Oh, Canada! Why is it that I find myself constantly entertained (and informed) by my neighbors to the north?
A friend recommended on several Skype occasions, and again a few nights ago, that I watch Out With Dad, a Canadian coming of age dramedy about a typical teenager, Rose (Kate Conway), and her coming to terms struggle with her sexuality. Our recent Skype session was about indie music in web series, and once again she asked me if I had watched Out With Dad. Sufficiently chastised for my excuses of insufficient time, I promised that I would pull it up the next day…promise.
Being a creature of my word, I sat at the corner Greek cafe, Souvlaki pita in hand, and watched all of season one and up to the latest offering of season two all in one sitting…I just couldn’t stop. For those who know me, to realize my attention could be captured completely away from the lovely Mediterranean ladies who own the cafe, is truly an astonishing achievement.
Now, I could expound on the quirky cuteness and the genuine humor of this series, or I could extrapolate the Romeo & Juliet style, star-crossed conflict of young love. Yes, I could mention that the music is an indie soundtrack worthy of multiple downloads. I could even illustrate that I got my science-girl geek off on the use of an actual chemistry equation as a catalyst to drive the balanced, physical reaction of Rose and her best friend, Vanessa (Lindsay Middleton).
I could, but I won’t…not this time. What inspired me to tears and what forced me to write this support blog of sorts, is the role of Rose’s father, Nathan (Will Conlon). Nathan is a concerned, single-father of a questioning teenager, and his reaction should be used as a primer for parents seeking the tools to understand the pain experienced by a child struggling with the fear and confusion of identity issues and coming out. As an adult who works often with teens, I applaud Out With Dad for expertly tackling this sensitive subject matter in such a way that is both humorous and heartwarming.
Last year, I was teaching a class on science and religion. Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, the two subjects can co-exist. At the end of the class, and as I was about to leave, I noticed a teenage girl hanging around pretending to straighten up after the class. I say pretending because the class was held in a chapel, and trust me when I say it wasn’t un-clean. Experience tells me that teenagers don’t tidy up for the hell of it, so I opened my computer and I, too, pretended to work. Eventually, the young girl found her way to the front of the room, aligned her last box of tissues with the hymnal, and then nervously asked if we could talk. Now, unlike an iconic 80’s sitcom star, I don’t normally wear my scarlet “L” embroidered to my clothing, but I had a pretty good idea of the direction this conversation was going. I nodded in the affirmative and closed my laptop.
She asked about herself, “Why am I different? Why am I not like all the other girls?” I have it on good authority, and contrary to what my mother told me, lightning will not strike you dead if you curse in church because I’m pretty sure I said aloud, “Oh, fuck, why don’t you ask me something simple…like explain the theory of quantum mechanics?” She laughed as she knew my style and knew that I was kidding. Kind of. She continued, “My mom says that I should act more like a girl, to dress like a girl…that’s my problem.” I looked into those sad, brown eyes and said, “I don’t know, how’s a girl supposed to act; how is a girl supposed to dress?” She looked down at her Melo basketball jersey, her jeans and her high-top sneakers, and then she looked back to me and pointed at my clothes, “Like that,” she said.
“Jesus,” I said, and then listened for thunder. Upon hearing only the echo of my own voice, I said, “Yeah and my mother told me I couldn’t be a lesbian because I didn’t wear comfortable shoes…” She smiled, and there was my in. We sat together for what seemed like hours, and I got the chance to explain that parents do the best they can do with the tools they are given. Unfortunately, in some areas like the suburbs, the tools are pretty old-testament and obsolete. Funny, to ask some of today’s parents to carry around the crushing weight of an old boom box on their shoulders, they would laugh at you as they slipped their iPhones in their pocket. But ask them to reject the science and mathematics of 2,500 year old scripture or culture, and they look at you like you are crazy…or worse yet, a Democrat. (I know, but I couldn’t help myself.) That’s why a web series like Out With Dad and its continued success is so important. Rose’s dad, Nathan, is the compassionate, antithetical tool to Vanessa’s mother’s (Wendy Glazier) harsh, dated, and indifferent devices.
Out With Dad is out and proud that the series has had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of LGBTQ fans and their family members across the globe. It is no small accolade that it is officially recognized by PFLAG Canada as a tool for those struggling with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, but why stop at our northern border? I am making it a personal mission to get the series link to every high school counselor, every youth group minister, and every hard-ass, frightened, suburban parent I know. Frequent readers of this blog know that I can be a bit of a tool myself sometimes.
Now, my fellow Americans, and those reading outside my geographic borders, unlike Canadian healthcare, this potential life saving production is not free. I urge you, watch here. And then, as I am about to do, donate here to aid in funding a third season.
No matter the moniker: girlie or tomboy, scholar or artist, lesbian or straight, high-tops or high heels…we are all human beings. “What’s in a name? That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet”…right?