A character in the new novel I’m writing is an 89-year-old matchmaker. Not a very good matchmaker, given that most of her matches end in bloodshed, but she tries. I think every character you write has a germ of yourself inside it, and I’m finding that this matchmaker is easy as hell to write. There’s more than a germ of me in there. There’s an entire petri dish.
Now in my late thirties, I have become a ‘recruiting homosexual.’ Only I’m not recruiting straight guys, as the media liked to imagine in 80s. I’m recruiting other gay guys. To my alternative lifestyle.
This lifestyle does not involved well-coifed men sunning themselves in inventive underwear, but haggard-looking fellas chasing toddlers, watching Curious George, and trying to persuade small but lovable tyrants that the potty is a great place to spend time.
Let’s be clear— I have always been a gay dad waiting to happen. I lived through raves, drag shows, political rallies, and entire decades of queer culture that never spoke to me. But I did my bit— I showed up where I was required, said what I supposed to say, wore what I was supposed to wear. I just always felt like a minority within a minority. I was not a club kid. I was a white picket fencer. At the time it wasn’t a thing you just could do.
And now you can.
I’m still an outlier. But I’m an outlier on the vanguard. And as such, I am actively, guilelessly trying to build the gay dad empire. At some point in my child’s second year, I crossed over from meeting a handsome gay guy and pondering him shirtless to meeting a handsome gay guy and thinking, “he should settle down. Who do I know?”
I can feel myself slipping into shamelessness, but there’s little I can do to stop it. I’m already given to saying things like, “you’re not getting any younger,” and “why can’t you meet a nice boy like your sister?” I’m doing it on twitter, for godsakes, thinking about people I barely know. Brooks Sherman, he’s a handsome lad. He’s funny. He’s got a good job. What is he, like, 28? Not too soon to start thinking about a family…
And these are the single guys. God help you if you’re already married. I’ll literally send cute pictures of my son and invite you on playdates. This has mixed results, because my son is occasionally helpful, hugging strangers and inviting them to play donut shop, and occasionally tyrannical, as befits a toddler, randomly screaming that he wants to take pinwheels from the neighbor’s garden because “I LIKE STEALING OTHER PEOPLE’S THINGS!”
I’m not a lot more successful than the matchmaker I’m writing. (Although generally no bloodshed.)
But the interesting thing is that this new hobby of mine is both a karmic payback to the gay culture of my youth, and something that makes me much more empathetic to it. I mean, I get it. Rationally, I understand that my choices aren’t necessarily for everyone. I just believe in my choice so much. I feel it. I know it makes me sound like a crazy cultist but: it fulfills me.
Many years ago I was living in a student co-op, and this gay dude I had met invited me out to a queer wilderness retreat. The gist of it is that there would be a lot of nakedness, psychotropic drugs, and everyone would acquire ‘fairy names’.
“You’ll love it,” he told me. “I can just tell, It’s totally you.”
I must have physically convulsed at the invitation. I can’t think of a way to make that activity less me. What else were they going to do that weekend? Cover everyone with bees? Bathe in napalm? Golf?
But I said thank you for considering me and that I would take the invitation under advisement. I think his fairy name turned out to be Peaseblossom. I don’t know for sure, because I made a point of being out-of-town on the weekend in question. At the time I thought he was lunatic, but I think Peas just really believed in the retreat. It was him.
Now it’s fifteen years later, and here I am unironically inviting gay men to places with names like Krazy Kids. “You’ll love it,” I tell them— blithely quoting from the past as these men bug their eyes out at me, falling over themselves as they attempt to escape my steely, suddenly grandmotherly gaze. “I can just tell. It’s totally you.”
And it’s not totally them. It’s totally me.
So here’s to you, Peaseblossom. I get you now; I really do.