Friday, November 19, 2010

Unconditional Love

Last month, a mother allowed her five-year-old son to dress as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween. She then documented the reaction her son received at his Christian pre-school on her blog, and the discussion began. Should she really have allowed this? He’s five. What message does that send? But it’s his favorite TV show. Daphne is a girl, he’s a boy. But it was Halloween.

Maybe she should have encouraged him to be Scobby instead? Been there, done that. Okay, well then what about Shaggy? Maybe the goatee proved problematic. But Daphne? A female character for a five-year old boy? It’s not like his mother painted his nails or put him in make-up. It was just a simple costume. So why all the controversy?

She’s his mom; it’s her responsibility to protect her child. It’s her responsibility to set an example. Yes, but it’s also her responsibility to raise her child with unconditional love. After all, that’s what really matters – unconditional love and acceptance. Aren’t we all entitled to that?

I spent so many years of my life fearful of what my parents might think or say if they knew I was gay. They were and still are devout Catholics, staunch Republicans, and fairly conservative. A gay son? Their church says it’s wrong. Republicans don’t support that “lifestyle.” It’s undeniably liberal. They’ll never accept it. Yet growing up, my parents walked a very fine line between allowing me to be myself while steering me in the so-called “right direction.”

As a child I played with Barbie dolls, had my own baton, participated in cheerleading practice with my sisters, and even learned how to make hook-rugs and pillows – a craft my mother taught me and one I absolutely loved. When I was ten-years-old, I danced around the house re-enacting scenes from my favorite film Fame (yes, it was rated R, but I so desperately wanted to see it, my mother finally conceded and took me) and became an avid fan of soap operas, obsessed with General Hospital and Dynasty. Not once was any of this ever frowned upon. (Okay, well maybe the dancing was, considering it was usually accompanied by me singing at the top of my lungs.)

On the other hand, they did persuade me to partake in traditional masculine roles as well, such as Little League. Okay, truth is my father forced me to play. I had no say. But I hated it so much that after three torturous seasons, he finally let me quit. Then a year later, my parents bought me a hockey stick to play roller hockey with all the other boys in our neighborhood. I hated that even more. So, then they bought me a pair of bright yellow headphones so I could just roller skate up and down the street bopping back and forth to my favorite music. That I totally enjoyed.

By my teen years, it was obvious I was not an athlete. My parents accepted that and accepted me, but along with puberty, came an understanding that I was definitely different. This was a side I didn’t share with my parents though, because different was certainly not accepted.

At twenty-nine, I finally mustered up the courage to come out to my parents. I had no idea how they would react. My assumption was my mother would start crying; my father would start yelling and maybe even throw me out of the house. Instead, as soon as I uttered those two little words – “I’m gay” – two words that took more courage, strength and energy than I had ever required, my mother immediately responded by saying, “So?” and my father instantly followed with, “So, what do you want money?”

That’s unconditional love. It was always present, has always been and still remains today. It took me almost thirty years to realize that, but I remain forever grateful that my parents didn’t care what their church preached, what their political leaders advised or even what their neighbors would think. They loved and still love me unconditionally, no matter what. So what’s wrong with another mother demonstrating unconditional love for her five-year old son and letting him dress as Daphne for Halloween? Absolutely nothing at all.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Halloween Jock

Growing up, I always hated Halloween. (Okay, well maybe I enjoyed it up until I was six when I dressed as Howdy Doody, but after that, it became a nightmare, and not a ghoulish enjoyable one.) Between the mysterious faces disguised by horror masks and teenagers running rampant through the streets, it was the scariest day of the year. Our neighborhood literally turned into a war zone on Halloween, but instead of bullets and bombs, we dealt with eggs whizzing through the air and shaving cream sprayed everywhere and on everyone.

But since moving to California, far away from the shaving cream wars and salmonella slime, I’ve actually begun to enjoy Halloween again. And it seems I’m not the only one. Over the years, Halloween has become bigger, better and bolder. Every adult I know now hunts for the perfect costume, spending way too much time and money on just the right outfit to enhance their physique, and of course, the gays have taken this to the extreme, going all out, while usually letting it all hang out. The more flesh you flash, the better your costume.

Well, I don’t normally show much skin considering my six pack of abs and perky pecs are still a work in progress (they’re coming along), but lately I’ve noticed a trend in my costume selection. My need to become butch, or at least be perceived that way, seems to rear its head every Halloween as I embrace my athletic side.

Two years ago, I eagerly made my entrance at a Halloween party dressed as a soccer player. It was the first time I showed interest in anything remotely related to soccer since David Beckham posed in his Armani underwear, but I must admit - I looked great and felt great. Then last year, I opted for a football player. I mean, my costume was that of a football player. Although come to think of it, I did hook up with a guy who was also dressed as a football player, so yes, I certainly scored in that costume. So this year, I once again found myself embracing both my athletic and masculine sides and went as a wrestler. I’m not so sure how masculine a skin tight singlet is, but it certainly did showcase my assets.

Well, as I was waiting in line for the bathroom at a bar this Halloween, a self proclaimed straight man confessed to me that he wrestled in high school and wanted to know if I did as well. I said no, admitting I was never an athlete in high school, that’s why I dress like one now. And then it dawned on me - that’s exactly what makes Halloween so much fun. For one day, we get to live out a little fantasy, play a different role, step into someone else’s shoes and become someone or something we’re not. And I really enjoy playing the part of a jock for a day, or maybe I just really enjoy wearing a jock. Who knows, but either way, it works for me. I get to play the part and sometimes play the field without all the hard work - it’s perfect. So now I’m thinking baseball or rugby for next Halloween.