Originally published 11-13-08
Add four years when a woman in Hollywood tells you her age, a producer once told me. “It’s expected that they lie about their age,” he said.
In a city where women have cosmetic surgery in their 30s, and youth is a gleaming pillar of the LA Trifecta along with power and money, I had always told my true age, freely, until now.
After I had a baby last year I became very aware of my years. My doctor classified me as, “advanced maternal age.” In the movie Baby Mama, Tina Fey’s career-driven character, who decides to have a child at 37, laments that she will be the oldest mom dropping her kid off at daycare. Not even close.
Even though there are plenty of hot celebrity moms who have given birth after 40 – Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Marcia Cross, Holly Hunter, Helen Hunt, Juliana Moore, Emma Thompson, Madonna, and our own Jennifer Beals, I still worry. Will he be embarrassed that I am older than his friends’ moms? Will I be able to keep up with the other moms?
It’s a cliché: “Will I be able to throw a ball with him at the park?” But images of me and my son together 10 years from now, me in my more advanced maternal age, constantly flash through my mind. Riding the rollercoaster together at the Santa Monica pier, sledding down a hill at his grandparent’s house, or me going to his Back to School Night sitting with twenty-something moms at little desks. I wonder if I will be up for these things that my mom and dad did with me, when they were 20 years younger than me as a parent.
I fear someone will make the mistake I did with my classmate Lois in junior high when she showed me pictures in her wallet and I pointed to two silver-haired people and asked, “Are those your grandparents?” to which she replied quietly, “No, they’re my parents.”
One of the nicest things anyone had to say about the matter was my girlfriend. “He won’t mind that you’re old,” she said of my son when he hits his teens, “But he’ll be pissed that you’re gay.”
I was wonderfully relieved by these comforting words, because I realized that being gay was the least of my worries. There is keeping him safe from physical harm, raising him to be an enlightened and moral person, paying for college, heck, even getting him into the right pre-school to worry about. Gay, who cares?
As we approach 2009, things are different than when I was a kid in the 70s. My brother and I, who both ended up being gay, used to prank call the gay hotline and argue with the operator that the world would starve if the cows and chickens all went gay. Our parents’ medical encyclopedia described homosexuality as a disorder in which older men convinced young boys that it was normal to engage in unnatural behavior, like the “fox without the tail.” That was around the time I threw away my Billie Jean King tennis shoes because she was outted as a lesbian.
Reminiscing about my homophobic childhood, extending into my teen and young adult years, I find some solace in waiting so long to be a gay mom. Having a baby as a gay parent today is a lot easier, socially, than it was a couple decades ago.
Sure, gay folks have been raising babies for a long time, but many had to hide in the closet, so their kids were forced in the closet too. Some raised their children as out gay parents, God bless ‘em, but the playground was often a dangerous place for a kid with a fag for a dad or a lezzie for a mom.
Not to dismiss terrible incidents of violence and bigotry that still happen today, but generally times are changing for the better for gays. The Family Equality Council relentlessly lobbies for equal treatment of our kids and families. Gay-Straight Alliances are popping up at schools all over. Elite private schools in Los Angeles even offer scholarships for children of gay parents in order to encourage a more “diverse” student body.
Though sometimes it seems we have a long way to go, there’s no denying we have come a long way, baby. Today, the fact that Jodie Foster, Mellissa Etheridge, and Rosie O’Donnell are lesbian moms is subtext in the tabloid stories about them. People magazine’s recent cover story “New Dad Clay Aiken: Yes, I’m Gay” was met with a resounding, “So what?” Might I mention the mother of his child is his 50-year-old best friend Jaymes Foster?
When I start to worry about being an older mother, I have to think of the trade off. While I may have a few more grey hairs than most moms when he reaches puberty, I am lucky to raise my child in a time when the world is more accepting of me — and therefore him as the child of two lesbian moms, and a gay dad.
I cannot change my age, but I can change my attitude. I can be grateful for my son and the more open and tolerant world that he was born into in 2007. If I cannot hustle the ball as fast as I used to in my 20s and 30s when I play catch in the park with my son, my partner, and his dad, at least I can do it with pride. But I’m still not telling my age.