When two worlds collide
When I first learned I was going to be a father, I was in art school -- the place where narcissistic college students and self-centered artists collide to form shockingly self-important young people with a flair for the dramatic. "What? Me? A father? What about my needs? WHAT ABOUT MY ART?"
I was a big wuss. I was distraught. And I was convinced that parenthood was incompatible with any activity that wasn't entirely pragmatic -- thus taking away the romanticized, starving artist lifestyle I'd envisioned for myself, and replacing it with a fate that I assumed would be worse than death: the 8 to 5 job.
Oh the horror! Woe was me! Etc.
But, though my initial reaction to the news of impending fatherhood was a little luke-warm, and my rationale for feeling that way was decidedly juvenile, it was a real fear, nonetheless. Up to that point in my adult life, I'd only had one passion, and I was incredibly driven in pursuing it -- almost to a fault. I didn't know anything about being a dad -- and I was worried being a parent would take my passion from me.
It was the worst thing I could imagine.
* * *
Cut to 9 months later. After following Edan's mom to Texas (a state I used to swear I'd never set foot in), I found a city that wasn't filled with cowboys, oil tycoons, and ornery rednecks who'd want to "kick my Yankee ass," landed a job, and got to wondering what I'd do with all my spare time. So I started a performance company -- mostly because I didn't know what else to do. It might not be New York (or Chicago, or LA, or Paris, or any of the other places I thought people were supposed to move to when they decided they were artists), but, I figured, why not? Everyone needs to have a little fun.
And both of my lives carried on. To my surprise, I loved being a father, and I really enjoyed making art in my new city -- much, much more than I'd expected.
But the lives were separate -- almost entirely. So much so, that -- even though Edan and I are together almost every day, and I consider parenthood a huge part of my life -- people I'd been rehearsing with for months had no idea I was a father.
* * *
Cut to this past weekend.Amanda, my partner, and I, had spent the last few months making a performance that -- shockingly, given the foul language I cram into most of our material -- was appropriate (and maybe even fun) for kids. So, not thinking much of it, we invited families to the show.
For years I'd been making theater -- at first desperate that people liked it, and, over time, learning to be a little less petrified of other people's opinions. I'm sure it's the same for anyone who does public speaking, takes photos, keeps a personal blog, or whatever -- when you put something honest out into the world, the idea that people might not like it, even hate it, is frightening. But you put it out there anyway, and, eventually, you get used to it.
However -- even though everyone who'd seen our latest performance couldn't stop talking about how much they loved it -- I was pacing, sweating, and more or less freaking out before Sunday's show. My 3-year-old daughter, Edan -- who had never before seen anything I'd been involved with creating -- was coming, and, all of a sudden, I was struck with the reality that she might hate it.
That was a piece of me out there. What if my daughter rejects that little piece of me? My worlds were colliding! It was chaos! Death, destruction and mayhem were sure to ensue! What had I done? WHAT.HAD.I.DONE?
It was too late. I couldn't uninvite her. I couldn't suddenly pretend that the dozens of other patrons had arrived to see some other performance that I'd had nothing to do with. So I pretended like everything was cool. Dad isn't stressed. He's cool. Everything is going to be super cool.
Hence, you can imagine my relief, when I peeked down from the top row, and saw Edan sitting with her mother -- not squirming, not fussing, but staring intently at the stage. And you can imagine my happy I was, when I peeked down again, and saw Edan, out of her seat, doin' a little toddler boogie, and dancing just like the performers.
It's one of the best theater experiences I've ever had -- watching my daughter watch something I'd helped create, the two tangled up together, full of joy.