Thursday, October 21, 2021

Review: 100 Questions for Dad

Apparently, Jeff Bogle's dad is the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. At least, that was my first thought when I read the first sentence of the introduction to his book, 100 Questions for Dad. "My dad would often talk about playing basketball on the streets of West Philadelphia," should be enough to send any 90s kid into the second stanza of the classic Will Smith theme song. The rest of the introduction will make you feel guilty for humming that tune, though. It's a short and touching story about wishing he'd had a better record of his dad's stories, the ones he'd heard growing up about his dad growing up. 

100 Questions for Dad is a guided journal, divided into five sections that aims to provide families with that record. The book starts with the premise that dads are super heroes, and this is a chance for them to record their origin stories. Each section asks the story teller prompts on different topics. From, The Early Years, to Love and Friendship, to Being a Dad, the journal asks fathers to do something they haven't traditionally done, "be as candid as possible and allow yourself the opportunity to be vulnerable."

The book is interspersed with quotes from authors and notable people, men and women, about their own fathers. Each prompt takes up one page and allows roughly twelve lines to write on. It's nice that the writer is encouraged to keep things succinct. If you pick one up, you won't feel overwhelmed, or struggle to fill a page. The goal is to encourage people to see the value of story telling, in digestible chunks that go deeper than the anecdotes dad tells in the car on long trips.

One of the striking things about the book is its undeclared but noticeable commitment to inclusion. Bogle said on his Dad 2.0 podcast that the book emphasizes, "the importance of father figures, the way I incorporated pronouns, it's for anyone who associates with being a father in any way and what that looks like in your life." The prompts are broad enough that no matter what your life experience or interests, you'll be able to answer every one. For example, Bogle, who has been a music reviewer among his many gigs, wanted to include a question about music. The publisher came back and asked about father figures who may be Deaf or hard of hearing or for whom music isn't otherwise an important part of their lives. Conversations like that led to an effort for the book to open up space for father figures who may use a variety of pronouns or encompass intersectional identities. The music question was changed to a more universal prompt about art in any medium. 

I'm personally excited to continue writing in 100 Questions for Dad and eventually leaving it for my kids to read. I look forward to sharing the stories with them as I write. I look forward to gifting a copy to the dads in my life. Heck, I'd even like to gift a copy to you. Yes, you. If you'd like to win copy of 100 Questions for Dad, just follow the Raffle instructions below. Then go tell your origin story!

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Micro-Investing: A Better Way to Back a New Business

You guys! It's here! A real way to back a business you believing is finally here!

Ok, it's probably been here for a while and I just didn't know it, but I' excited to know about it now and I am going to blab about this for a minute. 

Back in 2018, I wrote a post about online panhandling. It has gone too far and what was being offered was simply not enough. Since then, I've seen more and more disappointing crowd funding offers. Some were for products I really wanted. Then, when I read the fine print of the campaign, it turned out I wouldn't be buying the product at all. I'd be buying a chance to pre-order one if it were manufactured. Dude, no. Here's how that 2018 post closed:

"So I'm begging you. Please. Stop panhandling online.

If you're out of work, I'm probably out of work too. You're kid's school needs whatever? So does mine. Someone suddenly died, or was diagnosed with a terrible disease? OK, you got me. I'm in.

And hey, for profit endeavors, how about a different model? Why not go back to what crowd funding should be? Call for investors. You need money to develop your game? You need to finish that movie? You think you can build a better mouse trap? Great! Instead of offering me a beer coozy with your logo on it, or a chance to download early, why not offer me a piece of the action? You think you need $10,000 to do your thing? Great, for my $100 I want 1% of the net profits. Maybe I'll get my money back, maybe I won't. But I'll be much more likely to bet on your idea if I'm getting more than a commemorative tote bag. My issue isn't with you asking for money, it's with what you're offering in return."

Is it too much to ask that you fund with pre-orders? Or that you offer more than a chance to maybe buy the thing later? How did the Personal Seat License model find it's way to silicone augmented cutting boards? What I really wanted was a chance to invest in a new product or business and maybe make a little money. I'm not now, nor will I ever be an angel investor or venture capitalist. I don't have that kind of scratch. Still, I'd love to be able to take a small amount of money and invest in some small businesses or new products. I want to see people succeed, and I want to see a return on my investment. Even if that return is only lunch money, I want to know that it's possible.

Which brings us to the story of Carter's BBQ.

I met Darren W. Carter through the blogging community. We hung out at Dad 2.0 conferences. We have an online friendship that's similar to those I have with any of my friends who live across the country. We trash talk sports, we chat about parenting, we share in each other's endeavors. I learned a lot about Darren from his appearance on the Dad 2.0 Podcast. He's had an interesting life and he's done a lot of good in the world. Darren is a mental health advocate, a long time foster and adoptive parent, and a champion BBQer.

I think it was about a year ago that I saw Darren post online about his BBQ sauce. He was bottling up some sauce to sell and I knew I had to acquire some. I had no idea if it was in stores or if he'd just made it in his kitchen and printed off a label, I wanted it. The truth was something in between. If you follow me on IG, you know that we love to grill here at IDL HQ. Lou constantly asks if we can grill. We even eschewed a turkey this past Thanksgiving, instead going with a smoked duck. We use a lot of BBQ sauce. Typically, we have between three and five bottles of various BBQ sauces in the fridge. So I had to have a bottle of Carter's. Or four. 

I went with four.

The first order came in plastic mason jars and was sealed with saran wrap. When it arrived, I fired up the grill and Carter's immediately became my kids' favorite BBQ sauce. For Lou, it's xyr favorite sauce, period. Xe puts Carters on everything. Lou even brought a bottle to a BBQ at our neighbor's house just in case xe didn't like what they had there. Then, instead of leaving it as a gift, as I suggested, Lou brought it back home. Xe couldn't bear to part with it. Once I knew it was a good product, I dubbed myself Carter's brand ambassador and started to post as much Carter's related content online as I could.

When those four bottles were gone, I ordered four more. This time, they came in fancy squeeze bottles with those foil safety tabs that come on all commercial squeezable condiments. I also ordered a bottle of Carter's dry rub. To my great delight, Darren included an experimental spice blend that hadn't yet come to market. Being an influencer was paying off. In the time between my first order and today, I've been hitting Darren up for grilling tips and watching the videos he posts on IG.

So I love this product, and I admire Darren for the man and the father he is, even if he is a Cavs fan. What happened next will one. OK, it surprised me a little bit. Carter's posted that they had opened an account with Honeycomb Credit and they were soliciting investors. Like, real investors who could help grow the business and earn a return. It was exactly what I had been looking for, a chance to invest and help out a friend and a business that I believe in. I talked to T, and we agreed to invest. Yes, I could lose money. I'm not investing an amount that would break me if it doesn't work out. But whether it works or not (I think it will), I'm investing in a small Black owned business, and that makes me happy. It makes me way happier than sending money into a Kickstarter void for a product I might like but may never get, made by people I don't know. I hope more people will see the Carter's Story and take a chance on investing in them. If investing isn't for you, check out their website and buy some sauce.

Here's more on the Carter's investment story.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Ref is Called, "Sir" and Other Ways to Avoid Misgendering People

Ryu works the sideline.

Being misgendered can suck. I only have a tiny amount of firsthand experience with this, but it's been over a long period of time. People often think that I am a woman when I am on the phone. It's been going on my whole life. I used to think it was because I was kid, but it still happens. It's only really bothered me a couple times and it doesn't come close to being something that causes me to produce more than an unseen eye roll before I correct the person. In this way, I am privileged. Since I've never had to wrestle with society failing to accept my gender, being mistaken for a woman doesn't have the same effect on me that it can have for other people. 

Assuming a person's gender isn't something I thought much about until a few years ago. For a long time, I was content to go with whatever I picked up from my perception of a person's markers of gender expression. These were cues like hair cuts, clothes and accessories. As I've grown in my understanding of gender and the difference between identity and expression, I know that while they are often linked, expression isn't enough to go on. I saw this with my middle child, who came out as non-binary, but hasn't changed much about their personal style. My oldest, also non-binary, hasn't changed their style much either. Both are often misgendered, but in different ways and with different results. 

Lou hunting a tackle
Most misgendering for my kids comes on the rugby field. Kids play co-ed until middle school, so it's common to have boys and girls and non-binary kids all on teams together. I'll be honest, it can be hard at times to tell who's who. The kids range in age from 7-10 in U10s and from 10-12 in U12 and if you know about kids, you know that the range of sizes and features as kids grow is staggering. Add in the fact that they're all in uniforms and, good luck.  Lou's rugby nickname is "Crash," which removes one more societal marker for gender. Even Lou's real name, being non-anglo and uncommon even for its culture of origin, doesn't provide any help for most people. Lou is sporting a door side-shave that has become a common hair style for people of all genders. So Lou is called a girl about 60/40, and both assumptions are wrong.

Ryu is another story. Being our child, Ryu is very slight of build. Their voice is still child-like, having not yet differentiated. They have grown a beautiful golden mane that they wear in a pony tail when playing or refereeing. When in uniform, this is usually the only typical gender marker that people pick up on. The other thing is that when we ref, we often wear pink, which has become popular for rugby referees in the last decade. I've often had coaches tell me how great it is that my daughter is out officiating games. When I tell them, that's not my daughter, they pivot to how great it is that her parents let her come out with me. 

I need to find a better way to express this concept.

This came to a head a couple weeks when Ryu was working the sideline at a game. I was working the opposite line, so I didn't hear anything about it until later. When we got home, Ryu reported that the coaches on the far sideline spent the entire game referring to Ryu as, "sweetheart." Ew. First off, don't call anyone you're not already in some kind of relationship with, sweetheart. Gross. Second, don't use a diminutive when talking to a match official. Especially a kid and especially if you think they're a girl. I know it may be hard to have to refer to a child in a way that defer's to their authority over you based on the position they have taken in the match, but you still have to do it. Thirdly, don't assume someone's gender. Finally, rugby has already set up a way to avoid this, the referee is called, "sir."

The term, sir is use to address all match officials in the sport. It doesn't matter their age. It doesn't matter their gender. It doesn't matter if they are in the middle of the field or on the sideline. The referee is called, sir. This idea is so ingrained in rugby culture that in parts of the mid-west the word is used not only as a title, but as a noun and a verb. As in, "Are you the sir?" and "Are you sirring for us today?" It essentially replaces the word "referee" in some dialects. When called, ma'am, female referees will sometimes correct it to, sir. Here's what I sent to the coaching staff:

"I'm writing to follow up on one thing and I hope that it comes across in text as being friendly and gentle, which is how I intend it. 

Could you please remind your coaches to refrain from referring to any referee or AR as, "sweetheart?" All match officials, regardless of gender can be addressed as, "sir." I know for sure that there was no offense intended from the staff. I am certain it was an endearment and not an insult. However, we should generally practice not using diminutives with match officials. More specifically because in this case the term used, generally applied to girls, misgendered the AR. The AR wasn't deeply offended, but did feel uncomfortable and didn't feel able to correct the coaches during the match while also attending to their AR duties. 

I know that you all have your hearts and minds in the right place, I know you're all top notch. I did want to get us all thinking about how we interact with officials and keeping to the same standards even when the officials are children.

I am always happy to have more conversation about this or any other aspect of officiating. Thank you again for coming down and thank you for all of the energy and effort you've put into helping develop referees this season."

The coaches replied and said everything you'd hope one would say in this situation. As time goes on, hopefully the presence of my kids in the league will help bring awareness and maybe even change habits. The thing is, habits are hard to break, even for those of us who think we're thinking about this stuff.

I made a mistake recently that showed me how much work I still need to do. We got a new kid at rugby a couple weeks ago, just coming up to us from U8. Slight build, cool undercut hair style, gender neutral name. The second practice the kid was at, they ended up behind me as I was jogging backward and I bowled them over. Another player asked what happened and I said, "He was behind me and I didn't see him and I knocked him over." That's when the other coach started shout-whispering, "she." It took me couple times to figure out what he was saying. "She. SHE." he shout whispered couple more times. Aw crap, I had just misgendered the new kid in nearly the same way it happens to Lou, and for almost the same reasons. I definitely wanted to dig a hole in the turf and bury myself. 

I did what most people do. I took the available evidence and made what I thought was a reasonable assumption based on how I think the world is ordered. Except, I'm supposed to know better. I really thought I was past using my perception of gender expression and context to assume a person's gender. I'm not. Even after having conversations with my kids and my wife about paling everyone, they until you know for sure, I made this mistake. This was even after another embarrassing moment that happened when I was picking up my kids on the last day at transgender kids summer camp. I signed one of the kids out and said to the counselor, who I'd had some rough patches with during the week, "Thanks, man." I was mortified. I sincerely do not know this person's gender and it doesn't even matter what their gender is, this is the one place where I really needed to be more careful. "Hey, I didn't mean, man's...I say it to everyone. I didn't mean..." The counselor cut me off/saved me, "It's cool. I get it." Thanks, kid. You're very kind. 

So how can you or I or anyone avoid this? Here are my ideas.

-Use people's names if you don't know their gender. Read through this post again, there are places where I use names instead of other pronouns. It takes practice and can feel awkward, but it's a good trick and useful for when you're still getting used to someone's pronouns.

-If you can't smoothly insert their name, or don't know it, use, "they." Yes, for some people, they is their pronoun and for others it isn't and maybe someone who uses something else will take offense. But I think most people will get your intent, see it as a positive and offer you their pronouns. If singular they seems confusing to you, think of the lost item example to see how you probably already use it: "Hey, someone left their sweatshirt here. We should find out who they are and get it back to them." You don't actually say, "Someone left his or her sweatshirt, we should get it back to him or her."

-Normalize including your pronouns. Even if you're cis, let people know your pronouns. It can function as an invitation for others to also disclose their pronouns and know that they're with someone safe. 

-Don't call people, "man." It's reflexive for those of us who grew up wanting to emulate The Fonz, but its time has passed. It's a hard habit to break, but just break it. A lot of people won't care, but I don't want to be the guy who reawakened someone's trauma with an offhand turn of phrase I cold just as well not say.

-Remember that most things you say could be said just as well without a gender tag. "Excuse me, miss." Could just be "Excuse me." "Hello, sweetheart," could just be "Hello." "Your son or daughter," could just be "your child." It's really not hard to just stop talking before you say the gendered part.

Finally, don't let yourself off the hook, but don't beat yourself up. I'm raising these transgender kids, going to workshops, spending time and effort to be the best ally I can be and I still make mistakes. I don't take them lightly. I use each one as an opportunity to remember that I can't be complacent or ever think that I'm done learning and growing. It's OK to be imperfect as long as you keep getting better.

I probably missed somethings here, so please feel free to correct me in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

Ryu goes to the whistle and admonishes Lou for calling them "princess" during a match.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Podcast Episode 5: Malik from The Real World 10, 20 Years Later

I'm a child of the 80s who came of age in the 90s, so it goes without saying that I was obsessed with Mtv. Even in the years before we had cable, I was hooked on it. Every time we went to a house that had cable, I wanted to watch music videos and VJs and music news and Remote Control. This was a boon to my mom because if she took me to a grown up dinner party or some other boring thing, she knew there was a chance I'd sit there watching Dire Straits or Duran Duran for hours.

My freshman year of high school, Mtv helped pioneer reality television, airing The Real World in 1991. I watch every episode twice trying to keep up with the network's seemingly random schedule. I loved it. It was weird and contrived but also somehow pure. That lasted about three seasons, before they found ways to push the drama and diminish the reality. Some time after Real World 3 in San Francisco, I stopped watching. Until 2001.

For the tenth anniversary of the show, the production headed back to New York and featured a cast member from Berkeley, Ca, Malik Cooper. Malik is one of my best friends and I'll be honest, I was jealous. I had harbored a dream of being on the show back when I was too young to do it, then given up the dream when the show lost its tenuous grip on "reality." Still, when I heard he was going, I was a little bitter.

Despite that, I watched every episode I could, considering I didn't have cable. My mom taped the episodes and sent them to me in L.A. where I watched them on my 12-inch TV/VCR all-in-one unit. Fast forward to Christmas break 2020, the season for doing cleaning and organizing projects. I decided to take one more pyrrhic stab at organizing the LEGO bricks in Ryu's room, but I wanted something to watch. The only media device there is an upgraded 32-inch TV/VCR all-in-one. I knew what had to be done, a full Real World season 10 re-watch, with Ryu at my side for most of it. 

What I didn't expect when I slid that tape in, is that many of the themes of the show were still relevant today.  In some ways, that season of the show was more relevant in the winter of 2020 than it was at any time since it aired. The central themes are conversations about race, especially as viewed by people who grew up in different parts of the country. Another theme is gender and gender norms. Watching with my mixed race, transgender kid brought up a lot of interesting questions and conversations. The more I watched, the more I knew I wanted to talk to Malik about what he remembers and what's changed or stayed immutable over the last twenty years. 

So I called him up and we recorded this episode of the podcast. In it, we talk about race, class, gender and The Miz. We talk about his new life as a dad and how to manage all these damn LEGO bricks. We also get to the bottom of an old controversy, what exactly did Malik say about being the only one to go to college?