“And what time is curfew?” I asked Giago as a reminder.
“Midnight. So we’ll be back around then.”
“No. You’ll be back BY then.”
“By then or sit here watching TV with your pops and me while Jake goes out with all your friends, has a good time and catches the fancy of some girl you like.”
“He’s gay. I’m not all that worried.”
“She may not know that – or care.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works, but fine. Midnight. If I have to.”
“You have to. And pull up your pants.”
“Why?” he asked – as if what I told him to do was merely a suggestion.
“Because…I said so.”
“But we’re going to be late.”
“Then hurry up and do as I say because you’re not leaving this house with your ass hanging out.”
“Because…and I’ll say it again…I said so.”
“What’s wrong with this?” he asked Jake or Bradley or both – as if either of their responses mattered to me in this instance.
I sat up on the edge of the couch. “What’s right with it?”
“That’s not style. That’s tacky. And you can look tacky all you want to within the confines of this house, but you won’t do it in public.”
“Why do you always have to be so difficult?”
This caught Bradley’s attention and he sat up on the edge of the couch as I rose up off it. Giago recently surpassed me in height and has since gotten quite mouthy.
I remember when my height surpassed that of my mother. I thought for sure that it meant I was grown and could therefore do what I wanted to, say what I wanted to and go (or not go) where I wanted to (or didn’t want to)…
…let’s just say I was wrong…
…just like Giago was about to be.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
Giago wilted a bit.
“I don’t think we’ll be going out tonight,” Jake said to Giago and then slowly took several steps back.
“You can go if you want to, Jake,” Bradley told him while I continued to stare intently at Giago.
“Let’s try this again,” I said, walking towards Giago. “How’s this for difficult? Pull up your pants – or go up to your room…until college.”
Giago tried to return my stare. When that failed, this strange look came across his face.
“Really?” I said, putting my hand on my hips. “I dare you.”
“Terrence…,” Bradley forewarned. “Don’t go there.”
“Why not?” I asked. “He thinks he’s big and bad enough to overpower me now that he has some height. I thought the same thing when I grew taller than my mother. But height didn't mean anything to my mother – just like your height doesn’t mean anything to me. And keep this in mind: if you actually do what it looks like you want to do, then you can’t live here anymore. Win or lose – you can’t live here anymore.”
Bradley walked up behind me. “This has gone far enough,” he whispered in my ear.
“So how much is your pride worth to you?” I asked Giago, partially ignoring Bradley.
“It’s worth more than this conversation,” Giago replied indignantly.
“Watch it, Giago,” Bradley warned him.
“Why is he always on my case?” Giago asked Bradley, nearing tears, as he started to walk up the stairs to his bedroom.
Bradley grabbed Giago by the arm, dragged him to the couch and sat him down. “I’ve had enough of this. Terrence and Jake, sit down. Giago, don’t you say another word until I’m finished – and that word had better be, ‘I’m sorry’.”
“Of course you’re going to take his side,” Giago mumbled.
“Don’t test me, Giago,” Bradley said, pointing a finger in Giago’s face. “The reason why your dad is always on your case is because when you leave this house – you represent US. And that US is an interracial gay married couple. And if some people aren’t raising their eyebrows over the gay thing, they’re certainly raising their eyebrows over the interracial thing. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a child of such a couple and we’ve tried to shield you from that, but it’s a reality of this world that you’re eventually going to have to contend with no matter how hard we continue to try to shield you from it. Regardless, there are people out there who are not only looking for my marriage to your dad to fall apart, but who also want to find reasons why our raising you together has somehow been detrimental to you. And if they make their case, you could still – even at the age of 17 – be taken away from us. That having been said, you can either pull up your pants and go out with Jake and your other friends or spend the evening in your room pouting and sulking because we won’t let you out of this house with your ass hanging out.”
Giago thought about this for a moment. “Is that really possible?”
“It’s unlikely, but it’s still possible if someone wants to make an issue out of us raising you.”
“I had no idea.”
“You weren’t supposed to – and until just now, there was no reason for you to.”
“But I still don’t understand what this has to do with my pants.”
“It sends the wrong message about who you are.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a negative connotation to sagging your pants as you want to do. And behind that, people see you as less than who you really are.”
“Plus – we just don’t like it,” I added snidely.
Jake stood up and pulled his pants above his waist. “Fine. I get it. Are you ready to go now, Jake?”
“I have been from the beginning,” Jake responded.
“Go where?” Bradley asked.
“Go…out?” Giago responded.
Bradley checked his watch. “It’s kind of late.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s kind of late for you to go out.”
“But our curfew is midnight.”
“I know. But at this point there’s no reason to go out since you have to be back so soon.”
“That, and because you were so uncooperative about us asking you to pull up your pants in the first place that we don’t think you deserve to go out tonight in the second place,” Bradley explained.
“That’s not fair,” Giago protested.
“Actually, it’s quite fair,” I said. “Especially since it looked like you wanted to hit me for a moment there.”
“I wasn’t going to hit you.”
“Oh I know – but just the fact that the thought crossed your mind is why it would be best for you to go upstairs and think about that.”
Giago stifled a smirk and shook his head as he started up the stairs. “Jake, are you still going out?”
“Will you tell the girls I said hello?”
“Nope,” Jake said as he started to leave.
“Midnight, Jake,” Bradley called out to him as he walked through the kitchen and out the door.
Bradley and I watched as Giago trudged his way up the stairs.
“Let’s go to bed to see if he tries to sneak out,” I joked.
“You think he’d dare?”
“I’m not sure, but if he does, I have a great punishment for him.”
“Which would be?”
“We don’t ground him. We just go out with him and his friends for two weeks. He’d hate it so much that he’d ultimately decide on his own to just stay at home.”
“Sometimes it’s just really fun being a parent.”