Is the Party Over? Gay Dads on Drinking, Drugs and Doing the Right Thing
Like it or not, there is among gay men a subset of guys who love to party: having a good time while consuming large amounts of alcohol and ingesting recreational drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and GHB. Whether in the form of huge circuit parties, nights out with the “boys,” or big summer bashes, it often seems to be an assumed part of gay culture.
Gay men are starting families, marrying, buying homes, in many cases hitting the suburbs to set up a new life. But are they foregoing all of their pre-father partying days? We talked with a few gay parents who used to indulge to find out what kind of adjustments they've made since kids, and all that entails, became part of the picture.
Greg and Brad
“It’s a touchy subject,” says Greg, 49, who has a 14-year-old adopted son with Brad, his husband of almost 20 years. “For one thing, and this is a bit separate, I love to get stoned, but I don’t want to be a bad influence on my child. So I only do it if he’s away for a weekend or staying overnight with a friend. And even then I worry that there’s going to be an emergency and I’m going to get caught.”
The bigger picture for Greg is the Black Party and White Party, held yearly in New York, where Greg and his family live. “Yep, we go,” he admits, almost reluctantly. “It’s the two big events of the year that my husband and I love. We don’t do the drugs anymore, but we drink a lot and we stay out all night.”
So where is the son?
“He knows we go. He knows it’s our big festival, or whatever you want to call it. And he stays with one of our best friends for the night. We’ve talked to him a lot about it, and he swears it doesn’t bother him, especially as it’s only twice a year. Neither one of us cares about New Year’s or anything like that. We hardly drink at home, sometimes a glass of wine, but we do love those parties. I don’t think it makes us bad parents to indulge every now and then. And, of course, we didn’t for the first few years that we had him.”
Greg adds that their son makes fun of them for what he perceives as a “stupid gay thing,” and that brings a little levity to the situation. “Circuit parties are kind of ridiculous when you think about them,” says Greg, “so I’m glad he has a sense of humor about it. He does not see what we wear before we go out.”
Greg points out that, while he and his husband love the parties, they also don’t indulge in any sexual acts in or around the events. “We just go for fun,” he says. “To see our friends, dance, act crazy. We’re together the whole time. It’s gay tradition.”
Ted and his partner
Ted, 41, lives with his partner and two children from his previous marriage. He and his wife share custody. Although he’s a New York resident, he has a home in the Hamptons and every summer is in charge of a huge AIDS charity event. In addition to raising lots of money and bringing about awareness, it’s also a hotbed of excessive drinking, as are many Hamptons events.
“I love the Hamptons,” says Ted, “but it does bring out the worst in people as far as decadence and drinking. People get up at eleven and start with mimosas, and drink all day. I’ll admit I’ve done that, still do it sometimes, and yes, it does bother me when my children are with me.”
Ted’s children are now in their teens, and he admits they don’t like the drinking, and that they will not come out on the weekend of the benefit. “I have an agreement with my wife that they stay with her when we do the benefit. It’s insane, people getting wasted, taking their clothes off, skinny-dipping in the pool. I don’t want my children to think I condone that, but I still feel obligated to do this event.”
There’s also a personal reason Ted’s careful about how much exposure his children get to drugs and alcohol.
“My parents were full-on alcoholics, and I grew up in that world,” he says. “I’m not, and neither is my partner, but I know that if I’m drinking during the day it’s going to be all that much harder to tell my kids that it’s not necessarily the smartest idea. So I do my best to limit it to one night and I’m careful about who I invite to the house, because some will instantly ask for a cocktail, even in the afternoon. Already, at their age, when they come out for the weekend, there are beach booze parties all over the place, and a lot of other parents out there have older kids who invite them. And a lot of parents out there, gay and straight, drink a lot.”
In the end, he says, “You have to balance out the good with the bad. My children are lucky enough to spend time on the beach, to swim, to have barbecues. To meet fascinating people. The downside is that they are exposed to a lot of things that are not necessarily healthy. As a parent, I can only tell them to be responsible when it comes to alcohol and drugs, and to make sure they know drinking is never a requirement, and they should never feel pressured to indulge.”
Rob and Ken
Rob, 39, and Ken, his husband of ten years, are the proud fathers of four children, two adopted and twins through surrogacy. They live in Laguna Beach, California, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. Rob is a psychiatrist whose life has come full circle in the past few years since kids came into the picture.
“I’m from the East Coast, where I met my husband,” Rob says. “We met on Fire Island, of all places, at one of those all-night disco parties. We both had shares, and the next summer we bought a share together. Those were days of extensive partying and drinking, and I have no regrets.”
Most of that has changed. “When I look back now I feel like I was a kid, just having fun. No, I wasn’t sure growing up that I wanted a husband and children, but I changed, kind of surprisingly. My husband really wanted children, and after we adopted our first child, nothing else really seemed important. It completely changed my perspective on being a gay man and what that entails.”
Rob says the first thing that ended when he got married was Fire Island. “We couldn’t afford it anymore,” he laughs. “After we had a child there was no point. If you’ve raised a child you know how much work is involved, and just going to a resort area would have been an absurd idea, even if we went with the intention of abstaining from all drugs. And frankly, I don’t know why else anyone would want to go to Fire Island. There’s not much else to do there.”
But once a party boy always a party boy, and Rob says it’s taken him more time to shake some of his former habits.
“My husband is the more domestic one,” he laughs. “He cut his workload down after the first two kids. So when we moved out here, I still went out a lot. I work in Los Angeles, and sometimes Ken would let me stay out all night, and sleep over with friends. I would hit the West Hollywood bars with my buddies and we’d drink and do a little bit of drugs. Is that bad? Maybe. I always got permission, and I work like a dog. It serves as an escape from such a stressful job.”
When the twins came along, the occasional partying had to end as well. “I miss it, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “And it’s not a question of whether it’s right or wrong, it’s a question of time and priorities. I can’t be away from my children, I can’t get drunk, it’s just not an option right now. We even skipped the White Party in Palm Springs, and I’ll admit I really wanted to go. Someday.”
Rob says that he and his husband plan to take a second honeymoon on a gay cruise, just as soon as the kids are a little older. “We’ve talked about it for a long time. When we have a reliable relative or friend to take care of them for a week, we’re going to go and relive a bit of our youth. Stay out late, hit the beaches, party. That probably sounds dull to most guys, but to us it seems like so much fun. God knows when it’ll happen, though. We have four kids. That’s four emergencies every day.”
“When you’re having kids your focus changes,” says Scott A. Kramer, a psychotherapist In New York. “The experiences I’ve seen is that they are spending more time with their kids, rather than seeking out ways to party like they used to. They’re also doing more things with other gay dads and couples.”
“It’s just less of a priority for them because they’re concentrating more on their children,” he continues. “While they still might find things they want to do, they do them less. But they can get a baby-sitter or one of them can go out.”
Ted verifies Rob’s comments. “Most of the time, we dads are extremely dull. We see other gay dads, we have family barbecues, we go to dinner with other gay men with kids because there’s a shorthand in discussions and we talk about raising children and the challenges. And I learned a long time ago that single gay men aren’t really interested in hanging out with us. I really don’t blame them.”
“Of course,” he adds, “every once in a while it’s important to cut loose and have a great time. We might be parents but we’re also people, and part of society involves the occasional party or party atmosphere.”
Adds Rob: “Yes, most people think we’re dull. I do have one other indulgence, oddly, and it’s Madonna concerts. Before we had our twins I saw her about a dozen times, the MDNA tour, often turning it into a trip with friends. Ken has no interest, so he allowed it and stayed home, and it was my youth-fest, complete with drinking and lots of parties before the concert and at our hotels. I grew up with her, as did my gay friends. It’s a ritual.”
“If there’s a tradition it’s important to keep that up,” says Scott. “That’s a good thing. It’s also a break for the kids. Traditions are good.”
To reach Scott A. Kramer, visit www.scottakramer.com or call (347) 620.5433.