My young son Ethan is a very stylish six year old. He is acutely and at times annoyingly aware of what style of sneaker, shirt or pant is 'cool' or 'dorky.' He has developed a slavish devotion to French made 'skinny jeans,' vintage t-shirts, and hard-to-find European, suede sneakers that fall to pieces the moment any kind of inclement weather hits them. This doesn't come as as total shock to me, being who he is - not to mention the company he keeps. My gorgeous son Ethan (who I'm sadly convinced is as straight as an arrow) lives with a pair of shallow, style-obsessed, fashion-victim gay men who are as queer as three dollar bills. While other fathers agonize over their son's batting average, George and I fret that our son's most recent and supposedly hip haircut doesn't do proper justice to his strong Nordic features.
When our surrogate Irma became pregnant with our son, I immediately concluded we were having a girl. With glee, I anticipated all the fun, girly stuff little Taylor/Lindsey/Donatella and I would do together. We would shop for frilly party dresses at Nordstrum, eat dainty little finger sandwiches at The Plaza Hotel in New York City and throw the most lavish, and enviable tea parties. My exquisite daughter would soon be fluent in 8 languages, attend Julliard, and be the first Suma Cum Laude graduate of Princeton to dance the leading role of GISELLE at Lincoln Center. Seated 4th row, center, tears of exquisite joy course down my face when in the 2nd act my darling daughter plunges the dagger into her breast, relinquishing her life as GISELLE and assuming her tragic and immortal Sylph identity. The audience convulses in ecstasy and to the astonishment of the management, orchestra and assembled critics have the audacity to give Taylor/Lindsey/Donatella Abrams an-unheard-of standing ovation before the velvet curtain has even fallen on the her grand finale! After her 10th encore, my daughter would humbly motion for me to join her on stage. As the crowd roars it's approval, Taylor/Lindsey/Donatella magnanimously takes my hand, curtsies deeply, and hands me a single red rose from the magnificent bouquet sent to her by Mikael Baryshnikov. (He is still smarting over her impulsive decision to join New York City ballet, but faced with the tidal wave of publicity she is receiving, he has no choice but to kiss her emaciated ass) Though I am nearly blinded by Lincoln Center's luminous spotlight, I lovingly bow towards my supplicating daughter, give her a knowing wink, and then while facing OUR adoring public, hands earnestly clasped together at my lips, give a simple, mouthed 'Thank You.' The crowd goes wild and while ferociously cheering and clapping, shower my Prima Ballerina daughter and I in a cascade of fragrant rose petals.
After our Triumph at Lincoln Center Taylor/Lindsey/Donatella and I retire to our lavish suite at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel and spread the glowing newspaper reviews all over the lush carpeting. As is her custom, my daughter never reads her own reviews – she considers it gauche. I on the other hand, pour over every syllable, anguished by these moronic ‘journalists’ who have the nerve to condescendingly refer to her performance as ‘sparking,’ ‘inspired,’ and ‘novel.’ Are they blind? Are these critics so accustomed to mediocrity that they can’t recognize true genius when they see it? I am about to lose my faith in the media altogether when my eye comes to rest on a New York Times black and white photograph of my daughter soaring through the air in a miraculous grand jete′. I've seen this shot dozens of times (New York City Ballet uses it on every dreary program, press kit, and playbill) but this time the photo is accompanied by a headline that screams RAPTUROUS DANCE MIRACLE – ABRAMS TRIUMPHS AGAIN! Elated, I race down the hall to share the happy news with my daughter. I find her casually seated at her vanity, brushing her long auburn hair and inspecting her patrician features.
“Kitten, have you seen? The Times is calling your performance transcendent – a miracle!” I exclaim.
My daughter continues to brush her hair. “Now daddy, you know I don’t read my reviews – it’s bad form.“
“Oh darling, I know – but I just couldn't resist. Do you forgive?”
My daughter suddenly stops brushing her luxurious hair, turns and regards me with the most plaintive look. “Daddy, I would forgive you ANYTHING. Besides, the only real critic whose opinion matters is yours. I could have never gotten here without your unconditional love and support.”
I am undone. I hurry to her and place my head in her lap. Like a child, I sit on the floor of our plush suite, tears again coursing down my ruddy cheeks. All the years of work and sacrifice by George and I come rushing to the surface. Taylor/Lindsey/Donatella holds my head firmly, stroking my glorious silver hair, and due to her strict Bolshoi training, offers me kind words in fluent Russian. Though I don't understand a single syllable, I'm comforted nonetheless.
"I hate Target." Ethan reminds me in the car. "Their clothes are boring."
"Tough, we're in a depression, so get used to it buddy!" I respond. Ethan gives me a contemptuous look and decides to scowl for the rest of the ride.
I am now as far from my glittering 'future' at Lincoln Center and the Sherry Netherlands as I can get. As we join the throngs of bargain hunters scavenging the sale racks at our local Burbank Target Store, my six year old fashionista turns up his nose at every Cherokee shirt, Osh Kosh B' Gosh jean, and Mossimo cargo short. After 30 minutes of fruitless arguing, Ethan and I are finally overcome by the noxious stench of polyester, ghastly florescent lighting, and oppressive screeching of illegal aliens. I throw in the towel, and head to our favorite, over-priced kid's boutique in Silver Lake.
As we enter the store's elegant grand salon, an attentive sales lady offers me a soy latte and begs me to have a seat on the spotless, velvet divan while she takes Ethan through 'the collection.' Ethan who is tall and thin and looks frighteningly fabulous in EVERYTHING he tries on models an astonishing variety of expensive, imported children's wear. A agree to buy him two pairs of imported french jeans which happen to be on sale for 40 bucks each - but draw the line at a $98 t-shirt with Lenny Kravitz emblazoned on the front in garish silver.
Incredulous, Ethan cannot understand why he cannot have the t-shirt. "But Daddy, I look so good in it." He complains.
"I don't care - take it off."
"But I want it."
"Take it off, it's too expensive. I'm not buying a six year old a $98 t-shirt."
"But you buy yourself $98 t-shirts." He says snidely.
I was horrified. My young son had come to believe that not only were he and I intellectual equals, but financial partners as well. Were I to stab him where he stood, he would bleed entitlement. He continues modeling the shirt and flirting shamelessly with the overly attentive sales lady.
Outraged, I take him by the arm and hiss in his ear "I can assure you we are not equals. Now, take the Goddamn shirt off, before I rip it off your back!" Ethan's eyes grow large, he knows that I mean business. He dresses quickly and we leave the store empty handed, even forgoing his deeply discounted French 'skinny' jeans.
In the car ride home, Ethan and I are both pensive. I reflect on Taylor/Lindsey/Donatella and the alternate universe I will never reside. I silently mourn the glittery New York City Ballet events I will not attend, the standing ovations I will miss, and the crowds of adoring fans who will never seek my autograph. I reluctantly resign myself to the task at hand of driving a recalcitrant straight boy around town looking for discount jeans. In the midst of feeling completely sorry for myself, I glance at the small blond boy seated in the rear of my car who tunelessly hums the theme from STAR WARS. I catch his eye in my rear view mirror and we exchange a smile.
"Dad, I don't want any clothes - let's just go home and draw together."
'Ok, I would like that." I say. My voice breaks slightly as in that moment I realize that I have never been nor will I ever be his equal.