My Gay Friend is Going to Have a Baby, So I’m Giving Him Fatherhood Advice
Sean Zepps was the third person I spoke to face-to-face at the Deep Focus office. The first was Ricki, who was then followed by my soon-to-be-manager-turned-friend, Merritt. In the months leading up to the moment I walked in to their offices, I’d already interviewed at two different agencies, bumped into Louis C.K. and his daughters in SoHo, ran up on Debra Messing in Barnes & Noble, and whispered to Ron Howard on an early morning 2 train (all truths). I’d also been a father for 3 months, listened to all the fatherly themed podcasts, read all the blogs and articles about keeping newborn doodie out of your face (none of them work), and received as much solicited (mainly unsolicited) dad advice I could get my ears on. I’d also been writing pretty heavily on the Medium platform, and was looking for a career change (i.e. — a better paying job to supplement my dreams and feed a greedy and growing Afro-Latina). So when Sean Zepps walked in, ankles out, and introduced himself and told me “I love your writing. Your O.J. piece was blah blah blah really good” I was already sold. Because, flattery gets you everywhere if you’re a Capricorn named Joel.
Ten months and twenty “Joel, we can’t afford errors like this” emails later and cool ass Sean Zepps and his cool ass hubby have moved to LA. They’re also going to be having a cool ass baby. I gave Sean Zepps a hug and told him I loved him, because exceptional human beings deserve to know how exceptional they actually are. Good people deserve to be reminded of their goodness. Sean Zepps works harder, and smarter, than anyone I’ve ever met and known. There isn’t much that I could pass to Sean Zepps that he didn’t know already, outside of maybe long lost R&B lyrics. But, I could share what I think I’ve learned about the one subject I tend to talk the most about nowadays: fatherhood.
There is nothing that prepares you for fatherhood. Nothing. Not growing up with a doting father, nor growing up with an absentee one. Not babysitting nieces and nephews, or them bad as shit Anderson kids from up the street on the weekends. The months leading up to the birth of my daughter were a train wreck inside of a plane crash beneath a shit ton of stars and rainbows. I was still unsure of myself as a man, and even more unsure of myself as a potential parent. I wasn’t the best support system to my daughter’s mother, and looking back, I could have done a better job of honing in on what she needed and wanted and giving what I could, and being honest about what I couldn’t.
There are no road maps. The books, the podcasts, the blogs — they do not KNOW your child. But, you will. You will learn the cries, coo’s, the signals of hunger and play and boredom. And you will know nothing. Because your child will teach you everything, if you are willing to learn.
You will learn to fight for things, to earn them with your palms and heart in ways wine and salt cannot show you. The uncanny manner in which lighting and soil and sun and blood mix to meet, to mate and make whole the broken. Your first will not be your first love but the love that you never knew existed, the needle in hay, the pea under the mattress. Wait for her to cry, shhhh the tears out, you will sing something, a song or sonnet, something to soothe. In that refrain, you see God, you will see eclipses and the collision of stars and Saturn. My little one made a planet for me. I bleed different. You will too. You will learn the truth of you in the most of the madness, the moments where the trip to the MoMa becomes the thing you twist into her hair and make a harem for her with. She will be your water, or he your alpha. Perhaps altar, or atlas. Alternating between wave or welcome, shift or solace. Norms will be challenged. YOU will be challenged.
Some will ask of you what you are no longer willing to give, because what you will give will now be given to him. They will tell you how you should be a parent, the why’s of the what’s, wise because they have logged the hours. But, they are not you, you with your story or New Hampshire or sex or identity. You with your ideals, juggling worlds beneath tongue and smile, bearing trials, bearing fruit, bearing a pulse. Yes, you are more alive. And the ground will feel fat, will seem steeper. He will make you climb. And, bend. You will bend time, bend atoms, limb, bone, religion, all for him. She will feed you long before, long after, she learns to lean on you, lean in you, for subsistence. You will be her Gibraltar, his school, his church, her lighthouse, her oak. I am less patient with everything, but her. You will be bigger for him. Better, because you will create space for the things that you need to harvest in order to help him grow.
You will not have all the answers. They will evade you, mostly. You will forget names and places, you will lose yourself. And it will be hard, the letting go of a former you. But, you will find someone else in the process. A stronger, smarter someone. You will discover a you that you never knew could ever exist until this new person brought you mirrors, until she gave you windows, windows for seeing yourself through. You will lose count of things, but you will count things anyway. You will count trees, wind chimes, fingers, teeth, street lights, milligrams, words — how many times can I fit the love into my mouth? How many of the flower stems still sit where they once stood, on the ridges of his scalp? This will be your practice. You are making a new thing. And this new thing will not care about your hard day at the office. This new thing will not care about your tired. This new thing will not care about your circumstance. Because, this new thing requires your love. Nothing will ever live on your love like she will. And, that will be what feeds her, what sustains her. And that will either shake you, or settle you. You will be that for him.
And with that, you are a new thing now, too.