“The Big Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree,” by Alexander Cavaluzzo

Nov 22nd, 2017 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

While most congregants in the United States spend their Sunday mornings in a church, you’re more likely to find twentysomethings in New York City attending Our Lady of Bottomless Mimosas on the Lord’s day. The service typically entails an offering of eggs rothko, adoration of cute waiters, and readings from the New York Times’s Vows section. This recurring ritual, more commonly known as “brunch”, provides solace and nourishment, with just a touch more alcohol than the standard Catholic mass. During one such service, though, the rites that unfolded offered me a very rude revelation.

Though my brunches are typically taken in the company of single, straight females, this revelatory meal had many more married couples in attendance. An old friend of mine who’d moved below the Mason-Dixon line was back in New York on a visit and assembled a group of people whom I was only mildly acquainted with. Having been years since I’d seen them, it was remarkable to see about six women, all married, all with….children. The odd Facebook post of a baby sucking its foot I’d scroll past did not prepare me for a living, breathing band of offspring crying uncontrollably and flinging overnight oats across the exposed-brick Williamsburg restaurant.

Women with whom I once bonded over with one night stands that ended in torn clothes and HPV tests were now regaling me with tales of nannies costing as much per month as a studio in TriBeCa, or telling me how they just realized that sexism exists because there’s no suitable space in their offices for breast-pumping. They were now being woken up at 5 in the morning by men considerably smaller (but no less sloppier) than the ones a few years ago.


For a lot of people my age in this city, raising children isn’t really a feasible option; that’s typically saved for the unreasonably wealthy who can afford an apartment (or, dare I say, a house) that could reasonably accommodate more than two people. This barrenness fits into my lifestyle perfectly, since I think I’d rather have the title of “Professional Baseball Player” or “Quantum Physicist” before I’d ever want to be called “Father.” “Daddy”, maybe, in a few years, but “Father?” No.

I’ve always been one step out of line when it comes to the typical perception of children. When people lovingly compliment children’s garish costumes and reward them with treats on Halloween, I’m putting out a fake registered sex-offender sign on my door. When everyone swoons over the few syllables a toddler can dribble out, I remind the room that I can recite three quarters of Baudelaire’s Fleurs de Mal. In French. When smearings and spatterings of finger paints are framed on a wall, I show them pictures of my meticulous reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica rendered only in 4B pencils.

Upper class New York children, in particular, are an insufferable group. You’d think the anomalous levels of sophistication and precociousness would mitigate my resentment, but it only makes me roll my eyes far enough back to get a good view of my frontal lobe.

“Mother, why don’t they have red quinoa here?” a petite girl with pin-straight blonde hair, named Cadence or Supine or Denouement, asks her mother at Dimes on the Lower East Side. Perhaps that’s better than a child whining over the lack of honey mustard for his chicken fingers, but it’s bad enough when adults are pretentious.

“Cricket, you’ll just have to make do with the white quinoa.” Well, I was close enough on the name, but now I was curious: was her brother was named “Locust?”


Over dinner one night with a friend raised on the Upper East Side (who, despite having attended the elite Convent of the Sacred Heart with Nicky Hilton and Lady Gaga, was remarkably tolerable) we discussed the unique approach to childrearing she had witnessed firsthand. She told me that her neighbor was sending their four-year-old to a preschool where tuition runs about $40,000 per year. I’m not one to count people’s money, but that seems like an awful lot to pay for letting kids play with clay and keeping them away from peanut butter in fear of going into anaphylactic shock. Of course, in Manhattan, if a child is born in the 10021 zip code and has a more intimate relationship to a Haitian nanny than its parents, they are automatically dubbed “gifted.”

Flailing their arms to request more strained organic GMO-free okra is designated a “home sign,” indicative of a future as a professor of linguistics, or the noble act of teaching the deaf. Insisting on wearing a ballerina costume every day of the week illustrates a strong imagination and sense of individuality, skills lesser humans never even develop in adulthood. Refusal to use a toilet properly? A healthy sense of rebellion mixed with a nuanced understanding of Freudian psychology. How could they possibly be expected to attend a public preschool?


I came in very close contact with this specific breed of child at a magazine job one summer. The CEO of a business we shared office space with had a six-year-old girl who’d come in after day camp with her nanny. Usually, she’d have rollerblades strapped to her little hooves and bothered everyone who wasn’t her father. An actress by trade (yes, she had a “career” well before the rest of this country’s children have a lemonade stand), her inflated sense of self was already deep-seated into her temperament.

She’d usually use the editors as entertainment, asking us questions about what we were doing, trying to sell us the pictures she drew with Prismacolor markers, spilling almond milk onto our keyboards, trying to see how many laps she could make on her rollerblades around our communal table before she eventually tired, because the office was carpeted. She even gave us each nicknames—mine, inexplicably, was “hippie” or sometimes “glasses hippie,” probably because her cultural references were still developing in some Montessori school. Being a somewhat unconventional chap, I was usually interrogated about my sartorial choices.

“Why do you wear nail polish, hippie?” her tone rivaled that of an 85-year-old WWII vet exasperated with today’s free-lovin’ youth.

“The same reason you do.”

“I wear it because I’m a girl.” She spat that out as if she purposefully grew an extra leg on her chromosomes.

“No, you wear it to decorate yourself. It’s part of your style.”

Boys don’t wear nail polish.”

“Gender is a social construct. There’s nothing inherently female about wearing nail polish, but by doing so I’m subverting a dangerous cultural binary.” I still hadn’t looked up from the article I was writing, even though she was holding onto the armrest of my chair as she rolled her bladed feet back and forth, causing me several typos. Which I loathe.

“Whatever, hippie, you look silly. Same with your blue hair.” She whipped her curly, blonde mane towards my face, though her locks barely cleared my elbows.

“My hair is not blue. It’s turquoise.” The truth was I felt personally victimized by this little girl, like I was defending myself all over again to a bully three times my size in elementary school for wearing a Sailor Moon t-shirt. Just as I felt like a child at the mommy brunch, as I get older, I still feel silently judged without the standard heteronormative accoutrements of a husband and babies, vulnerable to the same attacks I’d experience as a kid since I was not yet a grown-up.


I’ve never really considered children as an option, and the prospect becomes more alien the more my friends have kids or talk about kids or even look at kids on the Internet. I ask questions like “What is its assigned sex at birth going to be?” instead of “Is it a boy or a girl?” I don’t know what they eat, when they should sleep, or when it’s normal for them to grow teeth or start talking. Coworkers tell me their infant rolled over for the first time, as if this is some huge accomplishment, something to be in awe of, but I remind them a well-trained dog would do the same if you gave them a treat. Parents save locks of hair and fallen teeth, trophies of the waning youth of their offspring, yet if I did that, there’s no question people would wonder about my “mental stability” and throw the term “serial killer” around.

I thought, at the very least, being a gay man would release me from the burden of childbearing. No luck, however, since science is catching up so closely to late capitalism that I have bona fide homosexual couples telling me they’re close to creating an actual human child using the combined DNA scraped off their respective cum rags.


Do I have to start considering any random masturbatory emission as a wasted potential investment in my future happiness? Is trading in bottles of Stoli for bottles of formula the vehicle to maturity?

I can’t foster another human life just to make me feel purpose, or force me to grow up, but where else can I find meaning and some sense of immortality if not by fostering a life outside of my own?

Her name might not be Vidalia, she may not go to a Montessori school, she may not make fun of the color of someone else’s hair…but having a child may be better than stealing a bodega cat as posterity. If only because a child won’t eat your face if you die in your sleep. Hopefully. They’ll love you, and they’ll challenge you…and at least you know when you die, you won’t really be gone if they’re here.

But then I’m seated on a fourteen-hour flight with a toddler screeching and kicking the back of my seat, and all I want to do is take a pair of cuticle scissors to my vas deferens.


Alexander Cavaluzzo (@AleksandrJohn) is a writer and artist based in Manhattan. He has written for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, BlackBook Magazine, Nerve, Performa Magazine, The Style Con, Gaga Stigmata and is a regular contributor to Hyperallergic. His writing has also appeared in New York Magazine and the New York Times (albeit in the form of advertising copy…)

He once won an award for his writing in the 1st grade, for a piece about his cat. The sequel, about his dog, is expected to be on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize.

This particular essay was chosen as part of the reading series “Queer Text: Rainbows Across the Diaspora” at Dixon Place in New York City.

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