A little over fifteen years ago, I started writing a blog. I loved lifting the curtain on my personal life and sharing what was going on as I learned how to be a father, handled a vindictive ex-husband who exhausted my family while he tried to hurt my wife (not caring that he was doing a lot of collateral damage to my then step-kids at the same time), and about my almost-daily struggles to figure out why I had a once-promising acting career that had stalled out and wasn’t going anywhere.
I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words since then, not just in my blog, but in books and for places I was honored and privileged to contribute to, like Suicide Girls and the AV Club. Over the last year or so, I’ve put about 71000 words into the manuscript of my first novel, and I’ve wasted far, far, far too much time on Twitter.
I really hate Twitter. It was once promising, and I feel like it still does some good, but on balance, it enables harassment and evil and cruelty at least as much if not more than it helps things change for the better. I feel like it has broken our society, and wrecked our social contract. I feel like the board at Twitter, and its CEO, Jack Dorsey, know this, but they’re too busy profiting from their inaction to care. May history judge them all the way they deserve.
I’ve been thinking about how bad Twitter has become, and how I can’t imagine asking people to follow me there like I did when it started so long ago. I’ve been thinking about how angry and sickened I am by the Fascist who is currently occupying the presidency, and the people he has surrounded himself with who enable and encourage him and his hateful conduct that goes against everything America has always represented to the world (except for the shameful and indefensible parts of our history, like slavery, Jim Crow, and Internment).
I’ve been thinking about how I want to tell silly and even hearfelt stories in my blog. I’ve been thinking about how I want to share how wonderful my kids were on Father’s Day, (which they know I don’t care about) when they took me out to lunch and ice cream anyway, because it was an excuse to be together. I want to write about how much I love my daughter in law, and how happy she makes my son. I’ve been thinking about how I want to write about how grateful I am that, even though my kids are 28 and 26, and not children at all anymore, they still want to spend time with me. I want to write about how great it feels to know that all the suffering we all went through when they were young didn’t affect our family in the way it was designed to. I want to celebrate that the worst person in the world, who made our lives a living hell, is relegated to a rarely-remembered footnote in our family’s history, who is living the life he deserves. I don’t write about these things, now, because they are deeply personal, and I don’t feel like it’s aways necessary or even smart to pull the curtain back on my life, or the lives of my family.
And yet … I will write about something personal, real quick, because it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for almost ten years:
Ryan was 19, and was home between semesters of college. He’d had a real difficult year while he was adjusting to school and being away from home, and his mom and I were doing everything we could to support him while he went through a challenging growth phase.
I had just bought this laser star projector from Think Geek, and I wanted to show him how cool it was to spray little green points of light across the ceiling of our living room, and just lay there, watching them drift around.
So we turned off the lights, stretched out on the floor, and did just that. The house was quiet, and the only sound was the soft whirr of the fan inside the projector.
We imagined constellations, and named them, but were mostly quiet, too, until Ryan, still looking up at our imaginary planetarium, said, “So I’ve been thinking about something…”
“Oh?” I said, “What’s that?”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am who I am because of you. I love science fiction and literature because you introduced it to me when I was little. I care about people because you taught me to be empathetic. You have always been more of a dad to me than my dad ever was … and I was hoping that you’d make it official, and adopt me.”
One of the laser points of light drifted across the ceiling, like a shooting star. I watched it and tried to process what I had just heard. Ryan’s dad had spent his entire childhood trying to convince Ryan to reject me. He wasted their whole lives to that point trying to make them pick sides in a battle that neither one of my kids wanted to be part of. At times, it felt like he was going to be successful, and a day would come when the children I did not make, but did raise as if they were my own, would never speak to me again.
And now, a day had come that I always dreamed of, but never actually expected to happen.
“Is that okay?” He asked. I didn’t realize that I’d been quiet for close to a minute, while I was trying to process that this was real, that this was really happening. I didn’t realize that tears were streaming out of the corners of my eyes, down the sides of my face, and pooling in my ears.
“Ryan, I would be honored to adopt you,” I said, thickly.
“Is it okay if I change my name, too?” He asked.
The tears turned to joyful sobs, and I told him that I would love that.
It took months, and a lot more complicated paperwork that you’d probably expect for an adult adoption, but we eventually found ourselves in the same courthouse his soon to be out of our lives forever biodad had dragged us into for years. In the same place I had to listen to lies about me and my wife and our relationship with our boys, we stood up in front of a judge, my godmother (who came all the way to Pasadena to be part of it), his mom and brother, and a couple of close friends, and we swore that we wanted to legally become father and son. Years later, I got to do the same thing with Nolan, who didn’t choose a poetic moment under imaginary stars to ask (he isn’t a writer, like Ryan is) but asked me during lunch at Comic-con! Both days were the sort of thing I would have rushed home to write about when they were young, but I kept it just for me and my family, until now, and not just because I wanted to respect their privacy as adults.
These are the stories that I miss telling, because these are the stories that don’t just make me happy, but are the stories that I believe can resonate with readers.
Like, right now, I am here to tell my fellow stepparents that you are doing a wonderful thing, being a loving and supportive parent to your kids, whether they share your DNA and name or not. (In fact, for the first 15 years we were together, I told the boys that they were Wheatons in everything but name, and if they didn’t want to take that step, I respected that. I would love them no matter what.) I remember how hard it was to not take the bait when their biodad would tell them some outrageous lie about Anne and me, and instead just tell them that I was sorry they had to hear that, and remind them that I loved them no matter what. I hope that by sharing the story of my son asking me to officially become his father, a stepparent somewhere who is having a hard time, or a stepchild who is wondering if they can ask about adoption, will feel a little less alone and afraid.
Shitty people like to try and hurt me by saying that I raised someone else’s kids, like that’s somehow a dishonorable thing. I feel genuinely sad for those people, if they truly believe that, but when they’re just being cruel, I honestly don’t really care what some asshole stranger on the Internet thinks about my relationship with the people I love.
Which brings us back to Twitter. I took it off my phone months ago, because I didn’t need to give my time and energy to garbage humans whenever I had a free moment. I turned my mentions off a couple weeks ago, because even though I’m blocking over 25000 accounts, new shitty people are popping up every hour of every day, and taking advantage of their ability to reach into my life and try to hurt me. It sucks to miss the fun stuff, the “yes and” to my dumb jokes and puns, and the interactions with good and kind people that I’ve absolutely loved since I created by account. But as I wrote recently, unless and until Twitter takes harassment and all its systemic problems seriously, it causes more harm and unhappiness than anything else. It’s not you, good and kind people, it’s me. And it’s Twitter. But we all know that, don’t we?
I have work to do. I have stories to tell. I have a wife and children and pets to spend my time with. I have a lot of deeply personal things happening in my life right now, that I have no intention of talking about. I have people in my life who are far more important to me than Twitter or blogging.
I have been trying to quit Twitter for close to two years, but I can’t, because being there is important to people who want to work with me. I can’t because part of me holds out some desperate hope that it will get better. I can’t because there are three million people there who seem to care about what I do in this world, and it’s really stupid to abandon them, when I have creative projects coming up that I think they want to know about.
But my God, people, Twitter is broken and it’s destroying our ability to see the humanity in each other. I know that I am guilty in that regard, but you’ll have to forgive me for how much I hate Nazis.
See? I did it again.
I know that this website started out as an unfiltered view into my world, but I’m old now. My kids are grown. The people I work with read it, and my employers are giving me increasingly restrictive agreements to sign before I can work with them, which I kinda need to do to support my family. I’m not going to be able to go back to the way things were, because the world has changed so much, but maybe that’s for the best, because time I don’t spend here is time that I can spend in my imagination, writing the stories that I want to write, that I hope you want to read.