dear child i will someday raise,
when i was young, my mother repeatedly stated that i could only do two things that would cause her disappointment: become a nun, or become a lesbian. the fact that i managed to disappoint her without doing either of these two things is neither here nor there. being raised with this mantra made me wonder how my future child could ever disappoint me. in order to better facilitate your teenage rebellion & calcify the inevitable generation gap, i have prepared a brief list of ways you can disappoint me:
1) become a LARP-er. force me to read tolkien books as bedtime stories. demand capes & light sabers as birthday presents. insist on attending a special nerd camp for hardcore live action role playing. refuse to answer to your given name, preferring instead to be called garthamel or thorin. parlay this into a lucrative career as a british historian, ostensibly to study the breakdown of land policy among decrepit ancient castles, but actually use your research fellowships to try to prove that dragons are real.
2) become obsessed with musical theatre. close yourself in your room everyday after school to sing along with the “les miserables” soundtrack into a hairbrush. wear unflattering over-sized t-shirts advertising broadway shows & insist on a henna routine for your hair. have a “cats”-themed birthday party & then cry when you’re the only one there wearing a leotard. insist on auditioning for every production staged by the community playhouse. insist on attending broadway musicals on your birthday. get accepted to an ivy league university & then waste it on a theatre degree that involves four years of wearing velvet pants & smoking french cigarettes.
3) throw off the shackles of the gender dichotomy in order to identify as genderqueer. become shrill & indignant when perfect strangers fail to intuitively grasp that you prefer to be referred to by a pronoun of your own invention, such as “immy” or “meow”. change your name to a gender-neutral moniker like “danger” or “automobile”. immerse yourself in online activism for the sole purpose of pointing out to everyone how their language constantly marginalizes you. devote yourself to highly gendered pursuits like barbie doll dress design or NASCAR mechanics, not because you are passionate about it, but in order to mess with people’s minds by showing up to work in a moose-skin loincloth dyed with herbal tea or a tutu, respectively. get the words “smash the kyriarchy” tattooed on your shoulder in sanskrit.
4) become a republican. run for student council on a platform of defunding the girls’ sports teams & turning the art room into storage for the debate team podiums. tell people you’re descended from settlers that came over on the mayflower. try to talk me into refusing to pay my property taxes as long as some of the city funds are being directed to the local homeless shelter. eventually grow up to be an actual republican politician with a campaign promise to privatize social security & force the most vulnerable disabled & elderly americans to gamble their financial security on the stock market.
5) become a hobo. write a zine about how you know exactly what’s going on with the political instability in mexico because one time you caught a train out of the el paso yard, which is pretty close to mexico. allow your hair to become a matlock & cover your face in appropriative tribal tattoos. never be on time for family holiday celebrations because you misread the schedule & accidentally wound up in tulsa. winter in new orleans & summer in minneapolis. busk for change as a one-hobo band in both places, playing such great tunes as, “fuck you, dad, i’m an anarchist hobo” & “hoboes don’t have moms, they rolled off the grainer porch fully-formed, like athena springing forth from zeus’s forehead, but dirtier”. adopt a dog & make it carry its own rations in saddlebags sewn from an old pair of carhartt’s.
if you follow through on any of these five suggestions, you can look forward to a lifetime of feeling smug & justified in how “parents just don’t understand”. you’ll always know that your parents are squares &/or losers clinging to their flawed value systems while you are following your heart. you can be confident in your knowledge that you are the only person in the family intelligent enough to really be your own person. & really, what more could i want for my child than for him/her/meow to forever hold me in contempt?
rest assured that even if you become a LARP-ing, musical theatre-obsessed genderqueer republican hobo, i will still love you. but i can’t promise that i won’t tell all my friends that you died in a tragic accident involving a dragon & a vaudeville hook.