Parenthood, I’m finding, is a trip deep into unknown territory, from playdate to PTA. There’s the thrill of easy membership: they just accept that I’m the dad here — no proof required. And the welcome shock of feeling “post-gay”: my primary identity in most of these places is Shayla or Jaden′s dad. Everything else is a distant second.
Poised right on the cusp on introvert and extrovert, I both crave social interaction and then suffer if I don’t really know or connect with somebody there. We’re still figuring out where we and the kids fit in, so there are plenty of “alone in the crowd” moments these days. This weekend was a case study.
One: Girls’ Softball League
The giant fundraising bar-b-q had hundreds of families, the girls competing for furthest batting distance and lining up to sink their coach in the dunk tank. There’s a classic that never gets old, the “ding” and splash of some poor person getting dropped into a barrel of water. And everyone has been so nice to us, even as I admit how little about the sport I really understand. I suspect people think I’m exaggerating, but really I know nothing. There’s less panic when I practice catch with my daughter in front of others, though, so maybe there’s hope? I learned html, surely I could figure out softball. But I haven’t yet, and despite everyone’s kind inclusiveness, I feel like I’m just about to be uncovered as an imposter.
Two: Gay Night at the YMCA
OK, this sounds like a disco-themed joke, but the Berkeley Y and the gay family organization Our Family have a yearly night of fun for the kids. Swimming, basketball, trampoline, jumpy house, pizza. But because we’ve been embedded in our schools and neighborhood, we don’t know that many gay families. And as much as I love swimming, getting two kids pool-ready is still a major undertaking. Shayla’s slowly becoming more independent in this regard — she can use the women’s locker room and all goes fine. But Jaden will climb the urinal and roll his clean clothes in the puddles, so vigilance is needed. The kids love it, and I enjoy that they enjoy it. We knew several families there, including our school principal, which is a nice feeling. But it’s strange to still feel a bit of the outsider.
Three: The Bohemian Grove
We were invited, by a friend of a friend, to the founded-in-1872, old school men’s club in the woods, for a children’s concert. It was a chance to see something I never thought I would: the rustic, fantastically posh getaway-for-the-powerful in the redwoods of the Russian River. The log cabin that held the full bar featured a boar’s head, and small trolly making the rounds of tracks around the room. Help yourself to their wine collection or very nice beer on tap! The lodge had a huge, roaring fire. Porters, dressed in vaguely 1920s attire, quietly make the whole place run, and get you whatever you want. We were just across the way from the club where Henry Kissinger is a member.
I was so grateful to have a glimpse into this life, and there were many lovely-seeming people there. But the air of entitlement and old money was unmistakable as well. There was a guy completely unironically dressed in full Thurston Howell attire. And those pants I’ve seen in catalogs with little giraffes or flags or boats in an endless grid? I found the people who wear these! Thoughts like this kept exploding in my mind, as I felt both like a voyeur and someone who maybe doesn’t really belong in that world.
It was a full weekend, every opportunity to meet new people and push my life into new directions. But it was only after leaving the posh Grove picnic that I eased into true joy. We stopped at the river, the kids wading and swimming in the water, laughing and splashing. We played our find-the-car games and laughed about Jaden’s farts until both kids nodded off. It was a perfect end to Sunday.
For now, it’s still our immediate family I’m getting to know. There will be time to branch out and be part of larger communities, but these days, it’s those 3 who I’m gladdest to be around and whose company I need.