Note: as the essay says I am hoping to travel around the bay area -- sf, san jose, santa cruz, sacto, santa rosa, and the east bay -- in December to do some readings with another zine writer, artnoose who does kerbloom!, and hopefully with other parents/writers (hint, hint) so if you are interested in helping make it happen or can suggest a place to contact for a reading or even something cool to do with my kids in your part of town, please let me know. And of course rad dad #5 is 3 bucks and will be out in mid November…
I was tabling at the sf zine fair and I forgot how much I enjoy talking to people, especially strangers, talking about parenting, about politics and teaching, talking about just about anything. I shoulda been a sales person even though it is true I hate the limelight and how everyone comes up and says, “so you're a rad dad huh?” But here at the zine fair, it was just kinda fun and silly. My daughter was sitting with me and I always threw the question to her.
“Well, he tries to be.” She laughs and says, “No, he is.”
But more than selling, more than getting cool stuff, more than meeting cool people, I realized how much we need to talk to each other about our lives, our choices and their implications. I realized how many people wanted to ask me things when I put myself out there. Like these two bgirls (to use my youngest daughters term for gender blenders) looking at my zines, picking each one up, seeing my story on vasectomies. One simply looks at me and smiles and states: “So what, you can’t cum anymore?”
I stared not sure what to do.
“You know,” she continues, “because you got it cut.”
“No,” I smile, ”I can.”
“Oh, it’s just clear or something?”
“No, it's just the same.”
And as we were debating this I realized there are three other people listening and snickering, and I think I’ve turned a bright red, and my daughter has suddenly moved four tables away. The bgirl laughs and says “Really, I just wondered if that makes you not a father anymore?"
I appreciated the honesty, the frankness and go on to say something about not being able to impregnate someone makes me no less a father than when my kids aren’t with me.
“So what makes a father?”
“I don’t quite know but take one and then write me back and you tell me.”
And it went on like this; people wanted to talk: the mom holding an infant laughing at my rad dad business cards chuckles, “How does changing diapers challenge patriarchy?”
“I’m not sure, but there’s gotta be a connection right? I mean if more men did it and more men stayed home and more men respected breasting feeding and more…”
Or the dyke couple who asked about how parenting reinforces gender roles because they were thinking of adopting.
I just shrugged and said that it’s certainly changed my notions of gender but I don’t know and I asked what they thought and gave them a rad dad and asked them to let us all know what they came up with.
Or the woman who empathized with my struggle to deal openly with my son about smoking pot. She proudly boasts that she and her husband smoke pot everyday and they have a 10 year old. She paused and then asked what I thought she should talk to him about. Don’t ask me I joke because my son can’t seem to get enough and I struggle with how to handle it, how to keep the lines of communication open without totally condoning it, while my partner worries he’s becoming an addict. I just don’t know, but I thank her for talking with me, for sharing with me because it feels good to know other people are out there, struggling to make the right choices. And someone out there might know something we all need to hear, might have an experience that sheds light on some of these questions.
Because there are so many questions that I don’t know answers to.
But one thing I do know is that we need community; I know how invigorated I was, inspired by so many people wanting to talk about fathering, about parenting, about being parent allies! I want more community, so I am setting out right now to say publicly: I wanna create a radical parents conference. I imagine something like ladyfest where parents get together in the locations and create a meeting of people who realize that parenting is a key component to so many of the struggles we all face to change this world, to create and nurture the world we want to be a part of and the world we wish to leave behind. As for the conference, I don’t know what that means, I don’t know what it looks like or what it should be about, but I do know there are hella cool moms and dads out in the world that I wanna sit around with and talk to, be inspired by, get angry with. So help me. Write back; start something up. If you’ve already done some work, keep it up and tell me how I can help.
As for me, in December I wanna go around northern California to read a bit from rad dad and to meet other parents out there. Then in April my daughter and I will hit the road for a tour of the northwest with artnoose, an amazing friend and artist. If you know a place to read at, to meet with other parents, a place to crash, a museum or park to go to, let me know!