At what age would you say a child is ready for marriage? Seven? Eight?
Alexa, play “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” by Vampire Weekend because the kids don’t stand a chance.
The teachers I had throughout my life are responsible for, well, at least 70 percent of who I am today. I’m not kidding—I’ve said over and over that I had the perfect storm of teachers who supported and encouraged me. Like, I didn’t walk into elementary school like, “Can’t wait to move to New York and be a writer one day!” I walked into elementary school, cried until I hyperventilated, and then I threw up on Ms. Dunn’s carpet.
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When you factor that in, it’s incredible that I’ve done anything with my life. Now, in my early 30s, I have friends who teach at the same elementary school that I went to, and it’s surreal. They carry this massive responsibility to get kids to read, identify and capitalize on where each child is excelling, buy supplies the state probably doesn’t supply them, parent at least half these children, and still go home and take care of themselves. It’s crazy. And now, in states like Florida, they have hurdles to jump over like not being able to talk about homosexuality. And I phrase it like that because there’s no concern over “straight talk.”
I agree with the sexuality stuff—I think it’s bizarre to talk to elementary school-aged children about dating, sex, and relationships. I’ve held that stance since I was a school-aged child myself because I remember it happening far more than it should have. While I had teachers—the Ms. Coxes and Mr. Gormans and Ms. Shafers of the world—who saw my potential and nurtured it, I had other teachers who… didn’t quite get there.
In 1997, a love tsunami crashed into Ms. M’s second grade classroom and everyone suddenly had boyfriends and girlfriends. I was verklempt. I had neither, and I was troubled by that. Imagine me, a seven-year-old, pressed because everyone else had sorted out the loves of their life and I was left alone. (Aside: this was also the year that Peyton Manning didn’t take a picture with me, so I threw his autograph away. Things were not going well for me.)
I went to Ms. M and I asked her what was wrong with me—where is my girlfriend? And without missing a beat, Ms. M sat me down at her desk during nap time and she explained that just because people are dating doesn’t mean that they’ll date forever (oddly good advice so far! Even for the age demo). Then she told me that I was more “husband material.” I was the kind of guy that people marry, not date. What does that mean? I mean, I could fill in the blanks I guess, but again, I was seven years old, so who cares what this means. She told me that I was too mature and that the girls didn’t know what they were missing. One day, I’d go on to break a lot of hearts.
Negative, Ghost Rider. I would actually go on to be gay, which I suppose is a means of breaking some hearts, depending on the women. Looking back, I remember how incredibly uncomfortable my conversation with Ms. M was. It was awkward at the time, too. I don’t really blame her because, as wild as it reads on paper, we’re taught to sexualize children. We think marriages and dating and kisses are funny and cute for children, so long as it’s a boy and a girl involved.
Frankly, it’s kind of fucking weird. Yet there are places out here passing laws to restrict the way we talk about homosexuality. Don’t want to mention Timothy’s two mommies, but by God, let that slugger know that he’s got the early signs of being a real ladies’ man who’s going to get his piece one day.
It’s almost like the problem here has nothing to do with saying “gay” at all.
Some fun things I’ve worked on recently:
I spoke to Walker Hayes, who is a Good Man with a viral hit song that you definitely heard while watching football.
1883 recently ended (sad!), and I chatted with LaMonica Garrett, who played Thomas.
I wrote a little more about Florida and its “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in a bit more of a serious fashion.