A couple of weeks ago, I happened to arrive at Lil’B’s house around the same time that his younger sister’s Big Sister arrived. Neither of us had a hard and fast idea of what we wanted to do with our respective Little’s that day. It was unseasonably warm – I was actually wearing shorts – and so neither of us wanted to be cooped up inside if we didn’t have to be. We ended up taking Lil’B and his brother (10 months older) and sister (16 months younger) to play miniature golf as a group.
Months ago when I took Lil’B there alone, we encountered a small Mexican family that we spent some time talking to because the course was crowded. At one point one of the little boys comment that, “Your son is pretty good.” That was, by no means, the first time I had thought about people thinking Lil’B was my son when we are out together, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite clear we do not share any genes.
The Big Sister is of Mexican decent and seven months pregnant. There we were three Mexican children under twelve years old, a very pregnant Mexican woman and a pasty white guy all playing miniature golf together. I couldn’t help thinking, “people think we’re a couple, I’m the step-dad, and these are her kids.” Obviously, if I were Lil’B’s “father” there would have to be a “step-” in front of it.
I had a first that day. After we completed the course we were on, we went to the “19th hole” to return our balls and clubs and I got a hole in one. Go figure. I received a coupon for one complimentary round of miniature golf, which expires one month from the day we were there. So when it was time to plan the next outing with Lil’B, I was inclined to go miniature golfing again. We both enjoy it and it would be silly to waste a free game.
It was raining like mad yesterday. Without a back up plan, I went out on a limb. I took Lil’B to see Beauty and the Beast, recently re-released in 3-D. I’ll be honest. I wanted to see it and I don’t have anyone else to go with. I wasn’t sure it would be up his alley, but the only other kid-friendly movie out there was The Adventures of Tintin and I really don’t want to see that if I can help it. I told him as we were driving there, that I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about this movie, but that it was something I really wanted us to see. I told him it came out originally when I was young and that it might be a little dated, but I thought he would enjoy it anyway. He said he was fine with it. When it was over, I asked him what he thought. He nodded and said, “It was cool.” Normally, that question is met with “It was awesome!”, but I’m taking him at his word that “cool” is an honest reaction. I told him I knew it wasn’t really our usual style, but it was still fun.
Watching this movie with Lil’B, was a kind of surreal experience, though, when I realized how long before he was born this movie had come out.
I told him this movie came out “when I was young”, but I didn’t say how young. It was only as we were actually watching the movie, when memories of the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters came flooding back, that I realized just how young I had been. I saw the movie for the first time, as the beginning of what would turn out to be a tragic failure of a Valentine’s Day date – the only one I’ve ever had. I was sixteen years old. The girl I was dating, Cindy, had all sorts of romantic notions. During the opening number, “Belle”, when the “Gaston Groupies” sing:
“Look there he goes, isn’t he dreamy? Monsieur Gaston, oh he’s so cute!
Be still my heart, I’m hardly breathing. He’s such a tall, dark, strong and handsome brute”
she thought it was “adorably provincial.”
In 1991, Beauty and the Beast was on the cutting edge of animation technology. Everything looked so crisp and clean, the scene when Belle and The Beast dance in the ballroom already looked nearly 3-D and that was before 3-D movies made any sort of resurgence. The characters, at least the human ones, seamed pretty realistic with fairly natural movements. The wisp of hair that is forever falling down into Belle’s eye, struck Cindy as being the coolest thing ever. She saw so much meaning and subtext in this movie that went over my head; to tell the truth, it still goes over my head. But Cindy saw it, and I wanted to see Cindy so I saw it too. (Hey. I was sixteen. Give me a break.)
When the movie was over and Lil’B and I were heading back out into the rain, we had a little math lesson. I told him, “Remember I said I saw this movie when I was young?” he said he did. I told him, “I saw it when I was sixteen years old. How old does that make this movie?” Somehow I hadn’t put it all together before we were in the theater. I didn’t realize that this movie was 20 years old. In fact, strictly speaking, with an original release date of November 22, 1991, it’s older.
“I saw this movie when I was sixteen,” I told him. “In fact, I think I saw it on Valentine’s day.” That statement went right past him, but it stopped me short. It stopped me short because that’s all I said. I didn’t say, “I saw it on Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend”, I just said, “I saw it on Valentine’s Day.” I told myself that I didn’t elaborate because I didn’t want to confuse him, but it continues to nag at me.
Lil’B and I have never discussed my sexual orientation. If he’s even aware of what it means to be gay, he may already have figured it out or assumed it, but we’ve never discussed it and I’ve never confirmed or denied it. If he is aware of it and I told him I went with my girlfriend, maybe that would be confusing to him. Then again, if I said I went with my girlfriend and didn’t explain that I don’t date girls now, that seems dishonest. It continues to nag at me though, because by withholding additional information, I missed an opportunity to open dialogue between us.
When I signed up with Big Brothers and Big Sisters I told the Match Specialist, Jenny, that I’m gay. It was important to me to be honest and not keep a secret from the family I was trying to build trust with. Jenny asked me if I wanted to be open about that with the family and I said I did. In fact, me being gay prevented me from being matched with the first little boy they selected for me. In that instance, Jenny told me about the kid before telling the family I am gay and when it didn’t work out, she felt badly. When she called me about Lil’B, I asked if the mother knew I was gay. She said that she had told Lil’B’s mother right up front because she didn’t want to have another situation like with the previous family. But the mother and I have never talked about it either. I assume she remembers, but I don’t know and I don’t know if she told Lil’B.
When I was matched with Lil’B, he was only seven and I felt like he was too young to have that conversation. Now that it’s been nearly two and a half years, it’s difficult to bring up. Admittedly, I’m concerned how he’ll react. And strangely, I’m afraid of being rejected by a ten year-old.
And just when I thought I had put this fear behind me…