Gay Dad Life

This Gay Dad Felt Invincible. Then, He Turned 40

"I feel like the day I turned 40," said gay dad David Blacker, "my body suddenly started falling apart."

I passed the mirror as I was about to take a shower this morning. And I saw something shiny. What in the world is that… a kernel of silver glitter from Max's art project? I got closer to the mirror to investigate.

OMG.

IT. WAS. NOT. GLITTER.

It was my first gray hair.

No, not the first gray hair on my head — that happened years ago.

It was worse. Must worse.

It was my first gray hair… down there.

I know. I was as shocked as you are.


When I turned 40 a few weeks ago people asked, "do you feel any different?" And I'd smile it off with a joke about 40 being the new 30, but the truth is, I do feel different. And not in the way I expected.

I thought 40 would mean I could slow down a bit and be less obsessed with my career and more focused on my role as Dad. I fantasized about my 40s being my best decade yet. Where I'm wiser…. more established and somewhat more financially sound. You know, settled, content, and more comfortable in my own skin. But my body didn't get the memo.

I feel like the day I turned 40, my body suddenly started falling apart.

I now hear all kinds of weird cracks when I get on the floor to play Hot Wheels with Max. And when I read him books at bedtime I now have to hold small print at arm's length to be able to see the words. Hair is starting to grow in weird places. Eating one hamburger makes me look like I'm four months pregnant (apparently my metabolism is slower than the Special Counsel's investigation). The bags under my eyes have become way more pronounced — I'm starting to look like Michael Cohen. And then there's the unending upper back pain from years of bad posture. It never bothered me before, but damn, it bothers me now. What is happening to me? And is it normal?

I read online that after puberty, 40s is the time you see the most changes in your body." I barely recovered from puberty, and now I have to deal with this? I feel like being picked last in gym class all over again, only this time, instead of Mike Fishman making fun of me it's my family doctor. "No more red meat. No more ice cream. No more pasta." No more reason to go on! So if you need me, I'll be up in the tree pecking on birdseed.

Even Max has picked up on my insta-aging. "Dada, you're fat." "Dada your hair is silver." "Dada, can I have 18 more Oreos?" Why does he get to eat whatever he wants and stay a size 8? Life's not fair!

And then there's my arch nemesis at Max's elementary school drop off. Another Dad who's literally the most fit and fabulous-looking man alive. Every morning, he's there to remind me what good genes — not to mention, good jeans — are supposed to look like. He's my age. But he doesn't seem to be suffering the same fate. Not an ounce of body fat. Perfectly chiseled body and face. And hair that does exactly what he wants it to, without looking like he's done anything at all. Worst of all — he's impossibly nice, witty and warm. Fuck him, with his perfectness. P.S. We have a play date scheduled for this weekend. Price check on Spanx, aisle one.

So what's the point of this article? What does all this mean? Is it just a forum for me to angrily vent? No. It's a warning to myself. Because if I write it down and release it to the public, it'll feel more real. If I want to grow old and healthy with my husband and son, now's the time for me to rethink my priorities. For starters, turning 40 means being more of a disciplined and health-conscious eater now than I was when I was younger (you, know 39).

It means being more grateful. I have to work on becoming more aware of all the good that's in my life… and less envious of others (I'm talking to you, kid-drop-off-dad). I've got to learn to appreciate all that I have, because there are a lot of people that would switch places with me in a heartbeat. Speaking of, how fantastic would it be to switch lives, just for one day, with that super hot Queer Eye chef. I mean, wow. I digress.

And lastly, I have to learn not to ignore my body's warning signs. I had gotten to the point where I thought I was invincible. And that proved to be untrue when I had my recent physical. The #1 killer of men in their 40s is heart disease. My doctor literally said to me, "just because you're a size 32 on the outside doesn't mean things are looking good on the inside." #buzzkill

Here's the thing, turning 40 doesn't mean the fun stuff has to stop, but it does mean paying attention, seeing a doctor for nagging or unusual symptoms and taking advantage of important health screenings. Cholesterol, blood sugar and pressure, are the most important ones for guys our age. A low-fat diet along with regular exercise — 30 to 40 minutes three to five times a week — goes a long way toward keeping these problems at bay. And if not, I seriously give up.

I leave you with a few words of wisdom from Brad Pitt. "I loved turning 40. Your face kind of goes, and your body's not quite the same, but you've earned it. You've earned things falling apart."

Bitch, please. Brad has no idea what it's like to be average and 40.

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Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Featured on Cover of Parents Magazine for First Time

Fitness guru Shaun T. and his husband Scott Blokker are the first gay dads to be featured on the cover of Parents Magazine

I literally never thought I'd see the day. Literally.

Gay fathers on the cover of Parents Magazine! Gay fathers being celebrated in a "main stream" publication about being parents. Gay fathers!

I don't want to get overly dramatic here, but this is a milestone. A massive cultural milestone.

Sure, gay dads have come a long way in being accepted in our popular culture, but to my eye we've never been on the cover of a big popular parenting magazine celebrating our parenting skills. As if we are the norm.

We are now - thanks to Parents Magazine.

This is a particular milestone for me because I have a bit of a history with the magazine and with parenting publications in general. My first job out of grad school was in brand marketing at Johnson's Baby Products where I did indeed run advertising in this particular magazine. Back then though we only featured married, straight couples. There were no other kinds of parents to feature back in the day! And if I'm to be really honest, they were generally white, married, straight couples.

I distinctly remember one photo shoot where I forgot to put a wedding ring on the "husband's" finger and we had to reshoot it. No photoshop back then!

Now admittedly this was before I was a dad and before I was out, but as the years went by and I embraced my own journey as a gay dad, there were no role models or pop culture markers to say that I (and other gay dads) were accepted. There were no Andy Cohens publicly making baby announcements. We were alone on our parenting.

It was hard. There was a constant barrage of straight parenting norms that constantly reminded us that we were different.
Not any more! Being a gay dad, or any dad, is now simply being a parent. A good parent. A loving parent. And we have Parents Magazine to thank for the reminder and endorsement, with hopefully more to come.

And I can't help but think, and actually know, that this kind of normalization will inspire the next generation of gay dads who will simply accept, without hesitation, that fatherhood as a gay man is a real, accepted, and normal option.

Bravo!

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The study also found that over half of gay dads have avoided certain social situations in the last year for fear of experiencing stigma.

According to new research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of gay men and their children experience some form of stigma. The findings are based on a survey of 732 gay father across 47 states in the United States.

More gay men are becoming fathers each year, and have more options for doing so than ever before: including adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. However as the study's authors write: "Despite legal, medical, and social advances, gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma. Increasing evidence reveals that stigma is associated with reduced well-being of children and adults, including psychiatric symptoms and suicidality"

Almost two-thirds of respondents, or 63.5%, reported experiencing stigma based on being a gay father within the last year. Over half, or 51.2%, said they have avoided situations for fear of stigma, in the past year. Importantly, the study found that fathers living in states with more legal protections for LGBTQ people and families experienced fewer barriers and stigma. Most experiences of stigma (almost 35%) occurred, unsurprisingly, in a religious environment. But another quarter of gay dads said they experienced stigma from a wide variety of other sources, including: family members, neighbors, waiters, service providers, and salespeople

Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) another source of stigma cited by the study originates from other gay men. "Gay men report suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who have not chosen parenthood." The study also says gay dads often feel "isolation in their parental role."

The study concludes, "Despite growing acceptance of parenting by same-gender adults, barriers and stigma persist. States' legal and social protections for lesbian and gay individuals and families appear to be effective in reducing experiences of stigma for gay fathers."

Read the whole study here.

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