May 10, 2015
Andrea and I were just getting to know each other. She had been one of the sea of students in one of my larger classes the previous year. I was coming out of a “It’s complicated” relationship and she was similarly in the grey zone. We were having a drink at Binks, where I was virtually living in those days and I just noticed this glow around her face. “We’re going to have kids, aren’t we?” I said, out of the blue.
“Yeah, we are,” she said, cool as a Mexican radish.
Less than a year later, we asked each other what we were waiting for. There was no answer. The following month our Cozy was on her way to us.
There are people who think we probably shouldn’t be together. We call these people “university administrators.” They think the age difference is creepy and that young women are mindless children who have no idea how to think for themselves. All I can say is that over a one month period I fell madly in love with the person I was meant to be with. It started with, “I can’t go out with you” and ended with “I can’t live without you.”
What’s so special about this woman? Obviously, she has a beauty that goes right to the bone. It stops me in my tracks. Sometimes I think I am looking at a classic Hollywood photograph, but I am looking at this person sitting on the couch in the living room. But there is a much bigger story behind those beautiful brown eyes. There is story of a little Mexican girl whose mother left her to come to America and then came back many years later to sneak her 8-year-old daughter across the border. There is the girl who lived in two worlds most of her life and refused to give up the beauty of her Aztec roots to fit in with the white world.
Andrea is the true gypsy bohemian I’ve only pretended to be. Her talent as an artist is awe inspiring. If Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol ever had a baby, I married her. Her ability to create great works so effortlessly astonishes me. I have no doubt that at some point I will just be known as that guy who is married to Andrea Barrios, the painter.
Her passion for life and her wild laugh and all of the above would be enough to love her to the end of the world. But the fact she is the mother of our child puts her in a very special category. Bringing Cozette into the world wasn’t easy. We elected to demedicalize the birth, to be true to the countless generations of women who had children before the advent of the for-profit birth industry. We had midwives and doulas and a nice room with a tub to have the baby in. But the labor lasted three days and then Cozy started moving backwards. So we ended up at the hospital anyway. After hours of pushing (and me doing the important work of holding her right knee) and Dr. Girolami finding another use for olive oil, Andrea did it. I don’t know how, after all that, after three days, after all the worry and updates. With one mighty push Cozy was out like a champagne cork and ready to start her life. To say I was impressed with Andrea would have been the understatement of 2014.
We’ve done our best to break the gender norms that society has proscribed for us. She was the one who went back to work while I stayed at home to take care of the baby. But there is no denying her ability to be a thoughtful, loving mother. Seeing Cozy and Andrea together is like watching the tag-team from heaven. They are in complete sync with each other, two whole people who are each half of something much grander. She and Cozy bring light into the world and love into my little corner of it.
When Cozy was four months old, those administrators started to ramp up their campaign against me, one of their staunchest critics (and loyal employees). They focused on my relationship with Andrea as if it was something unseemly. My wife was taking an online Women’s Studies class so technically I was having a relationship with a student. So what, right? I didn’t matter. All the good and important work I did there didn’t matter. Most importantly to us, love didn’t matter. We went in with Cozy and begged them to rationally evaluate the situation. They looked at me, my wife, and our baby and said it didn’t matter. And all the king’s lawyers and lawsuits wouldn’t have saved me. A colleague at the school referred to it as “modern McCarthyism.” I resigned to spare my family the bloodshed.
But they were wrong. Love does matter. If everything I did in my life up to this point, including going undercover in hate groups to get my PhD and working my ass off to get tenure brought me to Andrea and Cozy I win. If I can’t be a professor there because I found true love there, I still win and they lose. Sadly, the university loses too, but the new vision of college is “online education” where courses are run by bots not passionate professors. I will find other ways to continue my important work. Through it all, I never once regretted taking a chance on love with Andrea. I would do it all again in a latido del corazón.
Andrea could have followed me into the pit of depression during that, but she did the opposite. She built me back up. She took care of the baby and me at the same time. She inspired me with her art and inspired me to follow my passion. She sung to Cozy and reminded me to sing. She held both of us when we needed it (sometimes at the same time). This woman played mother to both father and child.
Every single day, I’m glad I took that chance. And all that is great about Andrea I see in our daughter. It’s proof that love wins. We want more children and more magic wherever we end up. I can’t wait. I’ve got the coolest partner in parenting I could imagine.
The future is wide open and a little frightening, but there is no doubt Cozy and I picked the right mom.
NOTE: And because I live in fear of the university’s crack legal team, let me state very clearly that nothing in this post is meant to disparage the university or its administration.