I wanted to name him Harvey, but Adam disagreed. He said that might be wishing the kitten an untimely death and, besides, he didn’t actually seem to like milk. We still tossed quarters over it, but Adam won with Cher. He went from an activist to a popstar, I joke.
They always seem to, he replies.
I met Adam seven years ago this June, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that we made our forever official. That was what Cher was for. I think I knew as early as Adam did that we were the real deal, but I’ve never been a romantic. Besides, knowing too much about your future at age 27 just seemed a little boring. Now I’m approaching 35, though. Knowing Adam is stuck with me even when I go up a few boxer sizes is a lot more appealing than it used to be. When I say this at a dinner party, Adam takes my hand and rubs my palm with his thumb. Looking deeply into my eyes, he says, Oh, honey, at last! Your romantic side is coming out with age.
Yup, that would be the last bit of me to come out, I reply, besides the hair, of course.
What can I say, I’ve always been a wooer with words.
Adam has a real-real job which entails dressing up in slacks and ironed shirts in varying shades of blue. I have a job, too, but one I never have to iron for. I’m the co-editor of an online newspaper about the changing democracy in Europe, and the editorial writer for another mag about gay rights. Usually I end up writing about growing up gay in the South, which is just another way to say my focus is my father, but my readers don’t seem to mind. I assume this means they can relate.
If you want to know the truth, I fell in love with Adam before we even met. He started leaving comments on the blog I had back before blogs were cool. In the six months before I got the editorial job and moved my journal-entry-esque rants, musings, and occasional insights to a different platform, Adam read every single one of my posts. Reading writers’ writing and making sure they know it—and having impeccable grammar—is how you win us over, in case you were wondering. Not only did Adam read my posts, but he reread them, too, re-responding to three-month old entries with openers like, “As I was walking in Vancouver today, I passed a picture of Virginia Woolf and I remembered that you quoted her here but couldn’t quite recall the context.” The third time that happened, I knew I was on his mind. Luckily, he never came off as creepy. I was already in New York, but he was still in B.C. Well, blog comments turned to emails turned to phone calls turned to meeting in Seattle six weeks later while I was in town for a friend’s wedding. The rest, as they say, is history, in the sense that men have always dominated my stories, too. He’s my longest relationship by far, and we are settled into each other in a way I have never known before. I love him to death, but every time a friend comes over, I dash to dispose of The Wall Street Journal that is inevitably in plain sight on the couch, apologize, and mouth, It’s his.
In the mornings while Adam re-irons his shirts, I get to pick out which comic book character or possibly unsavory joke to splash across my chest. Definitely the Hulk to get through Monday, I say on Sunday night, as we sit in front of the laundry I was too lazy to fold at the laundromat this morning. Oh, finally going green, are we? he jokes.
I can tell he is just a little bit annoyed that I am currently wielding the iron. I don’t know what it is in me that feels the need to demonstrate domestic prowess. It doesn’t come out often, and after surveying my work, I can tell why. Nothing screams inferiority like bad ironing.
Adam stands up to grab a beer and I reach to turn on the light beside the couch. Instead, crash, I knock Adam’s potted plant off of the table and swear. My plant is in the kitchen, and we have a little contest going about whose will survive longer. Mine seems to be having a bit of acne due to a late spurt of puberty, and has started turning a mottled yellow. Adam’s plant, however, is obviously going to be Homecoming King. Or was, anyway.
I love you, I call out, just to let him know it’s a little bit bad. Adam sticks his head out of the kitchen, rolls his eyes, and goes to get the broom.
So guess what I was reading, he says casually while sweeping up the dirt and depositing it back into the plant’s pot. As he comes back to the couch, he innocently picks up the iron I just set down on the coffee table cameoing as an ironing board. I already sense impending doom.
What? I ask, slightly suspiciously. Cher, move, I say to the cat as she jumps on my feet and starts purring.
The Kid, he replies, Dan Savage’s old book about having a kid.
I knew it was about this, but I don’t say so. Instead, It’s not that I don’t want to be a father, it’s just that I don’t know if I want to be a father.
I can’t help feeling, Adam sighs, starting to pull socks from the basket and match them, that we are having a conversation about your father, and not a conversation about you as a father.
Obviously we are actually picking up a conversation, one he had anticipated.
Your child will not have your childhood.
Your child will not have your father.
New York is not Louisiana.
Good, Adam says, just checking.
Adam feels comfortable pushing me like this for two reasons, I assume. One, he really fucking wants a kid, and, two, he thinks it’s not that I really don’t want one, but that I’m really scared.
I would say he’s right, but the truth is I don’t know. I don’t know for all the reasons that people who have contemplated planned parenthood don’t know—the moral responsibility, the financial responsibility, that latent fear of the zombie apocalypse arriving much sooner than expected. That, and I feel that we would be welcoming a kid into a life that is a little bit harder than it should be. I know there are children’s books about gay parents—I’ve written reviews about them for fun—and I know the city is liberal, but still. I worry. What will it be like for a kid to have to attend awkward Southern family gatherings? What if the kid develops a major inferiority complex because his grandpops thinks his parents are a little bit wrong? What if he grows up and resents us instead of the intolerant bigots who threw eggs at me in high school?
It’s different now. It’s different now.
Adam has begun to say this regularly during our conversations, at threat of becoming a robot espousing change.
You, I say, grew up in a liberal family on the West Coast. Hence, you mostly know the bubble.
Adam tisks dismissively. We are sitting on the couch like we always do after dinner, and I have one socked foot on the coffee table. I hate it when he tisks at me. I look down, suddenly feeling like the picked-on kid in class again.
It’s different now.
Yeah, I finally say, but just google “Russia” and “fags.”
This quiets him down. I am pissed, but it comes out as sadness. Cher jumps off my lap and winds her tail around one coffee table leg. I need the big brother in you to hear me, I say. To know that my fears are there for a reason.
Adam is quiet, but when he looks up his eyes are softer. I’m sorry, he says, I wasn’t listening. You know I’m not trying to win, you know this isn’t an argument. I just want to be allowed to talk about this. It’s important to me.
I know, I say.
It’s like we’re parents modeling nonviolent communication right there on the couch.
Hey, he asks, a little bit cautiously, will you call Mel? Invite her over this weekend? Just so we can talk?
Mel is our friend the weird lesbian. It’s okay that we title her that because she references us to non-mutual friends as, “the gay couple from my Christmas party – you know, the one with the Animal Planet jokes.” This refers to an unfortunate series of events a few years ago involving an Animal Planet marathon instigated by Adam prior to an evening of eggnog, Christmas sweaters, and my Big Fat Mouth. Oh, and a minimal amount of good cheer by certain animal rights activists in attendance. Apparently most of Meg’s friends don’t appreciate jokes referring to the physical attributes of camels or elephants, or my theories on why the Fairy Penguin is dying out. Meg didn’t feel like hanging out for three whole weeks after that night.
Really, though, she is wonderful. She is almost 35, too, and wants to conceive. The only weird part about that is that she doesn’t want to be a mom. She really, truly wants to be an aunt. She has solicited us to father her niece (or nephew, Adam always says) more than once in the past three years, each time with increasing seriousness. She was my friend first, made at a comic book convention a decade ago, when the same Flash sweatshirt drew us together. The hoodie itself might have been torn apart but for three requisite rounds of rock-paper-scissors, resulting in the lucky gal flouncing around in red. Sweatshirt or no sweatshirt, I was lucky enough to make her a friend and we called it equal two years later when she gifted me with an Obi One-Wan Kenobe t-shirt some poor bastard left at the park. So, basically, Mel is like me except taller and just a little bit cooler. Her person, Kristin, is genderqueer, goes by “they,” and makes a living silk-screening “similar” Shakespeare quotes and Tupac and Jay-Z rap lyrics onto clothing. Just bringing the classics up to date, they like to say. They like to call themself a hybrid in body and by trade. We say they’re good as long as it’s not their body they’re using as trade.
Ha, I say now, we just have to remember not to mention any statistics about freshly hatched baby sea turtles when she comes over. Although maybe you could start the conversation by talking about sea horses and how jealous you are that human males can’t gestate?
Adam looks at me directly without smiling. I want a kid, he says.
I know, I say, becoming more serious, I noticed that tear during the sea turtle documentary. I’ve seen the way you look at all those ducklings in spring.
I’m not exactly joking, but we both know I’m not answering. Cher meows at my feet and I pull her onto my lap.
Please call Mel, Adam says, and there is more in his voice than I have ever heard before.
I look at him. My hand goes to the phone in my pocket and stops.
Please, he says, please call.