while she was married to Jacobson. She told the Huffington Post, “He was very into my wardrobe, picking out my clothes, buying my clothes, picking out my shoes, discussing my makeup. But he was a very controlling person, and I kind of assumed it was him being a Svengali, which he was. He was also very into musicals, show tunes, Judy Garland, Diana Ross, Cher.” But, she says, “At the time, the ‘metrosexual’ was becoming a part of pop culture, so I chalked it up to that,” a sentiment she repeated on GMA.
Drescher should count herself one of the lucky ones, if not the luckiest broad to ever have been married to a gay man. Sure, Hollywood is rife with starlets who’ve survived marriages to boys who like boys: Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, (like mother, like daughter!) Carrie Fisher, Katie Holmes (okay, okay)… but not every woman gets out of a “Brokeback Marriage” so unscathed.
Juliet Jeske, a friend of mine who sings and hosts burlesque shows in downtown Manhattan, says the concept of “Happily Divorced” makes her cringe. Jeske ended her marriage about two years ago, after her husband told her he was gay. “I am going to my support group for straight spouses tonight and the group is already talking about it,” she says. “Although I still love my ex-husband and consider him my friend my divorce has been devastating.” Like Drescher, Jeske worked closely with her ex-husband, and she says, “Since our split, my income has been nearly wiped out.” She adds, “I also can’t figure out dating at all so… I wouldn’t say I was happily divorced.”
According to The New York Times, there are up to “3.4 million American women who once were or are now married to men who have sex with men.” The Times article on the subject, written in 2006, one year after “Brokeback Mountain” was released and two years after the Jim McGreevey scandal, seems largely biased toward gay men who feel compelled to lie to the women they marry. “On the whole these are not marriages of convenience or cynical efforts to create cover,” the article contends. “Gay and bisexual men continue to marry for complex reasons, many impelled not only by discrimination, but also by wishful thinking, the layered ambiguities of sexual love and authentic affection.”
The article goes on to quote Joe Kort, a clinical social worker in Royal Oak, MI, as saying, “These men genuinely love their wives. They fall in love with their wives, they have children, they’re on a chemical, romantic high, and then after about seven years, the high falls away and their gay identity starts emerging. They don’t mean any harm.”
Kort then goes on to essentially blame the female victims in these mixed-orientation marriages, saying, “Straight people rarely marry gay people accidentally. Some women find gay men less judgmental and more flexible, while others unconsciously seek partnerships that are not sexually passionate.”
Michele Weiner-Davis, marriage therapist and author, counters Kort by calling his conjecture “psychobabble.” She says, “A lot of gay people don’t know they’re gay. So how in the world are their spouses supposed to have some sort of gaydar? Therapists should deal with the real issues — the shock to her system, that her husband wasn’t who she thought he was and the impact on her own identity.”
That shock to the system is what the premise of “Happily Divorced” seems to overlook. (He’s gay but it’s no problem, we’re just going to set each other up with guys from now on and be best friends like nothing ever happened!) Please. After all, a gay man leaving a mixed-orientation marriage has the excitement of sexual discovery to look forward to, while the woman he leaves feels washed-up, confused and alone. Kiri Blakeley, Forbes blogger and author of Can’t Think Straight, A Memoir of Mixed Up Love, knows all about being left behind in a blur, her husband suddenly craving – of all things – a bear. Blakeley’s husband came out to her – and himself – after a decade of marriage. Blakeley writes:
I didn’t see much bleakness in Aaron’s future. He was cute and hetero looking and acting. Men would be all over him. His friends were not homophobic and would all support him. His family might be shocked, but they too would come around because Aaron was such a sweet, lovable guy (not to mention he had a gay sister who had not been ostracized). Within a year, he’d be living in Chelsea with his hair- stylist boyfriend, wearing muscle shirts and walking his poodle. Meanwhile, I’d be the head case who scares away men due to my tendency to scream Areyougayareyougayareyougay? If they prefer a Seinfeld rerun instead of sex. You hear that cliché: feeling like you’re in a waking nightmare. And so it was. I sat in a chair across from Aaron with my bare knees pulled up under my chin, frantically wondering, “When will I wake up from this? None of this can be real.”
– From CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT Copyright © 2011 Kiri Blakeley. All rights reserved. Published by arrangement with Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing Corp.
My criticism of the show’s premise aside, I do find Drescher to be a charming actress (I’ll admit to watching re-runs of “The Nanny” when I can’t sleep and nothing else is on – and besides, she was in Spinal Tap for God’s sake). I look forward to tuning in shortly to see if the comedy stylings of Drescher and her hilarious co-star (and fellow Christopher Guest collaborator) John Michael Higgins can override the objectionable premise. (Oddly, Higgins is straight, despite being known for playing flamboyant characters.)
Source and photo via Huffington Post
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