"The Gay Talk"
Excuse me while I generalize here, but something that annoys me most about the modern parent is their need to make “The Gay Talk” with their kids a thing. I appreciate that you want your child to know that I’m here and I’m queer and “gay is okay,” but the truth is, telling your children that there are gay people in this world should not be significant enough of an event that it needs to be a moment. Save that for telling your kids why the family dog is never coming home, or explaining why the holocaust happened — not why it’s okay that I exist.
One time, I was playing that game Life with my little cousins, and it came time for me to get married. Naturally, I placed a blue peg in my passenger seat instead of a pink one, and because they’d never been faced with a double-blue marriage depiction before, they asked why I did it. Their mom shrugged and said boys can have husbands and girls can have wives and every family is different, and she said it in a way that you would tell a kid there are dogs and cats, and the sky is blue, and everyone should know that. Not in a “Let’s sit down and talk about something that’s going to change your everything” kind of way.
That’s the way it should be. Every time a parent who I’m friends with tells me: “Well, I haven’t told my kid you’re gay… We haven’t had that talk yet,” I kind of want to ask if they’re actually serious. I’m sorry, but if you feel that gay people are abnormal enough that you need to wait for a certain point in your kid’s development to tell them they exist, then what do you really think of gay people?
"It would just confuse them," lots of parents say. Well guess what? I was a dumb little kid once, too, and I found lots of things confusing.
Why is Celine Dion married to that old man? What did my mom ever see in my father? Who decided that mullets were okay?
These are all things that I wondered about. But you know, that’s a good thing. I learned a lot from being a confused little kid. I realized the truth was that Celine could marry whoever the fuck she wanted and I didn’t need to understand why, and it’s irrelevant what my mom saw in my father because it wasn’t my business. And as for mullets, those were never and will never be okay, but they’re around, and I wasn’t protected from them, because even though they’re weird, they aren’t anything that a child needs to be protected from knowing about.
I guess it just baffles me that parents are so wary to tell their kids that two men or two women might fall in love and begin a family, but don’t seem to take issue with the violence and misogyny superhero characters glorify right there in their family room, or the fact that our society uses [heterosexual] sex to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers. And I guess I just wonder what exactly parents think they’re “protecting” their children from by delaying this “important conversation,” as if they’re directing some kind of after-school special.
Another Pointless Recollection
Of course, I wasn’t a terrible child all the time. In fact, if you were to ask the people who’ve known me the longest, I’m willing to bet that most of them would tell you I was generally delightful. I was good at math and I sucked up to old people. Not to mention, I looked cute in my bowl haircut. My hobbies included: typing useless facts about the Titanic on my typewriter, reenacting scenes from Meet Me in St. Louis, and dancing like a nympho to my very first CD — the On the 6 album by Jennifer Lopez.
And I really was such a naive little sucker. For as fucked up as my family could be some of the time, I was typically hopeful. Admittedly, I’ve always been one of those sons who sincerely believes his mother when she says, “If you dream it, you can be it.”
When I was young, I wanted to be an actor. Predictably, my mom wasted no time signing me up for musical theater. So that was a thing, until I finally got into the fat-ugly-awkward puberty stage and decided the spotlight wasn’t for me. Then I wanted to be a poet. I thought I was really good at the time, but a couple years ago, I found some of my childhood creations. One read: “Shot, stabbed, crashed in a cab — everyone dies.” So, not the most uplifting of stuff. I left the poetry behind to become a prospective teacher. But eventually, I became scared of the thought because I realized I might have students like my friend Alicia, who once picked up a desk and threw it at our teacher. What I can say about all my ambitions, though, is that I always wanted to affect people. Whether I was writing plays or songs, or thinking of all the ways I would make a fabulous school counselor, I was always keeping in mind that my work had to have some kind of effect on others.
Not that I was always the most humanitarian person or anything like that. I was a good kid but sometimes — as is the truth with most other kids — I was a complete dumbass. One time I was playing hide and seek with my cousin and my sister. It was my turn to seek. I found my sister right away but couldn’t find my cousin for the life of me. Finally, I heard a noise coming from inside the dryer in the basement. I slowly opened the door and he screamed, “BOO!” Well, it scared the shit out of me and I slammed the door shut. Unfortunately for Little Dean, the machine was right in the middle of a cycle, and it began to spin with him still inside. I panicked and stood next to the dryer screaming until my mom ran down stairs and opened the door. A plume of steam came out and he was upside down. Thank goodness he was so disoriented. I think if he could walk he would have killed me.
A Pointless Recollection
When I was around seven, I was playing with my sister in our front yard and I saw a bear standing in the road about five houses down. I’d seen a bear before – we’d lived in the mountains nearly my whole life – and I probably didn’t have to be as scared as I was, but alas, my limp-wristed, flaming little self was overcome with a melodramatic fear, and after performing the appropriate gasp, I screamed to Jennifer what I’d seen. Slow as she was – and is to this day – she looked at me blankly for a second and then returned her attention to the pile of rocks she was making. I couldn’t believe she would ignore me like that, the five-year-old little shit. So I rushed toward my house as if I were escaping death and left her near the road.
Heaving, I hurried into the living room. My mom stopped whatever it was she was doing to ask what was wrong. I cried that there was a beast on the road and, oh, I tried to save Jennifer, but she wouldn’t listen to me, so I left her outside. I can still see my mom’s eyes widening as she ran out the front door and brought Jennifer into the house, only to ask why in the world I would let my own sister stay out there when I knew a bear was so close by. “She could have been killed!”
I shrugged. “She wouldn’t listen to me. It would have been her own fault.”
My mom only shook her head in disappointment (but certainly not surprise) before all of our attention was caught by my cousin, who was visiting from Florida. He came into the room to see what the commotion was about, and when my mom told him about the bear, he said distraughtly: “Why am I always in the shitter when something exciting happens?”
This story sums up a lot about my childhood. For one thing, I couldn’t stand my sister. I had no reason for it – she was an extremely ordinary girl (though I did see her eat dog food on at least two occasions) who honestly never did anything too malicious that I didn’t ask for. In addition, you may have noticed that the man responsible for half of my DNA (you’ll never hear me refer to him as my father) wasn’t around for any of this, because he was off at work, or doing drugs. No one can be sure. Also, there were cousins for days. I can barely remember anything from when I was a kid that a cousin (or seven) wasn’t there for. And lastly, you’d be right to assume that I was a tremendously self-centered (albeit self-aware) child. I remember asking God: Why me? every time I heard about someone dying, even if I didn’t know them.
We all have our vices.
As for the drama, that was always me, too. And it only became worse when my mom let me start watching Days of our Lives with her after school. I’m not sure when that happened exactly, but I know it was sometime before the second grade. That’s when I first had to go to the principal’s office, and it was for blackmail.
One day during lunch, a kid in my class named Jerry was telling me what the middle finger meant, and in the process, he illustrated the gesture. My mouth dropped and I asked if he realized that he’d just flipped me off. If I told on him, he’d be in big trouble. He begged me not to, and I said I wouldn’t, if he did everything I asked him to.
He did, for two weeks. But one afternoon, the kid got defiant and told me he wouldn’t sharpen my pencil. I sighed, reminding him what was going to happen if he didn’t do it. He stood firm for about three seconds before he collapsed into tears and had to go to the nurses office. About twenty minutes later, the principal came to get me. She took me into her office and explained that I was the one in trouble – not Jerry. I couldn’t believe it.
The worst part of this whole thing was that I was wearing a San Francisco 49ers t-shirt. I remember looking down while she was talking and thinking: Jesus Christ, I really, really, hate this shirt.