“It’s just not there. In my head. It’s not an option. It never was. it’s not my fault they went and invented it. I knew when I was ten years old I’m never getting married. It’s never, never, never been there,” Henry tells Lance, explaining why his immediate reaction was so negative. “And then you met me,” Lance asks hopefully. “It’s just something I’d like, that’s all. I’d really like it. I’d love it. I would love it. So, will you think about it?” “No,” Henry tells him vehemently, before trying to spin the conversation away from a serious reckoning of the state of the relationship. “The thing is that we’re fine. We’re as good as we ever were. It’s great the way we’re having this conversation. We need to look at ourselves. I’ve been saying I’ll lose weight, and I really will, and you could lose some too, and then we’ll be sexy, and we’ll be fine.” He goes on and on, as the music comes up, and disappointment rises in Lance’s face.
“Cucumber,” which is an hour-long drama, and “Banana,” a half-hour series about a younger group of gay men, including Dean (Fisayo Akinade), are a lovely articulation of an important idea. Many of the arguments against marriage equality in the United States, an issue that may soon be settled nationally, have centered on the idea that admitting same-sex couples to the institution would irreparably alter it. But making marriage an option for those couples inevitably changes LGBT life too, if only by widening the scope of experiences available to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
For Henry and Lance, the possibility of marriage forces them to confront the things that have caused them to drift apart. After Henry puts the final kibosh on Lance’s proposal, Lance goads him back by initiating a threesome at a club, a gesture to the sort of wild, experimental life he thinks Henry wants instead of loving monogamy with him.
But that’s not what Henry wants at all, and as they take a young man home, he gets increasingly panicked. The whole sorry spectacle ends with Lance telling Henry how dissatisfied he is with their sex life and Henry calling the police to get rid of the third man, which results in Lance’s arrest. It’s a measure of how difficult it is for the couple to communicate, given the new options available to them, that the episode features a gay man actually inviting the police to intervene in his sex life, a rather historically fraught proposition, rather than face the heartache that awaits him otherwise.
Something similar happens in the first episode of “Banana.” The episode starts with an elegiac sequence: Dean spots a gorgeous stranger on the bus, and, making eyes at him, imagines their future as it might have been in an earlier era. He fantasizes about hot sex, sweet glances over a bottle of red wine, a cough that won’t go away, X-rays and his lover’s inevitable death at home, where he’s attended to by both Dean and a nun. He and the stranger get off the bus, smile at each other and go their separate ways. They have more options than a previous generation did.
Dean has his own communication problems, too: He’s short on rent money and is embarrassed to ask his parents to tide him over. When he goes home for a visit, intending to humble himself, it’s their interest and support that drive him nuts in the way of 19-year-olds everywhere who are caught between independence and the awkwardness of youth. So Dean fabricates a story for his roommate in which they reject him for homophobic reasons to cover for the fact that he was too afraid to request the money.
Both of these scenarios risk minimizing homophobia, a force that is sadly alive and well in Britain, as well as here in the United States. But Dean’s and Henry’s predicaments get at something important: Advances towards equality still leave us, no matter who we are, with our own very human, very personal problems. And sometimes, as the possible of marriage does for Henry and Lance, these changes bring difficulties of their own.