Sometimes when you grow up with a really close friend, their parents become like your parents, and vice versa. That’s how my friend Kat and I are.
Kat and I met when we were seven years old. We went to elementary and middle school together, and swam on the same swim team every summer. So our families also spent a lot of time together, and our parents became close friends too.
My dad, Erik, and Kat's dad, Joe, quickly bonded over their eclectic taste in music.
"I was a big music buff and always looking for people to go to shows with me," my dad remembers. "Joe was very willing to go to shows."
When Kat and I were in 4th grade, our dads took us to a show with Cake, the Flaming Lips, and Moby. It was a little over our heads.
My dad laughs when he recalls it. "So here were [with] these two young girls, I think probably the first concert you'd ever been to. And it was these wild bands. [Joe and I] had a fun time watching you guys interact with the crowd."
But then everything started to change. When we were in 4th grade, Kat’s dad Joe came out as gay, and her parents got divorced.
"I had this feeling that there was this glass dropping out of my hands and shattering," Joe recalls of that time. "And it would never be put back together."
A few years later, my mom and dad were separated, and several more years after that, my dad came out as gay. My mom actually took it all pretty well.
"You know it's really good to model happy behavior and authentic behavior," she says when I ask her how she felt during that time. "So the fact that we aren’t married and that he's gay and happy and that I'm happy seems like a very healthy way to raise children. It also seems like a very healthy way to live on Earth."
So fast forward to 2015. Kat and I are now roommates living together in Oakland. Our brothers are both going to UC Santa Barbara, our dads are openly gay, and all four of our parents live in Sacramento. One day Kat and I discover a weird coincidence.
It started when my dad asks for a recommendation of a place to eat in the Bay Area. I recommend Wally's Cafe in Emeryville. Later that night, as Kat and I are hanging out at home, she casually mentions that her dad had gone to Wally's for lunch that day. Surprised, I tell her that my dad had been there too. We realize that our dads had gone out for a lunch date...maybe they were more than friends?
But our dads have been long-time friends, so we chalk it up to a friendship rekindling after years apart. We're excited, but don't want to get our hopes up.
A month later, I'm heading out of town on my birthday when my dad calls.
He wishes me a good trip, and then adds "Oh, and I'm dating Joe." I explain that Kat and I had been hoping as much. Minutes later I get a text from Kat: "So I guess the dads are dating!"
Their friendship has officially moved beyond swim meets and rock concerts.
My dad tells me that when he came out, he and Joe were both living on their own in Sacramento. "And then we discovered some new things about one another."
Joe adds, "And we finally started having conversations you don't have as two suburban dads."
My mom's reaction? "I was just happy for [Erik]. And that it was Joe was comforting because we know Joe."
Since Joe and my dad have come out as dating, things have settled into a weirdly normal domestic routine.
Both my dad and Joe remark how natural and fortunate it is that our two families are still so close.
"To see that the end result of it is a family still, and have the families expanded rather than broken, it's really, really fortunate," Joe says. "I don't take that for granted."
I don’t take anything about my family for granted. I know that the happiness we share with each other now was hard fought, and took a lot of patience, respect, and unconditional love - especially from our mothers.
At my mom’s 60th birthday, we’re all here: the dads, Kat, her mom, and our brothers. It’s Wonder Woman themed so there’s a lot of red and gold. I’m wearing a tiara and metal cuffs on my arms, my mom is in a gold sequined dress. She grabs the mic in front of the DJ and addresses the crowd:
"I want to thank my family which is large and unusual and wonderful. So I want to start with my newish family-esque which is Joe, which is Erik's partner and my good friend, and his was-wife. And their children who are dear friends to my own children."
During the party I ask her how she would describe this "newish family-esque." She responds, "In French we call it 'élargie,' which means it keeps expanding and morphing into the most confusing and delightful thing."
And Kat and I? We're closer than ever. As she puts it: "Family is family. And you should be proud of your family no matter what."
So this Thanksgiving, my unconventional family gathered around the table. My dad and I fought over politics, my mom and Joe were in charge of picking what movie to watch, and we all ate too much pie. You know, normal family stuff.