Mark and I joined Mark's family on a trip to Disney World! I'd never been. I'd say the coolest ride was the humungous water slide at Blizzard Beach. OK, maybe Tomorrow Land. No; it was our meal at the French Pavilion at the Epcot Court. Oh, wait... it was the giant tree in Safari World. It was all good.
A week or two after we got back, Mark climbed up the ladder through the ceiling hatch to my writer's loft (we lived in a converted garage which had two ladders to attic living areas).
"Uh oh," I thought, "Mark's coming up here; he never does that. This is really important." I removed my hands from the keyboard and folded them in my lap.
"Want a kid?" Mark said.... The child would arrive in four or five months. We spent the next months with a lawyer, arranging things. Although I was not the mother, I compensated by dreaming that the child was born a gerbil.
March 2005. I went to NorWesCon. Although the drive up was daunting, it was lots of fun -- like OryCon, only much larger. I had a great time being roommates with Jerry and Kathy Oltion, who were kind enough to introduce me to Gordon VanGelder.
June 2005. I became a parent and the stay-at-home caregiver. Since I was no longer employed, I got health coverage via Mark's work. This was a taxable benefit, which would not have been a taxable benefit had we been a heterosexual couple.
My hat is off to any parent who has more than one child, and it's off twice to single parents. I understand why nature has wired us to have children when we're twenty (or younger), because it's exhausting being a forty-something parent. And yes, infants engage in chemical mind-control because The Child altered my biology so that my pee smelled like him and he fiddled with my artistic sense so that the Mother Pegasus saving the Baby Pegasus during the wind storm in Disney's Fantasia is the Most Beautiful Piece of Art Ever (sniff).
Oh. And men, it's true: after your first child You Will Never Have Sex Again (mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha!). OK; that's not entirely true: you will have sex, but you will never have wild unbridled sex (assuming that you're awake enough to want it) without the nagging sense that the sex must be done before The Child wakes up and walks in on you.
The child's bio-chemical wizardry also activated our Dad Super-powers. Mine was the ability to identify all threats to The Child in a half-block radius. And to karate-chop overly-friendly German Shepherds. Mark's was the ability to clear The Child's respiratory track by sucking up blocking mucus.
In addition to taking the night shift, learning to change diapers, and picking up baby sign-language, having a child brought societal roles as a gay, male, forty-something to the forefront.
First and foremost, was the Baby-Military-Industrial-Complex, which insisted that we brand The Child's gender with either Pink Flowers or Camouflaged Weapons. Diapers were covered with cartoon characters for early indoctrination. And we were extolled by The Fearful Parent Magazine to spend every waking second of our lives doing everything in our power to Enrich Our Child, to Super-Charge His Self-Esteem, and to Sterilize and Protect The Child from All Forms of Lurking Danger.
Being the stay at home male caregiver exposed me to:
- Over-praise as a Sensitive Father,
- Pity as the Out Of Work Partner Doing Child Care,
- and Suspicion as a man with a child.
- (And accusations of being a grand-parent.)
I must have taken a break from Wordos.
I remember going to Scary Baby Reading Hour at the local library. It was scary because most the other parents were 17 year old moms with tattoos who wore hip-hugger jeans showing off their thongs. Presenters tended to speak "helium voices."
I quickly bonded with "The Geriatric Parents' Club." We sat in the corner and traded snarky comments with each other.
Sept 2005. In a terrible blow to our social life and general culture in Eugene, Savoré, the premiere tea shop in Eugene, closed its salon an relocated to a tea retail shop at 15th and Willamette. Savoré was our bar; Mark and I would frequently have tea and scones there on weekends. We could call ahead and the staff already knew what we wanted to order. I often would go there after work or after-work workouts and write.
Savoré had small tables with white linens, little tea lights, French music, and upholstered chairs. Canisters of white, green, black and herbal teas lined the walls. Wire sculptures of the Eiffel Tower adorned tables displaying various tea accessories. Gilded mirrors hung on the dark red walls. There had been two over-stuffed davenports, but these had been removed because undergraduates would take naps on them during business hours.
I learned to love rooibos, lavender, and ceylon tea there; once, when the shop's supplier switch plantations on them, I could taste the difference in the ceylon.
Eugene became more dowdy, frumpy and uncultured when Savoré closed.