Brandt and Donnelly’s wedding is almost here, and you know what that means: bachelor party! Or, rather, Bachelors Party.
Brandt’s older brothers want to throw him the biggest bash in the history of bachelor parties, but the trooper is concerned—half the guests are straight, half are gay, and Brandt himself is still trying to figure out where he falls on the spectrum. But when Bryce joins in on the planning of the event, you know things are going to get crazy—and fabulous—before the night is out.
Meanwhile, med student Oliver Mitchell has found he can make more money than he ever thought possible bartending in a gay club. The fact that he’s straight adds a bit of complexity, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. At least until James Buchanan Whitford arrives at the club and starts paying Oliver special attention. James is a closeted politician whose sexual orientation turns out to be the least of his complications. Oliver gets drawn into a web of intrigue that makes him question everything in his life.
Brandt’s oldest brother, Liam, is the best man. He teams up with Bryce to plan the bachelors party and, as you can imagine, he finds the fabulous shop boy a little… hard to manage. This is their first conversation.
“Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Bryce.”
“Oh, the pleasure is all mine. I can hardly believe I’m talking with the original Brandt boy. You sound even more muscular than Ethan, if that’s possible.”
“I’m afraid it must be a bad connection. Ethan’s the looker in the family.”
“We shall see, we shall see. Now, how can I help with this bachelors party? It’s the first one I’ve ever been asked to participate in, and am I correct in understanding that it’s to be an all-male affair? Because then I can offer you a wealth of experience, both as a partygoer and as a service professional. In fact, some of the parties I have serviced have asked me to make it a regular thing, which is quite a compliment, given the competition in that area from each new crop of muscly country boys who land on our shores, eager to parlay their corn-fed charm into G-strings packed with fives and tens. My, my….” Bryce took a steadying breath. “Now, where were we?”
“I… actually have no idea.” Liam took his own steadying breath. “Well, when I talked with Ethan last weekend about the party, he was very concerned that we come up with a plan all the guests would be comfortable with.”
“You have come to the right man. I can be very comforting.”
“Here’s the issue, Bryce. Not all of the attendees are gay.”
“I have never been one to judge people on their shortcomings.”
“Ah, yes. That’s… commendable. But Ethan’s primary concern was that since a large number of the guys are straight, whatever we plan for the party should be something they will enjoy. But we don’t want to make the gay ones uncomfortable either.”
“Now, when you say straight, do you mean latent, in denial, or simply never tried it?”
“Never tried what?”
“Being gay, honey,” Bryce cried.
“Um… I guess what I mean is that they only have relationships with women.”
“Everybody has relationships with women. You can’t really avoid it—they’re everywhere.”
“I mean they have intimate relationships with women.”
“Mm-hmm, I see,” Bryce said thoughtfully. “Well, again, I’m not going to judge people for bad decisions they made in the past.”
“But these are guys who are in relationships with women right now. Some of them are married to women.”
“So you’re saying we need to be sure there are no cameras at the party. Very prudent of you. I’ll take care of the frisking myself, unless you prefer to have someone in uniform do it. Oh, I have just the man for you—though he can be alarmingly quick with the handcuffs. We’ll just tell him to keep his nightstick to himself.”
Liam sighed. “Bryce, I think you’re missing the point. About half the guests at this party don’t have sex with men. Never have, never will.”
Bryce’s laughter overwhelmed the phone connection. “And I suppose they’ll be coming to the party in pumpkin coaches? Your little brother is a hoot, but you, sir, are hilarious!”
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Liam said, slowly.
“And you’re modest too. What a charmer.” Bryce took a breath, wiping the tears of hilarity from his eyes. “We both know that straight guys don’t actually exist.”
“Oh, nothing to be sorry about. It’s just not what nature intended.”
“I don’t follow—”
“If men were not intended to have sex with each other, then why do locker rooms exist? And the British Navy? What need would we possibly have for football or the priesthood, except as foreplay? Oh, the very idea!”
“Bryce, I don’t know how to break it to you, but straight men actually exist.”
“Oh, when you make a joke, you commit. That’s wonderful. All right, I will play along. Now, these straight men you are talking about, you say they’ve never had sex with a man, and don’t intend to?”
“So they’ve never touched another man intimately? Not in high school, when the hormones are raging? Or in college, when they’re thrown together in dorm rooms and forced to spend every moment with other men, even in the showers? You’re telling me that there are men out there who have never touched, kissed, or had a sexual thought about another man, ever, in their entire lives?”
“Well, I’m sure there are men out there who—”
“What about you, Mr. Big Brother Brandt? What about you? Can you tell me in all honesty that you have never laid a finger on your fellow man?”
Liam was silent for a moment.
“I don’t mean to pry,” Bryce continued, “and though I would guard your privacy with my very life, you are under no obligation to tell me any personal details. But I would simply ask you to reflect on whether your own life has been as straight as you claim the men at this party will be.”
Liam’s silence continued a little longer. “Well… I don’t know why I’m telling you this.” There was a sound over the line of a door being closed. “But there was a time in high school when a couple of buddies and I… well, there was some touching. Just the once, though.”
“Ah, just as I had predicted. Thank you for trusting me with that information, which I shall hold in strictest confidence—especially tonight when I am in the bath. But let’s return to your definition of straightness. For reference, I believe you said it involved men who ‘never have, and never will’ have sex with another man. Does that fit your situation?”
Again, a pause on Liam’s side. “I don’t know that I would call that one awkward grope sex.”
“Oh, so it wasn’t sexual, then. You were, perhaps, involved in an ad hoc study group for an anatomy midterm?”
Liam chuckled softly. “No, you’re right. Looking back on it, there was a sexual element to it. But we did it because we had no other outlet. It’s not like girls were throwing themselves at us.”
“They do that?” Bryce asked in a shocked whisper. “My, my. Heterosexuality is like another country.”
“They don’t literally do that, no. And certainly not at pimply-faced hormonal teenage boys. But that’s my point: in the absence of any willing female, guys will sometimes turn to other guys out of desperation. It’s like what happens in prison, or in your beloved British Navy.”
“I’m not ashamed to report that I am intimately familiar with what happens in both places, having viewed both the entire run of Oz and several tours of HMS Pinafore.”
“I see. Well, my point is that men will turn to sex with other men in those situations; it doesn’t mean they’re gay. It’s called situational homosexuality.”
“Oh, is it? Mm-hmm. So when one of your straight men makes the argument that he could never have sex with another man, what he really means is that he could never have sex with another man unless the conditions were right? Something involving a dimly lit prison shower or some kind of musical production number on a sailing vessel?”
“No, that’s not what—”
“Because if a man is capable of having sex with another man under any circumstances, then he is capable of having sex with another man, full stop.”
“I beg to differ. If there are no other options, then it doesn’t make him gay. It simply means he had no other options.”
“You are welcome to beg, dear. I do enjoy that. But what you are asking me to believe is that in those situations, sex is more important than heterosexuality.”
Liam was silent for a moment. “Well, in a sense.”
“So summing up, your definition of heterosexuality is that quality that makes men want to have sex only with women, unless there are no women around, in which case they will have sex with other men but call themselves heterosexual because they would have chosen to have sex with a woman, save for the unfortunate fact that no women presented themselves. Heterosexuality is, therefore, dependent upon the presence of women. Which means that men who have sex with women are merely situationally heterosexual. Or do I misunderstand your argument?”
“Um, well….” Liam cleared his throat. “I think we have to look at who they would choose to have sex with. If a man in prison would prefer to have sex with women, then we would consider him straight. Even if he… um, has sex with other men.”
“Ah, so sexuality is entirely dependent on what one chooses to call oneself, regardless of the actual sex one is having? I would counsel caution along that line of reasoning, my dear, because it leads to the conclusion that heterosexuality is just as much a choice as homosexuality, and it need not have any basis in actual practice. Now, personally, I like the sound of that very much, because it means anyone can have any kind of sex they like and not worry about what to call oneself at Thanksgiving dinner with the family. But I think you’ll find that many straight men would prefer to think of their heterosexuality as being a permanent part of their character.”
“And yet that doesn’t explain all those prison assignations, does it? Or perhaps you have a different understanding of what constitutes a ‘permanent part of their character.’”
“This is all really confusing, Bryce. We’re just trying to plan a bachelor party.”
“Indeed we are. Look at me, getting all wrapped up in the Socratic particulars when there’s a party to plan. All I want to say is that we should perhaps worry less about whether everyone stays within their comfort zone, be that zone straight or fabulous, and more about how to make the evening memorable for our darling boys.”
“What do you think about two venues for the party—we could start at one where the straight guests would be more comfortable and then move to the other as the evening progresses?”
“Logistically speaking, I think it’s a wonderful plan, because it means by the time everyone’s getting tipsy, we’ll be in a place where they can all dance together. But are straight boys really so fragile that they need a protected environment in which to have a drink and socialize?”
“Let’s think about that. Do you have a place in mind for the second half of the party?”
“Oh, yes. There’s a newish club called Burn that I think would be perfect.”
“And this Burn, what’s it like?”
“Hot hot hot. Their dance floor is the stuff of legend, the music impeccably curated, and the staff—honey, one look at the bartenders and your straight boys are going to wish they were in prison.”
“I see your point about getting the straight ones drunk before we get there. I think it’ll make it easier for them. Now, is there a suitably straight place nearby? Something cigar- or sports bar-like?”
“Ah, of course,” Bryce replied. “A place for the men to suck on cigars and watch other men smash themselves together on television. Goodness, those straight-boy rituals can be so hot.” Bryce paused to fan himself. “It just so happens, darling, that there is such an establishment not two blocks away. When it opened we all said ‘there goes the neighborhood’ because we feared it would bring in too many straight people and suddenly you can’t walk home at night without seeing heterosexuals pawing at each other on the street like animals, but I am happy to say that they seem to be behaving themselves.”
“Don’t like having heterosexuality shoved down your throat, eh?” Liam asked with a chuckle.
“Oh, quite the contrary,” Bryce replied. “I think we know each other well enough by this point for you to understand that my throat is quite accommodating to heterosexuality. It’s just when it involves women that I get a little queasy.”
Liam dissolved into laughter. “All right, my good man. How about this: since I live some distance from the city, can you pay a visit to the venues, and if they seem suitable, perhaps you can take Ethan and Gabriel there to make sure they’re comfortable with them?”
“It would be my great pleasure, sir,” Bryce replied.
“Excellent. Bryce, I look forward to meeting you in person.”
“As do I. Seeing you in the flesh will be a dream come true for me.”
“Uh, thanks? Anyway, it’s been great to talk with you, and let me know how it goes, okay?”
“I shall report back on our reconnaissance the very moment everyone sobers up. On that you may rely.”