by: Nico Lang
Note: This piece was originally published on Thought Catalog, and I also performed it last night at The Word Is Out, a new Queer Live Lit/Spoken Word night hosted by OutLoud Chicago and In Our Words. Didn’t catch last night’s show? Look out for the next one in May.
Last winter, I officially broke up with my dad. Our relationship had been terrible for years, and it came to a point where I had to be honest with myself about the fact that it just wasn’t working anymore, it hadn’t really worked ever and it wasn’t going to. For a long time, I’ve put up with a lot of bad relationships in my life, and I knew that putting up him hurting me was just going to make it easier to get hurt over and over again by other people. Like Vietnam, my dad is Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, and I could keep fighting an unwinnable war or get out and cut my losses. Rather than continuing to occupy a land I wasn’t really wanted in, I went home to be with those I knew loved me: my friends, my grandparents and my mother.
Since then, I’ve been doing a lot better than I ever have emotionally, but I still feel like something’s missing. My mom and grandparents are great, but it’s not quite the same. Don’t get me wrong. I love my Nana, and we talk on the phone almost every day. But she can’t throw a football for crap, doesn’t understand why baseball butts are God’s gift to man and has stubble in all the incorrect places. And my Pops and I share an intense love of The Wire (and almost all HBO programming), but he’s usually asleep on the couch before we get past an episode. How am I supposed find out if Kima pulls out of that coma if you go into your own, gramps?
So, I have proposed a solution: I have decided to cast a new father, and I have made my choice: Ira Glass.
I feel like having a secret Jewish dreamboat for a father would be good for my self-esteem. Rather than descending from the philanderers, rapists, bootleggers and mafia prostitutes of of my Ohio-tucky lineage, I would descend from Glass royalty. Get togethers would be like Hannah and Her Sisters, if Woody Allen were more endearing and prone to giving me noogies. Dad and I could talk about Proust, kvetch about Mike Daisey and catch up on whatever wacky schemes cousin Philip is up to now.
However, I imagine cousin Philip probably wouldn’t be invited to family get togethers anymore after forcing everyone to listen to Einstein on the Beach, and so we may have to speculate. But if he does show up, we still won’t actually want to converse with him, as talking about him behind his back is more fun. Instead, we’ll just calmly come up with an excuse as to why we are snubbing him, like that it’s a Monday and he’s wearing track pants. Sorry, Crazy Cousin Philip, you can’t sit with us.
Dad doesn’t seem like the type that would be into tossing the ol’ pigskin around, and so we can just fling copies of Russian and Czechoslovakian literature at each other on the lawn instead. For our family’s annual Thanksgiving game of flag football, we can use a copy of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (because of its lightness and versatility). However, for practice and strengthening before the big game, we’ll arm ourselves with Anna Karenina—as long as no one throws themselves under a train afterward.
Now that I don’t have to put up with Christmas anymore—since I’m Jewish—we can spend December 25th doing all the things that are really important. This will include finally finishing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, gossiping about Diane Rehms’ sexual escapades and figuring out if Derrida is for serious. We can watch Shoah, The Sorrow and the Pity and Curb Your Enthusiasm, as one should do on Christmas, and cap it off by reenacting our favorite scenes from Yentl, complete with wigs and hats. I’d make a great Amy Irving, but I don’t have the pipes for Barbra, and so we’ll have to bring in David Sedaris for that.
After cleaning up the puke stains Aunt Sarah Vowell left on the carpet over New Years’, we can jog past Valentines’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, which we mercifully don’t bother with. Instead of trying to figure out exactly what pagan fertility eggs have to do with Zombie Jesus, we can hold a remembrance for the history of our people by attempting to stay awake during Passover. Dad can explain to me what motza balls exactly are, while I spend the holidays fighting off a hummus coma. (I suspect it’s a lot worse than turkey coma is.)
Dad can teach me how to spend holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day not dancing under the fireworks like Brazillian football hooligans, and instead spending them in the time-honored Glass traditions. I imagine these days are spent in dark rooms somewhere, thinking about the devastating quagmire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mapping out a peaceful two-state solution. If not, we can all just go get drunk at Chinese restaurants and sing classics like “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette or “Milkshake” by Kelis—while slamming back shots of Asian bamboo whiskey. I’m open to either.
As far as the summer months go, they Glasses probably forego the Hamptons, because they aren’t Whit Stillman enough or Madeleine Stowe enough for that. This is not the Glass way. We can just go vacation wherever Bergman shot The Seventh Seal and contemplate despair for the summer. We’ll stare at shadows and talk about how Kierkegaard changed our lives, like we’re undergraduates at NYU who have just discovered what marijuana is.
And then when the summer ends, I’ll have to go back to my last year at graduate school, my last year before I have to grow up and go do real adult things. Dad will stand next to mom, with a look of pride on his face and that mischevious Ira Glass-twinkle in his eye that either means that he’s happy, that he put Terry Gross’ stapler in jello again or that he just farted. He won’t say it exactly, but from that look, I’ll know that he’ll know that I know how much he cares about me. With my backpack packed and my khakis perfectly ironed, I’ll smile and wave and promise to email or call every day—or at least text him pictures of strangers on the “L” train doing the darnedest things.
And I’ll promise to come home soon—especially for Rosh Hashanah, whatever that is. I think it’s a 5K? Whatever, I’ll figure it out. Dad and I will figure it out, together.
Nico Lang is the Co-Creator and Co-Editor of In Our Words and a graduate student in DePaul University’s Media & Cinema Studies program. Lang is a Change Coordinator for LGBT Change, the Co-Founder of Chicago’s Queer Intercollegiate Alliance and a columnist for HEAVEMedia. At HEAVE, Nico writes a column on film called Found Footage and talks about nerd stuff on a weekly podcast called Pod People. Elsewhere in podcasting, Lang hosts Broad Shoulders, a monthly podcast for Chicago’s Live Lit community. Nico is also a contributor at Thought Catalog and the Huffington Post and has been featured in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, the New Gay and on their mother’s refrigerator. Follow Nico on Twitter @Nico_Lang or on the Facebook.