He was talking about disco and the fact that he knows by heart almost every song that once dominated the dance floors of clubs, like Studio 54. I discovered this years ago, when we were sitting on the deck of my father’s summer house and the next-door neighbors started blasting Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” out into the cool night air.
I rolled my eyes, turned to Dave expecting to see the same, but instead I saw him lip-syncing to the song, perfectly, confident he knew every word.
“I need you, by me, beside me, to guide me, to hold me, to scold me … “
It was then that I realized I’d finally found the straight version of my dad.
Okay, not really. They have lots of differences. But having a gay dad teaches you some important things, and one of them is that life is too short and too important to waste time with macho, chauvinist dudes, men who can’t talk about their feelings, or men who think being a tough guy is more important than being a mensch.
What else do they have in common? They’re both really good fathers.
People used to ask me if it was hard to grow up with a gay dad and I have to tell you: it wasn’t.
I had a dad I could pour my teenage girl heart out to, who actually tried to understand me. Because he’d already had to go through his own period of change and growth, he was a great ally when my emotions were running wild.
Here are some of my favorite memories of my Dad that I think wouldn’t be the same if he weren’t gay:
He was with me when I got my period for the first time. I was 16, the very last girl I knew to get it, and when I came out of the bathroom and told him, he practically danced. “Do you know what to do? Do you have products?” I did, and while I pretended to roll my eyes at him, he celebrated.
He took us to almost every single Barbra Streisand movie. I know she’s a diva now, but back then there was nobody else like her, no one so strong and so Jewish, and no woman with such a big personality. I think she was a great influence on me growing up, and his love of her, which remains solid, introduced us to her before she got too glammed up to relate to.
He bought me clothes. We’d go on trips to New York and he’d take me to Macy’s, where he and his boyfriend-now-husband had endless patience as they helped me choose outfits, and then made sure they fit well. I always went back to school after those trips with a rare burst of confidence.
We shared a mutual hatred of PE. I got caught hiding under the bench to avoid playing volleyball and my dad admitted that when they were running laps in school, he’d hide behind a building, wait until everybody came around again, and then join them as if he’d been running the whole time. Since my dad is a pretty cool guy, this made me feel a whole lot better about sucking at sports.
There are other great things about my dad that have nothing to do with him being gay, like his great advice about compliments. I used to be incredibly uncomfortable with them, whereas now, I bask in them unashamedly. And when someone said something nice to me, I’d launch into an awkward series of reasons they were wrong, and I wasn’t what they thought.
Then one day, my dad told me that if I really was that uncomfortable, the solution to my problem was simple: Just say thank you. Those two little words would end the conversation a whole lot quicker. Brilliant.
He also taught me to fake tap dance, made up stories about Freddie the French Fry who danced on the tip of your tongue, introduced me to some great music, took me to movies and plays, and to this day we go to Paul Simon concerts together, which we’ve been doing since I was ten years old.
And his gayness, which is a big part of him, means we can talk openly about sex and relationships, about writers like David Leavitt and Stephen Fry, and discuss the Oscars in detail the next morning.
He’s already introducing my son to the world of Broadway shows; he took him and a friend to see Newsies for his birthday.
So, when I found a guy who had just a touch of gay, I knew I’d found the right man, and I married him.
This article originally appeared on Your Tango. For more like this from Your Tango, try:
Photo credit: Getty Images