When I was back in the U.S. recently, I took the opportunity to visit two of my best friends and their respective husbands and kids. One of them has a toddler, the other one has a one-year-old. I used to work with and get drunk and dance with the toddler’s mom (I organized her bachelorette party). And I used to attended college with and get drunk and high with the one-year-old’s mom (I was in her wedding).

It’s weird going on a play date with a friend and her kid when you’ve either heard the friend swear she’d never have a kid, or known her to date women almost exclusively. But this is my life.

Both of my friends are white and although the one with the toddler married a Puerto Rican (he’s a nice guy but Puerto Ricans and Mexicans are sworn enemies so we have an interesting relationship), both of their kids came out fair-skinned. So when my Chicago friend, her toddler and I were playing in Millennium Park, I noticed the looks.

Sure, I’m a playful guy. I’m animated and physical. I’m Uncle in town for eight hours before my next flight leaves and I’m going to make the most of it. But these looks from strangers weren’t just “Oh look, that young (mid 30s is young goddammit) family is just darling!” These looks were “Oh look, that young family is just darling and how the fuck did the kid turn out so white?”

You see, I’m cafe au lait or cinnamon-skinned, and since the darker gene tends to win out, me having a lily-white kid seems highly unlikely. And this being Chicago, the land of neighborhoods, knowing what hood you’re from and should stay in is important. I lived in Chicago so I know this. It’s no New York.

But I played on. I pretended I was going to throw my nephew under that cool water fountain with all the Chicago faces. I twirled him around, threw him to the ground and covered him with my sweater. I pushed his stroller and shot the shit with mama, discussing everything from public schools versus private schools to new jobs to my (hopefully) impending permanent departure from Japan.

A week later in Williamsburg, VA, the land of freshly churned butter, hundreds of people in period clothing and no nightlife, I attended music class with my college friend and her little girl. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the fellow mothers and one father in the classroom. I knew my friend got a kick out of it–we both enjoy the subversive. Who was this brown man? Where was the white hubby? And why was this brown man acting like da baby daddy?

The overly joyful music teacher gave me a pair of music bells and asked me to go around the circle clicking them together in front of the parents holding their babies while she sang this corny lullaby. This was one of those make or break moments. I could refuse and look like a complete asshole, or I could grab those damn bells and frolic about the room to her singing and look like a complete asshole. I frolicked. I even put on a happy face, making sure I clinked my bells twice in front of the black kid with the black mom. What do you want? It’s fucking Virginia for God’s sake. My good liberal came out. If you’re going to be subversive, you might as well do it right.

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