Around this time last year, I was feeling weighed down by both my age and my weight. The strain of my mental and physical health was taking a toll, and I was becoming increasingly less social. So when my husband asked what I wanted to do for my 50th birthday, I half-heartedly suggested a trip. I was in no mood for a big party, to be the center of attention, to spend hours around other people pretending to be upbeat and happy.
Then somewhere along the way, I took some much-needed steps to resetting my life. As these steps grew into leaps and bounds, I gained confidence, got excited about life again, and determined that I did, in fact, want a party. Inspired by a friend’s 90s-themed birthday, I decided to show these Millennials how it’s done and throw the most bodacious 80s-themed party ever!
If I’ve learned anything these past nine years of fatherhood, it’s that pampering yourself, partying with friends and blowing off steam are VITAL to being an effective, happy and sane parent. Having also been in a creative slump, this birthday party became a great outlet for me to flex my design muscles in fab, fun ways.
If you were there, thanks for celebrating with me! If not, here’s a taste of how much fun I had turning 50… and here’s to 50 more!
[click all pics to enlarge]
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WANNA’ BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’
The invitation was going to se the tone — and hopefully get folks excited to come — so the pressure was on for it to be beyond tubular. A few selfies, a little retro font hunting and a bit of Photoshop later, and voilà!
Pride this year didn’t go quite like I’d hoped.
When you’re a parent, things don’t always hardly ever work out as planned. You’d think after almost 10 years I would have figured that out, but I guess hope springs eternal. Especially when it comes to parades full of rainbows and glitter.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — the event widely regarded as the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. So Pride is a big deal this year. And as always, DC’s pride celebration fell on the weekend closest to my birthday… which this year also marked the 50th anniversary of ME!
But alas the universe had other ideas.
To say that Stan Lee and Marvel have had an impact on my life as a parent and my relationship with my son would be a galactic understatement. And while most may know me as a big comic book nerd enthusiast, I didn’t grow up a Marvel fan.
“WERE YOU A DC KID OR A MARVEL KID?”
That’s the ultimate question when it comes to classifying comic book fans. You have two choices and you can’t be both, lest it throw the multiverse out of balance or something. This battle between the superhero companies has raged on for decades, though it’s now spilled into the mainstream and involves multi-billion dollar movie and TV franchises.
I was an unapologetic DC kid. Maybe it was my age or the lack of older siblings or just the alignment of the planets, but my love for superheroes was sparked by a trio of campy TV shows featuring DC Comics characters: Batman, Super Friends, and Wonder Woman. Along the way, Aquaman became my all-time favorite character. The Superman and Batman films of the 70s and 80s were life-changing experiences. By the end of college, I’d amassed many, many boxes of comic books, 100% of which were DC.
While I’d been exposed to characters like Spider-Man and Hulk, Marvel’s roster as a whole seemed so strange and underground and anti-hero-y to me. That all changed when I became a dad.
My son’s birth coincided closely with the release of the first Iron Man movie, which inspired me to declare myself an equal opportunity comic book dad. I was determined to buck the system —my son would be both a DC and a Marvel kid. But why would I make this seemingly impossible parenting goal?
As an English teacher and writer, my mother has been a huge influence on my own love of words. She and I have also enjoyed a lifetime of spirited political discussions. We’re not always 100% on the same side, yet there’s always a willingness to listen and an attempt to understand one another.
One of the first things I remember reading of my mother’s was a story about my great-grandfather (her maternal grandfather). While she describes him as a staunch Republican, both the GOP and Democratic party have evolved considerably since the 1960s and 70s. The takeaway is the importance he placed on voting, another value I proudly inherited from my mother… who obviously had a strong influence of her own.
A couple of months ago, Andy Alexander reached out to me about helping promote his line of custom Halloween wreaths. I get a lot of requests like this, but they rarely meet my two requirements of A) being related to kids/family/pop culture, and B) looking cool as hell. Not only did Andy’s work fit the bill, but he’s also a fellow gay dad! So instead of just sharing a blurb on Facebook, I wanted to dust off the old DDQ&A questionnaire so you can all get to know Andy, his family, and his work.
BONUS: Scroll down after the interview and enter to win one of Andy’s Grim Wreather creations just in time for Halloween!
Q&A with designer dad Andy Alexander
Walk me through the highlights of your design career .
I got my MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena; I studied fine art at UCLA as well. I took my first design classes at Art Center knowing that I’d eventually need a “real” job. After college I worked for Belkin doing interface design for gaming hardware, then for Geoff McFetridge (who I consider a mentor), and then at Napster from 2004-2010. There I started as a designer, working my way up to Creative Director, managing the internal design group. I was laid off during the 2010 recession and decided to carve my own path in both the art and design world. And here I am!
Kenny Baker • 1934-2016 • Rest In Peace
While the character of R2-D2 will be around for a long, long time, I wanted to pay respect to the actor who played him in the first six Star Wars films. Special effects aside, Kenny Baker was the one who brought everyone’s favorite droid to life.
In October 1977 I was eight years old, and my dad took me and my younger brother to see Star Wars. There were so many moments in that first viewing that have stayed with me ever since. Certainly the adventure and fantasy are incredible, but the characters are what make the films more than just a thrill ride. Luke was the everyman I related to most; Chewbacca, the furry bodyguard I wished I had; and R2-D2 was the loyal friend — filling the screen with mischief and humor, all without a face or uttering a word.
Not long after seeing the movie (maybe the same day?), we got our first Star Wars t-shirts. My brother got the one with Sand People; I chose R2-D2, and I never really stopped…
A friend recently asked if I was going to the Pride festivities in DC this year. And for the first time in nearly 20 years, not only was I not going — it had completely slipped my mind.
I came out as gay my first year in DC, and Pride has been an important part of my history ever since. I’ve braved the crowds as a newly single man, sung with the Gay Men’s Chorus from the main stage, took my brother to his first Pride as an out gay man, and marched in the parade with my husband and son, dressed as superheroes. DC Pride also falls near my birthday — often on the very day, as it did again this year.
But the weekend was already booked solid with decidedly non-gay activities, chores, and other familial stuff long before my friend’s reminder. On Friday night — as younger LGBTs were disco-napping and float-building — I was corralling my son into bed and mentally reviewing the weekend’s busy schedule, when I was inspired to create this graphic:
I posted it on Facebook Saturday morning, with this caption:
So how do LGBT parents celebrate gay pride? Well, for this gay dad, mimosas are replaced by juice boxes; Dykes on Bikes give way to tykes on trikes; shirtless go-go boys become toddlers streaking thru the sprinkler. And the only drag is us dragging our tired bodies to bed well before midnight.
Our hair may be grayer, but our lives couldn’t be any more colorful!
I don’t do a lot of memes, but I was feeling a bit out of the loop, and this made me feel a bit more Pride-y. By the reactions I got from many of my LGBT parent friends and readers, it rang true with them as well.
As a family with two dads, Mother’s Day can be challenging. It brings up questions from our son and can at times make him — and us — feel like an outsider. Yet even though he doesn’t have a mom, our son has inherited so much compassion, wisdom, and love from generations of great women.
One of these women was my maternal grandmother, Louise McCullough.
The photo above is of my grandmother, my mom, me and Jon from November 2010. Grandma Louise (or, more informally, Grandma Mac) had been in poor health, having undergone multiple stomach surgeries. She was in her mid 80’s and increasingly feeble, but continued to remain the strong, caring, opinionated matriarch she’d always been.
It’s been a banner year for same-sex parents. Marriage equality finally became the law of the land; and as marriages increased, so have the number of LGBT parents. Gay dads and lesbian moms appeared in national ads for soup, shampoo, pain reliever, and formula. And as is becoming a yearly occurrence, NPH and his family slayed with their Halloween costumes on social media.
Yet with all of this increased exposure and acceptance comes increased expectations; expectations to have THE MOST FABULOUS WEDDING, THE MOST PERFECT HOUSE, and of course THE MOST ADORABLE, WELL-BEHAVED CHILDREN. On top of that, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told how “lucky” or “blessed” our son is to have my husband and I as his dads. That’s nice and all, but that’s a lot of pressure. And I’m pretty sure he’d beg to differ sometimes. (See #2 below)
I’ve heard it said that parenting is the great equalizer. Stop by our house sometime, and we’ll be happy to demolish every stereotype you’ve ever heard about gay men being tidy… or put together… or having the energy to stay up past 9:00 pm.
So in lieu of THE MOST LEGENDARY HOLIDAY NEWSLETTER, I’m opting for something a little more honest. Unfiltered, even. Please enjoy a glimpse into our family’s 2015 — along with a few holiday “traditions” — in this (very loose) version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Two years ago I examined how major photo card companies failed to represent LGBT families even once in their holiday photo cards. I issued a challenge to the four companies profiled, pledging to employ the services of whichever company made the change first to be inclusive of same-sex couples/parents.
The companies I profiled were Tinyprints, Shutterfly, Minted, and Snapfish. I chose these four because they all sent me catalogs, and because they all ranked among the top photo card companies, according to Top Ten Reviews. In the two years since, I’ve received three and then two catalogs, respectively, and have indicated that in the data below. As in 2013, when reviewing each company’s online offerings, I looked at the first couple of pages of Holiday and/or Christmas cards. This generally included between 150-200 cards.
The results are a mixed bag of naughty and nice…