Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Tribute: Double Dating With My Dad

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Bob Morris and his dad.

by Bob Morris

What is it about fathers that make them so predictable? Father's Day lumbers up to your calendar and what do you buy the old man? What do you say to him? Is the nicest thing to do for a Dad on Father’s Day leave him alone with his ballgame on TV? Dads aren't as expressive as moms. They can be, heaven forbid, a little dull. And we gay sons usually have more to do with our mothers anyway. Call it Oedipal or just chalk it up to the fact that aesthetics matter to mothers, but it’s easier with them, that’s all.

But it all changed for me when my mother passed away. Suddenly my Dad, at 80, was asking me to help him find new love. So I didn’t only start pimping for him and screening for him (God forbid he should end up with anyone less than perfect) I started coaching him and dressing him. It got very Queer Eye for the Old Guy, as I’d scold him for talking with his mouth full of food, and I stopped him from pouring Splenda into his wine. I introduced him to concepts that were foreign to him such as the dry cleaners, and got him to stop wearing those vinyl loafers from Kmart that annoyed me more than I’d like to admit. I know I’m not him and he’s not me and without my kind of raging aesthetics, he didn’t live for just the right collar or cuff. Still, some tweaking never hurts.

The truth is that as a gay son who was single, I had more time for him than my brother did. I was also a better sounding board for all his dating questions. And when he told me about his dates, I wasn’t as shocked as a straight person might have been with his senior sex in the city life. Botox, Viagra, internet dating. When it comes to romance in his world, 80 is the new 60. One woman who was 86 was dating my father and two other men at the same time. Another told him he was just filler until Mr. Right came along. Nasty, sure, but nothing compared to what gay men on the prowl say to each other.

In the wake of a parent’s death, your life changes in all kinds of ways. What struck me most was that my father and I became friends for the first time ever. Well, it’s easy to bond when you’re both dating so disastrously and doing the post mortems. But even though I was middle aged and resigned to being single, he never gave up on the idea of love. Not for me or himself. And shocking as it was, it turned out that my father, who I’d dismissed my whole life as a no-nothing, had things to teach me in his own wacky way. He was so open when it came to love, the world’s most democratic republican.

“Stop looking for perfection” he once told me when I was being too critical of a man who ended up the love of my life. “That’s the only way you’ll find it.”

I took that advice and now I’m as happily married as gays can be.

My dad passed away in 2006. On Father’s Day I think of him when I look into the eyes of the man I married. I taught him about clothes. He taught me to love.

Who do you think got the better deal?

We are delighted to have received permission from Bob Morris to reprint his thoughts above, and encourage you to discover his best selling book, Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating With My Dad (Harper Perennial).

Bob is a New York Times Sunday Styles section contributor. In his book Bob takes a very personal and candid look at a year of dating dangerously. This book is funny, deeply moving, and highly instructive for a generation of adults whose parents are returning to dating for the first time in decades. Of particular interest to gay men and women seeking stories of what it’s like in the trenches of the dating scene, Assisted Loving, is honest and hilarious. A 2008 Lambda Literary and Publishing Triangle finalist, it was also named an American Library Association Stonewall Honor book. The paperback edition, which includes an extra ‘PS’ section featuring Bob’s Modern Love essay in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times about his gay wedding in Los Angeles before the laws changed, makes great reading because at its core, this is a heartwarming account of a father and a gay son who learn how to be brave in pursing love through their love of one another.

Morris has his own website. And it's not too late to give this book as a Father's Day gift, either, though I am not to sure which bookstore to send you to in the Berkshires to find it. Certainly not Barnes and Noble. I guess that's why so many of us gay and lesbians use Amazon all the time. They get it.

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