Dan Bucatinsky is the actor and producer behind the Lisa Kudrow TV gems Web Therapy and The Comeback, as well as the cult gay romantic comedy All Over the Guy. His newest endeavor is Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?, a memoir detailing his experience as a father along with his husband and producing partner Don Roos. We spoke with Dan about parenthood, gay representation in the media, and his role in the NBC drama Scandal.
AfterElton: What made you decide to write Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?
Dan Bucatinsky: You know, I’d like to say that it was a decision that I set out to write a book, and the truth is I didn’t really, not at the beginning. About five years ago, right around the time that I became a parent, I started performing with other authors and writers and comedians in an evening called Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read About in a Parenting Magazine.
Over five years, I performed with them a couple times a year, and each time all of us would write these pieces that were designed to get to the no-holds-barred truth about parenting, how our lives have changed since becoming a parent.
And for whatever reason, I was always sort of the token gay; there weren’t a lot of other guys in same-sex, two-guy, two-dad relationships that were writing about their experience. And the audience was almost always straight, at it was amazing to me how, regardless of what I was writing about, how universal the experience was.
So the process of writing that way, after ten years of writing for film and television, digging deeper and deeper and trying to challenge myself to be more and more honest, I found very cathartic. About five years later, I put five or six of the essays together, and I performed them all as one. And that was the first time that I thought, “Oh, this is the beginning of something bigger.”
Sort of the first reason is that I found something incredibly liberating in the process of writing that way, and the second is that there was really nothing else out there. Honest to God, since Dan Savage inspired everybody with The Kid, there are no other first-person, honest comedic accounts of the experience of fatherhood from a gay point of view, and I guess I felt, to some degree, I would love to write the very book that I wished had been out there when we were becoming parents.
AE: In the book you talk about the adoption process that you and your husband went through, and it’s pretty different from Cam and Mitchell‘s adoption on Modern Family. In fact, my understanding is that gay couples are banned from adopting in most foreign countries such as Vietnam, where Lily was supposedly adopted from. What other roadblocks or complications are there that are unique to being a gay adoptive parent?
DB: That’s one of the biggest. We tried to do an international adoption; my family’s from Argentina, I sort of loved the idea of going to South America, and there was just no way. There’s the religious aspect, and politically — it came down to having to go to another country and pretend to be straight, and go with a woman, and they let you take the adopted child, and then a year later your spouse can co-adopt — it’s very complicated. And the process of open adoption in the United States, where a birth mom is actually the most important aspect in choosing where she will place her child, was, we found, the best option.
Oddly enough, especially with women who are single and want to place, oftentimes two men are their best choice, because there’s some psychological aspect of it that allows them to feel like they’ll always be the only mother. Little do they know that there’s enough “mommy” in both daddies to cover it. (laughs)
But there is something to the fact that… what we thought might be a stumbling block, like, “I don’t know if we’re going to find a birth mom in this country who’s gonna want to place with two guys”… But the truth is that for many young women, that’s their first choice. So that form of adoption, I would recommend it as the first place to go when looking to adopt.
AE: Everyone always tells new parents that their life will change in ways that they don’t expect. What was the biggest surprise you experienced as a new father?
DB: I never imagined there’d be as much wiping as there is. Wiping of everything! Wiping of surfaces, wiping of my own clothes, it’s unbelievable. And also, I have to say – and I talk about it a little bit in the book – I guess in my mind, I thought that I would be prepared for the emotional transformation, but something happens that I don’t think you can ever really fully be prepared for. I mean, almost any giant life event is something that, while we try to, we really can’t quite imagine it until we feel it.
When we had our daughter, the minute she was put into our arms – and this has been said before, and I don’t mean to be cliché about it – it was something like walking around with your heart on the outside of your body. There was something very heartbreaking at all times; I was so happy and so scared and so overwhelmed all at the exact same time.
Yes, of course, there’s the cliché sleep deprivation, there’s the cliché of worrying that they’re not breathing at 3 ‘o clock in the morning. But I think more than anything, there’s this level that I felt an unbelievable, overwhelming – not just fear and responsibility, like “oh my God, what if something happens to her” – but also at the same time, I never thought I could care about something as much as my own weight in life. And there it was. It sort of took me by surprise.
And then, of course, at every age, there’s stuff that… no matter what books you read, there’s nothing to prepare you for the first eye roll from your kid. Nothing to prepare you for the first tantrum, the first accident when you’re not prepared with a Ziploc with a change of clothes. You know, each time it happens, you’re like, “oh my God, nothing could have prepared me.”