Of Parenting and Poop: Dan Bucatinsky’s Triumphant Book

The Next Family

By: Mark Hagland

Does this baby make me look straight

Here’s a recently published book that I can’t recommend enough: Dan Bucatinsky’s Does This Baby Make Make Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad,published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster, under the Touchstone mark (ISBN 978-1-4516-673-9; e-book ISBN 978-1-4516-674-6). (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-bucatinsky/) The book is a memoir of the beginnings and ongoing adventures of Bucatinsky and his partner Don Roos, as gay dads, with their children Eliza and Jonah, and with appearances by the children’s birth mother, Monica, and various family members and friends.

In 27 short-ish chapters across 245 pages, chapters with titles like “Wake Up and Smell the Fingers,” “To Cut or Not to Cut,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish… Three Way,” and “A Giant Valentine for a Tiny Heart,” Bucatinsky captures all the delight, challenges, and yes, poopy-fingered grittiness of parenthood, from the perspective of a gay dad. As a gay dad myself, this book resonated tremendously with me. It is hard enough to be any kind of parent, but there are so many special challenges embedded in being a gay parent, that it is wonderful when a memoir can cover the subject with such off-balance humor, wit, and wisdom. It’s the kind of book that teaches precisely by refusing to instruct. Indeed, Bucatinsky takes the reader halfway simply by summoning his considerable powers as a writer and entertainer—he has been a successful television writer, producer, and actor, and his partner has been a successful TV director—to tell an important story without overselling it or pontificating.

And his stories are indeed both instructive and entertaining. Take for example the chapter “The F Word.” Here’s how it begins: “Eliza and I are in a skipping contest coming out of her schoolyard when suddenly she stops short. ‘Daddy,’ she says. I stop. ‘What is it, sweetie?’ ‘That’s Tilley,’ she says, pointing across the street ‘Isn’t she fat?’ I am stopped dead in my tracks. It’s like I’ve just walked into a wall. But Eliza continues to skip ahead, oblivious to my reaction…” A bit later on, he says to his daughter, “’Eliza, sweetie, let’s not ever use the word ‘fat’ to talk about another person. Okay?’ ‘Why, Daddy?’ ‘Well. Different kids process food differently…’ She looks at me blankly… We don’t want to hurt Tilley’s feelings.’ Eliza looks away. She’s such a compassionate soul, I can tell she feels bad. But then she says, ‘But Tilley is fat. Right, Daddy?’ Her eyes are as round as wide as—as a chocolate bund cake. Oh yeah. That’s what would really be good right now A moist, chocolate bundt cake with a lot of frosting….”

Meanwhile, Bucatinsky does not in any way shy away from handling tougher topics, including death, most particularly his father’s death from cancer. But always, he maintains a keen sense of how to tell a story that totally works. And that’s what makes this book a must for anyone parenting in an alternative way—or really, for any parent.

With endorsements from the likes of Dan Savage, Rosie O’Donnell, and Neil Patrick Harris, this book will do well, no doubt, in the market. But of all the endorsements on its covers, perhaps the one that came closest to how I felt about the book was this one, from Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother: “This book will make you laugh, cry, cringe in sympathy, and delight along with Dan, his husband, and his two adorable kids.”

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