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Op-ed: There Are Such Things as Fairies

Op-ed: There Are Such Things as Fairies

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On the day New York signed into law the right for same-sex couples to marry, I felt a giddy excitement, like when Obama became president, or when I discovered Chex Cereal was gluten free or when the complete series of I Dream of Jeannie became available on Netflix. A moment had arrived that I'd always believed was an impossibility -- a fairy tale -- a fantasy. It happened to be the same day my daughter, Eliza, lost her right front tooth. The excitement Don, my partner of almost 19 years, and I felt over the news coming from New York was only gilded further by Eliza -- dancing around the house looking for the perfect color marker with which to write her note to the Tooth Fairy.

"She's so super tiny, Daddy," Eliza announced with utter conviction, "I have to write my note on super duper small paper!"

Eliza, at age 6, doesn't just believe in the Tooth Fairy, she is an expert on her methods, practices and policies -- really on all things Fairy. Sure, it takes a girl with two gay dads to become an expert on fairies (rim shot)... but in Eliza's case it comes from a far deeper inner confidence, a wild imagination and a persuasive spirit. Here's how she laid it out for me:

"Daddy, my Tooth Fairy always knows when I have a wobbly tooth. And she knows when I put it under my pillow. She can feel it."

I imagined some mystical GPS sending signals from under her pillow and I smiled.

"She flies in my room and takes my note and then she'll take my tooth and leave me a present and a silver dollar too!" Eliza speaks slowly and deliberately, making sure I don't miss a single word. Which I don't. She flashes me an adorable gap-toothed smile which makes me want to hear the whole explanation all over again. This is a moment in time -- one that I will miss so desperately when she's older. I try to memorize every second of it.

Don and I listen carefully to our specific directives. We know that we are the Tooth Fairy; we know it's just a fantasy in her head -- just like the one about the 10 babies that are growing in her tummy till she's all "growed up." She believes with such conviction, it's inspiring. It doesn't matter that it isn't real. There is a power in imagination -- something inexplicably wonderful and lovely about being able to picture our fantasies so clearly and viscerally that they feel, somehow, possible. Growing up gay, I relied heavily on my imagination for comfort and reassurance that, in the words of Dan Savage, "it gets better."

The day I came out to my parents, I remember they cried. First out of relief to hear the truth that would tumble the walls I'd spent so many years hiding behind. And then out of fear that my life would be so difficult and lonely. Some part of me must have believed their fearful premonition of a life of solitude because I felt compelled to fight it, rather than shrug it off. I invested deeply in a fantasy that would prove them wrong. I imagined a life with a man I loved -- a house, maybe a dog; a coffee-maker we'd set on automatic so each morning we'd pad into the kitchen in our pajama bottoms to pour coffee for each other exactly how we always take it. And we'd read the paper and gossip about our creepy neighbor and talk about furniture we wanted to buy and trips we wanted to take and a long future together. And sometimes, just sometimes we'd even venture to imagine ourselves one day with a couple of kids.

It was fantastical and crazy and impossible but something about the act of dreaming it so specifically made it feel more possible. But call it a defensive realism, or simply harsh cynicism on our part, deep down we never believed it could happen.

But clearly there were those who did believe with the same investment and passion and optimism my daughter has about the Tooth Fairy. I'd venture to say it took unwillingness to accept its unlikeliness that the "fantasy" of marriage equality actually had a chance to become a reality.

Don and I finish reading our kids their stories and we tuck them both in. Eliza slips her note and a little box containing her tooth under her pillow. Her brother, Jonah, looks enviously at her and smiles up at me:

"One day the Tooth Fairy will visit me, right Daddy?"

"Absolutely," I assure him. And Jonah nods off, dreaming about the Tooth Fairy or more likely, ways to hit his sister without getting caught.

As we step out of their room, we pass a framed photo we took a few years ago at our wedding the last weekend it was legal in California -- just the four of us, and actor Tom Arnold, an "online minister," who presided over the ceremony. It took only 10 minutes but it happened -- nobody can take that away from us. And it represented a moment neither of us ever believed could come true.

Tonight we know one other thing for certain: there would be a visit from the Tooth Fairy. And if our kids believed it as truth, we would treat it as such.

"Daddy, open the curtains so she knows we're expecting her," Eliza twinkles.

I go to open the drapes and catch myself staring into the dark sky. Maybe there really is a Tooth Fairy. Because there sure as hell are gay families and I don't know which one of those seemed less likely to me 30 years ago. But I don't have time to dwell on it. I have work to do. Namely, drag Don away from The Real Housewives to go to CVS for a cheap, sparkly, and probably poison plastic toy for me to put under Eliza's pillow. And where the hell do I find a silver dollar?

Dan Bucatinsky is a writer/actor/producer known for writing and starring in the indie film All Over The Guy. With producing partner Lisa Kudrow, he runs Is Or Isn't Entertainment which was behind the groundbreaking, cult comedy The Comeback, and is now in pre-production for the third season of the acclaimed docu-series Who Do You Think You Are. His current project from Is Or Isn't, Web Therapy, is a new half-hour version of the Webby Award winning web-series which is garnering critical and audience attention on Showtime. His upcoming book Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight from Touchstone Books is due out in 2012 and you can follow Dan on Twitter @Danbuca.

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