I was recently invited to a small dinner party by an older couple I met during my days working in retail as a very annoying but enthusiastic greeter for a major department store. In fear of going anywhere alone in L.A. that might remotely resemble a couple's retreat, I took my friend Tony as my plus one.
Inside this private community, tucked behind tall, ivy-covered gates, lives a very nice couple, Jonathan and Mark. John owns his own business, buying and selling commercial real estate, and Mark is an ex-dancer turned artist, now a stay-at-home dad. Both live in a beautiful home, over looking the Hollywood Hills, and have been a couple since the early '80s.
The first thing I noticed while attempting to ring the door bell while holding two of the four bottles of wine was a small green and silver tricycle. I, being childless and quite frankly afraid of anything three feet tall with limited vocabulary and sticky hands, mine as well had seen big-foot himself trolling about their front lawn.
Once inside, and after the second course, the mention of children came up. Apparently, in the two years since I had last seen Jonathan and Mark, they had finalized their adoption process and welcomed an adorable baby girl into their lives. Now three and half, her presence can be found throughout the entire home; in pictures hung by princess magnets on the refrigerator, on the walls that glide up and down the foyer stairs, and on the minds and hearts of the fathers who love her.
We spoke of the difficulties in adopting as an LGBT couple. As well as how, unfortunately, many would rather see children grow up parentless than with two fathers, or two mothers for that matter. What I think many people would find interesting to know is that the dynamic of a family, whether it be in the "traditional" sense or not, is pretty much the same; homework, packed lunches, PTA meetings, teenage attitude problems, report cards, holiday dinners, and Christmas' -- it's all the same.
Doug, another invited guest who had been raised by two men himself, insisted his life was pretty normal. He went to high school and was teased for more pressing issues, like wearing parachute pants and multi-colored braces, more often than not at the same time. Now married to his wife of nine years, he believes "a family is a home comprised of a group of people who love each other, support each other, and protect each other."
After four courses, three hours of conversation, and two bottles of wine shared among eight friends, both new and old, Tony and I went home. After settling in, I began my Sunday night routine to watch everything I had missed during the week that TiVo had so lovingly saved for me. Ironically, the first things on the list were two new episodes of "Modern Family." For those of you who don't know, "Modern Family" is a show on ABC depicting the lives of a family comprised of many elements, one of which being the daily adventures and hilarity of parenthood as it pertains to new parents and modern-day gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell. I think this show does an amazing job of showcasing how the parenting experience is, more often than not, a universal one.
Whether you believe it's right or wrong, functional or dysfunctional, the fact is if you were to look around your home, or the homes of your loved ones, and realize how the most uncommon or unique things are sometimes the most fascinating and wonderful, you may come to realize we all have the same goal: to love and be loved. Family is about sharing an experience -- that and finding it within yourself to come home day after day and not pull out your hair when you see nine different plates and five different cups used by the same person or dealing with those moments when you're ready to risk your "Parent of the Year Award" to defend your right not to have a 14-year-old, for no reason whatsoever, yelling at you. Because, gay or straight, we are all sharing the same experience, the new modern family.
Brandon Kyle is a Inland Empire-based writer, grad student, and events coordinator.