When you're in your first gay relationship you learn that holding hands will turn heads. At first you think it's because people are offended, but then you clock that they're sensing something is different and are just checking to see what it is.
Quite honestly, *most* people don't really care, and this makes you feel awesome.
And if they *do* care, you hold hands even tighter (if it is safe to do so). You also put on some sort of "don't fuck with me" face you invented, and feel like a million dollars.
Oddly, the most awkward moments in your first gay relationship are when people go out of the way to show how proud they are of you holding hands. They stare like a proud parent on their child's first day of school, or give you the same facial expression they would give a lost puppy who is desperately seeking a cuddle.
You don't mind seeing this facial expression. It's still one step up from the complete strangers who come up and say "you guys look so cute together".
When are you more likely to hear "you guys look so cute together"? It's twice as likely to happen in a pub, five times more likely to happen at a music gig.
Double that if people are drunk.
You get the knack of responding with, "Oh… Thank you." Even though you have mixed feelings about being congratulated for doing something all couples (gay or straight) do without thinking, you can't be bothered to make that point back to them.
And you know it could be worse. There are also people who make jokes about how your boyfriend looks like you, or how you're just like twins. Or ask who is top or who is bottom. Or ask you directly in a serious news interviewee voice whether you have both come out to their parents. These people can do one, quite honestly.
You get used to people asking how "you guys met". Each time you're asked this you wonder whether gay people get asked this question more than straight people, in case they think that how gay people meet is more interesting.
Still, you tell them how you met anyway. The first time it takes about 30 minutes.
After about six months you've nailed this story down, like a comedian performing this as a stand-up routine. It's like you're on autopilot. Someone asks you. Bang. "So we met one Friday-night drinks and..."
The tenth time? Two minutes to tell it all it. You even start automatically giving yourself constructive criticism according to how they react. You think, "The llama joke caused Jessica to laugh more than it did with Daniel."
Each time you tell it though, the facial expression of your audience is the same. It's the facial expression of a person slowly realising that your relationship story is no more interesting than a straight bloke talking about theirs.
"So you didn't meet in a gay bar?"
"So you didn't meet on Grindr?"
"So you didn't meet in the skip directly behind your local Tesco Extra?"
"Would you like to get married?" You respond: "Errrr. we've been out for four months. I don't even know what I'm having for dinner yet."
"Would you have a conventional wedding or a different wedding?" You feel compelled to shout back: "I WOULD LOVE A WEDDING WITH LASERS."
"Would you like to have kids?" This is asked as if having some kids would be some heroic feat. You've thought about kids as much as any person your age, so you're tempted to say, "I'd rather have an iPad and a house with underfloor heating."
A good side to gay relationships? When you stay round their flat on a weeknight and you can't be bothered to go back to yours before work the next day, you can wear their clothes to work. Any of their clothes. Including their boxers.
A bad side to gay relationships? You get used to wearing their clothes so much you don't go home. You're then constantly worrying that all of your housemates think you're dead.
When doing romantic things you can experience problems. While having a romantic massage with your other half at a nice spa, for instances, the masseuses, thinking you're just male business associates on a business trip having a massage as a freebie, might ask things like, "So, how long have you been working together?"
Instead of explaining, "Oh, this is my boyfriend, we've been out for six months, the sex is good etc", you weirdly end up just going along with the "Yes, this is my business associate" play. You're not ashamed. You just can't be bothered to correct them.
It's the same with checking into a hotel and finding you haven't got a double bed. You can go to the front desk to complain, or you can just slam your beds together.
And sometimes the hotel gives you two rooms instead of one. At first you feel like walking up to the front desk explaining the situation, but then you think, "Fuck it, I don't want to wait for a shower in the morning. Bye bye boyfriend bye." *slams door*
TV provides very little help in your first gay relationship because you hardly ever see them portrayed. You've got nothing to go on. Most relationships depicted are full of scandal, or are short term. After a while you wonder where your relationship fits into this – the relationship where both of you pass out on the sofa after a chicken pasta dinner.
What isn't missing is an acknowledgement of how far gay relationships have come. The fact that, if you're lucky enough to live in a reasonably gay-friendly place, you don't have to live a lie or hide any sense of romantic affection.
The fact is, gay relationships are the same as straight relationships in nearly every way, shape, and form. Exhilarating, full of hope and expectation, bewildering, and, at times, complicated. Dramatic highs, horrific lows, and absolutely everything in between, all crammed into a insignificant time, making you proud and frankly scared.
And that's how relationships should be. That's how relationships should be for everyone.