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Op-ed: A Teaching Moment

Op-ed: A Teaching Moment

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We were always warned that once the kids were school age, our entire social lives would change. And while we've continued to have a strong connection to all the friends we had before kids, we have noticed the gravitational pull toward a social life with other parents. But until recently, I never realized that some of these relationships come at a cost.

We were out to breakfast one Saturday morning with another family we met when all the kids were in a summer art class together. We enjoyed our giant table for eight. and the way we shared our parental duties, the passing of plates, and the cutting up of pancakes, the laughter among the kids ... the crayons, the spilled maple syrup -- it felt like we were all in it together. Then something happened.

Our new friends, the other couple, turned to one another and gave each other some kind of signal to go ahead and ask us what had clearly been on their mind from the moment they invited us for a family playdate-brunch. They asked us how we went about becoming a family. They were embarrassed, but beyond curious about the mechanics of adoption versus surrogacy. They wanted to know why we felt OK about raising kids who had no genetic ties to us. They wanted to know all about our birth mom. They wanted to know everything. I was happy to educate them on anything and everything. I've always been of the mind that honesty and openness and pride about who I am and how I became a family only helps open the minds and hearts of others. Yeah, well ... not always.

After we had given them a complete history of how we had become parents, they complimented us on our honesty and our commitment. They were proud to know us, they said. They thought it was "good for their family" to have friends like us. They wanted their kids to see that the world is made up of all kinds of people -- and that children can have parents that come in all different shapes, sizes, and genders as long as they love them. We were their "gay dad friends," and they loved us.

I started to wonder how many other "gay dad friends" they had interviewed prior to choosing us. Granted, the competitive spirit in me was relieved we had, in fact, been "chosen." But then I got annoyed. Were we only friends with them because they wanted a token gay couple in their lives as a "teaching moment" for their kids? I said to myself, Maybe there's nothing wrong with that. But I knew it didn't feel right. We'd been inadvertently sucked into a strange Playdate Affirmative Action Program. But being chosen or rejected in any work or personal relationship solely on the basis of sexual orientation, race, religion -- anything -- is the very definition of discrimination, isn't it?

Look. I'm happy to be a role model. I'm happy to be an example to others of the different colors of love -- and family and marriage. But, like everyone else, I'd prefer to be welcomed into another person's inner circle of friends on the basis of my personality and my values or even my sense of humor or, OK, great looks.

And so what if this straight couple wanted to expand their social circle and open their minds to a less conventional family. I got over my self-righteous outrage and opened my mind and heart a little as well. The conversation ended and we cleaned up our kids and paid the check. As we were heading for our cars, one of them turned to me casually and asked a favor:

"Oh, look ... I meant to ask you this earlier," he said casually. "You guys don't ever, you know, kiss -- in front of the kids, do you? Not like, by accident or when you didn't realize they were there ... but like, if they're having a playdate or anything -- you guys don't strike me as the types who are into PDA?"

I don't know what "type" I am ... and I may or may not touch or kiss my spouse in front of my children or others' kids -- but I do know one thing: I'm not the "type" to be able to be friends with every family just because they happen to have kids and they happen to really like us and want us in their lives. No. I may just have to get a little more discriminating.

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, behind the groundbreaking, cult comedy The Comeback, and is now in production for the third season of acclaimed docu-series Who Do You Think You Are for NBC. Their current project, Web Therapy, is a new half-hour version of the award-winning Web series exclusively 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 WhoSay and on Twitter @Danbuca.

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