Latest Posts

Why Does Everyone Hate Charlie Brown?

On Christmas night, the screen time my kids chose (for daddies’ down time) was “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.”

I was happy to hear the familiar music and dialogue in the background as I sipped bourbon and stared at my phone.

Around the fourteenth time Lucy declared, “You blockhead, Charlie Brown,” my older kid asked, “Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?”

And it gave me pause. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?

In the Christmas special, Charlie’s the Christmas pageant director. Leadership often brings up conflict. But all Charlie’s trying to do is focus collective effort on getting the damn pageant done. But just because Charlie can’t control the cast doesn’t justify the near-universal derision of his peers.

It’s not like Charlie’s leading acting exercises that force Lucy to dredge up that time a teacher told her she’ll never amount to anything after which the class bully looked over and said, “you smell like shit and you’ll never find love in life and you’ll end up with warts all over your nose and children will run screaming from you for the rest of your life” so that Lucy dissolves into insecure puddles of whimpering actor-y neediness with the theoretical goal of rendering her a better actor by revisiting childhood trauma.

But I digress. That’s never happened to me.

Later, Charlie buys his infamous Christmas tree out of sympathy for something authentic in the miasma of seasonal capitalism. I mean, sure…a 9 year-old who chooses authenticity (however decrepit) over simulacra would probably earn mockery from his fellow 9 year-olds.

The gang mocks him for his lack of football skills, his inability to cut holes in a sheet to make a Halloween ghost costume, his unlucky kite-flying, his everything, he questions human short-comings, can be a little soap-box-lectur-y, and is definitely a debby-downer. But isn’t Lucy the hateful one? Isn’t Sally the selfish one? Isn’t the “naturally curly hair” girl the one worthy of face-on mockery?

But Charlie’s sorta maladroit and he receives all the vitriol. What’s up with that? Why does everyone hate Charlie BrownIt all makes me think that, ultimately, within almost every human group, there’s that guy who ends up the target of being, well…that guy.

I don’t know how or why it happens, but there’s one person who’s the know-it-all, the naïf, the idiot, in every group I’ve ever joined as a child or as an adult. And that’s the person that none of us want to be. In order to avoid ever being that guy, people (especially children) dump their negativity upon this undeserving soul to keep the down-trodden trodden-upon.

I was desperately afraid of being mocked for, well, anything from the ages 7 to 43, er, I mean 23. To avoid perching on that lowest wrung, I’d manifest my superiority over those I saw as a titch below me. I wasn’t a bully, I wasn’t overtly mean, but I did find ways to cement my social superiority. . with dismissiveness at the lunch table, mockery behind-the-back, or snobbery face-to-face when these few people were being nice to me.

Ugh. I hate myself for having created these memories.

Would I have kicked Charlie Brown just to make sure I was a wrung or two above him? I’m not proud to say I probably would have.

Now, in an era of aggressive anti-bullying, I can’t see that my kids are yet preoccupied with social hierarchy. But they’re young, yet. I won’t be surprised if I sense a cultural domination game seeping into their lexicon.

Maybe I can justify more screen-time to foster discussion of “You’re right. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown? Has he done anything wrong?”

Anything to turn that television back on and settle in with my bourbon and phone-staring time.

Christmas Misery

I was privileged to be in an exclusive screening of Julia Roberts’ latest movie, Ben is Back, thanks to @themomsnetwork, a network of moms mutually supporting each other in their entrepreneurial endeavors and motherhood. (Nope, not a sponsored post. I’m not influential. Just a shout-out.)

The movie was excellent, all about the trials of a mother dealing with an addict son and the many ways he lies and steals and abuses drugs. Julia turns in a star performance, though I admit I’m in awe of her very being. But I’m pretty sure I was able to see through my star-struckness to say it was a powerful performance.

But what the movie really made me think about was holidays and sadness.

Pivoting in this post, the movie reminded me of a particularly powerful moment of connection I shared with my mom within holiday melancholy.

During a visit home post-college, I was exhausted by my own frantic running around and lunching/drinking with old friends. Further, I was feeling down about my frustration with my career, place in life, etc. In a moment of calm, I said to my mom, “the older I get, the more the holidays just feel like a pain in the ass.”

She smirked in a way I’ve come to realize was aged wisdom, nodded and said, “Now you understand me just a bit more.”

Holidays were tough for my mom. She put her all into making them “perfect” for me. She didn’t practice mindfulness or yoga or remotely take a moment for herself. And she was burdened by losses like my father and grandparents. But she charged forward meeting holiday clichés and obligations – baking, visiting, Churching, primping, buying, wrapping, and all the things.

I could see she was at her wits’ end, but my mom was all about presenting to the world her Donna Reed best – always smiling for the public, hiding any hurt, living as the right people are supposed to live. She had healthy emotional breakdowns with her best friends, but I was taught we show happiness and control all the time.

And now I call bullshit on that. Because all any of us are really trying to do is get by as best we can. Especially at the holidays.

The holidays magnify all of our Martha Stewart freneticism. Social media feeds make me want to puke candy canes as I watch people out-Santa-fy each other with baking and decorating.

To be clear, I try to do a batch of Christmas cookies every year, but I struggle to enjoy the baking and be in the moment. I’m a little…I dunno. Distracted? Preoccupied with the clean-up? Policing the licking of spoons and stealing cookies.

And over all, with the holidays, I fret about still living my life, pursuing stuff AND buying presents we shouldn’t afford and hoping we’ve done enough to create magic for my kids.

And add to that the sense of loss that many of us (like me) feel, having lost parents and family and friends to death, I don’t always feel merry.

And I’m lucky to be in an age where I don’t feel like I have to pretend I’m sweating sweetness through the season.

And I have full sympathy for those further depressed by all the frivolity.

Julia’s (cuz we’re on a first-name basis) Ben is Back isn’t really about depression and holidays, but my takeaway was how the holidays are all that much more stressful for all of us.

And is it necessary? Must we force ourselves to feign cheer?

Well, if we didn’t have a change of seasons or emotional roller coasters and a corporate color palate change, well then seriously…how boring a world it would be.

The highs and the lows give us texture in our lives. I just hope all of us could try to avoid pretending to be so high when we all need to commiserate more often in our lows.

That’s what life’s about and what we’re all trying to do most of the time: just get by. It’s important that we do not feel alone.

The Reason for the Season

Though I loathe the culture war centered around “putting the ‘Christ’ back into ‘Christmas'”, I’m definitely one who wants my children to know the reason behind every season, or in most cases…holiday.

This applies most especially to holidays as “abstract” as Veteran’s Day. Yesterday my older kid jumped with joy as she celebrated having THREE DAYS OF MORNING TELEVISION this weekend. Uncharacteristically, I held my tongue so as not to deflate her joy. I’ll save the posturing about Veteran’s Day for the actual day.

I’m feeling particularly attached to Veteran’s Day, this year, because of the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice. I’ve always been masochistically fascinated by WWI. It never fails to send a sobering chill down my spine to reflect on the first war in which men were able to massacre acres of men without catching sight of each other. The wide-scale use of machine guns, tanks, airplanes and trench warfare that wasted a generation all because of agreements between insecure, rich white men trying to keep their place in the upper-class mastering the universe.

Talk about toxic masculinity.

WWI was the end of an era (for the Western, caucasian paradigm, of course) in which impersonal savagery replaced, well…personal savagery.

A pall of sadness always lingers over WWI media (books, poems, movies, stories.) And so much changed for men in that time – so many poets and authors emerged from the battles in France scarred for life…with new-found expressionism. Seems to me, WWI created a generation of self-reflection, as opposed to WWII which created the emotionally stoic “Greatest Generation”. It wasn’t just a triumph of good vs evil, allies vs. axis. it was the destruction of humanity.

Yesterday, in France, French President Emmanuel Macron declared at the ceremony marking the end of WWI, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Because nationalism (setting national gain over international citizenship) is what caused WWI and could easily cause another unthinkable world conflagration. This is what most scares me about Trump and what most scares me about my kids’ generation not having a grasp of history. I pray neither of my children ever has to endure a generational war (although let’s not forget that American forces are waging battles around the world, today).

So we have to teach our children the significance of world citizenship, collective good and personal sacrifice so that insecure, rich men don’t repeat history and take us down the path of self-destruction, again.

I don’t exactly know how to talk with my kids about such disturbing issues as massive loss of life in the name of freedom (and on behalf of European royals and leaders). But I’ll lecture my kids, tomorrow, and will embrace the eye rolls in the interest of world citizenship and patriotism. I’ll recite “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, even though it’ll mean nothing to my kids.

For now.

And I’ll keep doing so…to protect them.

So That’s Where We Are, Now

Welp, we’ve hit another funky milestone.

We’re trying on different pronouns in our household.

Before school started, my partner and I asked the big kid, “What would you like to say, this year? ‘He’ or ‘she’?”

Kiddo answered sheepishly, “She.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, we were discussing my show, Head Over Heels,in which a trans actress plays a non-binary character. My older kid is officially obsessed with this gender-bending character (played by Peppermint, the drag queenfamous for her stellar turn on RuPaul’s Drag Raceas well as for being the first contestant who was outwardly trans beforecompeting on RuPaul.)

In the conversation with my kiddo, I had to backtrack withhersaying, “But wait. You know Peppermint is a trans woman playing a non-binary role?”

“Yeah! A ‘they’. Like me! I’m ‘they’!”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, I sat with her/theyand said, “Now, sweetie, do you want me to say something to your teachers about how you want to be addressed?”

“Daddy,” she/they said, “can we stop talking about this? I’ll handle it.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The first day of school passed uneventfully.

On the second day, while walking back from school, I had both kids with me and inadvertently referred to she/they as ‘he’, at which point I turned to she/they, again, to ask, “Wait, honey, where are we, now? ‘She?’ ‘They?’ ‘He’?”

“Whatever,” she/they/he responded. “I’m flexible.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The more time passes, the more I feel like I’m betraying her by ever calling her him. “Her” feels more right.

Which leads me to our milestone: we alerted the teachers via email about my kid’s fluid self-expression and let them know, “We’re just rolling with it. Hopefully you can too?”

There are times it’s cool to be flexible. And then I realize (as much as I’d like to live in a world without definition) that people need labels and definitions so we’re all speaking the same language.

Yesterday, my kid was benevolently outed by an old friend in class to one of the new friends. The old friend said, “But he’s a boy. He just likes to wear dresses.”

The new friend said, “But she talks like a girl and dresses like a girl.”

Which then led to a cavalcade of questions for the teachers, which freaked them out (understandably) because we were all just “going with it.”

Suddenly, my agenda became very clear.

I want my child to be proud of who she is. I want her to celebrate her differences and never feel defensive or shamed. I want her to be able to speak about who she is and inspire the truth in others.

I don’t think she needs to be locked in a box of hyper-definition. In fact, I don’t think my kid can really be defined, right now, except as gender-fluid. Nor need she be.

So my partner and I put our heads together and strategized how to let our precious first-born write her own narrative, be in charge of her story, and define herself for others.

The worst thing would be to pretendshe never was a boy. I don’t want her peers, teachers, friends or acquaintances to think she’s keeping secrets or making things up. We have old friends at school who know from whence we’ve come. There’s no reason to shun/deny/erase that part of her history.

What she isis what she’s choosing to be, right now; and we get to celebrate it and show how badass she is for choosing to be her.

Suddenly, in discussing this with her (which is taking time) I’m this over-aggressive tiger dad suffocating my child in inspirational sayings like “you’re all the morespecial for being so brave and special!, for choosing your own path which isn’t always clear or easy. But you’re doing it! That makes you so awesome!”

She is FULLY giving me the rolled eyes and begging me to “stop talking about this.”

Sorry, kiddo. Can’t stop; won’t stop. Because I’m doing my best to armor you for a tough world – and it’s tough for allof us. So you might as well suit up, now. Because you’re way ahead most of the rest of us in terms of knowing yourself and speaking your truth.

And I’m so proud of her for that.

So that’s where we are, now.

Battling the Ballet

My older son’s going through his ”I’m going to put on a dance show for you” phase.

I’m the asshole parent who immediately hounds him, “Okay, I’ll watch. BUT – I need to see a beginning, middle and end. We need a storyline, here, kiddo. Also? No more than three songs.”

Because Daddy’s got other stuff to do.

Oh, and performance standards.

No. I’m not exaggerating any of that. Way to take the fun out of everything, Dad. But these dance “recitals” are an unwatchable combination of a bad drag show and, well…I think I can stop there. Just bad drag.

Whenever we ask if he wants to take dance, he says, “Daddy, I’m already a great dancer.”

Yeah, no.

Until this year, we didn’t push it. No need to over-schedule in first grade.

But I heard about an excellent dance studio that gives free ballet lessons to boys. And because I’m a cheap SOB, I was all about that.

But then, approaching the audition time, I started to go down my normal cerebral rabbit hole of doubts and questions:

Wait! This could be a disaster! I’m forcing my kid to audition for something he doesn’t realize think he wants (yet) and he’s currently excited about potential ballet lessons, but he’s gonna get there and it’ll be all boys and then he’ll be like, “I don’t wantto dance with boys! I want to have a tutu and dance with the girls!”

And then I think, “ohmigod, what if we get this? Ballet is such a conformist culture that he will be forced to wear a white t-shirt and black sweat pants and then I’ll be forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to do because he doesn’t want to wear the clothing? And yet why does he need to conform in ballet? How archaic. This is ridiculous. Why can’t he wear a tutu? Of all the places, ballet should be super welcoming of gender fluidity. And yet, it’s not at all, is it?”

And then I think, “Shit, if we say, ‘yes, he’s a boy but he’s going to break your centuries-old tradition of the dress code” and what if they say, “Well, then if he’s a she you’re going to pay,”  and then I’ll be like, “Wait, what? Hell no!” and then I expose myself to be really just in it for the free lessons.”

But also? Why does it need to be so gendered? They recruit boys because what they need is the partner…a big kid who’ll be able to lift the smaller dancer.

And my kid will definitely be that one – the tall one. So regardless of whatever the hell he wears, he will still be the partner. So why the hell does it matter what he wears? Ugh. The ballet heritage of centuries could stand to change, for sure.

And YET…perhaps this is the time that my kid does notget to color outside the lines. Being able to conform, from time to time, and playing by someone else’s rules is a secret to life, as well. My kiddo’s lucky to express himself with unending unicorns and rainbows and creative movement every day of his life. Perhaps the rules, rigidity and tradition of classical ballet will be an enriching aspect of his already-wonderful life.

 

So he passed the auditions and got into the fancy ballet school. The audition consisted of lifting each leg to the side and then around to the front, then skipping across the studio.

And that was it.

And he got it. Like – the skipping andthe coveted spot in the dance studio.

This studio accepts fresh kids (boys) with zero experience because they can mold the tiny dancers.

Later, he declared that he didn’t want to take dance, anymore.

Eye roll.

My partner responded with the most classic of all reflexive parental arguments, “Do you realize how many kids would love to be in your shoes? You got into the this wonderful ballet school.”

“And I don’t even want it,” he said with impeccable comedic timing.

We have yet to discuss a dress code with him.

In retrospect, I think changing the ballet world is not a battle I feel like waging.

This is the time my kid shouldconform.

Wish me luck.

 

Opening My Male Mouth…

I feel compelled to say something about the Kavanaugh circus; and I know it’s like wading into a snake den of passionate sensitivities by doing so, but I can’t contain my excitement.

Because I am thrilled that our national, collective toxic bro culture is being nationally reexamined and scrutinized and punished for centuries of entitled douchebaggery. The privileged white world from whence Kavanaugh hails is a nauseating cesspool of back-slapping, smoke-filled rooms and insularity with members who have been the behind-the-scenes progenitors of anti-democratic, self-serving, win-and-maintain-our-status-at-any-costs coterie of people who cement their legacies and status at the tippy top of the American controlling population. The .01% of power.

I’ve been in rooms with so many of these guys – arrogant prigs who have little emotional connections to anyone and are stunted in terms of genuine communication; guys who have self-loathing behind their eyes because they’re so lost in real human connection, but know their cultural places are sealed by birthright.

Luckily, this is a very small percentage of the people I’ve known in my life. But that one or two dickheads sets the tone for an entire locker room, introductory reception, first day of work and what have you. They somehow speak loudest and the rest of the guys (my younger self included) suddenly race to play the same game of one-upsmanship, domination, and masculine virility.

It’s soul-sucking to try so hard to establish one’s self with the lowest bar that happens to be at the top of our cultural food chain.

In high school, there were the few guys whose dads clearly gave them the confidence to stride around dominating and bullying every circle.

In college, more of the same, but less focused on sports. It wasn’t just the top athletes, but more like the top of the social scene – like plenty of fraternities, of course.

In my time studying abroad with an Ivy League school, I saw another level of moneyed entitlement that floored me. Again – 2% of our studying group. But they were the leaders and set the tone. (Until they didn’t.)

When I interned in Washington, DC, for the Al Gore Presidential campaign, I was flabbergasted by the amount of politically-connected guys who strutted around like they owned the place (mind you, fellow interns); and the higher the level of daddy’s connections, the higher their incompetence or dedication to work.

And since leaving politics and entering show business, I’ve seen much less of the wannabe-masters-of-the-universe, except at parties with producers, directors, casting directors and the like – then it becomes much more a who’s-who. But it’s still just “play-acting” and not blue blood Brooks Brothers. So it’s different.

Anyway, I digress.

I believe every word from Dr. Chrstine Blasey Ford, and the other accusers, and Anita Hill, and the accusers of all the other men who’ve fallen from the high ranks of society over the last few years. I’m sorry for the mental anguish these women have undergone.

And I am thrilled that dickheads are being called out, that “boys will be boys” is becoming an unacceptable passé, and that this society of assholes might actually have to curb their behavior to more humane ways of relating to the world around them.

I’m so lucky to have amazing male friends with whom I share emotion, dreams, concerns, and genuine connection. I pity the smug fucks who set such a low bar for interpersonal connection, yet still control so much of our society.

But it’s changing. I believe it’s changing. I pray it will change.

Now that headlines include terms like “toxic bro-hood”, I’m thrilled that I might not have to work so hard to instill in my children an appreciation for respecting other women and men, collaborating more than competing, and knowing that there are consequences for greed, aggression, and entitlement.

I’m sorry for the pain that is being re-lived and surfacing for so many people, these days. But I hope many, many more will step forward to say “this was NOT OK” yesterday, last month, a decade or more ago, and now people need to make reparations, suffer consequences, and change our future.

I’m thrilled.

Speak more, women. Lots of us are listening.

Did We Avoid a Summer Slide? Meh.

So we survived summer and I utterly failed at having my kids on their “summer academic schedule.” My plan was merely to have daily quiet time.

Thirty minutes, kids. That’s all I ask. Technically, you’re allowed to stare at the ceiling or look at books. But this is NOT coloring or wandering time. This is day-dreaming or reading time. Is that so much to ask? You’ve done this at school – your teachers gave you quiet time every single day and you were allowed to stare at the ceiling or read a damn book. Why is it pulling teeth with you guys, here and now?

I tried to get them to be mildly academic to avoid the unacceptable slide into stupidity.

Also? “Quiet time” means calm time for me, too. Win-win. Or maybe just I win. But anyway.

But insisting on thirty minutes of quiet time might’ve made my kids hate summer. They begrudgingly sat in silence, but mostly just glared at me.

And that’s the opposite of what I’m trying to do: foster a love for reading.

(And giving me quiet time.)

Which brings me to the other thing I’m not trying to do with my kids – cultivate conformists.

I don’t want to create rule-following kids. What’s the point of that? Having my kids do just the right amount of academia in the summertime so that they “succeed” in school and do the tests and get into a good-enough college so they can do, what?- be cogs in the wheel?

Isn’t that so banal?

I mean, ultimately we say we want our kids to be nice.

And happy.

And smart.

And sorta badass.

Badass enough to take risks, but not irrationally so.

But only badass enough to be just kindacool but not the mean cool kid…just cool enough to be interesting in conversation.

My GOD, there’s so much stress involved in parenting – you want to have just the right amount of balance that they can play the game of life right but also learn to color outside the lines and break the rules and improve society – not enough to get arrested, but enough to stand out in their college essays; conformist enough to be personable and charming, but rebellious enough to formulate their own critical ideas about art and politics.

Yet I’m just doing what everyone else says they need to do – read in the summer and practice basic addition so they can what? – get good test scores?

And I have to keep in mind – I NEVER kept my skills up in the summer. And look at me? A privileged white guy who’s been lucky to have been born into his privileged, educated family who has had his entire life handed to him on a patter.

Sorry, kids. Do not bank on an inheritance.

Anyway.

My oldest kid just wants to sit around the house, won’t practice piano without serious negotiation, and has zero interest in doing anything but printing out coloring pages of LOL dolls(the absolute scourge of our fucking society) and sing songs from my show(which has lost its charm after the 75th time he’s asked to put on a show for me).

And my youngest is an adorable rule-follower who’s cool with our “math snack” time where he traces letters and identifies shapes, but not so down with reading time. (Then again, he doesn’t read, yet. So.)

But still – being a history-maker or a cog in a wheel, kids always need to be able to read, know how to deal with alone time and boredom, and know how to enjoy quiet time, right?

Thirty minutes ain’t so much to ask.

Shut up and read your book, kids. So you can be a cog.

  • Thoughts? How did you all avoid (or ignore) a “summer slide”.

Sex Talk with My 5yo

So my kids saw Head Over Heels and they loved it. Or well, the younger one couldn’t focus on the first act because he was totally focused on the snacks my partner smuggled into the theatre in his ECKnox diaper bag. (This blog posting sponsored entirely by ECKnox.) I should’ve just given my partner the heads-up “He’s going to fixate on snacks and ask multiple times ‘is it break time, yet?’ Just give him the snacks to shut him up.

Anyway.

They loved the show. And while I thought most of the plot points would fly over their heads, they seemed to get most of it. They knew that the sword fight didn’t actually kill anyone. Nope. Violence was no biggie.

They got that the flags fell when the oracle’s prophecies were fulfilled and that the king was a rube and the princesses were marrying the people their parents didn’t want etc etc.

But what really intrigued the kids? Potty humor.

After the show, their first question was, “Did that guy really pee on that bush?”

“No, buddy.”

“But I heard it! I heard the pee splashing! I heard it!”

“Promise. No peeing. Just a sound effect.”

And that was immediately followed by: “Were those people naked?”

(In one scene, we have a brilliantly-executed shadow-dance simulating, well…sex.

Don’t worry -it’s still G-rated. Or, well…PG. Or maybe…)

Moving on.

My kids are really curious as to when I will be on for one of the two roles I cover.  (I’m a ‘standby’ in the show…my stage presence is dictated by laryngitis and twisted ankles.)

So the kids ask incessantly if I’m “on.”

And last night, the younger one asked “Daddy? When you’re on for the king, does the queen have to spank you?”

And then:

Daddy? Why would she spank him?

Um…

Was he naughty? (Disclaimer: we don’t spank. But you do you. No judgment)

Um, no, Buddy. He wasn’t naughty, he, um…maybe he liked it?

Somone can likespanking.

Um, well….I mean…

That’s crazy. Spanking happens when you’re bad. Not when you’re good. That hurts!

Right, but see…

Doesn’t it hurt, Daddy?

Well, um…

And why were those people naked dancing?

Um…

And the girls were flinging their hair around and why’d they do that?

Um…

And why were the people screaming and saying, ‘oh, yeah, oh, yeah’ when they were spanking each other?

Ohmigod, children, how on EARTH do you remember all these details?

The barrage of questioning was too much. They wore me down, they out-paced and out-witted and out-ran and out-maneuvered me. I couldn’t answer fast enough. I felt trampled and stampeded and instead of prevaricating and dodging and weaving, I went straight to sex.

Alright, alright, guys! They were just enjoying naked grown-up time!

That’s right. What I blurted was Naked. Grown-up. Time.

Needless to say, this was not pre-meditated. But it slowed the kids’ roll.

They gasped, their jaws dropped, they absorbed.

And I only thought: omg, what did I just say?

And then, with eyes as wide as saucers, another cavalade of questioning:

Naked GROWN-UPtime?

Do you always get naked in naked grown-up time?

Is it only for grown-ups?

But you said they weren’t naked in the show!

Do you spank in naked grown-up time?

All those adults were doing naked grown-up time together?

This second round of rapid-fire questioning set my head spinning, yet again…until the question popped out I hadn’t expected for another two or three years.

My older son suddenly took a dramatic pause and said:

Do you and Tatty* have naked grown-up time?

My eyes bugged out. I refrained from rolling my eyes. I took a deep breath.

Yes, Buddy. Yes, we have naked grown-up time.

The kids looked at each other, eyes wide open, and dissolved into uncontrollable guffaws.

And I thought: how is sex already a topic that makes them blush and giggle? How do they already have the sense that sex is giggle-worthy?

Oh, well. So be it.

I immediately down-played it and said, “Yes, kiddos. Tatty and I have naked grown-up time and it’s ok for grown-ups to have that. There’s nothing weird or embarrassing about it.”

That’s funny, said the younger kid.

Yep, I responded. Sometimes it is. And that’s ok.

I did notsee that coming…to have a sex talk (albeit roundabout and unscientific and not extensive).

Never, ever do I want my kids to think of sex as something naughty or shameful or embarrassing (except when it’s rrrreally good. Kidding. Sorta. Not at all.) I want to have open, honest conversations so I know they’re in charge of their bodies and desires as well as fully respectful of their partners. I don’t plan to speak in metaphors or fairy-tale love. I’ll use clinical, scientific explanations so they aren’t misled. I want them to be open-minded and I want to be as open and honest as possible with them.

But. I just wasn’t quite ready to discuss naked grown-up time at the ages of 6 and 5.

But thatcat is out of the bag, I suppose. We haven’t discussed it in a week, now, but I’m sure it’s just simmering under the surface.

Walking to the playground, this morning, a bus drove by with four women in a lingerie ad. (See below. But don’t linger. You’ll look weird. And don’t forget – Black Mirror hackers are spying you.) My youngest said to my oldest, “Look! Naked grown-up time for those women!”

img_2496.jpg

* “Tatty” is the name my oldest son gave to my partner years ago. Yep. We’re “Daddy” and “Tatty”.

I Watch Porn

(Excuse me as I barf while I think about the people who read this click bait title.)

This might be a slight deviation from my regularly-themed blog posts. But I recently received an email from a Mr. Warner Fitts telling me that he (or she? or they? Who am I kidding? It’s always a man) knew my password (Colorado1) and had caught me on a website, hacked into my computer’s camera, had recorded me taking part in nefarious activities, and unless I paid him $2,000 in Bitcoins, he’d email video of me participating in said nefarious activies to you. Yes, you.

Well.

Let’s break some of these things down:

  1. Colorado1 was a password I used about a decade ago.
  2. Visiting porn sites? Can I blame that on my 6-yo? Or on visitors crashing on my couch at the time? Neighbors hacking into my WiFi signal? I won’t belabor this. In my life, I’ve seen porn. On my own computer. Anyway.
  3. Pay in Bitcoins? Lolz.
  4. Mailing a video to all my contacts. Welp. That would be pretty funny. I mean, embarrassing, yes. But have I ever done anything that would, say, ruin my chances of being President? (Oh, wait. The standard for that couldn’t be lower. Never mind.) Is there anything I’ve ever done, in my life, that would make me blush, but I could shrug off and we’d still be friends? Nope. Nothin’ illegal, just…ok. I’ll stop there.

Rather than freak out, I calmly asked a computer whiz friend of mine some quick advice.

And no, I had no intention of paying.

He quickly Googled the exact message I’d received on Reddit and it’s been sent to tens of thousands of people.

So…lemme backtrack, now.

My stainless eyes have never seen porn. Ever. Never in my life. I’m a victim! Colorado1 was never my password. I don’t know what this Mr. Warner Fitts was talking about.

Also, I have a million dollars in Bitcoins.

My sextortion nightmare felt like life-imitating-art since this exact scenario was dramatized in the “Shut Up and Dance” episode of Black Mirror and ended with a teenager committing a murder to protect himself from the public humiliation of his peers seeing him masturbate on screen.

(BTW, if you’ve not absorbed every Black Mirror episode, I beg you to turn off your computer immediately and start binging every one of them. Because OMG so good. And terrifying. And predictive of our immediate futures. You’re welcome.)

While watching that episode of Black Mirror so many months/years ago, I posed myself the question: if that happened to me, could I be bribed to desperately keep just such a video private?

Luckily, I don’t have unconventional “private” proclivities. But no judgment for anyone who does. I mean, let consenting adults live out their fantasies. (I bet that last sentence will never come back to haunt me.) The dark, legal corners of the internet are like a pressure release valve for our society. Let private stuff remain private and stop judging other people for their privates. (Tee-hee.) Also, let people form their communities and make the world a more inclusive place. Kumbayah.

Anyway. Back to me.

I highlight this email and publish this post to serve as a sort of PSA.

  1. Buy one of these things to cover your computer camera. I have a friend at Google who theorizes that Facebook is actively listening to our conversations (as are Google and Amazon. Duh. Permission be damned.) That’s bad enough. The least we can do, these days, is cover our cameras to have a tiny protection against Black Mirror. It’s also some protection against facial recognition hacking. (I hate my new Apple phone because facial recognition isn’t as quick as thumbprint and also – how many terrible ways will Apple’s recording of my face come back to ruin my life?)
  2. Change your passwords. Use 1password or Last Pass. They both cost some money, but it’s the greatest cyber insurance that $2/month can buy. Both sites generate and remember all your passwords for you. (Don’t ask me what happens when bad guys hack those sites. I dunno. This is a rabbit hole of endless worries.)
  3. Don’t fall victim to sextortion. Unless you’re watching pedophilic porn (which…just don’t. You should seek a therapist immediately), just own it. We’re all sexual beings. And that’s a good thing. Embrace it.

Also, for what it’s worth, if you think you *might* have an unhealthy relationship with porn, seek help.

Our immediate future (nay, present) is exposing us to all sorts of Black Mirror personal catastrophes. Never has it been more important for us to embrace our humanity, realize we all have “things” that could be embarrassing, but keep our feet on the ground and cultivate in-the-flesh relationships with real people and real experiences. I applaud the fact that the internet can bring lonely people together for a whole host of reasons from their fetishes (both sexual and non) to their need for community. And that can help de-stigmatize a plethora of human activity…again: both sexual and non. (Although I am by no means endorsing hate groups or violence of any kind. Obviously.)

But the more we dive into our online communities, the more we need compassion and connection with the actual people around us.

Now. Stop reading your screens and go have some ice cream. It’s still summer.

After you watch some porn. (No judgment. You do you.)

Being a Gender Hypocrite

I’m sitting, watching both my kids play soccer in summer camp, right now.

I can’t believe my gender-fluid kid is playing soccer. I mean, last week, when my younger one took his lesson, the older was impressed there was a girl in his class. So this week? Older was mildly curious.

And the next week? Suddenly he’s playing.

This is amazing. And stupefying. He insists he doesn’t want to play soccer, but he jumped in with only mild prodding by me just five minutes ago.

I want to expose my kids to everything. Being well-rounded makes life so much richer. I loved being a college athlete and artist and academic, simultaneously.

I’ve often been conflicted about sports because our culture is already so ridiculously Type-A, competition-obsessed, but I think playing a game and exercise are interests to cultivate.

Plus, if you at least know the rules and have basic skills in a sport, life’s just easier and more fun.

And less frustrating when you’re stuck at a high school retreat for the student council and everyone wants to play soccer and you don’t even know what “off-sides” means so you’re embarrassed that, in addition to having no skill, you don’t even know the basic rules.

Did I digress?

It’s good to get to know how to work with a team and sweat to achieve collective goals, as a team.

Before becoming a dad, I unequivocally stated that my kids will each play a sport, an instrument, and focus on some sort of art.

Don’t I have that all planned neatly?

But what’s the point? I mean, why should I be pushing my kid to be well-rounded? I hated competitive sports until college.

I hatedsports as a kid. Baseball was boring. I did cartwheels during soccer. And I resented everyone saying to me, “You’re tall. You should be good at basketball.”

Well, I’m NOT! And I HATE it, okaaaaaay?

In high school I was a good competitive swimmer, probably just because of my size. Same for crew team in college. But college was different. I wanted to be fit and I loved the rowing lunatics. (They might as well be actors. So.) I found my way, eventually.

But as a kid, I hated sports. It was assumed that, as a boy, I should like them.

And now, as a father, I’m fully putting the same expectations on my own kids.

I’m a monster.

Seriously. Why am I so excited for my older kid to show a modicum of interest in soccer (mind you, for the day. It’s clear he’s reticent.)

Well-rounded appreciation. Check.

But wait, am I going to be insist the younger kid (he of more sports-interest) take ballet class? Or tap class?

Will I grit my teeth behind his back when he refuses to be artsy? Or when he actually tries his artistic hand and is mortifyingly maladroit?

Why am I so relieved that my gender-fluid kid will at least trysome soccer? Is this a latent attempt by me to save his masculinity?

Why does that matter? Gavin: aren’t you trying to teach your kids that masculinity is bullshit and gender is a social construct?

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH, MAN.

Am I being a hypocrite?

Absolutely. I AMexercising a double-standard. A conventional, society-based, archaic double-standard.

Also, I’m being ridiculous in thinking I need to prep my kids for college-application-well-roundedness, now.

But also? – ain’t that the way of our hetero-normative, college-bound society?

Gavin, chill the f out.

Oh, look. The older kid just scored a point. Good for him.

I’m signing up the little guy up for ballet, now.

I need to be consistent in my paternal insanity.