In the summer of 1984 I turned 16. I had a year of high school behind me and was living on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific. My dad was a military chaplain, and we’d moved to Okinawa, Japan the previous summer. For several months we lived in a house in Okinawa City, and the top floor consisted only of my bedroom and a wraparound balcony with a view of the ocean. Aside from the occasional gecko scurrying across the ceiling, it was a sanctuary of solitude for this eldest of four boys.
I had a pretty good first year of high school, as years of high school go. My grades were good, I made the tennis team, and had a solid group of friends. I’d even been voted “Cutest Couple” with a girl who I happened to be dating when the votes were cast, though soon after reverting to friend status.
By the summer of this story, we’d moved onto Kadena Air Force Base. Military housing is typically bland, but here was accented with island flavor: a clay tile roof, palm trees growing from the patio, poinsettia bushes along the side of the house. I hadn’t yet attained high school party-attendee status, so weekend nights were spent walking to the movies or bowling alley, days at one of the beaches scattered around the island.
At the end of that June, I bought Purple Rain at the BX. Over the course of the summer and into my sophomore year, Prince’s magnum opus was the soundtrack of our collective youth. Blasting from cars and boom boxes, on every Walkman, every track (and some B-sides) played nonstop at school dances.
Like Thriller the year before, Purple Rain crossed lines of gender, race, and genre. But it went even further, delving into and mixing sex and spirituality. This was exemplified most in the album’s two biggest hits. “When Doves Cry” dripped with sensuality, while “Let’s Go Crazy” sang of the afterlife with raucous, unpious fervor. The latter was a revelation for this preacher’s kid struggling not only with faith, but also with my sexuality… and what that meant for my own afterlife.
2015 was quite a year for me, for my family, and for several communities to which I belong. A flurry of sticky-note success; a milestone in equality; venturing into kindergarten; the return to a galaxy far, far away; the tragic loss of a friend — all of these contributed to one of the most eventful 12 months in my recent history. And it’s been exciting, fun, cathartic, intimidating, and inspiring for me to chronicle it all here (and a couple of other places) in word and doodle.
So if you’re a new reader curious to know what this site is all about, or a familiar friend sharing some moments of reflection, welcome. These are my 15 favorite blog posts of 2015.
Actress Yvonne Craig passed away Wednesday at the age of 78. She was most well-known for portraying Batgirl on the über-campy Batman TV show… and she was my first* favorite superhero.
Like many superhero-loving adults of a certain age, Batman was my favorite show growing up (just to be clear, it was already in reruns). I didn’t get most of the jokes or recognize the rogues gallery of guest stars, but it was awesome because it was “real people” (not cartoons), and oh so bright and colorful.
By now you’ve no doubt heard the term “Dad Bod,” and have subsequently seen a marked increase in the number of paunchy, fuzzy man-tummies in your strolls through the Internet.
The term was coined by a college student to describe her ideal guy: a less-ripped/more average fellow who she could cuddle up to and ultimately settle down with. This phenomenon has had beer-bellied men rejoicing, some women crying foul, and me wondering why this is news.
Dad Bods aren’t a new trend, at least not with the always-ahead-of-the-curve Gays. Gay men have been celebrating their stout brethren for decades, declaring definitively that Fat + Hairy ≠ Undateable. They’re called Bears, and as a card-carrying member of this cuddliest of gay subcultures, I want to officially welcome you to the party!
While not without their flaws and stereotypes, Bears pride themselves in being more accepting of the average-to-overweight man. Bears are the “real man’s” alternative to the cliché of a smooth, sculpted Adonis. And as a gay bear and a dad, I am undoubtedly the ultimate expert on what constitutes a “Dad Bod” …and how to make the most of it.
So to my hefty, hetero brothers, let me offer you some of my unsolicited expertise.
Yesterday one of the original members of Marvel’s X-Men came out as gay; and despite the usual online cynics and haters, I’m pretty stoked. While Iceman (aka Bobby Drake) isn’t as well known as fellow mutants Wolverine, Cyclops or Storm, he’s been consistently well-represented in and out of comics since the team of super-powered outcasts debuted in 1963.
In animation, Iceman was one of the “friends” on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and he makes appearances on Cartoon Network’s The Super Hero Squad Show. On the big screen, Iceman has been portrayed by actor Shawn Ashmore in four of the X-Men movies. He had the most screen time in X2, where his strained relationship with his parents after he reveals he’s a mutant is a not-so-subtle allegory of a teen coming out of the closet.
Even before I became a father, I would read stories about little boys who didn’t like sports, or preferred Barbie over Boba Fett, or wanted to dress like Daphne for Halloween, or enjoyed having their toenails painted pink. Invariably there was an antagonistic relative, neighbor or onlooker going head-to-head with a proud, resolute parent who was coming to the aid of their atypical son. I’m sure these moms and dads went through a period of adjustment to reach their own place of acceptance, but in these stories they’re already proud Papa and Mama bears, stopping at nothing to defend their cub’s right to live outside society’s rules. One dad even wrote a letter to his hypothetically gay son, which melted my heart, as well as that of the bazillion other people who read it. These stories are beyond inspiring and give me hope for humanity.
So yeah, sometimes I wish my son was gay.
Well, it looks like same-sex marriage is about to be legal in the entire U.S. And although it seems like it’s taken an eternity for all 50 states to come around, it’s pretty amazing when I stop and think about it. But you probably have no idea what I’m even talking about, do you? That’s why I’m writing you — to let you know how things will be when you’re an adult, so you can be encouraged and have hope and just hang in there. I’m also writing to remind myself how lucky I am and how far I’ve come.
Remember when you were about seven years old, and you started having thoughts that made you think you were different, not quite right, broken? And how you inherently knew you were doing something wrong, even though you weren’t doing anything but being yourself? And then you started looking in the index of every Bible you ever came across for mention of the word “homosexual” — hoping above all hope for an answer to what was going on inside your head and heart. I’m sorry you had to go through all that.
I apologize if this smacks of bragging, but I wanted to share a particularly sweet note I got from a reader a bit ago. Okay, so maybe I’m bragging a little. Yet I’m also putting it up here to remind me, on days that I’m discouraged, that my words do get heard; that I’m not alone in my feelings of aloneness; and as a motivation to keep on keeping-on — as a writer and as a dad. Plus, his comment about Stepford gays was perfection.
So if you send me a particularly sweet (or sassy) note, you may very well make my day…and I might publish it. You’ve been warned.
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You don’t know me, and that isn’t the point of this message. And I promise there is a point to this message, so please just stay with me as I can get a bit long-winded.
Just recently — this past week in fact — I’ve decided that I want to be a father. This has been something I have gone back and forth on for years as a gay man. I have been filled with so much worry about this or that: Do I adopt or do I find a surrogate? Am I capable as a person to raise a child? What will I do about explaining to him about where he comes from having no personal points of reference in my own life? Did my parents screw me up too much to raise a child? All of the standard questions I would imagine plague most would-be parents. However in recent days I have focused less on the impact to me and my life and more on the positive of having a child. But still I worry [if I] will I be a good dad. Will my child know how much I love them and that no matter what happens that love will never end?
As a result of these feelings I started writing letters to my future child, as writing has always been an outlet for me. So as the afterglow of wanting to be a father started to fade, I wondered again how I would deal when my little angel is reaping my mother’s revenge upon me for one reason or another (lack of nap, saying no to a toy or candy, whatever) — and how am I going to keep my sanity? And just as these questions started to boil to the surface, I found your post “Hide-and-Seek with Mr. Moon” and I am not gonna lie: I cried just a little bit.
I found myself crying — not just for the heartbreak of a small child, but because of the line about you expending so much energy to keep from “throttling” your child.
I have read some parenting blogs, and specifically followed two over the past couple of years (more for the hilarious insights on life than the parently portion), but all of them were from the points of view of heterosexual parents. And let’s be real — as sad as it is, gay men are still not properly portrayed in media. Yes, we have moved past a good portion of the stereotypes, but there are still some there that bug me. I think we as a culture are entering the Stepford portion of our media portrayal.
So with all of this said: thank you. Thank you for granting me insight to a seemingly random moment in time that has shown me that not only is it possible to be a good parent while still making mistakes, but that life really can be normal as a gay father.
With gratitude and sincerity,
P.S. I am totally going to steal and use the Hide-and-Seek with Mr. Moon game when I do have a kid. 🙂
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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.
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