Monday, October 19, 2009

I Hate Balloon Boy's Parents

     I don’t have any kids. I probably never will.

     When I was in seminary this was something extremely difficult for me to accept. In counseling sessions I worked through my grief over the loss of children I would never have. I was told this was a natural thing for priests to feel and to do, because we were biologically hardwired for procreation. Because we had to be celibate and since the people in the pews were going to be our spiritual children, we had to open up our lives to be parents for all. There was no room even for adoption. Sure, a few priests managed to adopt, but that was viewed as questionable. Were they really going to be able to give their entire being to the church if they had a kid to care for?

     Growing up, I always thought I’d be a father. I neither thought I’d be a priest, nor that I’d end up being engaged to a man. While being a priest was in the collective imagination of my Irish-Italian Iowan roots, being a healthy gay man was not. Since kindergarten and my days of parenting various stuffed animals with names that rhymed with Jeffrey (Keffrey, Meffrey, Neffrey, Peffrey, etc.—I was very creative), I knew that there was something different about me.

     Was it the pink birthday hat that I requested? Was it the repulsion I felt when Tammy Schultz asked me to play Show and Tell and Touch under the bedcovers with her? Was it the fact that I got caught by my big sister and reprimanded by my parents for playing the same game with Chet Blackmore in the basement the next weekend? Or was it my fascination with the intriguing parts hanging between the legs of the plump daddy in the children’s book Where Did I Come From? Whatever it was, I didn’t call it gay. I didn’t know that word; except that it was something you called sissies on the playground.

     As I grew older, my fantasy life evolved as well. Nightly as I lay in bed, I got trapped in snowstorms with my He-Man and G.I. Joe guys (especially G.I. Joe arctic trooper: Snow Job). Snow Job and I were freezing to death. In order to survive we had to strip naked, share a sleeping bag, and lie close to each other for warmth. (I’d learned about that survival method from Latka on an episode of Taxi.) Eventually, the fantasy came to involve some of my male teachers, my friends, and their fathers.

     As a teen, I fantasized about being a father, about marrying my best friend, who looked like Ariel, The Little Mermaid (the wedding was going to be fabulous), and having beautiful auburn-haired girls to raise with her. (See the video below for the full fantasy.)  Of course, there was no sex in the marriage. They were virgin births apparently, because I was still getting accidentally stuck in blizzards with co-workers and football-loving buddies, luckily getting the last room at roadside motel, and unfortunately having to share the room’s only bed. (And did I mention the power outage?)

     Now, at 35, I’m engaged to SHE (Super Husband Extraordinaire) and there’s quite an age difference between us. He’s got grown kids. We’re not going to have children—nieces and nephews, yes; grandchildren, maybe. I know that I could be a great father, but in my life at this point, I cannot support a family financially. I’m in grad school. I’m a writer. There’s no money, no job, no stability. Love there would be, but we’d be living on the streets. I’m not going to introduce a child in to that kind of uncertainty. It wouldn’t be responsible or fair.

     So, when I turn on the news and see the latest Octomom saga: Balloon Boy; when I hear of parents using their children to get media attention or to make money; when I hear stories of parents verbally, physically, or sexually abusing their children; when an addict to whom I listening tells me he been addicted to heroin since age nine when his mom made him shoot up with her; and, when I see parents damaging children out of their own selfishness, I get angry. I want childhood protective services to rescue those children. I want the world to do something.

     But then, what am I doing? I make less than 30K in Los Angeles. I’m in school. I’m thirty-five and have no children. What am I giving to the world? How I am helping the situation? Is there salvation for the Balloon Boys of the world?

Image Credit: Snow Job from Hasbo