the planet of the apes

When I was growing up I loved The Planet of the Apes movies. I spent many a weekend during my extra-chubby adolescence watching ape movie marathons on one of the now defunct upper channels which could only be accessed through a precariously balanced antenna. I was obsessed, planning my non-existent social life around this dystopian world dominated by talking apes and ruggedly handsome men in loincloths.

There was Charlton Heston in the original film, collapsing at the base of the Statue of Liberty under the horrifying realization that “it was earth all along”. Later in the quintology there was Escape from the Planet of the Apes, an ode to the swinging 70s complete with time-traveling apes, feminist undertones, and a carnival barking Ricardo Montalban. For the fourth film the series went dark as Conquest of the Planet of the Apes offered us a totalitarian view of the future and an endless backdrop of bad concrete architecture.  The franchise ran out of steam by its mostly unwatchable last film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, an all but forgettable entry save for a cameo by the late great John Houston, an Academy award winning actor who was clearly slumming it for the paycheck.

But the movie that stuck (and sticks) with me most was the second entry in the series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. A cautionary tale of a post-nuclear war civilization, it featured an underground city populated by mutated humans with psychic powers. The mutants worship a nuclear warhead and, in the best scene in the film franchise, they peel away their seemingly normal faces to reveal the hideous radiation scarred skin beneath. As the music swells, the mutants turn to the bomb and, in what can only be described as an unbridled display of orgiastic religious fervor, they begin to chant, “I reveal my innermost self”.

(I promise I’m going somewhere with this.)

I love that scene. I have probably watched it fifty times, maybe more. Even at eleven years old I like to think that I understood what the filmmakers were really trying to say: blind obedience is bad and, if I ever decide to join a post-apocalyptic cult in an ape dominated world first make sure the other members aren’t hideously scarred mutants who worship a nuclear warhead.

Actually what I remember most – and what resonates now three decades later more than it ever did in 1986 – was the line, “I reveal my innermost self,” because in this age of technological isolation I realize that we have become those hideously scarred mutants hiding out in our underground cities, communicating through psychic messages, hiding behind a mask so no one can see our truth.

We don’t leave our houses. We communicate through the tap of a phone screen. We are the sum total of our social media profiles.

We don’t let people see the warts. We hide. We reveal nothing.

I dread social obligations. I just want to hole up in my house eating doughnuts and watching Call the Midwife. The real world is too much work, too much effort. I do not talk on the phone. All calls go to voicemail. All communication is done through text or instant messaging. My phone rings and I think, Why are you calling me? Did someone die? …and if someone did die then why don’t you just text me the bad news so we can avoid a scene?

(Texting is like having psychic powers and if it worked for movie mutants then it should work for us.)

I feel bad.  I feel guilty. I think I must be the only person who feels this way, but then I log on to social media and I see the whole goddamn world has gone Planet of the Apes. 

Facebook is nothing but the latex mask we wear over our hideous radiation scarred faces.

(Okay, I know I’m being a bit much here and really this is just an excuse to talk about those ape movies, but also everything I’m saying is kinda true.)

I honestly have no idea what anyone’s innermost self looks like because all I see is perfection. Perfect families. Perfect marriages. Perfect pictures of perfect dinners.

We all do it.

Life is a fucking postcard and you had better keep up because if you can’t compete with my fake life then something must be lacking in your fake life.

Just once I would like to see someone (not me, of course!) say: My life is a mess. My children hate me. I haven’t spoken to my spouse in three days and that’s okay because the truth is I’m hoping for a fourth day of silence. Also, I ate three gallons of ice cream last night and I just deep fried a pie for my second lunch.

Imagine how freeing life would be if we all walked around showing our hideous scars to one another. I’m not talking about complaining, please don’t do that because no one wants to hear you whine. I mean just some good old fashioned truth tellin’ and if that seems like too much, if you can’t handle the truth, then don’t try and sell the latex mask lie.

Embrace the mess. Cherish the silence. Eat the second lunch.

too blessed to be stressed and other stupid things people say

Yesterday I stayed home from work. I didn’t have a fever or a stomach ache or even a hangover. The truth is I was exhausted and I was exhausted because all I do is worry. I’ve been a worrier all my life. In high school, so chronic was my worry that I kept a bottle of aspirin in my locker to help combat the daily headaches brought on by my excessive worrying.

As an adult I like to tell myself that I have learned how to manage my condition, but the truth is I’ve just become better at compartmentalizing it. Now when something bothers me I imagine a box high up on a shelf and I stuff all my worry into that box – out of sight, out of mind (not really!) I cram that box full of every petty annoyance, every concern, every case of “what-if” until finally it gets so full it explodes and I have to stay home from work.

I had not been feeling well for a few weeks—stomach aches, headaches, indigestion, trouble sleeping. The internet told me I had everything from an ulcer to Lupus to Lyme’s Disease to cancer. I looked in the mirror: how could I be falling apart when I was still so young and beautiful? What would everyone I had ever met do without me? Who would play me in the TV movie of my life, there was no question that Judith Light would play my husband, but what about me?

It was Judith Light my husband who suggested that I was perhaps/maybe/most likely not dying and that maybe I was just stressed out. I hate the phrase stressed out. It’s up there with depression, another overused self-diagnosis from which everyone claims to be suffering. Still, I considered his suggestion and, as much as I hated to admit it, I realized he might be on to something.

I made a mental list of all the things which had been causing me worry: my weight, my student loans, the “check engine” light that came on while driving home from work, my children, my children walking unsupervised for three blocks from the bus stop to home, the mother of the boy in my oldest son’s class who didn’t want her son to be friends with my son because he has two dads, what it must be like for my sons to have two dads, my youngest son’s refusal to eat anything without large amounts of ranch dressing, my oldest son’s piano lessons and play rehearsals, my youngest son’s soccer practice, the phone interview we had with the caseworker from Washington about adopting an eight year old boy, the fact that it’s been nine days since the interview and nothing, if we have enough money, how we spend our money, the lack of one-on-one time I have with my husband, the realization that silently watching TV for three hours a night does not constitute one-on-one time with my husband, Donald Trump winning the election, people who support Donald Trump speaking to and/or influencing my children, how I’ll react if Maggie dies on The Walking Dead…

The list goes on and on and, yes, I realize that 80% of what I worry about is ridiculous and the other 20% is stuff that everyone worries about all the time. My problem is not that I worry, my problem is I don’t process my worry. I stuff it all in that box high up on the shelf and the next thing I know Maggie is lying in a pool of blood and I’m sobbing on the living room floor next to a pile of dog vomit because my dog always vomits at the worst possible moments.

I have to learn to let go and let God (another stupid thing people say) which is about as hollow as #prayers, but if I peel away the very thick shell of cynicism that envelopes me, I get it. I can’t control everything, or really anything for that matter. Life happens and the best I can do is control how I react to it.

I may want to destroy the mother of the boy at my oldest son’s school who won’t let her son be friends with my son because he has two dads, but what would that accomplish? Sure I might feel great, but I’d probably end up in jail. And so what if my youngest son needs ranch dressing to eat his broccoli? In the end, he’s eating his broccoli.

Ultimately the world keeps on spinning and if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States…no, that’s a legitimate concern. We cannot let that happen, people. There isn’t a box large enough or a shelf high enough to contain that disaster.

Worry, worry, worry….


Sean Michael O’Donnell is 41 year old married gay man. He lives in Pittsburgh with his husband and two sons. Sean enjoys Law & Order reruns, Christmas movies in October, and Facebook stalking. He likes donuts and beer. Sometimes he goes to the gym.  He is the author of the blog seansbiggayblog where he attempt to chronicle his experiences as a parent.  The contents of his blog (and life) are 75% truth, 18% satire, 6% hyperbole and 1% drama. He is also the author of Which One of You is the Mother?

i’m coming out

I never came out. My sophomore year of college I just started kissing boys. A few months later I brought home a guy to meet my family and as we sat around the Thanksgiving table I casually began referring to him as my boyfriend and end of story. Looking back I feel like I missed a real opportunity to create some top-notch drama complete with tearful scenes of me throwing heirloom china at my homophobic uncle while dressed in a pair of short shorts, the word QUEER spelled out in pink glitter across my once upon a time 21 year old rump.

Ah, regrets.

Today, no one comes out. It’s passé.  Everyone is what they are and if they aren’t sure what are is they identify as something called pansexual which we used to call “going to college”. Twenty years ago coming out was quite the affair. I knew people who planned actual coming out parties that included tears and short shorts and the throwing of heirloom china, but always ended with a good group hug and someone’s grandma saying, “I’m glad you like kissing boys.”

I might have missed the boat back in 1996, but not today. Today, I’m coming out. It’s time I blew open the closet doors. It’s time I threw off the shackles of political oppression. It’s time I admitted the truth to myself.

I suspect this late-in-life admission could cost me a few friends and I know that it will undoubtedly lead to sneering derision and further condescension on social media, but I will no longer be shamed by info-graphic posting know-it-alls, nor a public who has been seduced into confusing opinion with fact.

Consequences be damned.

I am a moderate.

At last. I am out of the political closet.

I am a moderate.

Wow! that felt good.  I feel like a weight has been lifted from my not-as-liberal-as-I-thought shoulders. I feel as if I’ve lost twenty pounds from my formerly progressive frame.

I am a moderate. I am a moderate. I am a moderate!

I should clarify. I am a 21st century moderate which is really nothing more than a 20th century liberal. I believe in personal freedom and I believe that we should all contribute which is to say I stand for the same things today at age 41 that I did yesterday at age 21. I have neither progressed nor regressed, but also I have not remained fixed.

Now I’m not going to bore you with a list of my specific beliefs because 1) you don’t care and 2) my beliefs are none of your business. Suffice it to say, I believe we should all talk less and listen more. I believe I am not always right nor do I know everything. I believe in common sense and the unfairness of fairness.

Unlike the extremes on both sides of the aisle, I do not feel the need to keep stomping my feet until everyone believes exactly as I do. I continue to think that the best way to affect change is to lead by example (and as a gay man and as a father of two adopted children I can assure you I’ve done more than most to affect change and alter people’s perceptions).

I understand that in a country of 400 million people, the process is slow and the middle is often where you have to meet.

Sometimes you win, and most times you lose.

I am a moderate. And I like kissing boys.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

Which One of You is the Mother? (The Book)

I decided to write a book. It is based partly on this blog, but the majority of it is new material because god knows Chris and Elijah have provided me with enough material for ten books. So the book…well, I’ve been proud of many things that I have written over the years but this book is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever written. Period. It’s funny, but also thoughtful, and it very possibly will make you cry at least three times. It is an important story that should be read.

When I finally do pull the trigger on it I hope you will read it and then encourage at least fifty more people to do the same …and not simply because I want people to read our story — a story absolutely worth reading — but also because I really want a beach house in Puerto Rico.

And now without further ado here is a synopsis of the book:

After fifteen years of up-all-night gay disco dance parties, Sean O’Donnell and his longtime partner Todd decided to trade in their leather chaps for mom jeans and start a family. In August 2012 the not-so ambiguously gay duo walked into a Pittsburgh-based adoption agency and said, “We’d like a child, please.” For the next several months they attended parenting classes, subjected themselves to probing FBI background checks, and completed enough paperwork to reforest the whole of the Amazon River basin. Despite lacking a magical baby-making vagina the pair successfully made omelets without eggs when in July 2013 they flew to Oregon to meet their seven-year-old son for the first time. No longer Sean and Todd they would now be forever known as Dad and Papa to the observant boy (“So that’s how you sleep.”) with a million questions (“Do you have a girlfriend?”, “Where do babies come from?”, “What’s gay?”) No sooner had they settled into their new roles when the stork returned the following year, delivering another boy who quickly proved that five-year-olds were basically talking babies who could use the toilet. Which One of You is the Mother? is the story of how two gay guys finally met the two kids who were always meant to be their sons. This is a book that celebrates a different kind of family who just happens to be like every other family on the block. Only gayer. And funnier.