WHAT ABOUT DAD?
Mom’s get all the love
I still remember the first time I got flowers. It was my first serious relationship, and they were delivered to the graphic design studio where I was working—my first job in DC. It was an open air setup (with glass walls, cubicles and such) so everyone could see when they arrived. It was Valentine’s Day, and my boyfriend had sent me a huge arrangement in a vase, which sat on the shelf in my cube for about a week, attracting non-stop Oohs and Awws from my female co-workers and comments like “You must have really put out” from the men. I was a wee bit embarrassed for being on the spot, but mostly loved the attention, and especially the thoughtfulness of my guy.
Just after this past Valentine’s Day, I asked a bunch of guys if they’d ever received flowers—if they liked it or not, if it made them feel embarrassed or emasculated, etc. Here are some of my favorite answers—which of course all support my philosophy that Real Men Stop and Smell the Roses.
“Good flowers, the ones that live longer than a mayfly, are great to give and greater to get. The closest thing I have to a spouse right now is John, who sent me a vaseful when I was in the hospital last fall. It was perfect.”
Doug, former WWE wrestler, stunt double for John Cena*
It’s late February, and once again there’s ice and snow on the ground. And once again I’m hauling my kid to the mall to burn off energy (and preserve my sanity) in that germ-infested swarm known as the Play Area. As soon as we step off the bottom step to the mall’s lower level, JJ immediately charges in the direction of the indoor plastic playground. Out of instinct—and fear of him running headfirst into an adult crotch—I start the awkward walk-jog of an exhausted, out-of-shape dad in hopes of snatching him from the jaws of danger or a lawsuit. I haven’t shaved or bathed (it’s Sunday – when cleanliness is far from godliness), and I’m wearing a slight variation of the clothes I’d worn the previous day. I’m blending in quite nicely with the other beleaguered parents, walk-jogging through the mall like suburban zombies.
I’m ending my long weekend the way I began it — hanging out in an airport for 4+ hours. Different airports — Baltimore on Thursday, New Orleans on Sunday — but they both have the same unsettling mixture of being simultaneously busy, anxious and lonely. Or maybe that was just me. I’ll spare you the details of my traveling travails, but between the Polar Vortex and my own absentmindedness, it was a wonder I got anywhere I was trying to. And I’m not even on my plane home yet.
I had considered waiting until I’d had a chance to “decompress,” catch up on work, and generally give myself a chance to create something more brilliant and insightful. But I’m taking this time in limbo to journal my impressions of Dad 2.0 Summit while they’re still fresh.
As my arrival in New Orleans was 6 hours later than planned, I missed the conference’s opening party. I had to force myself not to imagine all the hugging and backslapping and toasting going on as my network of dad blogging pals reconnected or (as in many cases) met in person for the first time. My tireless and generous friend Don left said party to pick me up from the airport (it was his fourth trip of the day) and as I trudged wearily into the lobby of the hotel, several of the men I’d become closest to came bounding out of the bar to greet me with all that hugging and backslapping I’d not been dwelling on. As I made my way through the lobby and up to my room, I was met with cheers of “Brent!” from even more of my until-then virtual friends. I felt like a rock star. Or at least Norm. It was already shaping up to be a pretty stupendous time.
After a very late dinner of bourbon and beer (and more meeting and backslapping and hugging), I called it an early night.
Though many folks are now in total “Back to school” mode, Labor Day weekend brings the final warm breath of summer. So in honor of the season’s passing, I thought I’d share my summer-long Instagram project, #DADSOCKS. Yes, pictures of my socks. Let me explain…
Shortly after JJ was born, a friend complimented me on a new jacket. It was a spiffy argyle design that made me feel particularly dad-like, without being too boring or conservative. It’s still one of my favorite things to wear. I responded to their compliment, “Thanks! It’s part of my ‘Dad Drag.’” To which they replied, “It’s not drag anymore. You’re an actual dad, dude.”
I realized I’d been seeing myself as “playing dressup” to a degree — that I didn’t yet see myself as a full-on father. Or maybe I was still enjoying the newness of parenthood, like a new jacket. It fit me well, improved my appearance, but was still in the process of becoming a part of my regular wardrobe identity.
Fast-forward a couple of years; I’m deep in the trenches of toddlerdom. There’s no question in my mind I’m a dad, and that most people see me that way. Which suits me fine. I’ve fully embraced the role, which includes the wardrobe. Yet dressing like a dad can be an unattractive undertaking. Comfort is key, as is flexibility. And lots of pockets. The ability to carry several bags, push carts and strollers and sometimes carry a kid, all at the same time, is key — so no skintight, hipster, layering nonsense.
Men in general — and dads in particular — have fewer wardrobe choices with which to express themselves. Being not only a gay dad, but a designer dad… the whole black hoodie/gray sweats/white sneakers combo just ain’t gonna cut it. Which is where #DADSOCKS comes in.
When someone says “dad socks” you’re likely picturing a guy wearing dark socks with sneakers. Or perhaps dress shoes & socks with shorts. Maybe white tube socks with sandals. Whatever the scenario, it’s not pretty. So this summer I took that tired and true look and amped it up, pairing my loudest socks with sneakers, but doing it with confidence and style. I got quite a few compliments, and more than a few odd looks, particularly when I was photographing my feet. But it was fun! And on more than one occasion, I found myself getting impatient with JJ for one thing or another and I’d look down, see what I was wearing and think, “I can’t be that grumpy, scowling dad — look at what fun socks I have!”
Maybe you think I’m delusional. Or perhaps color blind. I don’t care. I’m a dad, dammit! I will wear what I want, be comfortable, and look good doing it!
Now please enjoy these photos of my socks.
MY TOP 10 FAVORITES:
About a month ago, a clever fellow named Oren Miller started a Facebook group for dad bloggers and invited me to join in. Since then, our numbers have grown to about 80 and it’s been great “meeting” all these other fathers, sharing our voices and experiences of parenthood, and generally being networking nerds.
As we neared the end of the year, I floated the idea to Oren of having everyone share their favorite post from 2012, as a way of further introducing ourselves (and to get more readers and comments and such). Seems like everyone dug the Best Of idea, as there have been over 20 shared so far!
So if you get a moment while the year is still shiny and new, click through a few of these (after the jump) to see what a bunch of thoughtful, hilarious, imperfect, awesome dads have to say. It’s a very cool cross-section of geography, family makeup and parental insight, as well as a broad array of thought and emotion. From a bunch of men. Who knew?!?
For my own Best of 2012, I was considering this one, as it documented one of the most celebratory moments of my year/life. However, I decided on one that preceded it — partly because I’d like to think this post and the subsequent funds raised helped achieve marriage equality in my state, and partly because I wanted to show off my crazy collage one more time…
Gays, Muppets, Chicken + Jesus – Brent Almond/Designer Daddy
Victory Speeches, Birthday Wishes & Wedding Bells
Exhausted from a very trying week and a half, I stayed up as late as I could to watch election (and Question 6) results last night. I gave up around 11 and trudged upstairs to get ready for bed — and when I came out of the bathroom, the election had been called for Obama. I went to sleep happy about that, but stressed knowing the votes for Question 6 were uncomfortably close.
I woke up around 1am to pee, checked Facebook and started tearing up reading all the posts about the victory for marriage equality in Maryland. And not just general “Woohoo!” posts, but status updates from several friends announcing their intentions to get married in 2013, as well as many, many posts, emails and messages to me personally congratulating our family.
After my 1am nature call/sigh of relief/internal jump for joy, I updated my Facebook status:
Woke up to pee and am now tearing up after checking Facebook and seeing that same-sex marriage will finally be legal in Maryland. Can’t wait to tell Jon in the morning (on his 3rd birthday) that Daddy and Papa are gonna get married!
But at 6:30am (after a very un-fitful night of non-sleep) I was awakened by JJ turning on our light and then loudly whining because Papa couldn’t play with him because Papa had to plunge the toilet and couldn’t find said plunger, so then I had to get up and help hunt for it, as well as appease the cranky (now) 3 year-old and change a very wet diaper. Needless to say, there were no birds chirping sweetly, flitting about and putting wedding garlands in my hair.
But as I was changing JJ’s diaper, I wished him Happy Birthday and told him I had a special birthday surprise for him: Daddy and Papa were going to get married! His reaction was to stare in mild confusion and disinterest. I reminded him he had been to Uncle Baby’s and Aunt Amy’s wedding (which he was too young to remember)… still no reaction. I told him, “You get to be the ring bearer!” <Blinks>
A few minutes later when Papa came downstairs, I asked JJ to tell Papa what I’d told him. I of course had to jog his memory about the whole marriage thing, but when I asked him to tell what he (JJ) was going to do at the wedding, he declared proudly, “I”m get to ring the bell!”
We already have rings, so we don’t technically need a ring bearer. And besides, the image of JJ running around ringing a big, loud bell after his Daddy and Papa say their legal “I Do’s” seems just about perfect.
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Here are a few of my favorite congratulatory messages:
Congrats to Marylanders! Brent & Nick, I am so there when (and if) you decide to get married. Whether it’s a big blow-out like last time or a quiet city hall affair, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Love you both!! And your little boo-boo too!
My old friend Brent is just one of many citizens of Maryland who can finally get married to the person he loves! Let go of prejudice! Gold bless America!
My [Facebook] feed is pretty good for now. A few people have been negative nancies, but not too bad. I have one friend in Maryland who made me teary this morning because he got up to pee in the middle of the night and saw that gay marriage is now legal in his state… he was so happy that he could tell his son today, on his 3rd birthday, that his dads are going to get married. That made me happy.
HUGS!!!! Yay to your family!!!
CONGRATULATIONS my friend!!! Happy happy joy joy!!
I just found out that my brother and his partner of 15 years are now allowed to get married and have a “legal” family with their son. I love and look up to them both so much. They set such a wonderful example and inspiration not as gays but as people who love and make it work every day. They’ve taught me so much over the years and guided me out of my naiveté, to prevent heartache and prolonged drama that plague so many in our community. They deserve the best life and happiness. When I grow up, I want to be just like them.
It took me forever to find the four Father’s Day cards I needed to buy this year. Yes, I said FOUR: one for Papa from me, one for Papa from JJ, one for my Dad from me, and one for my Dad from JJ. I realize I could do some doubling-up there, but being a 2-dad household makes Father’s Day a pretty big deal, and I want to make sure everyone gets all the love and appreciation in paper form that they so richly deserve.
Here are a few things I learned from my quest for the perfect Father’s Day cards…
Father’s Day cards are the most goofy and sexist of all the greeting card industry-created holidays. In my vast multi-store research, I’ve found they generally fall into four themes hackneyed clichés:
4. TIES / BRIEFCASES, AKA: While I appreciate that you work to support our family, please be aware that I spend way more time with the kids, so you’re kind of a second-class parent… Are the burgers done yet?
Keep in mind that ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of these cards were created with the assumption they’d be purchased by women for their husbands, fathers, or husbands’ fathers. So there seems to be (at least in the sampling I’ve presented to make my point) a whole lotta generalization and stereotyping going on here. Where are the cards for the dads that DON’T like to grill or hammer or wear a tie or spend their days in a recliner glued to ESPN?
And if you’re a dad who sleeps next to another dad, forget it. It’s hard enough finding a gender-neutral Valentine’s Day or Anniversary card in anything resembling a mainstream retail store. Try finding a Father’s Day card to a husband FROM a husband. It’s about as common as a department store ad depicting two kids with their gay dads. It’s out there, just not a lot of people are doing it.
Luckily, there are some folks at least trying. Family Equality Council and Children’s Tylenol created some same-sex Father’s Day e-cards you can customize and send for free. This is a great idea and I applaud the effort. My only beef is that they are for both dads together. I’m my own person, and so is Papa. Joint Father’s Day cards might be okay for those freaky couples who share an email address, but not us. Plus, JJ knows us as “Daddy” and “Papa” — he doesn’t get yet that he has two fathers.
On the topic of Papa, I’ve mentioned before the lack of non-grandpa “Papa” references out there. The same applies to greeting cards. Unless I’m mistaken, these cards are not singing the praises of the Spanish-speaking, gay Papas of the world.
I know I’ve done a lot of griping here, so I want to end with how excited I am at how things are changing and becoming more accepting and supportive of families like ours. President Obama, JCPenney, the myriad of GLBT advocacy groups — they’ve all contributed to what’s been an incredible few months for gay Americans. Even so, there’s still an abundance of hatred and violence and plain old ignorance — and lots of work still to be done.
Speaking of work, one of the things I found particularly humorous in the hammock-themed cards is that they all talk about how “It’s your day, relax! Kick up your feet! We’ll do all the work today!” Again, these were intended for men with wives who had their own special day the previous month, and presumably do all the heavy lifting the third Sunday in June. What do you do when you’re both supposed to relax? Let the kid run wild? Maybe it’s just because our kiddo is 2-1/2, but there’s no such thing as a relaxing Sunday in our house, Father’s Day or otherwise. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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(PS: I did find some pretty great cards for all the wonderful guys in my life, which I will be sharing with them privately. However, none of them even comes close to fully expressing how lucky I am to have such a wonderful Dad, loving husband and incredible son. So maybe next year I’ll just design my own…)
As a bonus, here’s one final card, which I think includes pretty much all of the aforementioned clichés:
If you’re like me, you have grand ideas of introducing your children to the most educational, entertaining and all-around awesome things your city has to offer. But Holy brainfreeze, Batman! Who has time to think of something new and exciting every weekend?!?
Wonderdads, that’s who! I recently discovered them (rather, they discovered me, asking if I’d review their DC book) and was instantly excited by how helpful this site, book and networking opportunity could be!
Wonderdads: Washington DC is wonderfully comprehensive: it contains scads of activities, outdoor parks, restaurants, sporting events and tons of shopping. There’s even a “Unique Adventures” category, which lists one of our favorite new discoveries, Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. My only beef is that the neighborhoods don’t extend beyond DC proper further than Bethesda (on the Maryland side), and it lumps of all of Northern Virginia into a “NoVa” category. Here’s hoping Wonderdads expands its reach as its popularity grows.
The web site is similar to the book, but showcases over 40 different cities across the US, each subsite offering information on how, where and when to take your kid. Also like the book, it’s broken down even further by neighborhoods/suburbs within each city.
Wonderdads can be a valuable tool for anyone, from first time tourist to born-and-raised. I’ve lived in the DC Metro area for over 15 years, so was surprised both the site and DC book include things I’ve never even heard of. And if you’re a new Dad like me, Wonderdads is great to help you see your town from a kid-friendly perspective. Sorry, no bars or nightclubs listed here…
Another great feature is a weekly email you can sign up for that sends you a top 10 of “What To Do This Weekend.” Each week’s list includes a wide range of fun stuff to do, from as simple as “Play Three-penny Hockey” to “Teach kids about tools and how to use them safely” and “Then build something together.” Making snacks, taking trips, getting crafty, educational stuff — it’s all here, culled together from every corner of the interwebs for your convenience.
All in all, Wonderdads (both book and site) is an excellent resource — an endless supply of ideas for ways to spend time with your kids, and great at helping dads (and moms!) everywhere be the superhero they were destined to be!
Alrighty, I am VERY much behind on my Advent doodles, due to the fact I was singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So the drawings for those days are going to be done retroactively (Ghost of Christmas Past, anyone?) and based on some of the songs we performed…
Today (December 16th) illustrates “Angels We Have Heard On High” and also happens to be my Dad’s birthday, so this one’s also for him…
I grew up an Air Force brat, so our Christmases looked a little different from year-to-year. Some years we had live Christmas trees and snowdrifts up the side of the house, others were spent in tropical climates, where Poinsettia bushes grew in the front yard. But one of the few enduring holiday traditions of my childhood (and beyond) was my Dad sitting us all down to read the Christmas story (from the Bible, not the movie) before opening presents. As a child that was pretty annoying at times — it certainly killed our amped-up, pre-present-frenzy buzz. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it a nice way to ease into the mayhem, remind us of the love we have for each other as a family, and that what we get/give really doesn’t matter in the end.
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1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
I’ve seen a couple of dad-centric ads lately that made me smile. Not just because they were funny, but because they depicted dads being good parents without a hint of irony. Okay, maybe there’s a hint of it — but they definitely aren’t depicted as not knowing their way around the kitchen, running screaming from a diaper, or some other modern father stereotype. Instead they show warmth, competence, and that these guys actually enjoy being dads.
The first is a Tide commercial I saw the other night, and just loved the interaction between the father and his little girl. Very matter-of-fact, no OMG-The-Dude-is-doing-a-girl’s-hair sound effects. Just father/daughter awesomeness.
A longer version takes a slightly different direction, using the phrase “Dad Mom.” (I guess Mr. Mom is trademarked?) I didn’t like it as much as the first one, as it veered closer into the “Why is a man doing a woman’s job?” territory. But still sweet overall in its tone.
And finally, I spotted this print ad in Entertainment Weekly, from the normally über-macho Chunky Soup folks. In the past Chunky has tiptoed to the sensitive side by showing NFL players with their moms in spots I found both goofy and unable to relate to. But this ad — while still quietly touting their NFL connection — shows a “real” man: playing with his kids, letting down his guard, being there for them.
Thanks Tide and Chunky, for busting out of the stereotypes — keep up the good work!