A friend of mine was trying to help me come up with a topic for a post. He suggested I write about when I noticed the difference between my family, having a gay father and straight mother, and the other families in the neighborhood.
I grew up in the 70′s and 80′s. The 70′s were weird for everyone not just my family. I lived down the street from Nick Swardson (I’m dropping his name here because I know a few celebrities and I keep hoping that one day they might stumble across my blog and leave a comment). Nick’s family had a pool. His family didn’t live there yet but the couple who lived there before them had neighborhood pool parties frequently. Nude pool parties. I’m not sure if they were swingers or if it was just the 70′s but these parties were the talk of the neighborhood at least amongst the kids who were not allowed to attend.
Further down the block we had a group of men who lived in a huge house. Turns out they were gay but I didn’t know that until they hosted the annual block party. It was a pig roast which was apparently one of the things people did back then, kinda like fondue. I learned they were gay when my father had to administer a shot to me and the rest of the family to prevent us from developing Hepatitis A. One of the hosts had Hep A and since they did all the cooking and preparing of food everyone who attended the party was asked to get immunized. I don’t recall anyone having contracted Hep A from the party however.
We had several hippy families and a couple families headed up by divorced moms. Something still pretty rare back then. Their kids were always having pot parties and skipping school. They all looked like groupies and may have been. We were told to stay away from them. Which made it all the more exciting to hang out with them.
My brother and I spent most of our time hanging our with our friends who both happened to come from old fashioned Catholic families. My best friend was the youngest of 8 and my brother’s best friend was also the youngest of 8. Both of these families appeared to be rock solid, stable families. And they were but we thought they were like the Brady Bunch, always happy and nothing ever went wrong. Turns out they were no different than the other families on the block and like my family they kept their secrets to themselves. As I learned much later my family was a lot more like the Brady Bunch than theirs were. And I take pride in that fact.
My father never really acted differently except for when he wore his Speedo but I still believe that was a fashion misunderstanding more than it was a gay thing. Until I was told about my dad I never noticed any difference. Knowing he was gay made me aware of the difference and most likely very sensitive to any derogatory use of words such as gay, fag, sissy, fruit, queer etc… all words that I threw around with complete abandon until I learned that my father was one of them and then I probably used them more so people wouldn’t wonder why I wasn’t using them and to fit in when I felt that I didn’t any longer.
I grew up in one of the nicest neighborhoods of St. Paul and yet we were all messed up when you looked closely. And yet maybe we weren’t messed up at all. We were probably just like all the other families just trying to work, play, love and raise good kids.