Monthly Archives: January 2013

Born This Way

I sometimes wonder if my son is gay.

Or British. The difference between the two can be subtle.

He’s ridiculously fashionable (everything looks good on him), he has excellent muscle tone in his upper body, and he’s remarkably fastidious for someone who eats yogurt with his hands. Plus he’s functionally vegetarian, which, if you grew up in Iowa like I did, is the dietary equivalent of a feather boa.

He also pronounces the word ‘teapot’ like “tee-pote” instead of “tee-paht.” But that may be more a function of the British cartoons we watch on youtube than any nascent sexual preference. Also, he’s two.

And it’s not like I can really do anything about it. If he’s gay (or British) he’ll be gay (or British) whether I like it or not. Which I will. Like it, I mean. I’ll like whatever he is because he’s him. I’ll gladly provide Lady Gaga CD’s or crumpets or both as occasion demands.

I can’t help but think about it, though. The curse of the parent is to dwell forever in the future. To wonder at and fear and celebrate all that could possibly befall this wonderful creature who just pooped on your arm.

I think about it, I wonder what it would mean for him.

The world’s a scary enough place without large groups of people convinced that your existence is an affront to whatever god’s taking the calls. Things are changing, mostly for the better, but I still cringe to think of my precious, beloved child exposed to such reasonless fear and hatred.

If he’s gay, there will be parts of the world unsafe for him. Places in this country, in my home state where life would be miserable at best, and a death sentence at worst.

As a straight white man this line of thought is utterly foreign to me. I know what it means to feel out of place, unwelcome, but never in danger. Not like that. With the exceptions of federal prisons or Afghanistan, I’m not likely to be raped or lynched wherever I go. And should I find myself in Mogadishu or Juarez and get myself killed, I can take solace in the fact that the media will probably notice. A fuss will be raised by somebody.

I look at what he might face, growing up gay. I look at the suffering I know he’ll have to go through. I know I can’t affect any of this, really. Nothing I do now will make him gay or straight or anything in between. But if I could, if I had the power to choose, to spare him that pain, would I choose for him not to be gay?

One of the hardest things as a parent is not to step in. Not to help. A kid won’t learn to stand up unless you let them fall. If they never get dirty, they’ll never develop a strong immune system.

So no. Hell no. I’d never choose for him not to be gay.

I think of the gay men and women I’ve known, the intelligence, the wit, the perspective the sophistication they possess. Their accomplishments so much the greater for what they’ve had to overcome. I think of the richness, the light they bring into this world through their simple being. I think of all I’ve learned from them, all I’ve shared with them.

If my kid’s gay, that’s f***ing awesome.

That would be utterly, dazzlingly, spectacularly fabulous.

And if he’s British, that would be lovely too.

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United By Nipples

A while back there were a series of ads about dads and their various ineptitudes in child rearing. This got some of my papa peeps all riled up. There was more righteous indignation in the dad blogs than a closing argument by Jack McCoy.

I never actually saw these ads, and even if I had, well, I’ve never claimed to be a master at this. I know my baby-mama thought a lot more than I did about being a parent before the fact. And though there are many and articulate exceptions, there is a niblet of truth to the stereotype that dads have to work a little harder at this whole “having-a-child-thing” we do. But this is strictly cultural, not biological.

And I can prove it.

With science.

There’s a podcast I listen to in the wee hours while I’m doing dishes, wiping down hi-chairs, and supporting craft breweries both local and regional. It’s called Stuff You Should Know  and if you’re the type to listen to podcasts, then it’s definitely worth your time. The hosts, Josh and Chuck, investigate the history and workings of everything from Narco-States to Autism, to Crime Scene Photography, in little 20-40 minute discussions. They’re light, goofy, and prone to tangents, basically guys I’d want to get empanadas with.

They recently did a show entitled “Why Do Men Have Nipples.” After some discussion, giggling and Simpsons references, they established the thesis that men have nipples basically because there’s been no reason – evolutionarily speaking – to select them out.

Then they went on to explain that before the onset of puberty, boys and girls have, more or less, the same upper body plumbing and only the onset of estrogen makes the mammaries jamm-ary. And here’s the big thing, even after puberty, under the right estrogen-rich, testosterone-lite conditions, men can breastfeed.

That’s right. Men can breastfeed. Can and do.

There’s a dude in Sri Lanka who nursed his two daughters after their mother died.  There’s an entire tribe in Africa called the Aka, in which men regularly nurse the kids.

This is weird, yes. But only because we live in a culture that has largely removed men from primary childcare for centuries. Once you get past that, this wild fact becomes something else.

Once you get past the cultural bias, you see as I do that dad’s are f*#!ing awesome.

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Everything I Needed To Know About Creativity and Parenthood I Learned From Watching Bloodsport.

I wrote another article for MN Playlist, but since it was about Parenthood, and being so very environmentally conscious, I thought I’d re-use this mutha like it was a well-washed ziplock bag.

If you want to see it in it’s natural habitat, or learn all about theater and dance in Minnesota, check out MN Playlist here-wise.

And without further ado, the article:

I once knew a girl in college who wrote plays as wild and free as a mortgage–backed security. They were structurally adventurous, grammatically acrobatic, symbolically swashbuckling. They played by their own rules, these plays. They were brash and spunky and wholesomely rebellious, they were the Sarah Palin of introductory college drama. And they sucked. They were awful. They were like listening to a drunken 5 year old summarize the plot of A Game of Thrones.

It was from this girl that I learned 2 very valuable lessons. First – being cute lets you get away with a lot. Did I mention she was cute? Yes I did. Shut up.

Second – Rules are important to creativity. You don’t truly understand what you’re allowed to play with until you understand what’s forbidden and why. Until you understand the rules, it won’t mean anything when you break them. When a two-year-old pees on the floor it’s just another Wednesday. When a grown man with a B.A. in Anthropology pees on the floor…well…that shit’s deep.

I didn’t pee on the floor. That’s lemon-orange reduction, I was making a glaze. A glaze, dammit!

2 years, 4 months and 24 days ago my son was born. At the point where he made his grand entrance (with much fanfare and waaaay downstage) my thirties were still a novelty, I was 5 years freelancing in decade of professional theater. I was in demand, I was hungry (figuratively speaking. Literally I was quite well fed) I would often read books without dragons or lightsaber combat. If I so desired I could start drinking at 3pm and sleep until that very time the next day. And creatively speaking, I was on fire: I was working on ideas to do an audience interactive mashup video game/Greek tragedy called “Grand Theft Odyssey,” I was trying to develop a heavy metal musical, I was working on several web videos for my company, including one on the Ninja winter Holiday of Katanukkah, I was chewing over an arrangement for Bach’s Cello Suite #1 as played by ukulele, tuba and bagpipes.

If creativity were cigarettes, I coulda been the richest man in San Quentin.

And then my son was born, and everything changed.

In most stories, this is where artistic dreams are shelved and real jobs are suffered. Where I hang myself a little bit with every tie I put on, and worry myself bald over TPS reports. All this for health insurance and the dignity of knowing my son will never have to rely on government cheese.

And employment-wise this was certainly something I’d considered. But for all my lugubrious shaping of the creative æthers I got paid for my lugubrious shaping of wood, paint and Excel spreadsheets. Work for stage managers and technicians didn’t dry up with the baby drop, so I luckily got to stay on the scene.

What does dry up is time for anything else; Gone, the unstructured time that was my open line to the muses. Free no more was I for day-long excursions into the robot-rampaged Kung Fu Narnia of my creative processes. The 6-8 hours a day I had to craft theater magic from my persistent immaturity were washed away in one fluid-filled trip to the maternity ward.

That should have ended the artistically relevant movement of my song saga. Nothing to look forward to but a long business-casual epilogue with the small chance of an encore. Should have, I say, but for the salient fact that it didn’t. I feel as creative as I ever have, if not more so.

Rules are important for creativity. Restriction, deprivation, these are, counter-intuitively, the bosom friends of artistic expression. Without the boundaries of phrase, rhythm, and rhyme Bob Dylan is just that rambling hippy who never makes it past the screeners at MPR. Without 75 minutes of the world turning against him, Jean Claude Van Damme’s victory against Tong Po in Bloodsport is as empty as his beautiful Belgian facial expressions.

If I’m honest, for all that creative time I had pre-baby, I really got very little accomplished. Having all the time in the world left me in no hurry to finish, or even start my brilliant works. Another boon to creativity I’d never have but for my son is the very concrete sense of my own mortality. Any illusions that I had plenty of time to achieve staggering artistic success are long gone and good riddance. I’m confronted with the reality that what I want will never happen by accident, never simply ‘happen’ at all. If I want to be a Sith Lord in the next series of Star Wars movies (just call me Darth Fabulous) I need to carve out time for lightsaber practice today.

As well as unambiguously demonstrating how little time I actually have, I also find myself taking a hard look at this ruggedly handsome guy I call Matt Dawson through my son’s eyes. Did he do all he could? Did he actually try to pursue his dreams or did he spend his afternoons thinking up clever things he never put on paper, never took steps to bring into reality. If I’m going to encourage my son to follow his heart, then I better damn well do the same until I no longer can.

Creation, as they say, is mostly subtraction, just like 80% of writing is editing. Yes, the stereotype can definitely be true that having a kid kills the dreams of an artist. But I like to think that it just culls the herd. If your creativity can’t withstand parenthood, then it wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

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The Secret Motivations of Banana Migrations

A strange thing happened the other day – I made a watch appear out of thin air.

One minute, there was no watch. The next, there was a watch.

I am Harry Potter. Well, a Weasley. One of the lesser ones.

It’s a wondrous world you stumble into as a parent. And when I say stumble, I do mean stumble. In the most back-achy-half-awake-laundry-basket-carrying-trip-over-a-rubber-giraffe sense of the word.

Everything made sense before kids, The world before kids was a world of logic, and scientific method and technology that had no fear of yogurt or slobbery investigation. Like a dad with a diaper  bag, so Effect did dutifully follow Cause. Fluids traveled in only one direction, and I could do math in my head.

The world after kids is a disjointed anecdote Hunter S. Thompson wrote in crayon on somebody’s shirt after he ran out of absinthe.

Objects wink in and out of existence. Bananas, answering to urges comprehensible only to tropical fruit, do get up and leave the plate to seek their destinies in the bathtub, the office, or my shoe.

The accordion of time itself is freed from its clasps; months go by in a week and an hour can take a year to pass. It expands and collapses as we shuffle our feet to the hellish polka of sleep deprivation.

You could, as a hater, explain these things away. You could say that a missing watch could be discovered in an odd pocket by a hand left to its own devices. And while the overtaxed frontal lobes were thinking of the grocery list, or the coming workday or trying to remember how old you are, said hand could, without instruction from higher faculties, just put the watch on since that’s something hands do with regularity. Then the sleepy mind thinks about the time again and hey presto, there’s a watch!

You could explain it all away thusly. You could also suck it.

Keep your rational explanations. Me, I’m sticking with magic. In my magical world, watches appear, stuffed bears have a preference of tea flavor, and Dracula owes me five dollars. It’s not much and it won’t last, but I’ll take what I can get.

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Auld Lang Syne, with an emphasis on the Auld

36 minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve 2012.

Suck it, Mayans.

So here I am, toddlers in bed, strong beer in glass, Ray Price in ear buds and due some bloggatry.

I know it’s cliché, but I thought it would be interesting to do a “Top 10” Fatherhood moments of 2012, partly to focus on something positive after the last couple of posts, and because I like being somewhat topical, and partly because I don’t have anything else ready to go.

So, my Top 10 Fatherhood Moments of 2012

Ahem.

Well there was…ummm…

I got nothing. I have some general achievements, but they don’t boil down to moments, really: maintaining the few friends I don’t work with often. Maintaining the friends I work with often, in spite of hygiene and a marked lack of conversation topics unrelated to my kid. Landing the lady I did still counts as an achievement, probably more so.

Maybe it’s different as the kid gets older, but unless you’ve saved your kid from a honey badger, or done some crazy acrobatic one-handed diaper change, Fatherhood of a 2-year-old does not lend itself to those annual-review-type bullet points. Fatherhood’s a grind. It’s repetitive tasks and constant vigilance that only pay off much later. Like painting fences and waxing cars, day in day out, until you realize you just Crane-Kicked Cobra Kai into second place.

Keep up the grind, poppas. Keep opening the jars and carrying the bags and warming up the car, and know that however mundane and thankless the job is, there’s not a single other person in the world who can do this. It must be you. Look into the kid’s eyes and tell me I’m wrong.

Well, make some coffee first, then look into their eyes.

Happy New Year.

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