More than ten years ago I lived in New York City with a good friend from childhood. We spent nearly every Saturday night at The Duplex piano bar in the Village. We’d stand at the bar until one of the few tables became available, and then we’d sit for hours, ordering round after round of drinks while we sang away the night away. (Towards the end of our tenure, we were even known to sing “Suddenly, Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors on the tiny makeshift stage.) The pianist was Gerry Dieffenbach, and one of his rules was that we must all applaud the key changes because “it’s the Star Search thing to do.” Ever since, my friend and I have applauded the modulations in songs no matter where we are, whether the music is live on stage or blaring out of the speakers on a road trip. (For those of you without a background in music theory, check out this link at Wikipedia to learn a bit about key changes.)
Fast forward ten years, and the tradition of applauding the key changes has affected my husband, a man who not only has a background in music theory, he has degrees in it. (He’s a vocal music teacher by trade, and an talented vocalist himself.) We currently have two kids, ages six and five, and for as long as they’ve been alive, we’ve been clapping randomly in the middle of songs that play in the car…or if it’s a Whitney Houston song, we end up clapping four or five times; that girl could modulate! The kids always ask, and we give them Gerry Dieffenbach’s explanation which means little to them. Still, they seem to enjoy it when Daddy and Poppy burst into applause during a song.
Two days ago, we drove into Boston to meet up with some friends for the day. On the way home, our six year old daughter applauded the key change without us prompting her! To two gay dads well who are big showmos and have been indoctrinating our kids with musical theater since they were in diapers, this was a momentous occasion. We flipped out, completely inflating the ego of our daughter, so much so that for the past two days, she has continued the practice whenever we play music, which is often. The girl has a musical ear, and we couldn’t be prouder she’s carrying on the tradition from a smokey little piano bar in the Village.
In the past two days, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this event is sort of unique in our lives. Here we are, two men who grew up in a time when marriage and children and a house in the suburbs seemed a completely unattainable dream, and for the past nine years since marriage equality became the law in Massachusetts we have rapidly watched that dream manifest into reality. We are a family that exemplifies the meaning of diversity. My husband is a white man who grew up in rural western New York state. I am a native Californian of Dutch Indonesian descent (hence the “pseudo gaysian” identifier–I’m sure I’ll get into the background of that in a future post). Our daughter is a beautiful African American girl and our son is an adorable Latino. We live in the suburbs of New England in a house that honestly has a white picket fence. (We don’t have dogs though…two cats. We are gay men, not lesbians, after all!)
When we were married nine years ago this month, I couldn’t imagine the life we currently have. Grappling with the politics of our sexuality and coming to terms with the fallacy of this post-racial society while raising two children of color has opened my eyes to a lot of realities in our world, and this has prompted me to share some of my observations. If this strikes a chord with anyone, I’ll commit to jumping on the bandwagon of publicly and shamelessly sharing our life experiences!